Day 45- Gonzar to Lestedo

Walked Today: 8.5 mi / Camino2022: 303 mi

We were so surprised when we looked outside this morning and saw clear sky with no fog and no rain. It was a little chilly at 47F but we weren’t complaining.

Beginning our walk from Gonzar in clear weather.

The Camino went through a couple of small villages and passed a large Castro that Jim explored and photographed in 2019, so we walked on, back along the highway for a mile or so,

close but safe

then crossed over to a secondary road for another mile to what we call the “zig-zag” where we maneuvered through a small traffic circle associated with an exit off the highway, angling back onto another small road that took us to Ventas de Narón, where we stopped for breakfast.

An aerial photo of Ventas de Narón. The first building along the road in lower left hand corner was our breakfast stop.

As you can see from the photo, which was on the wall in the bar of Casa Molar, the village consists of two farms, two albergues, a small chapel originally owned by the Knights Templar and what appears to be a nice private residence at village center.

We have stopped here for breakfast every Camino and Linda liked their toast, so we decided to continue the tradition today.

As you can see, Linda has removed her jacket, as the warm sun was knocking off the chill.
Casa Molar bar and Ana, the young lady in charge.

We walked on for another couple of miles and passed through the charming village of Ligonde. We kept snapping photos of things we saw… here are a few:

huge old Horreo, nice clean streets
another newer horreo
cute, small home
pumpkins lining the railing, lady in the window smiled and waved after I took this photo
small shop/albergue, we think…. the plaque is a favorite … Jim looks for it every Camino
Amanda, we’re so relieved no one was hurt as Ian passed through. After y’all recover from the wind and water damage, we think you need a couple of these to add to your collection!

We continued on, walked a few steps with a lady from California who had left her poles in Ligonde, walked back to retrieve them and was going to rejoin her daughter who was waiting for her at a bar up the road.

We walked along roads like this the rest of the morning.
Chestnuts, anyone?
This fellow gave us a hard look as we passed by.
unusual and beautiful
these folks were checking us out too
rain threatened so we put on our ponchos, as a deterrent… which worked

We stopped walking in Lestedo for the day after 8 plus miles. Jim flagged down a taxi and we headed to Melide. More about that tomorrow.

our late lunch just across the street from Pención Orois …. in Melide
Pención Orois in Melide

Day 44- Portomarín to Gonzar

Walked Today: 5.7 mi / Camino2022: 294 mi

We had breakfast at Casa Cines then said our goodbyes to Núria’s mom and dad and left for Portomarín.

Mom & Pop Cines

As we walked through Portomarín the streets and open shops were filled with teens. It began to rain lightly, so we stopped under an awning to put on our ponchos. We walked out of town, across the bridge and began the steep climb out of the valley.

About half-way up the mountain we were engulfed by a wave of about 50 or so really young pilgrims.

the first wave
another wave passing us

For the next mile, more waves rolled past us until finally we were spared further surges of humanity along the path. We actually had the Camino to ourselves for a mile or so…the first time in two days… and we enjoyed it while it lasted.

the last group to pass us

Our walk was relatively short, mostly uphill, a few steep places but mostly gradual.

We shared the path, momentarily, with a couple of pilgrims on horseback.
A Hórreo is a structure where corn, root vegetables and grains are stored in the abundant harvest periods of the year, safe from mice, rats and mould.
calm, sweet calm… with an occasional, light shower
our short, quiet walk through a picturesque forest
Hosteria de Gonzar… our home for the night… but no check-in until 2:00.
Two hours to wait for our room and no where to sit… for about 30 minutes when the hoards finally moved on to parts unknown… hopefully way beyond us.
Finally got into our room at 2:00.
Yes, there’s a pool just outside our window but it’s much too chilly to even consider. Later in the day, a lady braved the water for a few laps… from Germany or Norway, perhaps?

We had a simple lunch while waiting for our room. Immediately after getting into our room, we gathered all dirty clothes washed and dried everything using the Hosteria facilities… 4€ to wash, 4€ to dry. We did our other chores, napped a bit and split a pizza for supper.

We’ve got another week of walking to get to Santiago and we’re anxious to finish. The last part is always the hardest for us because the change in atmosphere and struggle with the crowds is so different than that between SJPDP and Sarria… and it seems to be more true for each of our Caminos.

