Her name was Paula and she was perfectly behaved. Victor who got four pretty elderly people up on their various steeds revealed that his ex wife lived in Montreal. A snort and a snicker from Paula and me, a reserved Spanish lady and a couple from Texas were off. Getting off was even more bizarre. I discovered bones I never knew existed.
I was frantic that I would be late but no, thanks to a most unBudist awakening (Stevie Wonder played at top volume) I was soon scuttling along in the dark to the next village and my rendezvous with Victor.
For an hour we labored up the steep mountain. Victor kept us al in check. The horses had a well deserved drink after an hour
Good luck to them and then we hot hauled off the horses and had to walk 10 km to get to our really lovely albergue. Up and down like a switchback. I never would have made it without the horse ride, We had the best dinner in a long time in a sort of stone yurt. I met up with two young people I knew and liked from before and we ate togetherness.
I have to sleep now 20 km ahead tomorrow. It termed rain this evening in true Galician tradition so I hope for better tomorrow.
I was a bit nervous about today as the guide books talked about two paths-one spectacular and desperately difficult. The other was described as a walk along a highway with little to recommend it. In the dorm with me was Carmen, a woman a little younger than me also travelling alone . We talked it over and left together in the dark …to take the more conservative route. Although it was on hard surface there was hardly any traffic and a protected designated path allowed us to relax. Our main complaint was cold as the sun did not penetrate the valley floor where we were walking until 11 am! I used an extra pair of socks as mitts
It was pleasant to hear the stream beside us and to talk some muddled up language together. It was also a wonder of engineering to see the fly-over highway that allowed us to walk in relative quiet.
The villages were pretty, the terrain was mercifully flat and I arrived early at my albergue which appears to be run by Buddhists. The best thing is that I have managed to book a horse ride over the worst of the mountain ahead. Imagine climbing in 9 km 100’s of meters in altitude. The horse can do it!
Not too far and a good trail. I arrived in Villafranca by 13:30 and had time to shower and wash my clothes. I set off through the steep little town …many streets are sets of steps, with handrails. However everything was shut for siesta of course so here I am in the lovely municipal garden still bright with roses and other white flowers. I easily did 20 km with the good walking conditions and will do a little less tomorrow as the place I wanted to stay is closed. However the substitute offered me bed, supper and breakfast for 20 euro so I took it!
It was not so cold today. I liked the little town. There was a transplanted Texan who opened for breakfast and apologized for not having tortillas ready. Coffee and toast with chopped tomatoes and oil were fine for me.
Nobody had talked much about the descent into Ponteferrada. Maybe they didn’t want to scare us.
Finally I got into Ponferrada, a large and busy town with a huge Templar’s castle
It was only about 2 km out of town to my very modern and nice albergue. I will do another 20 km tomorrow minus the crazy mountain descents to Villafranca. Gave a poor fellow pilgrim CBD cream for her feet. She says she will do 30 km tomorrow. I can’t imagine. What did I like best today? Alone time in a beautiful natural setting!
I kept tripping and almost falling…also I took a black and white cow for a villain as I set off in the dark.
I spent many hours walking alone and I liked it very much. A high point was the iron cross or crux de fer where people are supposed to leave a stone as a symbol of the pain and sorrow one wants to leave behind.
The walk after this was flat and nice but I had heard that there was a big descent. It came!
And at last in a nice albergue with clothes in the washing machine !
We past through Astoria today and there was, of course, a magnificent cathedral…,and the fairy-tale castle of Gaudi. I did not tarry as an annoying man started to explain how today’s holiday ( Columbus Day) had benefited the natives. . . By baptizing them. I scooted away after having expressed my complete disagreement
The walk outside of the town was wonderful. I was completely alone in countryside that seemed to belong to no one. The two great luxuries of the age, space and silence, were mine for hours.
The high point of the walk was this strange “ oasis” run by a man called David. He offered coffee,fruits, toast and fresh orange juice for whatever one wanted to pay. A French guy told me he allowed him to shower the night before, cooked him a meal and gave him a bed for nothing. There was even a little shack with a stove where we could warm up. How strange he was! He has been doing this for Seven years.
We are staying in el Ganza which means “GooseTown”in an albergue where dinner costs more than the bed…and is worth it! See the stork nest on the roof of the church
Now it can be told! I fell in Leon as I gazed at some ceiling murals purported to be the “sixtine chapel” of the Romanesque era . Included in the experience was negotiating some Middle Age type steps and … I didn’t negotiate so well. Down I went on both knees and I now have spectacular stained glass color knees.
OK this place is wonderful and French and stunning! Very different from Burgos but I loved the outside too. There was a Middle Age festival going on which added to the ambiance.
My knees look bad but work well. In spite of the look I did 20 k no problem
The showers of the Camino are strange and varied. They are invariably clean but doors, curtains, glass panels or simply wide-open spaces are the possibilities. At the last moment I decided against a towel ( too heavy) and brought a sort of sarong instead which has served me well. The important thing is to keep track of your stuff..,glasses, knee brace, the dreaded hearing aids, money belt, soap, shampoo and even conditioner if you are feeling glamorous. When I forget to bring my clothes in with me, the sarong does double duty and my hair is always wrapped up in the t-shirt I just removed. Does that count as actually washing it? One looses touch with the priorities on the Camino.
Of course the taps are a complete mystery. Bars, levers, hand-holds. One can never be sure what temperature or force will …or won’t…emerge. The early morning speciality today was the sound effects. Water emerged when I pushed a round knob with all my might. The sound of an elk in mating season accompanied my efforts. It was 7;15. The tap like many on the Camino stopped after a few moments and this is to encourage short showers I presume. Since I was all lathered up I pushed the button again and …moan/groan went the pipes. I had to push the button a total of five times so of course by the time I emerged like a Hawaiian maiden wrapped in my sarong the whole dorm was awake.
Yes, I came into town on the bus! I was falling behind and would not have made it without the little “ cheat” of a morning bus ride. And yes, I have a few days wiggle room but my sweet spot of 20 km would have left me short of days. I am staying in an albergue run by the Benedictine nuns and tonight we will have vespers.
I ran into another pilgrim with whom I connected earlier on and was very happy to see his dear kind face. Just when I was getting discouraged…,
The town has a great vibe. Flowers still blooming everywhere
A shorter day today. We were to stay last night in a room adjacent to a group of blind and partially sighted pilgrims. They may not have been able to see but they sure could talk, laugh, play video games and have conversations on their cel phones two and three at a time. My brilliant walking partner tactfully announced that since we are “ senior ladies” we would be moving next door to another section populated by serious Germans and sulky Frenchmen. We slept like tops!
He was my favourite at the whole albergue except for Gabriel who took charge of all my horribly dirty and sweaty clothes, washed them, dried them and left them outside my room in a basket. I paid of course for this but….
We are still on the Meseta but we took the scenic route that follows the river rather than the one along the highway. It was worth it.
Here is a picture of the courtyard of Santa Clara monastery where we are staying …one room with two beds! No no