Excerpts from my Camino Diary – Week 4

Excerpts from my Camino Diary – Week 4

** let me start off by saying that I am writing these diary posts from my cell . So please excuse the format, look, possible grammatical errors, and feel of this presentation for normally I would have a laptop but wanted to disconnect is much as possible while walking the Camino de Santiago

July 22, 2016: St. Martin del Camino – Astorga

Today we we returned to the beautiful walk as we walked with Maya, Amelia, and their SoCal family from town to town and through the farms between them.

Our first highlight was Puente de Orbigo. This is one of the longest and rather beautiful bridges along walk. The story goes that this preachers often used for knights to joust to gain honor or settle disputes and as you walked across you could easily imagine the scene.

The second highlight was La Casa de Los Dioses Cantina.  Basically this guy David was living the hippie life in the middle of the wheat fields offering places to sit and relax while he gave away free fruit juices, fruits and vegetables, and time to enjoy his little playful kittens as they reminded you of what is important in life.  His Cantina was perfect and across was the most beautifully tall wheat.  I walked across into the field and looked up as the blue sky hovered so close I could touch it.

As I walked into Astorga, I realized that this may have been the first day where all of us were joyful and silly together all the once.  It was amazing as silly photos, singing, word games, and lots of laughter filled the days walk.

After arriving, I went to explore.  Astorga is a classic and clean city with a plaza that is full of life. It even has the building designed by Gaudi next to their cathedral. Later we were treated to a great family dinner cooked by the Irish family and then returned to the plaza for ice cream while watching the locals celebrate their Friday night.

July 23, 2016: Astorga – Foncebadon

Last night I froze again!

We left really early again. I think the heat is too much for some people and others seem to be done walking. Everyone always seems shocked when I tell them I would love to do this longer, or I don’t mind the heat, or I’m not home sick at all.

The walk out of Astorga was relatively easy as we drifted in the cool morning. Even the moon refused to leave us as it guided us until noon.

Apparently we passed the area where a few years back a female pilgrim was misled by fake markers, kidnapped, and then murdered.  We walked through this supposed zone quietly.

Now Rabanal was our main stop for lunch.  It’s a beautiful town that made me feel like we entered a small alpine village. Apparently there’s up Benedictine monastery there that accepts pilgrims for a silent 2 night  retreat.  Perhaps next time.

From here we left toward Foncebadon. The climb was hard and reminded me of our first weekend the Pyrenees.  Personally, I loved it.  Sure it was hot and the path was extremely slippery and rocky, but I loved the challenge.

Finally we made it to this small hamlet.  It was basically a small area of several albergues amid ruins of other buildings on the side of the mountain…it was perfect.  This is perhaps the town where Paolo Coelho battles the devil dog in his book The Pilgrimage. We just sat outside enjoying the view of the valley below and the cool breeze.

July 24, 2016: Foncebadon – Ponferrada

The beautiful morning walk!

I awoke in a great mood.  We left and proceeded up the mountain under an amazing sky.  As the sun rose slowly, we witnessed unbelievable colors crossing through the sky.  We were all in awe.

As we continued, we arrived at the famous Cruz de Ferro.  People often leave a stone or a token at the foot of the cross.  I personally just left my thoughts.

It was a hard walk down Alto Altar, but the beautiful scenery, cool weather, and small villages kept us in good spirits along the way.

By around lunchtime we made it to Molinaseca.  The town has a classic old town but what I really thought was cool was how they created a public swimming area in the Rio Meruelo.  We ate lunch and watched pilgrims and locals alike jumping into the crystal clear cold river to cool off or relieve their aches.

Now the walk to Ponferrada was boring, long, and hot along the highway.  We finally made it to St. Nicholas de Flue, an albergue run by Franciscans.  

Ponferrada was also a boring town.  The only highlight was a giant castle built by the Knights Templar but it was closed.

Later I joined up with Fr Jeff and his friend Jared to celebrate his birthday. While celebrating, we met a girl from Dublin named Sinead.  She was eating all alone in nice clothes reading a Camino guidebook while the three of us looked sun beaten, dusty, and run down.  Fr Jeff asked her to join us and she revealed that tomorrow would be her first day walking the Camino and she was so nervous.  It was fun to see her like this as I tried to think about how I was 24 days prior in St. Jean when I started.