Day 43- Barbadelo to Mercadoiro

Walked Today: 8.2 mi / Camino2022: 289 mi

Just after taxi dropped us off this morning

Soon after starting our walk we passed through Rente. We have stayed in Casa Nova de Rente each of our 3 previous Caminos and in 2019 stayed 3 consecutive days with the family, as we taxi hopped to maintain continuity in the walk, when there were no other places to stay.

In recent weeks we have tried multiple ways to contact Casa Nova to stay this time, too but got no response via phone, email or the casa rural websites.

We were concerned about the family, so Jim walked through the open gate and knocked on the door with no response. While deciding what to do next, he saw the mother in the back yard so he approached her and she recognized him. She speaks no English so with an app, we learned that the family was fine and was not a casualty of the pandemic.

It turns out that, the family just decided to stop renting out rooms in their beautiful old farmhouse. She seemed happy to see us and agreed to tell the rest of the family how much we enjoyed staying with them and all the wonderful memories we have about our visits. We wished she and her family well and were on our way.

What do you think of this pony, Abby?

Pilgrims, pilgrims everywhere. That characterizes our entire walk today. Shortly after we left Rente, over a hundred pilgrims, all likely starting from Sarria this morning, began passing us. The hoards kept coming and it was almost impossible to relax and enjoy the scenery around us.

It rained off and on all morning, but mostly sprinkles, or a heavy mist or a short shower, but we kept our rain gear on until we finished as a deterrent for heavier showers.

When we decided to stop for hot chocolate, Jim waited in line for over 15 minutes just to place his order. Many of the pilgrims were part of a group of 4-12 people, and they usually hung together so when they passed it was like a tsunami disrupting our pace or place on the path, etc. Groups would stop to adjust packs or shoes or just chat, partially blocking the path creating more disruption, oblivious to it all.

Jim estimated that 400-500 pilgrims passed us during the 8 mile walk and to characterize the nature of the crowd, only a handful said “Buen Camino” when they passed. Needless to say, the 100km walk from Sarria to Santiago is very different from what we’ve experienced during the 700km walk from SJPDP to Sarria.

Pilgrims, more pilgrims
pilgrims keep coming
pilgrims in large numbers all morning long
pilgrims behind us
pilgrims ahead of us
a high stress cup of chocolate
that’s us at the 100km marker
pilgrim carrying his guitar… for 100 km
took this quickly to capture this pilgrim, only!
pilgrims in last few hundred yards of our walk
nice bar/albergue at Mercadoiro.
dining area in Mercadoiro albergue (we stayed here in 2015.)
catching a bite to eat while waiting for a taxi

Núria is a very sharp, professional hostess and manager. When we got to Mercadoiro and tried to call a taxi to take us back to Casa Cines, none were available for several hours. Linda called Núria who responded “no problem” and arranged a taxi to retrieve us from our “stranded” location in a much more timely fashion… and had a plate of fresh cheese and homemade quince gel and a glass of wine to help us recover.

Tonight was our final dinner at Casa Cines. Núria’s mom prepared two types of peppers tonight along with sliced homemade chorizo and fries.

blistered peppers fresh from the Casa Cines garden

Everything was delicious, especially the blistered peppers, an Italian variety and a Spanish variety. They both were very tasty, comparable to Jim’s favorite, Padron peppers. Jim sneaked into the kitchen while Núria’s mom was blistering the peppers for a photo and after we settled our 3 day bill, got together for another photo.

Núria’s mom preparing our dinner
our hosts for the past three days

We are so glad the lodging shortage in these final days of Camino2022 caused us to stay at Casa Cines multiple nights. Núria and her family created another wonderful memory for our Camino experiences.

Day 42- Pintin to Barbadelo

Walked Today: 6.6 mi / Camino2022: 281 mi

It was foggy and 42F when we left Casa Cines this morning at 8:00.
The walk was relatively easy as we were mainly on or along a lightly traveled secondary road.
We passed through one small village on the way to Sarria.
Sarria is a busy location because it has plenty of facilities for pilgrims to stay and is just beyond the 100km distance a pilgrim has to walk to Santiago to earn a Compostela. Most of the pilgrims who receive a Compostela only walk from Sarria to Santiago.
Sarria is not one of our favorite locations on the Camino, but this morning, after some research, we discovered a hiking outfitters shop (Kilometro112, Rua do Peregrino, #37) right along our walk and stopped to get Jim some warmer clothes… namely some long pants and a fleece pullover at very reasonable prices.

