Winter Camino – (The Last) Day 27

I wonder what I will do tomorrow.

Lying in bed, listening to the rain gives you time to think. To think about today, about tomorrow and about what the last month has meant. But first things first – today. It is just over 20 kms to Santiago de Compostela, or at least the Cathedral where St James awaits. There is no decisions to be made gear-wise. Rain clothes will be the order of morning and if the forecast holds true maybe the sun will give a curtain call this afternoon.

A shower, some packing and I am out the door and in the middle of a stampede. Where the heck did all these Pilgrims come from?!? For the last 4 days from Sarria I have been expecting them but when they didn’t materialize I made the simple mistake of assuming it would be different during the winter season. Silly me. I watch silently from my doorway as they all head the wrong way. I may have to answer for that on a later date but for today I know the morning walk on the trail out of O Pedrouzo will be quieter with them all marching down the road. To ease my conscience I slip into a Panadaria for Cafe con leche and tostadas. I feel better now.

I’m determined to take today nice and easy. After the last week 20 kms will be a walk in the park and with today being my last on the Camino this year I intend to savour every second. The quiet is a treat and I marvel at the landscape. I know it’s repetitive but I just can’t get enough of this view.

It is a privilege to be here and I am grateful for it.

Coming up to the airport the clouds are hanging very low in the sky. My giant friends must be having trouble seeing from up there.

It is a well photographed spot but that won’t stop me from taking one too!

Around Capilla San Roque I find the herd. As slow as I thought I was walking, seems I was walking much faster than them. And much to my Zen dismay, I’ve managed to overtake one group but get caught up behind the next group. After a month of silence this is threatening to undo all my sanity gains! But my gains are safe. I round the next corner and find my salvation… Casa de Amancio. What a treat of a place. I duck in for a quick coffee and ice cream bar. The owner is pretty much convinced I must be unbalanced eating ice cream this time of the year but I just smile and toss out a casual, “Soy Canadiense”. “Ahhh…”, with a knowing nod of the Proprietor’s head, “He is unbalanced…“. To make sure the herd has plenty of time to get ahead of me I decide to make this my lunch spot. A plate of Pulpo, some rustic bread and cold glass of suds and the coast is clear. And the sun has started to peak out. Perfect.

It isn’t long until I reach Monte do Gozo. What a difference. Last time Mrs. Peregrina and I were here in May and you had to deal with 200 people milling about, determined to ruin every photo. Now I find myself alone and shooting to my heart’s content.

A quick walk through the trees and over the field…

And I am reunited with my two favourite guides. It is here with the help of my guides that I glimpse the Cathedral, just a few kilometres off in the distance.

Back across the field and through the Albergue facility at Monte do Gozo and I stand in front of a statue I can relate to much better this year. It has been the first time I’ve had trouble with my feet and I can now fully sympathize with others who have faced the same challlenges.

Leaving this spot means I’m only a few metres from entering Santiago de Compostela. Many thoughts come to mind as I enter the city so I slow down to process them knowing the end is near now. Through the new city and into the old city, it is odd to not see any other Pilgrims, just bus loads of tourists standing mouths agape at the unbalanced individual who would choose to walk here in the winter. Are you seeing a trend here!? Inside I am smiling but outside I am too tired to waste the energy moving the few muscles that initiate a smile. I can hear the bagpipes playing in the causeway and I know I have made it now. Down the stairs and into the plaza. I am here. I am done. I am happy.

A few words of thanks are appropriate.

To you the reader, thank you. Your kind words of encouragement always brought smiles to my face and helped get me out of bed on days that seemed better suited to a day off. I am guessing there must be some interest in this idea of a winter Camino since a surprising number of you (>5,700 to-date) have come to this blog to follow along. If I have encouraged a single one of you to try this then it has all been worthwhile to document this journey.

And to Mrs. Peregrina. My lovely wife, Sandra, who is my biggest supporter, the one who knew the right questions to ask and the right ones to not ask, the one who woke up extra early so we could talk before I went to sleep and the one I missed every day I was here. I couldn’t have done this without you. Time for me to come home.

Distance walked today: 20.7 kms

Total distance walked: 606.7 kms

Today’s map:

And if you need one last reason to walk a winter Camino… this was the line at the Pilgrim’s Office.

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Winter Camino – Day 26

Today I have a clean slate.

Having an entire Albergue to myself last night has given me a great night’s sleep. I turned my light out at 8:00pm and was refreshed and a ready to go at 5:00am. Since first light isn’t until just after 8:00am I turn the light back out, hit the snooze button and try for a couple more hours of rest.

