Today we were planning to officially enter Galicia by climbing through the most strenuous climb of Camino. Our hike was supposed to be flat for first 5 and last 8 km and the rest was supposed to be a climb.
We left Vega de Valcarce at 6:30. It was an overcast day with slightly warm breeze.
I have attempted to load pictures with no success so far, so this post will have to be narrative with pictures to be added when I have a better connection.
We went through the first two towns fairly quickly as it was still dark. We made out first stop in La Faba after a slight climb at around 7 km. From there we walked up steadily for 5 km for our major climb of the day. At around 10:30 it started to rain and the the wind picked up, and at the time of this writing, neither has stopped.
The view was gorgeous with lush green valleys all around us. Rain and climbing were a constant but those did not dampen our spirits. It was almost a repeat of the ecstasy and agony (previous post).
On the way to the top we were greeted by the welcome sign for Galicia, welcoming us to our 3rd and final phase of the Camino. One awareness I had, as we were climbing in the rain and wind, is that I used to think linearly about these phases. The reality is, we constantly evolve and these phases are more circular.
The town of Ocebrero sits at the top. The next 10 km was supposed to be flat, but the books were misleading! The whole day turned out to be hilly. By afternoon we were dodging puddles and cows along our path having a grand time with pain and pleasure. We have met so many folks who have done Camino multiple times. They all cherish the razor’s edge of beauty coupled with rigorous workout along with the camaraderie as the reason they keep coming back.
After 22.5 km and 343 ( a new record) floors of climbing we are in an Albergue at the alto de poio where there is not much to do but mingle with strangers. We are chatting with an Irish student on one side and a couple from Denmark on the other. Lunch and dinner menus were the same but after the hard day still tasted delicious.
It’s time to sign out for tonight! I will post the pictures from today as soon as I get access to a better connection.
It is amazing how you lose track of time! Every once in a while, one of us will ask the other, what is today’s date? or what day it is? After doing the Camino for over a month we have lost track of what is happening in the world. We think in terms of easy days or hard days and km covered. Just this morning I realized that the football games were played on Sunday and I had no clue who won or lost.
Our plan for today was an easy day to get 16 km so we can begin our most strenuous climb of the Camino tomorrow, well rested.
Last night as we went out for dinner we took a peak at the town of Villafranca. It is not only a pilgrim town but also a tourist town for the locals as there are more hotels than albergue’s in town.
Since we had a short day planned, every one decided on an extra hour of sleep. We left our Albergue at around 7:15.
Our path was along the river beside the old highway.
It was a simple but beautiful walk to our next village of Trabadelo which turned out to have a saw mill.
Breakfast there was simple.
Enjoyed some beautiful flowers along the way. Here is sampling of it.
Along the way I discovered the mystery of a walnut.
Does any one knows this tree? The blossoms remind us of something from Dr. Suess.
As we neared our destination we saw this marker.
We are settled in our Pension for tonight as we have an early morning departure for a longer day!
After a long day yesterday every one was in the mood for a shorter day but the best we could do in terms of towns and Albergue was to plan for Villafranca. It added up to 25 km, another long day but mostly flat day.
We left at 6:40 in the morning along the scenic path of town. Ponfarada turned out to be much larger than we imagined taking almost 3 km to get out of town.
It was nice to get into smaller and more frequent towns. One thing we noticed is how prosperous these towns are compared to the ones in Meseta. The most special thing was the wonderful sweet breeze that was blowing all day.
After breakfast we were back again in the wine country with tons of fruit trees. We decided to pick few fruits like peaches and pears.
As you can see in the above picture, we have less than 200 km to Santiago. We are 3/4 of the way done and are feeling it our feet. Since we had a reservation for a good Albergue, we decided to have a nice sit down lunch before continuing on.
Here is an old fashion grape juicer.
We ended up walking 25 km. our plan for tomorrow is 18 km so we can enjoy our next climb coming day after tomorrow.
Today we were going to start by climbing for a short while and then downhill to Molinseca and onward to Panforada. We calculated that to be around 22 km.
We left at 6:30 in the morning. The weather was cool and misty with cloud cover. It was very easy to see that we had left beautiful but flat Meseta behind.
The view was so gorgeous that I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was one of those magical mornings when you realize why you are doing the Camino and why all the aches and pains are worth what you see. I am not sure if pictures can do justice to what we witnessed but here is my best attempt.
As you can see it was beyond words. It was tough walking downhill on loose rocks. We moved through Manjatin, Acebo, and Ambrose. The young group missed a turn and ended up going down the paved highway. We stuck to the beautiful downhill path. After 4 km we look down on the highway and there are 4 young adults walking down. Amazing that we run into each other like that. We all walked down together to next tow Molinseca. We had already done over 21 km by then our town was still supposedly couple of km away. It was already 2 pm and we were all hungry. Spanish siesta forces you to eat now or be forced to wait until 7. The kids decided to eat while the rest of us marched on. It turned out to be 28.5 km before we made it to Panferado. Hence the title Agony. It was slightly past 4 when we checked into our Albergue.