After a 20 minute shopping spree, we were back on the trail with a slight deviation. In 2019, we found a route that was a bit longer but allowed is to walk around the base of Sarria. This route merges with the official Camino, which takes a torturous route straight up to the pinnacle of the city, then back down again. Not that we can’t weather a few ups and downs, but no point in asking for trouble.

Taking a “flat-cut” around Sarria

We arrived at the merge point which is the Ponte de Áspera, a Romanesque bridge of medieval origins with some 18th century renovation. This bridge has particular significance, because our daughter, Amy, used one of our photos of this bridge to rekindle her artistic talents. Her painting hangs in our home and stokes our Camino memories constantly. We think we’ll refer to it from now on as “Amy’s Bridge”.

Getting ready to cross the Ponte de Áspera (“Amy’s Bridge”)
Just a few steps out of Sarria and we’re back into farmland.
… a nice stream and footbridge but followed by a not-so-nice climb.
“gnarly” old trees are thing of beauty and amazement.
finally at the top of a steep climb
near Barbadelo we encountered a caravan of huge, “almost” unpassable vehicles, which forced us to move off the path and wait our turn.
getting out of the way
up close and personal
back to our walk after the “ traffic jam”
Albergue de Barbadelo.

Once we arrived at Barbadelo, we called a taxi to take us back to Casa Cines. We wanted to stay here for the night but it was booked solid when we tried to reserve a room several weeks ago.

We’re employing our “ taxi hop scotch” technique to deal with lodging shortages. We’re staying at Casa Cines for 3 nights. We’ve stayed here on all previous Caminos and want to get to know the family better and give them our business. So staying here longer enriches our Camino experiences and hopefully theirs.

The taxi driver who brought us back from Barbadelo today agreed to return here tomorrow morning at 8:30 to take us back to Barbadelo, where we will begin walking where we left off. When we finish our walk, we’ll call a taxi to return us to Casa Cines.

We got back to Casa Cines at noon, got showers, had lunch and arranged to have our clothes washed and dried. We both napped for a while before doing some routine items.

Linda had a cold (a mild one) a few days ago and has completely recovered. Jim mysteriously got a cold a couple of days ago, also a mild one, and is about to get over his, too. We only mention it because neither one of us have had a cold for over 3 years. What’s interesting is, in spite of dealing with cold symptoms , we’re still able to walk our normal distances, and carry on with our pilgrim existence without restriction.

Núria, our hostess, prepared a delicious lental soup for our lunch today. Jim was still hungry and Núria suggested he try a plate of homemade chorizo sausage, cooked potatoes and green beans. When Jim had lapped it up, he complimented Núria on the soup. When he asked about the chorizo sausage, she pointed to her father who was seated at the opposite end of the dining room. He was looking Jim’s way and when Jim gave him a smile and thumbs up, he reciprocated. Núria said he not only made the sausage but also raised the pig! We made a great decision to stay here for 3 days.

Day 41- Triacastela to Pintin

Walked Today: 7.0 mi / Camino2022: 274 mi

The temperature was 43F in Triacastela at 8:45 a.m. We’re thinking we’re not likely to see warm weather again on the Camino, but walking in the hot sun is no longer a problem.

looking out our window before starting our walk
We thought this was a pretty area shortly after rejoining the Camino outside Triacastela.
Looking at the same area from the opposite direction
a lot of construction going on as we walked out of A Balsa… could be new albergues? or other services, remaking the esisting hamlet.
a steep section
same steep section, looking back
Linda (and Jim) taking a break at the shell fountain
we’re walking late enough for the clouds to uncover the pretty scenery
steep, but downhill during this section
This sequence is trying to show a very steep section. Linda leaning to maintain footing and control
lots of interesting stone walls lining the path
almost level… a rare event this morning

About midway today we walked by 4 pilgrims, the girl was sitting on the ground tending to her foot. They seemed to be ok, so we walked on past.