A quick look out the window at 8:00am isn’t necessary to choose my attire. I’ve heard the rain hitting the roof all night long and it hasn’t let up this morning. Full rain gear and my camera tucked safely (and dryly) in my pack. The first few minutes seem like the sky is brightening giving me some hope that today may just come around nicely. It was a trick. Or maybe it was simply the calm before the storm. The skies open and I know it will be a long day.

The first order of business is ferreting out my morning cafe con leche. As luck would have it I spot an open cafe just before Azua and indulge myself. It’s a lengthy breakfast, part because I need to upload yesterday’s blog and partly because I’m not too eager to get back out in the rain. Only one way to reach Pedrouzo though so I hitch up my big boy pants and hit the road.

After a morning warm up of hills I am treated to a relatively flat day of walking. I say relatively because in Galicia the hills may not be long but they are generally steep. The rain has held steady and my rain gear is up to the task so far. Just outside of Salceda I spot an open bar with a menu and if I have learned nothing else this trip it is that you don’t pass an open bar anywhere near a meal time because the next open bar could well be at the next meal time. Some pipping hot sopa de Gallego, a dish of chickpea and meat stew followed with a nice pineapple cake has my spirits up and my belly full. Away we go for part II.

The weather Gods have decided that for Part II they will bring their ‘A-Game’. There is a noticeable increase in the intensity of the rain compounded with a sudden gale force wind. As I headed down a little chute section of trail I swear this large boat passed me…

It seemed there was a bit of a fuss happening on the top deck too.

I’ve learned how to adjust my jacket hood so after battening down the hatches there, closing pit zips and ensuring pocket zippers are fully closed I am moving again and surprisingly comfortable. Walking in the rain and snow can be a drag if you’re cold and/or wet. On the flip side though, it can be quite enjoyable if you are warm and dry. Since the camera is hiding in my pack I am happy to keep my chin down and forge ahead at full steam.

With the speed and slightly downhill path today I am in Pedrouzo at a very reasonable hour. Some wetness has crept into my gear so I make the executive decision to find myself a Pension to stay out so I can get a hot soak and adequately dry my gear for tomorrow’s final push. Lodging taken care of I find the open bar for a little dinner and back to my room. I am happy that tomorrow’s weather forecast is for a cool day with sun and cloudy periods. The Canon should be able to make an appearance as I work my way towards Santiago! Was it really only a month and a day ago I stood staring at this sign?

Distance walked today: 23.5 kms

Total distance walked: 586.0 kms

Today’s map:

Winter Camino – Day 25

It is amazing how many people a German comedian has inspired to walk the Camino.

I’ve had a light breakfast and a peek out the door. I’m not optimistic. It is bright enough but the hazy, low hanging clouds are there waiting to pounce. I gamble and dress in normal clothes but leave my rain gear on top of my pack ready for quick deployment if needed. I’m off then.

I’ve met a German lady twice on the trail, once back in Rabanal and yesterday afternoon when walking into Palas del Rei. In our quick discussions the age old question arose: “So how did you find your way to the Camino?” It is amazing how often Hape Kerkling’s book “I’m Off Then” comes up as the answer to that question. She had read it about 10 years ago, forgotten it and now found herself with some time and when deciding what to do, the Camino story came back to her memory. Myself, it was the movie, “The Way“. I watched that and became instantly interested/enamoured. Hape’s book came second for me. I wonder how many non-Catholics like me have started their journey this way.

Again outpaced, I amble along alone through some small hamlets and come upon a quaint church offering a sello. Normally not one to stop I decide to duck my head in today. An old man sits smiling at a small desk as I approach. He is happy to stamp my credential and I in return am happy to leave a few small coins in the offering basket. I know times are hard for the Catholic Church in Spain. Fewer and fewer young men are entering the Priesthood and in many of these small villages in rural Spain there are no Priests on a regular basis leaving the older people left in these areas without their normal services. What I had heard some time ago was that a single Priest would attend to a collection of small Churches over a 4-week rotation. I can’t verify this but can at least leave some gas money behind.

Over the last day or so I have started seeing the unique grain storage buildings in many yards I pass. I was mystified about these my first Camino but was fortunate to hear some interesting facts about them on my second. Now I look forward to seeing them since it means I’m getting close to Santiago.