Few of us decided to go on and check out the beautiful castle in town. We then had one of the most wonderful home cooked meal in Spain at our private Albergue As I look at my meage we ended up with 32.5 km which makes this our longest day yet.
Here are the pictures from yesterday. As we are leaving the town of El Ganso.
As we walk to Rubinal.
360 view along the path to Foncebaden.
Cruze De Feroze
Today our goal was to walk 18 km to Foncebaden, only 2km from Cruz de Ferroz.
This felt like the last full day in Meseta as the landscape has changed completely and we are in the lush green and hilly terrain. I am not sure how many beautiful sun rises will be in the next stages.
It was once again a fantastic morning for a hike. The slight coolness in the air made it sweet. Half waning moon was spreading enough light so we did not need flash light in the morning. We left at about 6:25 and were in El Ganso before the town was up so we kept going to the next town.
We made it to Rubinal De Camino by 9:30 and had already covered over 10 km. After breakfast we moved IMO our slow climb of the day through the beautiful mountIn toward Foncebaden.
Foncebaden was a ghost town until 2000 and is beginning to come alive with albergue’s due to Camino.
I am unable to load any pictures as there are no wifi in this town and the phone signal is not strong enough to upload pictures.
We are settled in for the day with a nice lunch. Few of us decided to climb to Cruz De Feroze this afternoon after the rain as we will be passing it early in the morning before the sun rise.
Tomorrow after a brief climb we will be going down to Ponfereda some 25 km. It is a much bigger town so hopefully I can post the pictures for both day.
Our goal today was the ancient city of Astorga and then continue on to Santa Catalina de Somoza, a distance of 22 km. we wanted to make it to Astorga mid morning when we had energy to enjoy the town. We left at about 6:40 and made slow progress through lush green hills (you can feel the land beginning to change).
We ran into David, who exuded pure joy and happiness. He was manning this booth with fruits, coffee, cookies, nuts etc in the middle of nowhere. Every thing was free (there was a box for donation)
David has done Camino multiple times. He seemed well travelled. He has been to India. He has been manning this booth for 5 years and living a simple life that reminded me of Walden Pond. He was oozing positive energy.
Our first glimpse of Astorga was from this mountain with the cross.
As we entered we saw a house structured in the third century. We also had our breakfast at the plaza.
We then saw the bishops palace and the cathedral.
In the next town we found a cafe with great fruit juice and vegetable smoothie where we also picked up our dinner food as it looked very good.
After 5 more km we arrived at our Albergue. We are all done with our 22.5 hike and dinner.
After dinner as we were taking a walk around town, we saw this flag carrying practice for some celebration for Virgin Mary coming up on September 22nd.
Since I could post any of these pictures yesterday due to connectivity issues, I will try now!
This 13th century bridge is the most intact among a all the bridges along the Camino and built on top of a previous roman bridge.
We did find a cold stream to cool our feet. I have found this to be one of the best therapies during Camino.
Today we decided to stay with another 20 km day. Our goal was the tiny town of Santebeniz De Valdeiglesias. We again took the slightly longer and more scenic path to Astorga.
The wifi connection is very bad in this town so I am not sure if I can upload any more pictures. It took me quite a long time to load the two above.
Since I can’t seem to load the pictures, I will provide a quick summary. We traveled about 9 km before breakfast. It turned out to be a fairly leisurely day as we moved from town to town in a group. We enjoyed the 13th century bridge (last picture) as we walked through history. The scenery is changing as we are in hing toward the end of Meseta in the next few days. We start to begin our climbs starting tomorrow.
Leon was without question our best rest stop and sightseeing town. We had plenty of time to explore and rest up for our last 3 weeks. We saw this marker in Leon and were excited and disappointed at the same time. Excited at what we have accomplished and disappointed that it will end in few weeks.
The group was ready in the morning and we met at the cathedral at 6:20 to begin our 22 km walk. We decided to take the scenic route which adds extra 5 km over two days but avoids the route next to highway.
We walked through the city streets for about 6 km and then we were back in our first village having our early morning breakfast.
Our new team was doing well. We all felt we were back in our grove with all of our aches and pains.
We even had time to enjoy the play ground (thanks to the abundance of young energy).
We made it to our Albergue before 1. We were able to enjoy a nice lunch together. Stephanie, Emily, and Noah are all doing well but also are a bit sore and using the afternoon resting like the rest of us.
Tomorrow we head toward Astorga (part of the way). We have another day or so of Meseta and then we will be out of flats and into mountains again!.