Friday, January 17, 2014

Camino 2013 - Day 32: Villafranco Del Bierzo To La Faba

There are two ways out of Villafranca del Bierzo.  One takes you along the windy highway past Pereje where I'd stopped last Camino.  It also follows a river closely and the sound of water is a nice balance for the traffic noise (not as bad as I remembered but it was earlier in the day this time around).  The other way takes you up the mountain away from the busy road and provide a scenic path before rejoining the Camino near the village of Trabadelo.  This second way is harder and less well marked.  We decided to take the highway route instead.  Talking with others later on, the alternate route was not that much harder and was relatively easy to follow.

We stopped for breakfast in Trabadelo.  This stage would take us through several towns with lots of opportunities to stop if we'd wanted to.  We passed many people we knew including Ma and her friend (still don't remember his name).  In the town of Vega del Valcarce, after stopping in a bakery and a pharmacy, I felt something odd in my left foot.  It turned out to be another blister on my heel.  We stopped and treated it there and then (threaded it and gauzed it).  This would be my last major blister of the Camino and the early treatment would prevent it from getting worse.

After the town of Las Herrerías the Camino starts heading up - first following an asphalt road and next a dirt trail.  I remembered the part along the road but I didn't remember how long it was and how hard it felt.  I was happy when we finally got off the road (that is if you could ignore the Spanish pilgrim taking a whiz on the Camino marker).

The climb up the dirt trail was just as hard, if not harder, than I remembered from last time.  I was very happy once we arrived in La Faba.  There are two albergues in this tiny hamlet - both are run by Germans.  We headed for the vegetarian one which sounded interesting.  The vegetarian albergue was tiny - only five beds.  We were the first to check in.  The guy who checked us in was a little spacy.  The actual owner of the albergue had run off with a group of pilgrims earlier that week and had left this guy in charge.

The dorm room had two beds on the floor (one double bed and one single) and three beds raised six or seven feet off the floor on platforms attached to the wall and chains hung from the ceiling.  Very rustic.  The bathroom was a tiny room up some stairs at one end.  the room had the water heater in one end, a shower and sink on the other and a turkish toilet (i.e. a squat toilet) in the floor that acted as both toilet and shower drain.
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The vegetarian albergue dorm room.
The stairs in back lead up to the bathroom with the turkish toilet.
Gv took the larger of the two beds on the floor and I took the smaller.  We checked the place for bedbugs and it was clean.  We did our chores and headed to the restaurant/bar of the town.  The first order of business was using the 'real' bathroom facilities of the bar.  Then we ordered some sandwiches for lunch.  It was nice outside so we ate our food on a picnic table across from the bar.

Here we met more pilgrims including a father and two twenty-something sons from Colorado (Cn, Pk, and their father whom I don't recall his name).  Both of the sons were walking with girls they'd met along the Camino.  I'd seen the father before in Astorga but hadn't talked with him.  Cn had come in late and ended up in the vegetarian albergue with us and his walking partner.  His father and brother, Pk, were staying in the other Albergue that was now full.
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The church attached to the German albergue in La Faba.
Wy showed up and asked about a place to stay.  Both albergues were said to be full.  He was in bad shape but continued on to the next town two kilometers farther ahead.  It would turn out that our albergue actually had two open beds (they had been reserved but the pilgrims who reserved them had gone to the other albergue).  We felt bad for him - we didn't know if he'd gotten a bed until we ran into him again farther along the Camino.

There were only four people staying at the vegetarian albergue (Me, Gv, Cn, and his walking friend).  Since there were so few, a vegetarian meal was not included.  We ended up eating in the restaurant/bar we'd had lunch.  We sat with a couple of Canadian ladies that we would see off and on the rest of the way to Santiago.  I don't recall their names - I didn't do a very good job of writing names down ... shame on me.  They were an interesting pair.  One was an introvert that really didn't like to be uncomfortable (not a fan of albergues) and the other was outgoing, talkative, and probably open for everything.  The gregarious one acted like a buffer for the introvert.  The food and conversation was pretty good if I remember right.  I had my first piece of Tarta de Santiago, a type of almond cake.  It was the first of many pieces.

After dinner, and after using the bar bathroom facilities one last time, we went back to the albergue. It was getting dark and, unlike San Bol, the skies were clear.  I waited until the moon dropped low on the horizon and went outside to see the stars.  The stars were bright and you could see the milky way.  As we admired the night sky an old man approach Gv and asked her if she wanted to see his cow.  I wasn't paying too much attention to what they were talking about.  The man goes away and a few minutes later comes back leading a large cow.  I'm not sure what this meant.  Was he showing off or was he proposing?   I'm not really sure.  It was a nice cow though.  We went back inside to get away from the chill in the air and the cow in the street.

If I recall correctly I fell asleep late here.  Cn and friend were out celebrating late into the night and I think I was worried about them waking me up so ... I had a hard time falling asleep.  I finally did sleep after all the hill climbing I'd done this day finally caught up with me.

Pictures can be found in my Camino de Santiago 2013 Flickr set.

Total Distance on Day 32: 23 km ( 14.29 Miles)
Total Distance Walked: 735 km (456.71 Miles)

2013-10-08 Track Image
Approximate Track of the day's hike*.
[Click on map for a larger version]

*Note: The camera GPS had a very hard time tracking this stage probably because of the steep mountains which the Camino runs along and the trees covering the trail up to La Faba. The track is a rough approximation especially after Las Herrerías.

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