Today’s trail is peaceful, removed far enough away from the roadways, it is mostly nice dirt tracks going through trees. I wonder if it will ever stop feeling like I am walking through a postcard?

And it’s about now that I walk through my first Eucalyptus forest. I love these giants with their peeling bark. So many of their trunks look like a ‘Paint-by-Numbers’ project for kids. The fragrance isn’t strong this time of year but occasionally I get a nice whiff.

14 kms has come quickly and I’m crossing the beautiful bridge just before Melide. I’m not sure why this one sticks out in my mind but there is something very alluring about it for me.

Up the hill and into Melide, it is time to take care of some important business. Pulpo! As luck would have it, I pass a local Pulpo connoisseur and get confirmation I am headed to the right place.

Mrs. Peregrina and I had an absolutely wonderful lunch here a couple of years ago and I am walking with fingers crossed that the restaurant will be open this time of the year. Many have not so I am anxious on approach. Success! Casa Alongos sits right on the Camino before you hit ‘downtown’ and is the perfect combination of fantastic service and great food. My Pulpo need has been fulfilled, along with a tasty salad with tuna.

Re-energized I hit the trail with 11 kms to go. The profile doesn’t look too tough but looks can be deceiving. Out of the city and back into the trees it’s not long before I reach a very recognizable bridge. I am alone and have time so decide to have some photo fun! I present my version of a ‘selfie’.

Passing through the last town before my destination I see something that catches my eye. This is something I’ve not seen before and quite surprises me. Across the street is an Orange tree… filled with plump, juicy looking oranges… in February! I guess I just always figured the oranges that made my fresh juice were sent up from Valencia. Maybe not?

A few more very steep hills, up and down, and I’ve reached Ribadiso and I am tired. It’s been a couple of long days and I know I will sleep well tonight. A quick meal of Dia’s finest cold cuts, cheese and white chocolate washed down with a some delightful ‘Agua de Mesón Frio’ (cold tap water) and its lights out at 8:00pm.

Distance walked today: 25.7 kms

Total distance walked: 552.5 kms

Today’s map:

Winter Camino – Day 24

13kms uphill walk to start my day… You’re kidding, right?

I’m awake around 5:00am listening to the rain bouncing off the roof and patio. Great. That will teach me to look at the guidebook before going to sleep. Leaving Portomarin this morning means crossing a secondary bridge back across the reservoir and then pretty much an uphill walk for the first 13 kms of today’s 26km day. Last night before going to sleep I figured it would be no problem. Blue skies like today, light breeze out of the north east, couldn’t be more pleasant. And couldn’t be more wrong.

I wandered out of my Albergue at 8:30am and into the nearest bar for my morning ritual. It was almost like a mini-reunion this morning with several Peregrinos I hadn’t seen for some time. A quick coffee, comparison of notes and plans and then away we go. Down the hill, across the bridge stopping only briefly to look on in wonder at the newly revealed landscaped previously hidden by water.

Across the street, into the woods and thus begun the uphill portion of the day. No more than 50 metres and it really begins in earnest. It gets steep fast and holds it for a little too long. The air is heavy with mist so this presents are real challenge balancing my body temperature. I try to avoid any perspiration lest the inside of my waterproof jacket gets wet which will inevitably stay that way for the remainder of the day. I’ve got he main zipper down, the pit zips wide open, hat and buff off but I am fighting a losing battle. The damn hill just keeps going up! I can’t help but wonder, between gasps, if the Church decided this on purpose to get their pound of flesh for those who started in Sarria. They’re only walking the minimum 100kms so let’s find the steepest, nasties way to start them each day. Probably not but the oxygen deprivation and resulting delirium has set in and I can’t control what is going through my mind any longer. As with yesterday I seem to find numerous interesting patterns in the leaves that I simply must stop and photograph. Mrs. Peregrina wants our next Camino to be a camera-free journey and I already wonder how I will deal with all these steep hills.

On a wing and a prayer I manage to reach the top of the first steep section. Now it levels out to a nice, moderate climb, maybe 3-4 degrees of slope. Easy street. That is until the heavy mist turns into a light drizzle. This makes regulating my body temp a nightmare as I can’t have all the zippers open. Even though the climb is not steep my metabolism is firing on all cylinders this far into the trip and as soon as my zippers go up and can see the thermostat heading towards its redline. Great. This also means I have to pack away my camera. Canon says my camera is weather proof but I just can’t seem to will myself into believing them.

