Well, yesterday was up the moutain with a gradual climb and today was down that very same mountain on the other side with a gradual descent! I loved every second and had two great walking days. It is amazing how different your Camino experience is if you are not battling sore knees, blisters and general ailments. Yesterday morning we left Astorga (the home of fine Spanish Chocolate!) and had a wonderful gradual change of scenery from farmlands to a more forest-like environment while gradually ascending up through the villages of Murias de Rechivaldo, Santa Catalina de Somoza, El Ganso and Rabanal to eventually end about 26km further in a VERY small mountain hamlet of Foncebadon.
The village (close to the top of the mountain) had just two small alberges and we fortunately ended in one with a very hospitable, vivacious and interesting young male hospitalero. What a character! You walk in being offered everything from a bed, beer and a meal to a yoga session and the opportunity to spend some quality time out back with the alberge´s pet goats. OKAY!! I just need a bed and a meal now thank you! We had an amazing meal with the hosts coming out with one massive pan full of pajella from which they served everyone. As usual the house vino tinto came out and also salad and their famous crusty bread. It went down very well. At the end we got a choice of icecream, icecream or icecream – so we chose icecream and got those mini-magnums unceremoniously thrust at us by this funny (peculiar & ha-ha) hospitalero-host. It was a great evening!!
This morning we got up our usual early time and within 2km from the alberge we reached the famous landmark Cruz de Ferro. There is a massive pile of stones under this big iron cross and lots of things people have put there to mark some special moment for them, to pray for someone, to dedicate themselves anew to someone or something… lots of people, lots of reasons. I left my two stones there which I´ve been carrying all the way from South Africa. It was a very special moment although a fairly short one as we started walking again on the fairly long 27km distance we had to cover. We gradually descending down from the mountain throught the villages of Manjarin, El Acebo, Riego de Ambros, and Molinaseca to Ponferrada, where we are tonight.
The main alberge in this town (fairly big town) can accommodate 210 people and it seems like they must be pretty busy. Even now there are still people arriving to check in and it is already close to 10pm (but sun is still shinging brightly outside!). It was a really hot day and when we arrived at 2pm it was quite hot and uncomfortable. Only a shower and a beer can help then!
Tomorrow we aim to take it slightly slower and finish at Villafranca del Bierzo (22,7km). We hope for good weather again and some more even terrain. Although the downhill was not too bad today, it was very uneven with lots of loose stones and we can do with a nice and friendy path again. Marieke is considering taking the bus and having a rest day to see if her ankle can recover – it is swollen and uncomfortable.
Myself and Sybil had a delicious pelegrino meal earlier tonigth and of course all there is left to do is to pack for tomorrow and fall asleep. That will however only be possible if the pelegrinos making a noise in the quad below our window will give us half a chance to sleep! At least we have a room for four – myself, Sybil, Marieke and Brigitta in one room and we can leave the window open due to the heat. Sometimes the people do not want to sleep with open windows and the hostel becomes a sauna overnight. Not for the faint of heart these tight together sleeping quarters!! Amazing to note that the men´s urinals are right inside the bathroom sectino where we all use the showers! What architect would design such a thing!?? I mean, I can come out of the shower and bump into the back of a complete stranger busy at the urinal. Does not work for me at all!!! We accept unisex bathrooms and bedrooms etc, but this alberge´s set up is a little too close for comfort!
Well, I need to get to bed. Quite tired tonight and after the meal ther is no other option but to go lie down. Have a wonderful remainder of your week and I hope to post soon and also find a way to add pics to the posts.
All the best to all Amigos!