Villafranca del Beirzo ➡ La Faba
The Municipale Albergue in Villafranca del Bierzo was unfortunately not as nice as our previous accommodations and with the paranoia of bed bugs on my mind I was keen to get going early, not only that day 27 had quite an incline and neither of us wanted another day of getting in the Albergue at 5pm as we had been. We set out into the frigid air bellies warm with porridge for breakfast. It was freezing! I kicked myself for not buying some gloves the day before in the city.
The morning was cold. We shiverd in the brisk morning air as we walked. Beside the road was picturesque, it reminded me starkly of New Zealand, the lush vegetation and steep cliffs and hillsides. The cold air propelled us to the first town where we sought hot coffee and pain au chocolate, our Camino breakfast special. Nothing better than a chocolate croissant and a black coffee in the early hours of the morning. We sat in the cafe; it looked like a hunter’s lodge, antlers hung on the walls and we almost had to duck at the low hanging sturdy wooden beams that held up the roof. As we sat nursing our coffees, we saw a news bulletin flash onto the television in the corner of the cosy open plan room. There had sheets and sheets of rain in the South of Spain, widespread flooding across many areas, and a plane crash somewhere else. Morbid news for our Tuesday morning! Brows furrowed at the current events, we headed back out into the freezing air.
We continued on our way, not walking with anyone today, just moving at our own pace. We talked and joked together, after some grueling days at others pace it was nice just to be in each others company again, making our way streadily across the spanish landscape. We made it into Vega de Valcarce around 11.30 and found the local shop for a few almost lunch snacks, sitting down with a vaso de zumo de naranja (glass of ornage juice.) We looked out at the steep countryside so different from the flats of the maseta. I sat drinking the cool sweet liquid and saw a castle on the very top of the hill, the backdrop of the small town.
If you have been following along with Royce and myself in our adventures, you will know we are always on the hunt for the obscure paths. The places people don’t always visit and the photos that show a different side to the landscape. I had been so disappointed all trip at not being able to detour from the track because the pain in my knee and ankle meant walking was such a struggle, but as i sat and looked up with my ankle and knee finally playing ball, I decided today was the day. I proposed the detour to Royce, and he too turned to squint up at the castle outlined in the bright sunlight.
“Will your leg be ok?” he asked hesitantly, I nodded an affirmative, and we downed our drinks, off to find a castle!
We got some directions from the locals and found our way through the town to the base of a VERY steep hill,
“Bugger.” I thought to myself, looking up the slope overhanging with trees, chestnuts littering the stoney path upward. There was no other way, i tightened the straps on my backpack and started up the hill. It was brutal, steeper than anything we had walked on the path except for our detour on the first day.
“Darn high points.” I thought to myself as I stopped briefly to catch my breath, I just can’t help myself..
Oh, but the top was worth it! The view bathed in the midday sun was glorious, and we were both grinning from ear to ear as we made our way to the edge of the ruins of the castle. A good place for a lunch stop! We spent some time exploring the small ruin and taking photos; it had been partially restored and looked to be a work in progress.
Unfortunately, the path down the hill was the same as the one up of which my knee and ankle protested heartily, still not a downhill fan. I picked my way down slowly, careful not to slip on the hundreds of chestnuts littering the path. Winding our way back through town we found our way back to the yellow and blue Camino shells that pointed our way feeling much better about the day.
Back to our plod along the winding path or shady vegetation, steep cliffs and.. town of cats.. Something about this trip and the animals. So very many cats and dogs! The small village of Las Herrenrias had a small horde of sunbathing felines watching over the pilgrim path through the single street, The horses and riders trotted past us as we passed fields of grazing cows not far from a winding river.
The end of the day as the afternoon sun shone brightly to the west was another steep climb up a rocky slope. A winding track shadowed by large trees was the path up to La Faba, another hard going hill, but i was grinning, I had forgotten how much I enjoy hills. part of why I love my job as a shepherd, to make your way to the highest point and look out over the landscape.
At the top was the municipal albergue, almost empty at 3pm but beautiful, a large stone building set back from the small town. It had a large room of brand new bunk beds. The Albergue was another German run establishment, like the one we stayed at all those nights ago in Pamplona. I very much enjoyed the German albergues, a comfy bed with a heater and complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits!
As the minutes and hours ticked by, the Albergue slowly filled up with weary pilgrims, and we found ourselves reunited with many people we have met before. A group of us decided with the small kitchen we might as well have a communal meal and went up to the small shop in search of something to cook. Disastrously the meagre pickings in the store did not include fresh veg, so armed with some cans we headed back to cook up a storm. At the cost of three euro each we ate a large meal of roasted chestnuts, pesto pasta, bread, wine and a cake dessert! Cooking communally definitely has its advantages. The food was delicious, and the conversation around the table flowed with many smiles and laughs before we retired to bed.
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