The first town is Gonzar, home to a nice bar along the main road. At 7.5 kms I’m already dreaming about another nice coffee. As I approach the bar my heart sinks, the gate is closed and locked. I plop down on a bench next door and consider my next move. A man walks by so I ask him where the closest open bar is. I need to stop asking questions if I’m not willing to be happy with the answer. His answer, which I almost wish I didn’t hear, is Ligonde, another 8kms uphill, mas o menos. The rain has started coming harder and this day is going downhill (metaphorically speaking only) fast. I stare at the taxi sticker on the wall beside me for a good 45 seconds. Nope, can’t do it. Ligonde it is then.

The Camino winds through a few smaller villages and there just isn’t much to note about these places. No services, no people and even the cats and dogs are hiding from the rain and wind. Somehow the way has gotten steeper again.

Staring at my feet I manage to block out the weather and slope and before you know it, Ligonde. The bar is on the far side of town and turns out that they only serve bocadillos and beverages. I’m not heartbroken about this.

Moving on it is time to give back to the Camino community I have received so much from. A week or so ago I was contacted by another member of our online Camino forum sharing with me a woman’s story about the passing of her brother while walking the Camino. She has enquired about whether or not anyone had a photo of a stone relief carving called Daniel and the Lions found on a church here. She asked if I would be able to help and grab a photo. The answer could only be yes. The sense of community within the forum is strong and I was happy to help this woman who had lost her brother. A few day later another forum member contacted me asking if I needed any help locating the church which had the carving. I certainly did so he sent a map and a few other links to guide me in. With his help it literally took just a few minutes to complete my task. I can’t imagine the grief that must come with losing a sibling and if this helps in any small way it will be a testament to a wonderful collaboration of people.

Back in the trail with rain coming down, I move along as quickly as I wheels will take me. Palais de Rei is all downhill from here and I’m looking forward to a hot shower tonight. It is a long day, not arriving until 5:00pm. Settled into my Albergue, a great meal and a hot shower, I find a strange thought running through my head as I lie in my bed waiting for sleep to come… Only three more days until I am in Santiago. Wow.

Distance walked today: 26.4 kms

Total distance walked: 526.8 kms

Today’s map:

Winter Camino – Day 23

Dear Galicia, your beauty takes my breath away. Or maybe it’s all those hills, not sure.

After a final rest day in Sarria I am ready for the final push, 114 kms into Santiago de Compostela. I wake up early, still pitch black outside early. Twice. The second time I decide that I must have had enough sleep so hop into the shower (a Pilgrim luxury to have a shower in the morning btw) and quickly pack my pack. It’s still only 7:30am when I walk out of my hotel and now realize that being winter and all, it may just not be likely that I’ll get my cafe con leche and tostadas. Opps.

I climb ‘the stairs‘ (if you’ve been in Sarria you know what I’m talkin’ about) and much to my delight I see lights on in Meson O Tapas. Today is going to be a good day! Tostadas, zuma de naranja and a double dip on the cafe con leche and its light enough outside to press on. Knowing the hill ahead, the two cups of coffee seemed like the only prudent thing to do. I cross the train tracks and moments later I am headed up. With a few hundred kilometres of toughening up behind me already it’s not so bad. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. I have, however, caught on to a trick I have been playing on myself. When my heart rate gets to a certain level and the humidity on my brow exceeds a particular percentage, I find myself oddly interested in photographing the weirdest things, sometimes taking 3, 4 or 5 different versions of the shot. The photos never make it to press but at least the vital stats all return to green and I don’t need to call 112 while clutching my chest.

The weather is not exactly in my favour this morning. Snow flakes keep trying to get a foothold and the pea soup fog has made the sunrise photo opp nonexistent. The trail meanders through very small farming communities and but for the various cats, dogs and cattle I’d think I was alone on the planet. There are not many opportunities for a mid-morning coffee or snack and the few available in-season have all gone to hibernation in the winter. I vow to stop at the first place with lights on but know that it’s likely to be a while.

Moving at my normal pace the normal happens and I am overtaken by two other Pilgrims and two local dogs who have decided to throw their lot in with them in hopes of a few treats. I think the odds are slim but applaud their initiative.

The Way is still uphill and the higher I go the more snow and ice is on the trail. I’ve not been in Galicia when snow is on the ground and find it most different from the environment of saturated green it usually is. I know I signed up for a winter Camino but just between you and I, I’ve had my fill of snow and ice and hope for a return to the green hills Galicia is famous for.

I’ve reached the highest point of today’s walk and as I start descending I observe the white recede, replaced by green. I am happy.

