Oct 172009

Ok mom, this was one of my off days.
Got off to a great start, ended pleasantly but it was a little weird in the middle.
Didn’t wake up until after 8, even then snuggled in my nice warm bag. It was cold out, long underwear, fleece, big breakfast. Late out the door. Suprised to find Villafranca not a hamlet but lovely good sized town. Veera and I fell in with Peter, from Slovakia, pushing his bike. He had started the Camino walking, hurt his foot, bought the bike to ride in Logrono. Now as his foot is somewhat better he alternates walking and biking. He’d been walking an hour and was looking for a good place to take coffee. He and Veera stopped, but I was still full from breakfast, so continued on.


Castañas de Bierzo

Out of town the path split. I chose the steep mountain route, which meant passing a series of signs warning you not to take this route if you weren’t a good walker. It was up up up the flank of a ridge, with views of the town’s narrow valley, and a major east west highway. Ocassional sounds of the highway. Once at the top it was pretty flat ridge walking with magnificent views over the valley to the mountain pass I’d come through a couple of days ago. Once again a twinge of loss for the Meseta on the other side of those mountains. Now much warmer so off with the layer of warm clothes.
A slight drop and I found myself in a huge and amazing castaña chestnut grove spreading across the steep hillside. The ground was thick with nuts and pods, leaves. I thought you could only eat chestnuts cooked, but Eugenio, at dinner last night, informed me you could eat them raw, so I tried one and liked it. No wind, but still the irregular plop plop of the falling nuts. Magical. Soon began passing family groups of Spaniards, gloved, clothes covered by protectve apron wraps, collecting nuts in woven baskets, filling huge white bags, left propped against trunks throughout the forest. Children roasting nuts over a fire. I filled my pockets with nuts, found a place with a view over a shallow valley and leaned against a tree for lunch, then continued on through miles of chestnuts, until they abruptly ended and the path dropped steeply all the way to the valley floor and the major highway. The descent really tired me, and by now the temperature was quite warm. I was uncomfortably hot. Even though the path continued along a beautiful little river it was through a very narrow valley and only separated from the highway by a jersy barrier. I found it very tiring, wanted to find a place to stop, but not until I got away from the road. Then suddenly we were going up again. There were several small towns with albergues on the ascent and if I could just get off the road…  There was a Brazillian albergue that had Brazillian dinners at 17k that sounded fun, and looked very nice, but had not a drop of shade, so I went on. Fell in with Lilo and Irene, the two nice Swiss girls met while getting lost coming into Burgos. A few kilometers before they had found access down to the river and had gone swimming and were feeling totally revitalised. I was just hot and grouchy.
We finally left the paved road for an even steeper track up another narrow valley. At the first town I put my head under a fountain, which helped, so I walked on, still tired, but able to enjoy the late afternoon light. Mostly through oak shade, but also by pastures and meadows of bright green grass. In fact everything is brighter green, the heather still has flowers on it. Ferns. Lovely, and with every steep step up I felt better. I wanted to stop and enjoy it before it got too cool, or dark.
The minute I saw the albergue at La Faba I knew this was what I was looking for. Sun warmed the flat stone wall that surrounded the albergue and a small church. Upon arrival the French hoteliere offered a comfortable seat and hot tea – even before she looked at my credential. You could leave your clothes in a basket to get washed and dried. One of the hotelieres gave back and foot massages. And there was Sieglinde was sitting on the patio! Sen-hwa, not seen in days arrived shortly thereafter, as well as Juanito the song whistler, Peter the Slovak, Zoë and Roberto the Italian from last night. Took a shower, got a relaxing massage, lay on the warm wall until the sun went behind a peak and it got chilly. Then into the tiny town for dinner at the restaurant – we pushed a couple of tables together so we could all sit at one table. Once again, since I obviously knew her,  everyone looked at me in slight alarm as Sieglinde went on in German. Then Peter came in – German is just one of the many European languages he can speak and the two of them chatted merrily away. Inspite of the language barrier I feel warm affection for and from Sieglinde and walking back to the albergue arm and arm with her under the stars reminded me of our first night in St. Jean.

17 Oct 2009

  2 Responses to “Day 27 – Villafranca del Bierzo à La Faba ~ 24k”

  1. For an off day it didn’t sound so bad to me! It did seem different, but interesting and intriguing, even though it wasn’t quite what you had in mind. (The “hot” part, I might agree with as not being so great.)

  2. I agree with Viola – the heat and the highway must have really left a negative impression with you. Other parts of the day actually sounded quite magical and it must be so satisfying and heart-warming to see one of your compatriots days later and to share all of your adventures.

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