Sometime later, we stopped for a break on one of the hills and the young lady and a guy from her group caught up to us. Jim asked if she had a blister and she said she was struggling with plantar fasciitis. Jim mentioned his experience with it and how “chi walking” had eliminated it. We chatted briefly and we walked ahead. Another mile down the path, they all four caught up with us and the young lady who was from California was walking with her family. She said she immediately began using the chi walking technique and the pain from her plantar fasciitis was already beginning to get better.

Jim walked with the young lady and Linda walked with her brother and we shared Camino experiences as we walked the last half mile into Pintin.

The family from California we met today.
Had interesting conversations with these two pilgrims from California

We arrived in Pintin at Pención Casa Cines and bid our goodbyes to the family as they continued walking toward Sarria, where they plan to rendezvous with the mother, who will walk with them the final 100km to Santiago.

The length of today’s walk was not a challenge, but the hills were. The altitude of Triacastela and Pintin are essentially the same at 2100 ft. But today we climbed over 1000 ft. That means we went up a total of 1000 ft and to arrive at the same elevation we had to climb down 1000 ft. That was the nature of today’s walk and we were tired when we finished but recovered with lunch and some downtime this afternoon.

We met Jerry from Anchorage, Alaska and Wayne and Tina from British Columbia. They checked into Casa Cines later in the day and we sat next to them at dinner, since there are no other places to eat or stay in Pintin. We enjoyed the conversations with Wayne snd Tina and maybe will see them again in the morning at breakfast or on the way to Santiago.

Day 40- Fonfria to Triacastela

Walked Today: 6.2 mi / Camino2022: 267 mi

The rain had stopped when we left Fonfria at 8:00. We were bundled up and carrying rain gear as a deterrent, in spite of the forecast for 0% precipitation, again.

Cold and windy and fog, but thankfully, no rain.

Fonfria is in the mountains, at an elevation of 4200 ft. Our walk today was almost 95% downhill to Triacastela at 2200 ft. most of the descent occurring in the middle 3 miles.

The views from the top and on the descent are usually awesome but unfortunately all we could see this morning was fog.

Nothing but fog, at 3900 ft.
Still, nothing but fog at 3300 ft.
Finally, the sun breaking through at 3200ft
Now, something to look at…

Pretty Galícian landscapes abound in every direction.

another landscape
Aira do Camino bar/restaurant in the tiny mountain village of Filloval, a break and orange juice stop at the halfway point.

The path became less steep as we passed through several hamlets leading into Triacastela.

cattle being shifted between fields
800 year old chestnut tree… a group of tree hugging pilgrims trying to reach around its over 25 ft circumference.

modern farm equipment housed in not-so-modern structure, but obviously still very functional.

final section of path prior to entering Triacastela.

It was almost noon when we got to our destination, do we decided to stop at a favorite restaurant for lunch.

Our lunch: Roasted vegetables for Linda, ensalada mixta for Jim and our first opportunity on Camino2022 for Padron peppers!!!

After lunch we checked into Hostal Vilasante and spent the rest of the afternoon doing chores, reading, blogging and eating a light supper before turning in early.

Day 39- Trabadelo to Fonfria

Walked Today: 7.7 mi / Camino2022: 261 mi

We decided to invoke Camino 2022 guidelines this morning by pacing ourselves, taking a taxi up the mountain to O’ Cebreiro and began our walk from there at 8:20.

O’ Cebreiro was cold, with thick fog and 15 mph winds.
leaving O’Cebreiro into the fog
the path was a nice walking surface but like a roller coaster for 2 miles

The weather forecast for this morning was 0% chance of rain. So we didn’t bring our heavy duty rain gear. The dirt/gravel path ended at Liñares and we stopped for a cup of hot chocolate and a break.

nice, warm, thick, hot chocolate

As we walked out of Liñares, it began to rain… the wind increased and it got colder. We scrambled for hats, gloves, buffs, put phones, wallets, credentials in plastic bags, etc and kept walking.

The rain continued to a greater or lesser extent for the remaining 5 miles.

Steep climbs, rain, wind, cold… otherwise a great day!?
The rain paused for a few minutes as we walked past Hospital, but the wind kept blowing… no sign of the sun.
The rain paused again, mercifully, just a few minutes before our climb to a stop for 🍊 juice.
We think this is the steepest climb on the entire Camino Frances…. short duration but very, very steep.
Last photo Jim took before the rain began to pour again.
Casa Lucas… one of our favorites.
warm fire never felt so good!
A delicious salad for lunch, our table by the fireplace, prepared by our hostess.
Our room at Casa Lucas ( 2017, 2019 and 2022.)