July 25, 2016: Ponferrada – Trabadelo

Herman the German Snored!!!

Last night was a horrible night’s sleep!  For the first time in a while, I got a bottom bunk which was great.  However, Herman the German, as we called him, had the top bunk.  He would toss and turn or jump in and out of bed several times for the first two hours.  It felt like an earthquake as he would shake the wobbly metal bunk bed.  Then after he finally settled, the snoring commenced!  He was so loud that everyone in the dorm room heard him.  I think in total I slept for one hour!

Then we left.  The day was hot and long.  Couple that with my lack of sleep led to a cranky morning.

Finally we reached Trabadelo.  There isn’t much to this village but our albergue hosts were great.  They allowed us to use their private pool to cool off and then cooked us a great dinner.  

Later I crashed into my soft bed.

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July 26, 2016: Trabadelo – O’Cebreiro

I woke up refreshed and happy.

The walk was beautiful as we followed the Rio Pereje through many little villages.  They all had unique personality as we moved closer to the Galicia border.

Then the climb came as we went up 700 meters away from the Castille y Leon region and into Galicia.

Finally we made it to O’Cebreiro atop the mountain.  This area has a unique Celtic feel to it.  After checking into the pension, I found a beautiful spot overlooking the valley to sit and smoke a cigar as the cool breeze relaxed me.

For dinner, I joined a group from Denmark and Holland as we discussed the world, travel, and life.  I’m always impressed that so many foreigners can speak English so well and how I struggle to speak minimalistic Spanish.

July 27, 2016: O’Cebreiro – Triacastela

A walk in the Fog!

Today started out with a snafu.  After hiking up the mountain for about 1 kilometer, I realized I had forgotten my cell phone and had to go back.  Luckily, I was feeling great and was able to run back down and then back up fast enough to catch up with everyone.

It was great though as I was able to witness a beautiful sunrise over the massive fog.  We were so high up that some of the other mountain peaks looked like islands floating in the sea of fog.

Soon though, the fog would overtake us.  But it was actually a blessing as it cooled us off during the hard uphills and downhills.

Finally we arrived at Triacastela.  This town is beautiful as it follows along a small river.  Everywhere you hear Galician music and see celtic symbols.  

I did a little exploring and later went to mass at their “Cathedral” de Santiago.  Then, we enjoyed a home cooked dinner as sat in the beautiful yard of our albergue.

July 28, 2016: Triacastela – Sarria

Today we had decided to finally take one of the scenic routes to see an ancient Benedictine monastery.  It would add an extra 6km to our walk but it seemed worth it.  Sadly, it was kind of a let down.  We walked in cool temperatures passed farms but there were no towns to stop in, so it felt like a very long walk. Finally we got to the Monastery.  Walking down towards it was amazing as it looked like a fortress.  It is reported as one of the oldest in all Europe so I was excited to see its history.  But to no avail.  The monastery is pretty much closed off except for the gift shop.  You can take a tour but it was at specific times and only in spanish, so we passed.

From there we took the long “scenic” path back to the main Camino and on to Sarria.  Sarria was a nice town and soon we met up with Fr Jeff, Jared, and Sinead.

Then my disastrous night began. Fr Jeff, Jared, Sinead, and I hadn’t eaten so we left to find food.  The guys wanted burgers buy Sinead and I wanted Pulpo (octopus).  So we went down to restaurant row by the river, ate, and returned.  Sinead went to her pension and I went up to my albergue only to find it locked!!  I hadn’t realized that we had a curfew especially since it was just the Irish family, James, and I in the place.  So I started knocking on the front door and yelling to the second floor where my roommates were.  After an hour, I desperately needed a bathroom, so I went in search of that and a place to stay.  I first checked the pension that Sinead was staying at.  When I walked in looking for the hospitelero, Sinead was there.  I told her that I was locked out and was desperate for a bathroom and she offered to help.  She was a life saver.  

Throughout the Camino, it would amaze me how pilgrims would often help each other out.  No one seemed a stranger on the walk, always looking out for one another.  Though I didn’t sleep due to the stress of the situation, I felt lucky.

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