Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo
24 kilometers – 15 miles
In the rain!
Actually three times, but the third rain wasn’t as fun. It came down in buckets after we reached the center of Villafranca, but when we couldn’t find our hotel. Eventually, thanks to the Booking.com app we managed to stumble into the Parador, and couldn’t stop smiling when the family ahead of us in the check-in line couldn’t stop sneering at us.
We were drenched, wet Pilgrims.
But, we are ahead of ourselves.
The first half of our walk today was a breeze. We were marching like the Moors through Spain. Much of it followed roads and a highway. Nothing strenuous,
Twice we got Pilgrim stamps. This first stamp came at a small church that was manned by an elderly woman who was taking donations, giving the stamp, then showing the ancient church. She explained that the walls had been plastered until recent years. The plaster was removed and underneath there were some beautiful frescos that were quite faded on the ceiling, and the stone walls were terrific.
The second stamp came at another church several kilometers later. There, a 70-plus year old Spaniard was imploring Pilgrims from their walk to get a “sello” (stamp). He called and cajoled walkers and bikers and everyone he could see along the busy street, and before we left that church there was a long line of Pilgrims awaiting their “sello”
He was quite a character with hands waving, shouting, laughing.
Nearly half way through today’s walk, the sky got dark and there was a big crack of thunder. We shivered, then pulled our raincoats and umbrellas from our packs and walked through a gentle rain for about an hour. It was very comfortable. We were walking on a clay road through a grape field. It was cool and fun.
There are many “rain” songs. We sang most of them.
Jackie, of course, wanted to play a song game with rain in the title. Jim knows better–Jackie knows too many songs. He wouldn’t play.
As the rain slowed, then stopped, we entered Cacabelos–a very pretty village. We stopped at the bar of course. It was time for espresso and Coke. The bar was filled with dripping Pilgrims, and the bartender could have been Danny DeVito’s brother. Then we were back on the road.
Jackie loves walking in the rain, and she was very happy to get her first opportunity to be a duck on the Camino.
Most Pilgrims were wearing large ponchos. Many of those ponchos are designed to cover the backpack too. Some looked like turkey vultures.
And when they are following you on a back country road with the rain falling, they can look like zombies.
Our joke was that the zombies were following us today.
Villafranca del Bierzo
If Cacabelos is a cool quaint village, then Villafranca is a very cool quaint village. The normal handful of historic churches and municipal buildings.
But we thought we’d never get here.
The rain was steadily falling the second time today as we entered town.
It stopped long enough for us to make the descent into town, then poured when we were frantically searching for our hotel.
So we stood under an overhang, trying to attract passing residents to ask where the hotel was located. Finally with the Booking.com app we managed to follow the moving blue dot to plot our route to the hotel.
We were staying at the Parador–and we are getting a little tired of them, to be honest. They are generally beautiful hotels with disappointing service. They just haven’t figured out service.
And, adapting to the Spanish meal practice, we hit the Parador restaurant for a terrible meal. Then tonight we followed it up with a disappointing snack in the bar.
We are now eating our emergency candy bars that we’ve squirreled away in our backpacks. They are our salvation tonight.
A Bitch About The Guides
We use a distance app for determining how far we have traveled each day–and how far we have to go to the next town.
And here’s the bitch:
What is the problem?
Can you guys not do actual measurements of the route?
You are all selling these glossy paperbacks telling the kilometers of these routes. And you aren’t even close.
We aren’t the only ones who notice that when a guide says it is 5.3 kilometers to the next village, it is best to estimate 7.0 kilometers.
It is ridiculous.
We have begun using the Michelin map for the Camino. It is clearly the closest we have found. The guide that is touted in a lot of forum……………sucks!!!!
Kilometers to Go
There are somewhere between 180 and 210 kilometers to go, according to the guides. We have traveled over 500 kilometers from Pamplona, where we started more than three weeks ago.
It’s a long friggin ways. We know.
It can be so fun, like today in the rain.
It can suck, like those unsufferable days in the Meseta.
Nonetheless, we should have eight days left before we see St. James
Until next time, Buen Camino.