I gazed in solemn wonder at it all,
At verdant slopes, and valleys deep, and mountains tall.
The weather gods smiled on us today. The high variant would have been miserable, if even possible, in bad weather.
It was an easy walk along the road to Borres, our last chance for refreshment for 16 kilometres. And then it was up, gently at first, to the place where the road forked. The low road was longer, and dipped down with a huge climb at the end of the day. But it did offer a place for refreshments halfway along. The high way was more isolated and exposed, and it kept on climbing without giving up height. I took the high road, the Hospitales route.
Suddenly it looms in front of me, a mighty hill, and the road stretches up and up, gorse and heather on either side, and the occasional pine plantation. A few cows are foraging, although what they find among the heather and gorse, I don't know. Hills roll off into the distance.
Along the track are huge dumps of horse manure. I would like to take some home for my roses, but I don't have room in my pack.
I reach a summit or sorts and a huge valley opens up on my right, and beyond a mountain ridge with exposed cliff faces. The sun peers out of the clouds and casts long shadows across my path. A solitary cow is unaware of the magnificence of its surroundings.
The path levels off and leads to the first of the medieval pilgrims' hospitals which gave this route its name. And then it is up again, a rocky track, then grass, to another high point. By now, the path is fully exposed, and I am walking into a chilly wind, too cold to stop and eat lunch. I pass the second hospital, more of the walls remaining. A pilgrim is hunched in a little hut, drinking some soup.
I am now walking through high moorlands, blasted by the strong winds. The heather and gorse are quite stunted with only the occasional purple and yellow flowers.
The autumnal crocus appears on the path, often growing in the mud away from competition with other flowers. What a game little flower it is, the crocus! It pokes its head up into the cold world, and tries to stand up straight against the wind. I pass the third hospital, just rubble this time, overgrown with brambles.
By now, the wind is chilling me to the bone and I look forward to getting off the ridge. I see a road snaking around below, and as the path descends I think I am off the mountain at last. But no, the path cuts across the road, and climbs again, up and up to reach the highest part of the trail at 1550 metres.
Then it drops down quite suddenly, at first a scree slope, agonizing for people with knee problems, across a road that is looping below, and then to down to the village of Montefurada where perhaps I will enjoy a coffee or a beer. But no, the path skirts behind some houses and climbs again and then drops, finally rejoining the highway at Lago, where the bar was open. Only a few kilometres from here to Berducedo.
It was a magnificent day. Very hard climbing, and at times, cold enough that I was worried about hypothermia. Wide open spaces with no evidence of modern man. Not a place to get lost. In fact, I learned later that there are 300 wolves in these moumtains, and they are hungry enough to attack at night.