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