Our internet service was on and off tonight, so we’ll wrap this up and send when we get a better signal tomorrow.

Day 38- Villafranca del Bierzo to Trabadelo

Walked Today: 6.0 mi / Camino2022: 253 mi

We slept in and didn’t begin our walk until 8:00. It was a chilly 54F with wind blowing 16mph…

picking up the Camino just after leaving Viña Femita at 8:00.

….but the wind died down as soon as we began following the gap in the mountain along the Valcarce River… that defined our walk this morning.

Here’s a pictorial account of 5 miles of our 6 mile walk:

Walking into the Valcarce Valley
a quick look back at Villafranca del Bierzo

The walk through the valley was very monotonous this morning. You can follow us along for nearly each bend in the road. Each photo is in sequence: top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right.

This albergue/bar is at the halfway point of this morning’s walk and would have provided a break, breakfast … but it was closed and has been for several months …
…. and based on the sign on the door, may be permanently closed. So we moved on to more monotony.
Finally getting off the highway for the final mile into Trabadelo

We breathed a sigh of relief when we reached this point. If you followed each of the photos in sequence and it seemed monotonous to you, you get an idea of what it was like to do it for 5 miles and nearly two hours!!

Whew! Finally a change in scenery.
A very old Chestnut? tree we think… but huge and majestic
looks like a lumber mill is nearby
pretty garden… and the lumber mill
Our Hotel Rural, Nova Ruta, in Trabadelo. A-6, Salida 415,
We have a nice large room (45€), meant for a small family, we think. We stayed in this same room in 2019.
Also, nice bathroom
… and great shower!! (even large bar of designer soap included)

We had lunch in the hotel dining room at 3:30…

We forgot both 1st and 2nd course photos until nearly consumed (must have been hungry). Chicken broth-pasta soup for Linda and Garbonzo ensalada mixta for Jim. Breaded chicken breast for Linda and stewed pig’s knuckle for Jim.
… and another nice Bierzo vino tinto .

… and napped, blogged and read for the rest of the afternoon. We opted to split a bocadillo for supper and call it a day.

Day 37- Cacabelos to Villafranca del Bierzo

Walked Today: 5 mi / Camino2022: 247 mi

We left in the dark again and crossed this bridge on the way out of town… the name of the river escaped us.

We walked on or slightly off the main road for the first couple of miles. We’re in the heart of the Bierzo region which specializes in very nice, smooth, flavorful wines made from mencía grapes. The fragrance of grape juice was ever present as vineyards are all around us and we’re in the middle of their harvest season.

Villafranca in the background
no path here at all
tight quarters along the road, but luckily, traffic was light
stopping to take in the view

About a mile out of Villafranca, we finally got off the road and began walking through the vineyards on a rather steep road. Cars and vans carrying grape pickers passed us and fanned out into different areas, followed by small tractors with carts full of empty, bushel-size containers for the grapes.

“Plantings for the future”… many of the producing grape vines are over 50 years old.
leaving the vineyards and walking the final half mile into Villafranca del Bierzo

Villafranca del Bierzo is one of the most beautiful towns on the Camino, retaining much of its medieval and Renaissance character in spite of an increase of modern hotels and buildings. This location drew merchants from all over, giving the city its names (literally “city of the Franks” but more accurately, of the “foreigners.”)

Iglesia de Santiago to the with its Puerto del Perdón, a doorway for pilgrims who were too sick to continue to Santiago. They could walk through the door in lieu of completing the pilgrimage and receive the same indulgences.
Puerto del Perdón
The 16th century castile, was actually more of a fortified palace for the Marquises of Villafranca.
Iglesia de San Nicolás el Real, houses an albergue where we stayed in 2019.
Viña Femita albergue, destroyed totally by fire in 2012, is evolving but currently has rooms for pilgrims, including us.
our very nice room with great shower

We had a pilgrim dinner in the town square for lunch. We talked with Elaina, from Fayetteville, Georgia, seated at an adjacent table. On the way back to our room, we picked up some snacks and a bottle of mencía wine.

