Villafranca del Bierzo to Las Herrerias de Valcarce
21 kilometers – 13 miles
It sure felt like it today walking the last half of our walk. The air was cool and the scenery along the path was lush and green. Verde (that’s green for you non-Spanish).
Much of today’s walk followed closely, if not right on little used roads through this very rural region.
We stopped several times at bars for breaks before finally reaching Las Herrerias. It seems that the Pilgrim population has grown a lot in the last 50 kilometers, and we have met many who began their walk in Leon.
It really feels like the St. Jean starters make up less than 25% of the Pilgrims at this point.
When we see Pilgrims at breaks or in restaurants, we notice a difference in the walk of a veteran Pilgrim, as opposed to one who has only been on the road for a few days.
The veterans’ skin has already turned gray, and their determined pinched face suggests that they have seen and done it all. Now it is just a matter of making it to the next stopping point. They are confident, may limp a little, but they have the air of a master–an old cagy veteran.
The new Pilgrims, however, are often checking their guide, slumping out of their unfamiliar backpack, and still showing fear and disbelief in their eyes. “Who would believe I am doing this?” they are saying to themselves.
We were those newbies, and as amateur Pilgrims (we really haven’t earned our stripes with a night in an albergue), we have given up any hint of the old. But, we can find yellow arrows that don’t exist, smell the quality of espresso at an out-of-the-way cafe miles from anywhere, wash socks with toothpaste, eat cold and tasteless tortillas, and we love to say Buen Camino. We are Caminians–and we will never be normal again.
Michigan, our home state, can be beautiful in September and October. And there were times today when we could have been in Michigan. A babbling stream ran on our left for much of the day. We saw a few small waterfalls and otherwise it was a great day.
And if Michigan were built on a small incline up hill for ten or fifteen miles, we walked it today.
Winner By A Nose
The Camino de Santiago is made up of a lot of decisions. For us, the decisions are where to stop for the day, when to take a break, which of our three shirts to wear, does the gray sweater still look okay, and how many waters should be pack between villages.
Those decisions are made by most Pilgrims.
But we made a very big decision today.
We are becoming horsemen!!!
We’ve talked about it for months and finally the time came to commit to the horses for the climb to O Cebreiro. We saw the signs as we approached Vega de Valcarce. And the decision was made. After getting our rooms at Rural Paraiso del Bierzo here near Las Herrerias, we headed to the villa and found Victor from Al Paso.
Al Paso, with Victor as the guide, carries Pilgrims to O Cebreiro on the backs of horses. We leave at 9:30. It is 30 Euros per rider. There is another American female who will be riding too.
Since neither of us have been on the backs of horses since Casey had the Sunshine Band, we were looking for a little comfort from Victor when we made our commitment.
“Is it tough?” Jim asked.
Victor nodded and squinted into the sun (his Clint Eastwood impression).
“Oh, eet’s tough,” he assured us. “You be here. We will go at 9:30.”
Ugh-not quite what we were hoping he’d say. Jackie was busy looking for apples to give one of the horses.
Now it is evening and Jackie is tossing and turning in bed. She won’t sleep well.
Jim’s too simple minded to be scared. That’s not true–he’s scared out of his mind, but won’t admit it to Jackie.
We are only climbing 2100 feet.
Our faith is in Victor and his horses. After all, we’ve know him about ten minutes. Who wouldn’t feel good about something like that?
We’ll have all the answers tomorrow.