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The Roof of the Camino
The Roof of the Camino, El Palo

From Campiello to Berducedo

Campiello Morning Cloud Ponding Cujo Following Borres Village La Mortera Village Camino sin Oso Looking back
Morning at Campiello Cloud Ponds Cujo Follows Us Borres Village La Mortera Village Camino Sin Oso street Looking backward

And now it's decision time. After passing Borres, you have two choices. One -- usually recommended by guidebooks and websites -- is to take a short day's walk down to Pola de Allande and its good albergue (in Peñaseita), and follow that by a brutal climb the next day up to the high pass at El Palo. This route rises about 600 meters over an 8 km distance. According to www.gronze.com, the descent from Campiello to Pola is the harder of the two, dropping some 250 meters with some particularly steep stretches that can be torture on your knees. The website says that on the way up to the Pass, you scarcely notice that you're gaining altitude as you go (believe this one if you like!) until the final ramp to the top, which must be a true Pilgrim's Test of Courage. Judging by the site's pictures, it's a very pretty country trail. The site thinks that O Cebreiro is a tougher climb.

Your second choice is to take the Ruta de los Hospitales. Depending on weather conditions, this may be preferable. The climb is long and continual but not as steep as the Pola route. It reaches the same altitude (1146 meters) but spreads the rise over 14 km. Contraindications would be white-out in fog or snow, and you should heed any warnings from Doña Herminia. But in sunshine you cannot lose the trail markings (the chief concern of the Confraternity Guide) because they're placed every 50 meters or so. Still, it's not a bad idea for you or someone in your party to have a cellphone with service in Spain. A ridge-run up the Hospitales trail will give you new admiration for medieval pilgrims, who had nothing more than stone cairns to guide them over some of the most desolate terrain on the planet. There is no farming and no pastures on these heights. The only shelter is in the old hospital ruins, which are filthy. But if you don't insist on green fields, trees, and lots of people around you, the views are magnificent.

Snowy Road Jaime Hospital Ruins
Paradiella
Elderly Pilgrim The High Pass The Wild Horses
Footprints in snow Alan on the Camino Paradiella Us, at Paradiella The High_Pass The Wild Horses of El Palo

A environmentalist Spanish website www.cordilleracantabrica.org contends that the Cantabrian Mountains are one of the last surviving homes of the brown bear, the wolf, and the capercaillie in Spain. Jaime thought that the brown bears have been pretty well hunted to extinction by now. I didn't see any of these creatures, but I did see the famous wild horses of the El Palo area. They look well fed and free of skin sores or other ailments, which would suggest that somebody looks after them, but they are truly wild. They don't fear people, but they don't approach you and they move off to keep you from approaching them. Beautiful to see.

Eventually you reach the Pass, but your day isn't over. It's 7 km downhill through a ghost town -- Montefurado -- to the nearest Albergue de Peregrinos in Berducedo, a strange little place. The town has one street and one restaurant, (La Culpa Fue de Marķa),

LaCulpaFuédeMaría

which was closed when I came by in March, but the village boasts two bars, the first of which has the keys and registry book for the Albergue (3 Euros per person, please). The only place that would prepare food for us at that time was a little market (and bar) at the end of the street, owned by an elderly lady who was pleased to have guests to serve and chat with. She offers simple country foods at both lunch and dinner time. Presumably, the other places are staffed up and ready to operate in season.

Berducedo Albergue The Albergue's
Kitchen
Berducedo's Albegue Albergue<br>Kitchen

The Albergue itself, new since 2007, wasn't quite ready for prime time. There was hot water to shower with and wash socks, but trying to operate more than one electric light fixture at a time overheated the wiring and kicked off the circuit breaker. In the photo, you can see the not-quite-ready-for-use kitchen sink and stove. Still, the place is clean and the bunks are comfortable, which is all I really wanted.


Tips, Tricks, and Traps

No special tips for this segment. It's a long day over the Hospitales, but in good weather, it's glorious.


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