Biking Camino de Santiago Spain

Ponchos in the mist at O Cebreiro

Ponchos in the Mist Heights of O Cereibro Camino de Santiago
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Ponchos in the mist at O Cebreiro

Kirstie Profile SmallThe mountain village of O Cebreiro had twelve hours ago been a sunny tourist honeypot. Now it was eerie as a ghost town.

A dense white mist hung in the air, making the roughly cobbles wet and slippery. The mountains were obscured, the piped music turned off, the postcards put away and the shops firmly shut. We set off up the hill, our waterproofs smelling damp from their weeks of storage, and our helmets on, ready for the descent; hoping it might come soon.

Camping at O Cereibro Camino de Santiago

O Cebreiro, Camino de Santiago. After a sunny day the mist came in overnight.

Despondent apparitions

As we crawled up the steep mountain road, all ambient sound dampened by the white out, it seemed we might be the only living creatures in the world. But then, out of the mist, they came. Gradually at first, in ones or two’s, heads down, trudging, trudging; tired feet kicking rubble, stones dislodging under their feet. The green and grey of their vests and shorts had been swapped for gaudy poncho’s; massive wraps covering themselves and their backpacks; nylon covered hunchbacks. From time to time they glanced out from hoods and damp hair; their enthusiastic ‘olas’ of previous days dampened to a nod.

Cycling in the mist Camino de Santiago

Cycling on into the mists at O Cebreiro

Bunches of colour in the mist

As we all moved up the mountain, they began to appear in groups of eight and ten. Bunches of colour in the monochrome white. As the path dipped in and out of the roadside they moved away and back again; appearing from the mist when we least expected to see them. At every village they increased their speed; perhaps taking cheer from the signs of bar life; or the thought of emergency pilgrim shelter in a church porchway.

In a bar at the hamlet of Hospital we took a break to watch the Olympics and grab some coffee. There we encountered encountered pilgrim Feliz, who we had seen a few times before along the route. In Villafranca he was busking in the street, plucking away on his guitar, his case stretched out in the hope of a few euros to buy dinner. He obviously got lucky as that evening he held court in our restaurant over a strange mix of pilgrims who were hanging on his every word. The next morning we passed him singing loudly as he plodded along the Camino; intent that everyone should appreciate his fine mood.

O Cebreiro in the mist

Is that a pilgrim I see before me?

It is my journey to make people happy

Today he was instantly recognisable by his well developed goatee beard and intense manner, but this time he was sporting a green poncho. He religiously stirred away at an espresso, and advised a depressed travelling companion how he should cope with the journey he was obviously struggling to complete.

“Take the bus. Go back to O Cebreiro and take the bus. There are many ways to travel the Camino. You can go back. For the bus. But Feliz can’t go back with you. Feliz never goes back.” He explained his mission. “The name Feliz means ‘happy’ in latin. That is my journey to make people happy.”

His fellow pilgrim wasn’t looking all that happy, and as we got on our bikes Feliz was going through maps with him, his guitar strategically placed in a corner with his rucksack; should anyone ask for a cheering up song. We pedalled off, into a silent mist, punctuated only by poncho’s.

Statue at Heights of O Cebrerio Camino de Santiago

Pilgrim in the mist at heights of O Cebrerio on Camino de Santiago

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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