Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo – 23.5kms
You would think after four weeks of walking, on average 20kms a day, my body would be completely used to this and be good to go, but this morning I pulled myself out of bed and it felt ancient. I felt stiff as a board and everything ached. Once I got moving I was okay, but I hope this doesn’t continue when I return home.
I was my usual sluggish, morning self, so quite relieved no one was around me as I really didn’t have it in me for bright, cheery conversation. I also didn’t have my on-the-go breakfast muesli bar due to my bag being 23kms away, so I may have been a bit hangry too.
Ponferrada was a relatively nice place to leave from unlike Leon.
I was all the more happier when I came across some wild grapes growing on a fence. They were ripe and juicy and gave me a bit more enthusiasm for my walk.
Thank goodness for close villages when leaving the bigger locations. I’d barely left Ponferrada before arriving into Compostilla and walked past a bakery just opening up. I bought the most delicious chocolate croissant and was too hungry to even stop and take a photo of it.
The only problem was they didn’t serve cafe con leche, so I had to lick the chocolate off my fingers to remove the evidence of eating elsewhere and duck into a cafe to get a cup.
I passed through village after village with the quaint Spanish buildings, along with some quirky decorating.
Just outside of Columbrianos, I got chatting to Jans from Germany. This was the first person since Astorga that I had had any lengthy conversation with and it was great chatting to him. I had actually seen him after Cruz de Ferro sitting on a rock writing in a journal, so he had stood out that day.
I was enjoying the conversation with him and barely noticed the time pass until arriving into Cacabelos (another amazing looking village).
As we rounded a corner, strolling out of a bar came Jean! I shrieked and ran to her and we were hugging in the street. Jans would have been looking at me like I was some crazy person.
It is such a weird thing on the Camino, the level of closeness you feel with people you have just met, but also how it feels like forever when you haven’t seem them and in reality it is mere days.
I invited Jans to join us for a stop. I ordered a Coke and Jans got some food and a whiskey shot with his Coke. When we were talking about the day before and I told Jean about my eggs in El Acebo, Jans said he stopped there and had a whiskey. Jean asked him if that’s how he remembered each place. I simply thought I need to jump on this morning drinking bandwagon!
We were chatting about our travels and I was telling Jean about travelling business class and Jean turned to Jans and asked him if I was this annoying talking to him and he laughed and said no, she was bringing the worst out of me.
That’s when Jean told him to watch what he says because I write about everyone on my journey!
Sadly, it was time to leave. The next time I see Jean will be a few days away in O’Cebreiro.
At this point, we started going up and it was hot, especially when I was in the long sleeve top and pants I’d worn the day before in preparation for the cold mountain. I may have started regularly asking how much further it was, to which Jans started responding with what his kids say, (the same thing kids say the world over) “I’m hungry” “I want ice-cream” and the ever popular “I need to go to the toilet.”
When he said it would be the last hill, I told him I would push him into the ditch if it wasn’t.
It was beautiful though.
In the distance was a building that Jans said was like the end scene of the movie “Out of Africa” and he half expected to see lions.
Just outside of Villafranca, a couple came past that Jans knew and they had walked up to the building thinking it was a church (it wasn’t). The next words from the guy was that the trees made him think of Africa and he thought there would be lions!
I turned to Jans and simply burst out laughing. What are the odds of that?!
I cannot tell you how amazing it felt to arrive at my accommodation and have my bag. I was hot, sweaty and stinky, so the shower felt glorious and the clean clothes even better.
Looking and feeling like a new woman, I had a bit of a wander through the town.
Food became a major priority and I found a place with lots of pilgrims and enjoyed a fabulous salad with Sangria.
While I was enjoying sitting and relaxing in the sun, I saw Andee and Tiara, the mother and daughter I had met in Reliegos who I convinced to come to Bar Elvis with me. I jumped up to hug them and see how they were doing. They joined me and we had a funny afternoon, sharing the various stories we’d been experiencing whilst on the Camino.
After I left them, I shared a drink with Jans who then had to be escorted by his friend to his Albergue after drinking all afternoon, before Google maps took me the longest way possible to get back to my accommodation.
I did have a little treat waiting for me though.
Breakfast supplies and my laundry done and folded. Plus, Riley is now on Spanish soil and I finally get to give him a hug tomorrow.
What more could you ask for?