Homer's Travels: Camino De Santiago - Ponferrada To Pereje

Monday, October 03, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Ponferrada To Pereje

I left the albergue at my usual time. Around 6:20 AM.  I said goodbye to KSam who was getting ready to go as I left (or was it the other way round ... can't remember).   I still needed to get to a pharmacy since I was out of something ... pilgrim candy I think. Ponferrada was supposed to have a 24hr pharmacy and the Camino went right past it. When I got there it was ... closed?!? What, was this hour number 25?!? I was so preoccupied about the fact it was closed that I missed a sign and kept walking straight. Next thing I know I hear someone yelling and I turn and a Japanese couple are pointing at an arrow. I smiled sheepishly and thanked them and got back on the right track. Camino angels.

It seemed like it took forever to get out of Ponferrada.  The only saving grace was the interesting churches and old pilgrim hospital the Camino passed by in the outskirts.  It felt odd when the Camino passed through an opening in the hospital building.

Somewhere around the town of Columbrianos I passed the Spaniard (The one I saw in Mesón Cowboy).  I was walking on the wrong side of the street (on the right side with my back to the traffic).  He pointed this fact out to me.  Now, I don't know where this came from but I got all irritated and I said something like "I know" but with a lot of attitude.  I eventually crossed back over to the left side of the road because I knew he was right and that it was safer to walk facing traffic but I felt stubborn and then I felt ashamed of how I'd responded.  I stewed on that for awhile.

After crossing a highway the Camino became more rural.  After the urban Ponferrada, the farm fields were a welcome change.  I reached the next major town, Cacabelos and found an open pharmacy where I stocked up on foot stuff and pilgrim's candy.

Outside of Cacabelos my gas ran out.  The Camino was going up another hill and my energy went down as it went up.  The path followed a busy road until the small town of Pieros.  Just past the town the Camino veers off the asphalt and becomes a dirt farm road.  I must have looked bad at this point.  I know I was reaching some limit.  Just when I was thinking about stopping a man walks up beside me and introduces himself.  RE was Puerto Rican and worked for the United States Geological Service.  We talked as we walked along the Camino.  He'd started in Sahagún.  He was walking with his sister - though they didn't walk together - they agreed to an end point each day and would meet there.  He had an interest in old doors - he wondered who had gone through them and what had happen behind them.  We stopped a few times to take pictures of doors.  (I have my own fascination with doors).

Before you know it we were in Villafranca del Bierzo.  The last three and a half miles just flew by.  RE had come around at just the right time to distract me from how tired I was.  Another one of those exceptions along the Camino where walking with someone helps.

RE was stopping in Villafrana del Bierzo.  I said my goodbyes and wound myself through the confusing city trying not to lose the Camino.  I managed to get through it without getting lost and, stopping for ice cream and a Coke, left town for my destination that, according to my GPS, was only a mile and a half or less ahead.

The Camino follows the asphalt ... the winding asphalt.  I knew I was in trouble when I looked at the GPS and the distance to Pereje had increased.  The GPS shows as the crow flies distance so it can be deceiving when your path has lots of twists and turns.  The distance from Villafranca del Bierzo to Pereje turned out to be around three and a third miles.

I entered the tiny little town of Pereje.  The buildings and an old, lived in look (i.e. ruins).  I walked through town passing a bar/restaurant looking for the albergue.  The albergue was at the end of the street.  It was a nice building.  I went in and found a few pilgrims milling about but no hospitalero.  I dumped my bag and boots and put on my flip-flops and headed back to the bar.  I bought a sandwich and asked the bar tender about the albergue.  She pulled out a log book and asked me to sign in (she was helping the hospitalero).  I got a stamp on my pilgrim's credential and ate my lunch.

I went back to the albergue and found the hospitalero had returned.  At first I had claimed a bed on the ground floor but, after another pilgrim claimed several for her and her friends who hadn't arrived yet (something that was not permitted in municipal albergues), I grabbed my stuff and went to the basement where there was another, quieter room.  The room was also closer to the bathrooms.

I went back up and ran into the Spaniard and his friends.  I tried, in very poor Spanish, to apologize for how I behaved earlier that day.  At first he wasn't sure what I was talking about but then remembered.  He told me to forget about it and, from that point on, we were friends.  I seemed to have made more friends by apologizing along the Camino.  The Spaniard, his friends, and GV, who also arrived, joined me in the basement.

That evening GV and I ate dinner in the restaurant.  For such a small little town, that restaurant served some awesome food - one of the best meals I had along the Camino.

That evening I relaxed in the bed talking with GV and the Spaniard.  The Spaniard, who had done all or part of the Camino just about every year for the past ten years, lamented the crowds now walking the Camino and the lax rules that the albergues followed.  There are some people who send their bags ahead by taxi and walk with only a small day pack.  In the past albergues would not have given them a bed, reserving the beds for pilgrims who carried their full packs.  Bicycle pilgrims were always admitted last, after walking pilgrims, if there was room.  Today these rules, often posted in the albergue, are ignored.

During the nice conversation I changed clothes in preparation for bed.  As I did I felt something on my big toe.  I reached down and, in a cringe inducing move for the Spaniard and GV, pulled off my big toenail.  Too bad it wasn't a couple days earlier - I could have left it at the Cruz de Ferro.  My big toe was much better now that I lost the nail.

Day twenty-seven, a very long walking day, ended with a rare good nights sleep.  I had a good day, a good meal, and good friends.  With the good night's sleep I would have a good start on the rest of my adventure.

Total Distance: 19.08 Miles (30.71 km)
Total Time: 6 hours 30 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 2,205 ft (672.08 m)
Total Elevation Down: 2,237 ft (681.84 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]


  1. (cringes) yeee- I knew you lost the nail at some point, and while i am grateful for lack of detail, I still got the willies!


    Still it sounds like it's going well :)

  2. MMC: I could add some more detail if you want ...

    Things are going well at this point.