And then the big moment… the one every modern day Pilgrim knows. The one that fills you with excitement, happiness even giddiness… the 100km marker! It’s also a ‘hmmm…’ moment when you stop to compare your life before your first Pilgrimage and now. Before you walked hundreds of kilometres over a few weeks or a month the notion of ever walking 100kms was a laugh. Now, a trail hardened Peregrino with buns of steel, you are overwhelmed with joy that you ‘only‘ have 100kms to go! “Heck, I might just knock that out in 3 days”, you think to yourself with a straight face.

Mercifully, the trail is headed downhill now and the sun has decided to make an appearance, burning through the morning fog. All of a sudden it is spring again, crops growing, cats laying in the sun and cattle with really, really big horns grazing in green pastures. Perfection.

I’m only a kilometre from Portomarin now and as I come off the trail and on to the road I am shocked to see the bridge. Well, technically, the bridges. The water level is so low the original bridge is easily useable. I can see remnants of old buildings partly above the water. It’s almost a little Atlantis-like seeing this.

I slowly cross the bridge and grind it out to climb those last 50+ stairs and I am there. Just a left turn at the church and my Albergue awaits. It was a good day.

Distance walked today: 23.6 kms

Total distance walked: 500.4 kms

Today’s map:

Winter Camino – Day 22

Fact: Until you reach Molinaseca, you haven’t reached rock bottom.

Having had the whole Albergue to myself last night, I slept brilliantly. I’m out of bed and mostly packed by 7:30am and off for a light breakfast downstairs. The owner has put out a nice spread and I am thankful not only for the food but the fact he has remained open this time of the year so as to accommodate a single Pilgrim.

Out the door I am off again. However, these won’t be easy kilometres to start the day. Yesterday was a hard day with all the steep downhill at the end. Today starts that way and won’t fully let up until I reach rock bottom – Molinaseca, some 8kms away.

It is cold this morning but not nearly so as yesterday. Frost covers the foliage and rocks on the path so caution is the order of the day. It is hard, however, to not be distracted by the beauty around me.

In just a few kilometres I reach the first small village of the day. Remarkable how these medieval villages have clung on to the ancient designs, wooden balconies overseeing the Calle Mayor. Here are a few updated features and they are instantly recognizable.

Leaving Riego de Ambros is the most treacherous stretch of today’s walk. A narrow gorge to descend through, all shaded and slick with ice. Slowly I have to pick my down through here but thankfully it is a short traverse without incident.

From here I will enjoy what I believe is one of the most enjoyable sections of the Camino Frances. Rugged beauty on these narrow mountain trails brings new scenery around each corner. I have noticed a proliferation of blue arrows painted on this section, presumably helping Pilgrims walking back home. I wonder if this is on the rise? And who put them there?

I can’t seem to make it more than a few feet without stopping to take another photo.

The next corner I come around is my first glimpse of Molinaseca marking the end of the steep descent. As beautiful as this is my knees are overjoyed that it is soon to end.

I am walking into Molinaseca and maybe for the first time during my Camino I am thankfully to be on a sidewalk. After going up and over this pass some smooth, flat cement actually feels kind of good. I arrive at the Old Roman Bridge. So impressive with the brightly coloured buildings and majestic Church in the background.

I make a quick pit stop in Molinaseca when I see an open Supermercado. And I am glad I did. When I walk into ‘Real 27’ the proprietor instantly comes out from behind his counter to greet me. He welcomes me to his store and offers me a handful of trail mix. What a nice gesture! I grab the handful of typical items I keep in my pack and head to the counter to pay. After doing so the Proprietor gestures for me to wait while he runs over to gift me a sweet orange. Again I am Wow’d! I have a hankering for a cafe con leche so I decide to ask him if there is a bar open where I may get one. The answer should be obvious by now… directing me to a seat outside, he locks the shop up and runs down an alley only to emerge a few minutes later with a steaming hot cafe con leche… I am running out of superlatives to describe the kindness of this man. All I know for sure is that I am grateful and I will be sure to visit ‘Real 27 Supermercado‘ next time I pass through Molinaseca!

It is only another 8 kms to reach Ponferrada and they go by quickly. I sit on a bench at the intersection of the Caminos Frances and Invierno. I had notions of trying the Invierno this year but the challenge of walking longer days with a knee less than 100% combined with the opportunity to help someone by taking a photo after Portomarin have dictated which way I will walk. There are no regrets.

