We had breakfast at Casa Cines then said our goodbyes to Núria’s mom and dad and left for Portomarín.
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.
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.
Our walk was relatively short, mostly uphill, a few steep places but mostly gradual.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We slept in and didn’t begin our walk until 8:00. It was a chilly 54F with wind blowing 16mph…
….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:
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.
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!!
We had lunch in the hotel dining room at 3:30…
… and napped, blogged and read for the rest of the afternoon. We opted to split a bocadillo for supper and call it a day.
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.
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.
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.”)
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Camino2022 has gone well so far and we want to keep it that way. Our paced approach today is to not take on the remaining 1200 ft climb to Foncebadón and Cruz de Ferro or to brave either the treacherous downhill section going into Acebo or the very rough, rocky surfaces on the trail between Acebo and Molinaseca.
We walked both of these routes in 2015 and 2017, with full backpacks, but skipped the Acebo to Molinaseca section in 2019. So nothing to prove today.
At 9:00 our taxi driver, Luis, met us at Albergue El Tesín in Rabanal. He was the same driver who picked us up in Acebo in 2019, rescuing us from the walk into Molinaseca.
Luis used the road that sorta parallels and crisscrosses the Camino from Rabanal to Molinaseca (a 30 minute ride). The sky was clear, so we were able to enjoy many of the beautiful and breathtaking views that we enjoyed when we walked this section on previous Caminos.
We recognized the place we stayed in Foncebadón in 2015, and stopped briefly to snap a photo of the Cruz de Ferro today, where we left a shell signed by each of our 14 grandchildren in 2017.
We continued along the summit of the Itago mountain range for several miles and recognized the expansive views in all directions. On the way down, we drove through Acebo, where we stayed in 2015 and 2017, then continued down the mountain to the bridge entering Molinaseca, where Luis wished us “Buen Camino”, and let us out to begin our 5 mile walk into Ponferrada, our destination for the night.
Shortly after taking the above photo, Rolfe and Ann, pilgrims friends from Sarasota, Florida caught up to us and we walked together for a half-mile or so, then went our separate ways to different places for the night in Ponferrada. Even though we are walking different distances each day and using different strategies for our Caminos, we keep bumping into each other in stores, in bus stations, in albergues, etc. We said our good-byes/ buen Caminos for the umpteenth time today, but somehow, it may not be our last!
We ate sparingly today, never seeming to find a place with food when we were hungry. Tomorrow the problem will lessen as smaller towns along the Camino cater more to pilgrims and not vice versa.
Most of the afternoon was spent trying to find places to stay over the next few weeks… and blogging. A longer walk coming up tomorrow, so pleasant dreams to all!