Pilgrim of Saint James. Stage 7 – 94 Km.
From Vilavella to Allariz (Orense) or From Foncebadon to Sarria.
This 7ª stage Cycling Way to Saint James . The French Way reaches its roof next to the Cruz de Ferro, nailed on a mound of stones at 1,500 meters of altitude. With his back to the cross, it is tradition to throw a stone at the pile already raised. In just 2.3 km after the Cruz de Ferro, we plant ourselves in the Templar refuge of Manjarín, the most peculiar lodge of the Camino.
Here the parallel path to LE-142 would be retaken. But the path is stony and steep, so [by bike] it is recommended to take the road from Foncebadón and drive on it (at least, to Molinaseca, where cyclists can take the official signaling to Ponferrada).
A kilometer after the military base begins the descent of Transmissions, with a view to Ponferrada (from a distance, a black spot can be seen that corresponds to the Torre de la Rosaleda, over 100 meters).
The Sanctuary of the Virgen de las Angustias, from the end of the 17th century, gives way to the medieval bridge over the Meruelo River, through which we entered Molinaseca.
We leave the company on the road after a tennis court and take a path that progresses near the Meruelo River and, later on, approaches the road. A track with some slide, annoying at this stage, leads to Campo.
The «high mountain» reaches the Camino de Santiago. We face the queen stage, probably the most remembered at the return of the pilgrimage. La Hoya del Bierzo, a plain sheltered by mountains that impede the passage of the Atlantic climate, gives way to the valley of the confined Valcarce River, which will guide us to the top of O Cebreiro.
The «definitive» ascent will be expected (in the first 43 km of the stage, only 170 m of altitude will be climbed) and it will not be obvious until the Hospital district is surpassed. It is from here that the climb really begins: in the almost 8 km to O Cebreiro, 630 m of elevation gain is exceeded. The hardest section is between Hospital and La Faba, although the slope continues to be very respectable until Laguna de Castilla.
The exit of Ponferrada is a long detour to the north, where the neighborhood of Compostilla is located, although we soon reach Columbrianos, one of the oldest towns in the region (much earlier than Ponferrada).
The section that starts after Camponaraya, is the most relaxing of the day. La Hoya del Bierzo shines its best landscape, always dotted with vineyards and poplars. Cacabelos is of strategic importance in the wine sector, with numerous wineries that produce wines from the Bierzo Denomination of Origin.
Up to Pieros you have to sweat a demanding slope along the shoulder of the old N-VI. On a gravel road, we face a new steep climb that leads to several slides to the first houses of Villafranca del Bierzo. After Villafranca, we reach a pedestrian lane that advances boxed between the A-6 motorway and the N-VI. Escorted by the poplars of the banks of the Valcarce and large chestnut trees, we arrived at Pereje. We do not leave the pedestrian lane until we take the detour to Trabadelo.
We will now pedal along a paved path, until we overcome a stream that feeds the Valcarce River. Again by the pedestrian lane, it locates us in La Portela de Valcarce, whose name alludes to the toll that the travelers passing through the valley had to pay to the feudal lords. After La Portela, we take the detour to Ambasmestas and Vega de Valcarce. On the road that we bring, parallel to the N-VI, we now go to Ruitelán. The base of the port is already close, … and nerves to the surface.
At the exit of Ruitelán, the slope picks up a little, … just a little appetizer of what will come next. Something further up, to the left, we take the detour that goes down to Las Herrerías.
We crossed Las Herrerías, to the Hospital district, where the true ascension to O Cebreiro begins. A hard slope of almost 1 km, like out of nowhere, invites us to rethink the strategy, which will consist of lowering the pace, put all the development and adjust the breathing.
The pilgrims that make the ascent on foot will be able to take the path that is born in full rise, to the left of the asphalted track. The cyclists will have to continue straight ahead, on the asphalt.
The wide panoramas influence the perception of the slope, which becomes slightly softer until reaching the last village of León on the French Way: Laguna de Castilla. Passed Laguna de Castilla, appears the first Jacobean landmark with distance signage. It is 152.5 and it bears the inscription of «Os Santos» (del Teso dos Santos). The Camino says goodbye to León and finally we visit Galicia.
Fatigued, on the verge of concluding the hardest stretch of the queen stage, we solve the last kilometer of ascent to the pre-Romanesque church of Santa María la Real, which welcomes O Cebreiro. Everything in this place is magical and mysterious: the pallozas, the wind, the fog, …
We still climb up to 1,370 meters in the vicinity of Teso da Cruz and the next stop, Alto de San Roque, does not take long to arrive. Before a wide panoramic view, stands the sculpture of a medieval pilgrim that advances against the wind. The path descends slightly to 1,205 meters and a false plain leads us to Hospital de la Condesa.
At the exit of Padornelo we face a very hard but short slope that reaches the Alto do Poio.
The descent begins to become apparent. We are barely 7 km from Triacastela and we still have to lose about 530 m of altitude. On the descent, a sharp curve allows you to see Mount Oribio, 1,443 meters above sea level.
At the bottom of the valley, there is Triacastela, where the road to Sarria bifurcates and you have to choose: on the left, by Samos; on the right, by San Xil.
We take the detour to San Xil and take a path that leads to A Balsa. We continue surrounded by lush oaks until we reach the road again. A good slope by asphalt leaves us at the height of San Xil.
The itinerary continues its ascent by the road, at first in false level, to harden after, until the vicinity of the height of Riocabo. The descent to Montán is dangerous, since the floor is formed by stone slabs. We continue the descent to the village of Fontearcuda. By asphalt we finally reach Furela. The dense patches of oak and chestnut give way to green meadows.
After Aguiada, the Camino takes a path parallel to the road. With views of Sarria, this dirt road continues to progress through small slides. We finally arrived at Sarria, place chosen by many walkers to start the pilgrimage, since it is in the minimum distance to get the Compostela.
Enjoy 7ª stage Cycling Way to Saint James with bikes.