Still Alive – 6 days left!

Some photos from our ascent to O Cebreiro yesterday and then descent down the mountains again today. Yesterday was quite the cardio workout! Somebody described it as being like climbing over the alps from The Sound of Music. The weather has been quite warm too.

The views from the top were amazing and we spent much of this morning above the cloud line looking down over beautiful green landscapes.

Climbing to O Cebreiro

 

Alto de San Roque 1270 meters

 

Entering Galicia

Villafranca

A beautiful day hiking through hilly vineyards once again. This region is rather wild and Rich was disappointed to see the grapes have mostly been harvested already. Mountains are all around us.

We are spending the night in Villafranca prior to a really long climb back into the mountains tomorrow.

Rich had “soused trout” for lunch which we thought was a typo, but maybe not!

Templar castle yesterday in Ponferrada.

 

Back into wine country. Green and pleasant.

“Mist”-ical Morning and Monumental Descent


We began our stage today in Foncebadon, a mountain village with a single unpaved street. We delayed leaving until 7:20 so as not to do too much mountain climbing in the dark, only to discover we were in the midst of very dense fog. It was pretty cool.

2 km in we reached the Iron Cross. I had expected that the dawn would have risen by the time we got there, but probably due to the fog it was still dark.

The Iron Cross is probably the earliest and most famous monument for pilgrims on the Camino. There apparently has been a sacred monument in this place since Roman times or before. The monument consists of a small iron cross mounted on a tall pole atop a mound of rocks and stones. It is a place where pilgrims leave stones which they have brought with them for the origin of their Camino. The stones can be placed as a memorial or prayer, or can represent some symbolic weight that the pilgrim is wishing to let go.

Our stones we carried from home.

I brought a small pebble of limestone from the creek bed in our backyard. Rich carried a fossil (exogyra).

Iron Cross

 

Coming over the the mountain.

 

Coming into Ponferrada in the valley.

As you can see from the elevation profile we had a very steep and long descent off the mountain today. No view because of the fog for a number of hours.

Now we are in Ponferrada seen in the distance in this last photo.

Astorga and Beyond

Yesterday was a long, hot stage to get to Astorga, a town with Roman roots. We were too tired to write, so today I’ll combine two days.

We started out yesterday with a 28.5 km day ahead of us, but unsure how my toe would hold out. Fortunately Rich has expanded his expertise to podiatry and wrapped that little guy up in layers of gauze and tape, and it has survived.

We made 3 new Australian acquaintances (Heather, Peter and Andrew) yesterday morning and enjoyed walking with them until we had to kick into higher gear to ensure a timely arrival in Astorga.

Once in our destination we registered at the large albergue, shared a washer with 2 other pilgrims (the nice German guy wouldn’t affend my sensibilities by making me touch his briefs – how quaint), hung the laundry and sought a beer.

We ended up lunching with our Spanish friend Jose Luis who we met on day one of our Camino, and afterwards viewed a Palace designed by Gaudi and toured the Cathedral.

Today was designed to be a shorter stage but we tacked on another 5km of steep climbing into the mountains. Unbelievably we are now at a higher elevation than we were when crossing the Pyrenees. Tomorrow we will reach our highest point of the Camino and then have a very steep and long descent. (More mountains in the future though.)

Officially there are 10 more days of walking until we reach Santiago. We are leaving Castillo y León autonomy and entering Galicia, where the climate should change to cooler and wetter Atlantic weather.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Villar de Mazarife

We’re out of León and in a little bitty town on the ‘scenic route’. We made excellent time but my toe is in severe distress. 28.5 km to walk tomorrow.

Ouch.

León

Some photos from our 2 days in León where we are enjoying a rest day. We have said goodbye to some pilgrim friends that were moving on and regained other friends we had left behind.

In the next few days we’ll be heading back into the mountains and into Galicia and the final 2 weeks of our journey.

For now we’ve had a mini-vacation with a real bed, great showers and sightseeing.

Tonight we hope to attend a free organ concert in the cathedral.

About to take a tour of the city.

 

Saying ‘goodbye’ to our sweet South Korean girls and Japanese boy.

 

What to say? Happy we’ve made it here!

 

Léon Cathedral

 

The Cathedral has amazing stained glass. More stunning I think than Burgos because of its purity.

Quiet Afternoon

Enjoying a Little Oasis

We’re 12 km out of Leon in a delightful albergue. Due to our extra walking yesterday we can relax this afternoon in the garden with free wifi and some drinks. Laundry is drying on the line.

Tomorrow and the next day we’ll be at a hotel (yay!!!!) in Leon and resting up. After Leon we’ll start climbing back into the hills and leave the Meseta behind. Looking forward to the last 13 stages.

Pilgrim Laundry

 

We’ve made it half way

I’m combining two posts in one because of wifi issues.

Friday Sept 22 in Terradillos

So the Meseta…

It’s really boring. As Rich said today it’s like we’re doing a Camino across Nebraska. However, we had a nice day anyway because the weather was sunny, cool and with gorgeous strong breezes. We left at 6:15, made really good time and and were lucky enough to snag prime lodging in the destination village.

Other pilgrims weren’t as lucky. With hundreds of pilgrims walking each stage everyday we are encountering situations where there aren’t enough beds available and those arriving even in the early afternoon have to walk on to the next town or further to try to find lodging. That could be 3, 7 or more kilometers on top of the 27 already walked.

We are have reached the halfway point of the Camino and are 3 days out from Leon where we plan to get a hotel and take a rest day.

Today is Tristan’s 19th birthday. Happy Birthday Tristo! Hope you have a fun with your friends.

Saturday Sept 23

We had a long day to El Burgo Ranero. We went an extra 7.4 km today to get to a bigger town with more lodging. It’s hot and will be hotter tomorrow.

We’ve been meeting up with some of the same pilgrims along the way and meeting new ones. Today we ended up sharing gin and tonics over lunch (see photo). Had a great lunch of beer, scrambled eggs, bacon and fries.

Gin and Tonics with new friends

 

Carrion de Los Condes – the nuns of Santa Maria

A Special Evening

Thursday night we spent at the Santa Maria parochial albergue in Carrion de Los Condes. This was our second experience with a church albergue and the nuns were very special. They greeted us at registration with hot tea and cookies.

At 5:30 there was Vespers in the church followed by a pilgrim meet-and-greet sing-a-long. Each of the 30 pilgrims being housed by the church that night was invited to tell their name, where they are from, and why they were walking the Camino. Some tales were very inspiring, others were rather heartbreaking.

After mass at 8 there was a pilgrim blessing and then a communal dinner which everyone contributed to and helped prepare.

Pilgrim blessing

 

Communal dinner
Communal dinner

Boadilla del Camino

We did another long walk today, so now we are 1 day ahead of the guidebook. It was a bit hard (17 miles) but the road was good and the weather was sunny and warm.

I think that’s enough of the extended days for me. I had to push my pace really hard and at times found myself chanting in my head “don’t think about your feet”. I have persistent blisters on my little toe, big toe and right heel of my right foot that just don’t seem to heal. They may be with me until the end of the Camino.

Anyway, based on the recommendation of a Polish pilgrim named Yaris, who we first met in Santo Domingo and have reconnected with recently, we are at a lovely pilgrim oasis tonight.