More Camino flashbacks. The little dog above took a liking to me. We’d run into each other on the trail, and he’d come over and say hello. Sometimes he walked beside me before heading off ahead. I found our friendship touching.
Day 26 – Ponferrada to Villafrance del Bierzo
We spent the day walking through fields of grape vines in full fall apparel. I kept taking photo after photo, thinking the last one would be the best.
A few towns speckled the day. In Cacabelos, I spotted the mural below. Loosely translated, the banner said, Humanity suffers the consequences of its uncontrolled progress. When will we succeed in harmonizing science and nature? It was such a complex piece of art, I could have spent a full day, looking at it, and still not understood its full range of symbolism.
The next stop was Villafranca del Bierzo.. In medieval times, Villafranca was known as ‘little Compostela’. Pilgrims, unable to continue all the way to Santiago de Compostela, received the same pardon for their sins obtained in Santiago.
Day 27 – to LaFaba
It was pitch black when I left the albergue. A cement barrier separated the road from the path, so it was safe and easy to follow. Nonetheless, it was eery. Being in a valley meant tiny sounds echoed, and I couldn’t tell if they came from close or far. By the time the sun came up, we’d climbed our way out.
Most of the day followed the road. There was an alternative route, but since I didn’t have a guidebook, I listened to the fears of others and chose not to take it. Later on, I learned that it was a beautiful trail over a mountain and through forest.
The last four kilometers to LaFaba, five kilometers before O Cebreiro, were a delight. We picked our way over rocks and enjoyed the smell of the forest. LaFaba had a wonderful energy and the best vegetarian restaurant!
I met a pilgrim I knew in the courtyard of the albergue, looking out over the mountains. He’d arrived hours earlier, he said, but couldn’t pull himself away.
Day 28 – to A Balsa
The climb over O Cebreiro in the early morning light was a Camino highlight. Below is the shortened progression of it.
I came down the other side and bypassed Triacastela – the guidebook stop for this stage – to stay in an ecological albergue: El Beso, in the town of A Balsa. The owners had renovated an old stone house and turned it into an albergue.
Although it looked rough on the outside (I almost didn’t go in), the areas in use were nicely redone. The vegetarian meals were also worth the stop.
Day 29 – to Morgade
As the flow of pilgrims tapered out in the fall, many of the albergues along the Camino closed. I knew the albergue I planned to stay at closed at the end of October, but it was only the 29th. When I got there, I found the metal gate locked. Closed for the season.
Shortly after 3 pm, I stopped at the bakery in the next town. It too was locked. I could hear them inside and knocked, but no one answered.
I walked five more kilometers before seeing a local and asked if any albergues were open close by. The man directed me down the road. Thirty kilometers or not, the tiredness fled from my body. I nearly ran the half a kilometer.
People with backpacks sat on at one of the tables outside the albergue. They were open! And what a treasure Casa Morgade was; one of the nicest albergues of my whole trip.
It was also a renovated stone house, but in better shape than El Beso. The dorms were gorgeous with single beds and not bunks – and sheets with quilts (luxury!), the outside patio boasted views over the countryside, and they had a covered area in case of rain. Supper that night was memorable. Had I had more time, I would have stayed a few days.
Next post: Camino Flashbacks: Day 30- 33