Oct. 9- Astorga: 20 miles, six and one-half hours
The walk seems unusually long, but swapping stories with our friends from Utah and New Hampshire makes the day fly by.
Tradition dictates that it is “your Camino.” You walk at your own pace, stop at different towns along the way and decide if/when a rest day is necessary. When you run into someone you haven’t seen in a while, you are so happy to reconnect and it usually results in lots of hugs and a celebratory glass of wine. There is such a wonderful feeling of camaraderie, but it’s all in the moment. You can have an intensely personal conversation with someone, then never see them again. It is said that the Camino provides; what you need may magically appear and a stranger’s words may be just what you were searching for all along.
We follow the signs to the old city and finally find our hotel called Descansa Wendy. It’s a lovely guesthouse. The table is already set for breakfast in the sun room with blue and white china on a white linen tablecloth and the menu sounds delicious. What a lovely treat!
We run into our California friend on the street and she joins us for dinner.
Oct. 10- Rabanal del Camino: 13 miles, 4 and one-half hours
It’s cold this morning, 45 degrees, but once the sun comes up, we take off our jackets.
We run into a big group that we know, including some from Australia that we had lost track of. We all stop to see a lovely church and then around the next corner are surprised to see a man dressed in medieval costume with his pet hawk (photo opportunity for a donation),
Our hotel, La Posada Gaspar, is a renovated 17th century pilgrim hostel that exudes rustic charm. There is no laundry service, so we wash our clothes and hang them on the provided line on our terrace.
Oct. 11- Molinaseca: 17 miles, seven hours
By day’s end, we will have walked to the highest point: 4,600 feet! The combination of shale, boulders, loose rock and ravines made this one of the hardest walks, but the scenery is breathtaking. It is so silent and so still in the mountains. When the path narrowed to single file, everyone stopped talking; maybe in deference to the surroundings?
The Camino continued uphill and it seems to last forever. Finally, we see a town in the distance and a medieval bridge. Our hotel, Hostel el Palacio, is housed in an old stone building. Large groups are already sitting outside in the sun enjoying a glass of beer or wine. We join them and toast that the day was a success.
Oct. 12- Villafranca del Bierzo: 19 miles, seven hours
We start the day stressed. We decide to walk through town, but it is not well marked. We’re losing time, stopping to constantly check the map.
We’re walking through the town of Cacabelos and I stop to admire a lovely courtyard. A woman on the street says that it is a restaurant whose tradition it is to serve pilgrims a glass of wine. She insists we follow her and introduces us. We thank her and she gives me a hug. We sit in the courtyard, enjoy the wine and listen to the live music.
Once again, our hotel is at the end of town (more of a trip now, but less tomorrow morning). We ring the bell at the Casa Leo B&B, but no one answers. Frustrated, we head back to town and ask in a bar if they will call for us.
We head back once again and this time Señora answers the door right away, apologizes and escorts us upstairs. We feel as if we are staying with our grandmother. We have the whole living room to ourselves. There are only Spanish TV stations. It’s a good way to practice the language and we decide to sit and relax for a while, until we hear the big news : there are rainstorms and floods all over Spain.