Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Camino 2013 - Day 31: Ponferrada To Villafranca Del Bierzo

We left Ponferrada and wound our way out of the city.  While it wasn't too hard to follow there was definitely a shortage of arrows in Ponferrada.  At times it was a tad confusing.  Having said this, it didn't feel as bad as the last time I left Ponferrada.  Last time it had felt like it took forever to leave the city.

A Mary outside of Ponferrada
Outside of Ponferrada you pass through several small towns.  We stopped in Camponaraya for some breakfast and chatted with several pilgrims we knew.

Very cool flower on the way to Cacabelos.
Passiflora caerulea, the Blue Passion Flower.
The next major town is Cacabelos.  We stopped for a snack/lunch and perused a street market before heading out of town.  This next section, between Cacabelos and Villafranca del Bierzo is a strange section for me.  Both times I walked it I ended up totally exhausted.   It didn't feel particularly hilly or steep but as you walked along the dirt farm road and admired the beauty of the vineyards and the mountains of the area (known as the Bierzo) your energy was just sucked out of you.  Last time I met a Puerto Rican whose conversation distracted me enough that I hadn't noticed it too much.  This time I noticed how tough it was.

A vineyard on a hill.
In one small village along the way we passed a Chinese girl we'd seen since Astorga.  She spoke Chinese and Spanish but not English which I felt odd.  Of course this is a very ethnocentric attitude I guess.  You could tell she was struggling too.  She looked really tired and we all had a ways to go before we got to our destination.

When we finally got to Villafranca del Bierzo I was totally wiped.  Gv had read about a recently renovated albergue and wanted to stay there.  I was following her through the city passing one albergue after another as we crossed the town.  She wasn't sure where it was and I just wanted to get somewhere so I could power down.   I was really tired.  My thoughts were approaching homicidal as Gv drug me through the confusing streets of this town.  Apparently when they were handing out all the arrows to mark the Camino, all of Ponferrada's arrows were sent to Villafranca del Bierzo.  There were arrows everywhere.  You could walk in three different directions following arrows on all three paths and, eventually reaching the same town exit.

Right before I really snapped, we reached the Albergue de la Piedra.  We asked for beds and we got the last ones in the albergue.  People came in behind us were turned away with an offer from the hospitalero to drive them to another albergue (The hospitaleros were a very nice couple).  If they had been completo, I think I would have made Gv carry me to another albergue (It would turn out that one of the other albergues had bedbugs so we lucked out).

A lot of our friends showed up here (while the albergue was full the albergue took reservations so some people with reservations showed up after us) and we said our hellos.  Vn was there with a friend he'd been walking with for a while.  His friend had been bitten by bedbugs the night before.  The hospitaleros washed all his clothes, fumigated his pack, and told him what to buy to treat the bites.  They went above and beyond and they were just good people.  They had a dog who had a habit of laying in doorways.   You had to watch your step.  He also would sit outside the kitchen and stare at you as you ate like all dogs do.

We did our chores including washing the dirt off in a seven head shower (it was pilgrim heaven I tell you).  Everything in this albergue, whose building was built around a huge stone outcrop (hence the name de la piedra ... of the stone), was nice.

A shady park to rest and wait for the grocery store to open.
After our chores we walked around the town, got something to eat, and sat in a shady park while we waited for the grocery store to open.  I was tired and I wasn't too enthusiastic about walking around part.  The sitting in the park part was nice.  The store opened and we bought supplies for the next day and Gv made dinner that night.  As we ate I chatted with an older couple from Missouri.

This had been a tough day for no real good reason.  I was tired and I was happy to get in bed and sleep.

Pictures can be found in my 2013 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Total Distance on Day 31: 24 km ( 14.91 Miles)
Total Distance Walked: 712 km (442.42 Miles)

Approximate Track of the day's hike.
[Click on map for a larger version]

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