My crisp, clean bed was heavenly last night. We both slept in a bit and set off to the bus station as day was breaking. It seems last night’s party only just finished and we find stragglers all over trying to find their way home. We ask one of them whether we are heading in the right direction for the bus station and he tells us that “it is not my greatest moment“. I get a whiff of alcohol off him and notice that he actually looks a bit lost himself . At least there is nothing wrong with his ability to assess his own mental state. Fifteen minutes later we are at the bus station.
Leon is a beautiful city and I leave it with a tinge of sadness at not having more time to explore all its wonders.
We are off to Ponferrada giving us enough time to finish the last part of the walk without too much pressure. Passing through Astorga the sadness pops its head out again as I’m staring at another incredibly beautiful building and am told by a fellow passenger that Astorga is one of the most beautiful towns in Spain. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for more time!
Midmorning we arrive in Ponferrada and at first feel disconcerted and out of place. I ask a fellow pilgrim who just arrived at the bus station in which direction we should be heading and she points us towards the big castle which we cannot miss. It is quite a walk, but as we go around a traffic circle and head up, you cannot miss it. The castle is on top of the hill and towers above the city. Once again I cannot believe our luck and I realize you can’t see everything, but at least I get to see this.
Right next to the castle we find some fellow pilgrims and I feel at home again. It is like finding your tribe after having been separated. We get our stamp at the church which is just as beautiful and walk around the castle. My stomach is letting me know that the bus trip took a bit longer than expected and we decide on an early lunch overlooking the beautiful castle. There is also some event going on as it is rows upon rows of old motor cars and bikes all coming past the castle. Hooters are going and it seems like the whole town is out on the street. We ask our barista as to the occasion, but either she doesn’t understand us or is as much in the dark as we are.
We finish our brunch and take to the route again. After a day and a half on the bus it is a relief to be walking again. The route out of town follows the river and there is a lot of people out walking their dogs and pushing prams. Exactly the peace and quiet one would expect of a Sunday afternoon.
Once we’re out of town we start heading uphill and the heat of the day has now properly settled in. It is blisteringly hot, eerily quiet and devoid of people in the small villages and houses we pass. Although we follow a water channel we are not getting any benefit from the cool water. We eventually take refuge in the shade of a cemetery wall whilst hydrating.
Not much further down the road we pass a sign advertising an Albergue and it shows a garden setting with nice green grass. It doesn’t take much for us to decide that although we haven’t travelled far today, this will be our place for the night.
We reach Casa La Medina in Camponaraya at about 14:30 and is welcomed into the cool interior. What a beautiful little place. We spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying an ice cold beer in the garden where we meet James from Australia. He has done the Camino twice before, but this time started his walk in Le Puy in France. He has been on the road almost two months already and has evidently shed 10kg in the process. (Maybe this is a weight loss program worthwhile advertising!) He complains of blisters though and the last few days have evidently been quite painful.
We all go for a small afternoon nap in our blissfully cool room. Supper is extroardinary and our wine this evening comes out a proper bottle that actually has to be opened for us (normally it is tapped off a bigger container). This is wine country after all.
After supper while having a nightcap, compliments of James, he shares his father’s story with us. His father spent time in three different concentration camps during World War II and he tells how he, himself visited all three these sites. His story touches me deeply and I go to bed contemplating human nature and how we still haven’t learnt to be more tolerant of each other. Have we really learnt nothing about how devastating war can be? Unfortunately I cannot change the world, but I can learn to be more tolerant in my own life.
Our host was a wonderfully friendly character and it is a stay I will never forget. I can highly recommend this one with a big smile on my face.
I want to leave you with this saying I recently came across : “How you make others feel about themselves, says a lot about you!”
Ponferrada – Camponaraya 10km
Tomorrow, who knows…