The morning of the 25th was overcast, which made our 24 kilometers to Villafranca del Bierzo actually quite cool and pleasant. The rain held off until we were almost in town.
Slow but steady!
Stopping at our best second breakfast yet in Moncloa in the town of Cacabelos.
Walking in the dry and in the damp, a bit up and down.
On 24 May we had a short day: 9 km to Ponferrada, followed by lunch and a visit to the Templar Castle.
We thought we might be rained on, but the rain held off till the end of the day!
On our way:
We stopped for a break at the Roman Bridge right before town.
Off we go!
After the castle and dinner, it did rain a little.
But: Ice Cream!
On 23 May we woke bright and early to climb up to the iron cross and then descend the rocky road to Molinaseca. This was our longest day so far: about 25 km.
Our feet may be blistered, but our spirits are unbowed!
It was a bit muddy at times.
But the view was great and there were ample opportunities for selfies.
Onward and upward we climbed…
We were happy to have had a good breakfast.
And second breakfast.
Soon we got to the iron cross. Here the pilgrim is meant to leave a rock signifying one’s burdens.
This is the highest point on the Camino, but it wasn’t quite all down hill from here. We went along a high ridge, stopping at times to smell the flowers.
And then down, down, down. And down again. And then some more down. At this point, some of us are really feeling the journey in our feet and legs.
After a last steep rocky scramble we reached the quaint town of Molinaseca. This means “dry mill”, but luckily the river was full and flowing.
We ate a delicious lunch and then stumble-waddled off to a nap.
On 22 May we walked our longest day yet, some 25 kilometers up and out of Astorga to Rabanal.
Getting ready to go:
Away we go!
Playing cards at the albergue:
And some camino trivia before dinner:
Along the trail, we have come to learn that there is an unspoken connectedness between the peregrinos and the physical trail itself. The key concepts that link the pilgrims to the road and each other have a overwhelming effect on the community. The two main mottos of the trail really speak to the amicable atmosphere that follows the Camino de Santiago.
The first saying speaks to the interconnectedness of all people on the trail by reaching out to passing pilgrims with the simple greeting, “Buen camino.” The most contact with the saying is between the pilgrims themselves when they are in the middle of the long trail who reach out to wish others luck on their journey. It doesn’t matter if the person is stopped, resting or practically running, the automatic response to a nomad with a backpack is,”buen caminio.” The other side of the greeting is when the initiator lives on the trail itself. The majority of these residents live in pueblos that exist solely to serve the pilgrims, subsequently, the residents find much pleasure in wishing the travelers a sound trip.
The second motto, “The Camino de Santiago provides,” truly, comes alive, mostly, through the actions of those on the trail. This saying requires faith; spiritual or secular are necessary. Since everyone’s experience is different, this concept comes to fruition when someone may need it most. For example, people leave shoes along the trail for those whose split or those who have too many blisters to continue with their own. There are boxes that say “take or leave” that exemplify the contributions given by everyone. Or perhaps, my favorite example, there are many food stands in the middle of the trail that run on donations by the people. The hospitality of the people is the epitome of the motto. It is hard to imagine the appreciation of a peregrino when the camino undeniably provides.
The trail was physically constructed with the destination in mind, while the community surrounding the Camino, focuses on the goal of reaching Santiago safely. The physical marks of the trail reflect how the surrounding Spaniards protect the pilgrims. Through the phrases, hospitality partners with the spiritual vibe of the Camino to insure the overall safety and happiness of those who seek Santiago. The weight of these phrases cannot be translated well due to their flexible sense of associated emotion. The general connotation of both mean to represent the open arms, hearts, and minds of the Camino community. The Camino is more so comprised of the people, rather than than the physical path.
The morning of 21 May sees us up early and ready to walk to Astorga (16.5 km).
We have some fun at breakfast:
Then get ready to walk. And walk.
Once out of town, the road is nice clay earth and rock for most of the way. Many of us agree that this is better than the pavement. Others find all the rocks kind of tricky/trippy.
Second Breakfast. We can see Astorga only a few kilometers away in the distance.
Just past a pedestrian bridge over a the railway and we’re practically in Astorga.
While in Leon, we got to see an absolutely amazing cathedral. During the day, we were able to tour it and learn all about its history. We analyzed the architecture and the art that was inside, and it was all gorgeous and I continue to be astonished by the quality and size of a building made so long ago. That being said, my favorite moment at the cathedral didn’t actually take place when we visited it as a group. Later in the evening, after dinner, a few friends and I decided last minute to take a walk around before going to bed and see the city at night. We went back to the cathedral again, but honestly it felt like we were seeing it for the first time. It was lit up, and stood in a stark contrast against the dark night. The three of us stared at it in silence, completely taken aback. Around us, the people of Leon visited with each other in the plaza, had drinks, and having a completely normal Saturday night. It made me think about how though they may not be over taken by the immensity and beauty of the cathedral, nonetheless they are drawn to it and it remains the center of the community.
On 20 May we had a short-ish hike on pavement and then dirt roads to the town of Hospital de Orbigo (about 15 kilometers).
A stop for second breakfast:
Now straight on until you cross the medieval bridge!
On our very first day of the Camino, what I was most struck by without a doubt was the immediate sense of community. As we walked through the city of León, strangers on bikes, in cars, or even on foot shouted ¨Buen camino!¨ to wish us good luck. When we finally got to the main trail, nearly every person we passed wished us a good Camino, as we did for them. The Camino was abond we held among people we had no other connections with, and this incredible commitment we had all made built a sense of community and respect. We even passed markers for the trail with shoes resting on them that said ¨take me if you need me,¨ a gift from those who had passed to those who still had far to go. Even the people in the albergues who we´ve met so far have only treated us with kindness, telling us that we wouldn´t walk through Spain hungry, and offering us pasta, salad, bread, chicken, ice cream, fruit, and wine. The generosity and selflessness of the people we´ve met so far has been reassuring and appreciated, and I can´t wait to see what else is in store for us!
On 19 May we set out on our first day’s walk: some 20 kilometers from Leon to Villar de Mazarife.
Once in Villar de Mazarife we washed some clothes…
…and had a class session.
Finally ready for dinner!