In a few minutes I am in a nice little cafe enjoying yet another cafe con leche. It dawns on me I haven’t included a photo of my caffeine addiction enjoyment that I talk about so often so…

While enjoying my drink I am also admiring the magnificent Templar Castle across the street. It is almost like sitting through a dream knowing I am here bearing witness to such history.

We (the knee and I) have decided Ponferrada will be our destination tonight. Past the Templar Church and short walk up into the the plaza and our rest will begin.

It has been a short day but a good day filled with many smiles. Tomorrow I will need to jump ahead a few stages but I am not unhappy about that, not too much anyway. Commitments at home mean I have a schedule to maintain and with so many necessary shorts days some sacrifices need to be made. C’est la vie!

Distance walked today: 16.3 kms

Total distance walked: 476.8 kms

Today’s map:

Winter Camino – Day 21

What goes up must come down. Down. No, further down. There, that’s it.

It turned out to be the busiest night in an Albergue to-date. Seven of us crammed into one 50-bed room. Yeesh. Seems the word has gotten out, Winter Caminos are what all the cool kids are doing this year.

I’d hoped to get an earlier jump on the day but after being up often during the night listening to the ‘symphony’ I just seemed to lose my inspiration to jump out of bed this morning. Instead a leisurely breakfast and on the trail just before 9:00am. Because I’ve somehow managed to not be the last one to leave I find numerous excuses to stop on the trail. It works. Within 15 minutes all the stragglers have passed me by. The Camino is all mine again.

A new dusting of snow is on the ground in Rabanal del Camino. This dusting, however, is growing some teeth each passing minute. Before a half hour has passed I really do have to stop and throw on my Icetrekkers. Underway again it’s time to start shooting some photos before I lose the morning glow.

The temperature is frosty this morning, about -4C. The first hour of the day was wind free so very pleasant. That changed quickly in hour two. The wind pick up and with wind chill I’m guessing it dropped to -6C. I decided it was high time to do up my jacket!

The first, and only if you discount the one-person Pueblo of Manjarin, village I will pass through today in Foncebadón. Not a lively place even in the height of summer, the Pilgrim footprints passing through town give the only indication of life.

I can’t be bothered to swing into Monte Irago for a morning cafe con leche, opting instead to keep plugging along in the snow. The day will be long enough without extra stops. Leaving town and on the hill heading towards Cruz de Ferro I turn around and admire the view. From up here Foncebadón is actually quite pretty.

But there is no time to dilly dally, I must follow the tracks and carry on my progress.

Today’s highlight is naturally Cruz de Ferro. Although not a recognized/consecrated location, this simple iron cross high upon a wooden pole has become synonymous with the Camino Frances. The (new’ish) tradition of bringing a stone from your home country and using it as a symbol of something you want to cast off or miracle you wish for has become a highlight for too many Pilgrims to count. Today I left behind a special pink stone, a symbol of a miracle in need for someone special.

Since the spot is mine today I sit in the small covered area and reflect on my journey to-date. I ask myself the same question numerous others have asked me, “Why are you doing this again?” I’m still not sure I have a complete answer but at the very least I am happy and content which ain’t a kick in the pants.

It’s not much further to today’s highest point and the wind has cranked it up a notch or two. Somehow I went from a 15C spring walk to traversing the frozen tundra of Siberia. Today I am thankful for the people who make Buffs. Under my wool hat and protecting my face, this is a life saver.

As I crest the hill I am treated to the vastness of this mountain range. Layer after layer of mountains work their way back to the horizon. With the snow capping each one I am given a new perspective on this scene.

And now what went up is about to go way down… the next stop is El Acebo, some 4kms down. Steeply down. I extend my trekking poles to help ease the stress on my knees but there is only so much they can do. It is relentless and with snow covering the many rocks on this trail I really must pay close attention to each step. After a long and slow descent I have come down below the snow line again and can see Ponferrada off in the distance. I will leave that for tomorrow with today’s destination becoming El Acebo.

I decide to try the new, spiffy Albergue I’ve read about online, La Casa del Peregrinos. It seems to be a polarizing destination, either loved or hated and not much in between. So far I am a fan. I am alone here tonight but the beds are new and comfortable, the dinner was very good and I managed to have a cheeky beverage when I arrived. There was a small issue with the hot water but when brought to the attention of the staff it was rectified and reported back to me. That is impressive! I would stay here again without reservation.

Distance walked today: 17.3 kms

Total distance walked: 460.5 kms

Today’s map: