What happened when you walked day after day after day? Perspectives changed. So did the things worthy of your time and a photograph.
Day 22 León to Villavente
At the town of La Virgen del Camino, 7 km after León, the trail split into two toward Hospital de Órbigo, my destination of choice for that day. The right route mostly followed the highway. The left route went through fields. The first was two kilometers shorter. The signs were confusing, and somehow, I ended up on the longer route.
We did indeed weave through field upon field, but at least there were distractions, both natural and contrived. For example, these boots left on the Camino post. It wasn’t unusual to see such a sight, on the Camino. And it never ceased to fascinate me; the range of meanings to the symbol seemed endless.
The small cement bin above was by a large agricultural research centre. It had loads of frogs in it. I spent a good half hour, taking photos and watching them.
A bit later, I was seated on a big rock, pondering why I found myself in the middle of nowhere in Northern Spain – I still had no clear answer to why I was on the Camino, when Sydney from Australia wandered into view. We’d run into each other a few times along the way. I really appreciated his dry sense of humor.
We chatted, and he talked me into staying in Villavente, the small town above, an hour’s walk before Hospital de Órbigo. His reasoning was sound. We’d already done over 30 km. Why did we need to do more?
Day 23 – to Murias de Rechivaldo
When I got up the next morning, my old friends, Neil and Tatiana, were in the foyer of the albergue. I was thrilled. We met up with Christine, another friend, later in the day. It was both odd and nice for me to have many people to talk to as I walked.
The trail passed next to an old Pagan place of ritual. The keeper had prepared a free food table for pilgrims, and the spot had wonderful energy. This was the second place (first place, Church of Santa Lucía – another story for later) along the Camino where I would have unrolled my sleeping bag and settled in. Had I been alone, I likely would have stayed.
The dog next to the scarecrow belonged to a pilgrim. I only saw two dogs, walking the Camino. The owner of this dog wasn’t friendly, but the other pilgrim was approachable. His dog was also smaller and a bit mangy-looking. I asked if the trail would not be too much for such a small dog? He laughed and said, No way. The dog was tougher than he was.
I previously published the photo below in post, Day 24. I’d included my rest day in Tardajos in that number. I have not included it in this list. The photo was taken right outside San Juan de la Vega, some 3 km before Astorga. It had been a good day, and Neil, Tatiana, Christine and I decided to celebrate. Food and wine came next.
After the festivities, I left Neil, Tatiana and Christine in Astorga and carried on to Murias de Rechivaldo. Supper that night was vegetarian and carried well wishes for the journey.
Day 24 – to Foncebadón
The walk up the mountain was amazing. I already posted my pleasure on this hike as Day 25. Since then, I’ve read Shirley MacLaine’s The Camino: A Journey of the Spirit. According to Shirley, in the 80’s, Foncebadón was abandoned and had packs of wild dogs who sometimes attacked pilgrims. She said it was a scary place to walk through.
There was still an edge to the place, no doubt there, one I would like to go back and explore in greater depth. To give the reader a sense of this, above is a photo I took late that night. The fog/clouds were so thick, it looked like the stage set for a horror movie. And yet, there was something peaceful in it, too.
Photo above was taken early the next morning. The views, hidden the day before, were really outstanding.
Day 25 – to Ponferrada
I was a bit sad to leave and was even sadder when one of the other pilgrims found a kind of salamander hurt on the trail. Poor little thing. It tried to run away when he shone his light on it, but it could barely move.
It was really cold, so maybe she’d (yes, I thought of it as a she) was moving slowly and someone had stepped on her? There was no way to know. After much discussion, one of the men pilgrims picked her up and put her in some grass, well away from traffic. Hopefully, she’d be all right.
The two kilometers to Cruz del Ferro (Iron Cross) were an easy ascent. This was a special moment along the trail. Many pilgrims had carried rocks from home to leave underneath. Some brought rocks for family and friends, too. These were meant to represent the leaving of sins behind.
It had rained, and the rocks on the path were a bit slippery. Nonetheless, the descent was incredibly fun. And the scenery so beautiful!
Even if tired by the time we reached Molinaseca, 8 km from Ponferrada, we thought we’d take the long way into the city. Big mistake.
I was hiking with someone, and though we had about the same pace, she liked to take very, very long breaks. This meant it was already past my curfew of 2 pm when my energy lagged. I’d also slept little the night before. I’d gone to bed late, every bed taken in the dorm and the beds snug together. It seemed like every little noise echoed. Every time a pilgrim came to bed, went to the bathroom, coughed, snorted, or played with their phone, they woke all of us.
From our point of entrance to the city, it wasn’t clear how to reach the albergue. We finally got there at 4 pm. I was exhausted and more than a little grumpy. Not a good way to start a social evening.
More Camino Resources:
Christine On Big Trip – an amazing woman!