After being so pampered at Hospital de Órbigo it was a jolt to be at the minimalist albergue at El Ganso where the hostaliero disappeared shortly after he stamped our credentials never to be seen again. So while we had a nice clean bathroom there was no way to ask for more tp when it ran out. Breakfast was uninspired – prepackaged cookies amd cakes. With no nice hot coffee and warm milk to start your day. How quickly we take luxury for granted!
But once on the road, what a glorious walk! Starting with another amazing sky before the sun broke over the horizon.
Today’s walk was bracketed by two awesome trees. The first a beautiful, ancient, humungous oak just before the city of Rabanal del Camino. It stood alone off the side of the road, with two inviting benches. A whole city block could easily have fit beneath it’s branches.
The other tree was just before the final descent into Molinaseca: included in a grove of chestnuts was one with a trunk so wide it would take 3 people to encircle it. Sat, leaning against a tree, listening to wind and occassional plop as a chestnut hit the ground.
Between the two points was a wonderful walk over a 1515 meter pass. From the moment it got light today’s color palate was shades of somber green – grayish green to olive green. At first through brushy woods of oak, broom, heather, pine, lavender, getting scrubbier as opposed to woodier as we wound our way up. And the views back across the meseta were spectacular. I felt a little sad that soon that vast flat open space would be gone.
Many more pilgrims visible today. Fell into conversation for a good way with Mette, a German woman who has travelled around the world staying with people through SERVAS.
The climb up was strenuous, but I felt I was going at a good pace near the summit when I heard/saw a large red cruising bus grinding its way up the narrow road at a speed not so much greater than my own. Suddenly it stopped, and out streamed 40 elderly German tourists, all wearing what looked like neon orange tilly hats. In street shoes and packless (and with their bobbing neon hats) they walked the relatively easy stretch to the iron cross where pilgrims leave stones they have brought from home. It made me smile. They all took pictures of Veera leaving her stone. We took pictures of them. The red bus was waiting at the cross, and while I was on my steep downward descent I saw it zip down the road.
A series of valleys. Steep slopes. Horses and beautiful soft brown cows. Passed Manjarin, of which only a couple of buildings are still standing, inhabited. The rest just ruins of walls.
Suddenly our views were steeply westward of Ponferrada, far, far below on the valley floor. Trees were confined to draws. It reminded me very much of California mountains except dusky green instead of brown. My book showed that we would be passing through a string of small towns, but on the steep, barren looking slopes I could not imagine where they could be, when suddenly we dropped into the first one. Each one was utterly delightful, with inviting albergues. A new style of house here – black slate roofs, 2nd story wooden balconies, often with an external staircases of wood or stone. Tiny churches. Bought tomatos for a salad at Acebo ( the store owner provided us with plate, glasses and oil, vinegar, salt & pepper!). Busy noises of people eating, talking. Including a family I have seen walking with a son – carrying his own pack – who is probably only nine or ten. Then we were the only people left in the intense siesta stillness.
In the afternoon we continued down through a steep, gorgeous river valley. No other foot traffic, so very quiet. Paused at the beautiful chestnut grove. Suddenly the valley widened out, and – Molinaseca.
Passed completely through town on way to the albergue, but tired enough to stop at the first privado we came to. Normally they have dinner here, but there was some problem, so after a shower strolled back into town to eat at a restaurant next to the river. Met some French folks who Veera had met when she was behind a day or two.
Bed tonight a single bed rather than bunk bed!
15 Oct 2009