Our mencía wine (5.45€) for afternoon/dinner

At 7:00 we had a one course dinner for “cena” in our albergue, to go with our remaining wine, prepared by the owner’s mother.

spaghetti for Linda
ensalada mixta for Jim

We spent the afternoon planning and reserving rooms for the next three weeks, booking rooms in Santiago and Madrid and changing our flight date for returning home to correspond with completing Camino2022.

It was a full and productive day and our tummies are full. Life is good!

Day 36- Ponferrada to Cacabelos

Walked Today: 8.2 mi / Camino2022: 242 mi

Street lights made it easy to find the way ftom Hotel Los Templarios back to the Camino. Our plan today is to walk straight out of Ponferrada on the Calle Camino de Santiago and merge with the “traditional” version of the Camino at about the half way point to Cacabelos.

Having gone the traditional route our first two times out of Ponferrada, we tried today’s route in 2019 and found it preferable for several reasons: (1) it was two miles shorter (2) it gave us a broader perspective of the environs of Ponferrada (3) it was more upbeat and interesting than the tired, run down environs of the “traditional” route (4) it is mostly flat, easier walking (5) there are more services along the way

Odd shaped skyscraper, not in center city with other tall buildings, silhouetted against the early morning sky as we walked out of Ponferrada on the Calle Camino de Santiago.
our walking environment for the first 3 miles

After walking for about 2 miles, just before 8 a.m., we found a bar open and stopped for a break and a light breakfast.

Breakfast #1

We continued our walk which was along this main conduit into the city from what appeared to be high-density residential communities and a “motor-mile” or two in between. But the experience was still quite pleasant as the sidewalks were well maintained and very wide creating a safe, non-intimidating environment for walking.

a suburb of Ponferrada… sidewalks on both sides wider than the road

For the next hour we observed parents carpooling kids to school, groups of older kids catching city buses to school all adorned with backpacks like any other town/city one might observe this time of year.

The streets and sidewalks gradually narrowed as we neared our merge point with the “ traditional” Camino, but still were interesting as the houses became more traditional of the region with slate roofs and brick and stone exteriors that made each structure somewhat unique in appearance. And colorful flowers were common in window boxes and front yards and gardens,

colorful garden in front of a residence, just before breakfast number 2, caught our attention

Near the end of our “non-traditional” Camino walk, we stopped for a more traditional breakfast #2 and break before rejoining the Camino in Camponayara.

Breakfast #2
… back on the official Camino as we walked through Camponaraya
Wine collective as we exited Camponaraya.
nice section of path on the way out of Camponaraya
entering the vineyards with Cacabelos in the background
Mencia grapes on both sides of the path, most of these had already been harvested
harvesting grapes the old fashion way
a little shade and some trees amid the vineyards
leaving the dirt path and walking on pavement the final half-mile into Cacabelos
almost in Cacabelos
Suspected wine baron home on outskirts of Cacabelos
walking toward our albergue in Cacabelos

When we checked-in at 11:00, our transported knapsacks had not arrived, so our routine chores came to a screeching halt. We decided to stop by the Iglesia de Santa Maria to get our credential stamped then get some lunch.

Iglesia de Santa María
inside Iglesia de Santa María

In 2019 on our way out of Cacabelos, we stopped for breakfast at Hostal Restaurante Siglo XIX. Our waiter performed some impressive art on our cafe con leches.

Today, when we ordered lunch at the same place, we were pleasantly surprised to recognize the same young man as our waiter. We showed him a photo we took of his creation and he was surprised that we remembered.

Our lunch was delicious: ensalada mixta for Linda, ensalada rusa for Jim and Solomillo de cerdo con salsa pimienta (pork tenderloin with a wonderful brown sauce) for both of us.

pork tenderloin with frites and green salad
our lunch wine: very nice

After a delicious cheesecake dessert our waiter asked if we’d like coffee and Jim ordered 1 cafe con leche, which arrived with a smiling waiter and some new art to remember.

2019 art (top left), Today’s art (bottom left)

Our backpacks finally arrived at 2:30 and we washed clothes in the albergue machine for 4€, hung them out to dry (took about 2 hrs), then got a snack supper, blogged and read until bedtime.