Here comes another thirty-something stage. To be precise, 32 km. A little disturbing thought, as I’ve noticed that around the 30th km my walking enthusiasm starts to rapidly evaporate in the hot Spanish sun.
We left early (what a surprise) the tiny tiny village of Gonzar and we were on the road again. The good thing about not starting from the major stage ending points (like Portomarin the other day) is that you can actually walk and enjoy the process without the contest feeling I sometimes got on busier parts of the Camino. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy competition spirit every now and then, I even normally get motivated by it, but for me it is not compatible with the Camino. Challenging myself – definitely YES but that’s another story.
I’m afraid I’d have to say it again. I totally felt for Casa Barbadelo and the leisurely atmosphere that surrounded the place. I was so relaxed that it was not before past 7 o’clock that I started to realize I have to get up and walk, walk, walk. The simplicity of life The funny thing is everyone in the room got up so “late” which had not happened the previous days. It was rather foggy outside but so pleasant and refreshing temperature. Fog in the city is one thing, fog in such places is a different story – it sprinkles everything with magical droplets and gives this fairy-land feeling.
(Continued from Day 6 – part 1)
Unlike most pilgrims, we did not stay in Sarria. The distance was very small (only 18 km) and also we preferred to relax in small villages and appreciate the rural atmosphere. It is worth mentioning that many people with limited time start exactly at Sarria as it ensures the minimum of 100 km. you need in order to receive your Compostela (the certificate you earn after completing the way) at Santiago. We desperately wanted to miss all the hustle and bustle in the morning.
I would not exaggerate if I say Triacastela to Barbadelo was probably the most enjoyable walk so far on my Camino. Maybe it was because the scenery was astonishing, maybe it was the pleasant weather, maybe it was that because as the road divided in two after Triacastela people were fewer, or maybe my body/mind had already set into the right mode for hours of walking.
Either way, steps were taken with pleasure.
This stage was a pleasure. Only 21 km. to Triacastela, mostly descending, beautiful scenery, the weather was warm and sunny, who could ask for more? Anyway, people having knee and ankle problems would perhaps tell a different story, as descent, especially one spreading over several kilometers is a huge strain precisely on these parts of the body.
We almost ran out from the municipal albergue. At about 6.30 o’clock everyone was up and it was resembling an enormous bee-hive with everyone trying to get ready and put their stuff in order in the dark. I really appreciate the fact that many people (I followed the example) actually arranged their backpack outside the bedroom and spared the others all the rustling, whispering and flashlights in all directions. Outside the air was amazingly fresh (I forgot to mention O Cebreiro is located at an altitude of 1300 m) and we started descending through the dark mountain.
After the challenges Camino de Santiago Day 3 threw at me, I supposed Day 4 would provide some pleasurable difference. You know, I expected balance and so on. Different is was. It was more difficult, more steep, and demanded more from my not-so-happy-after-the-25th-km feet. But, you know what, I came to realize that putting yourself to the test and striving to go on only transforms the rest afterwards into vigorous enjoyment and at least doubles the luxury of a hot shower, clean clothes, feet up and something Galician to eat.
Walking traditionally started at dark and probably for this reason we failed to take the right turn (there are two alternatives to chose from after Villafranca del Bierzo – a mountainous route and the “highway” route). So instead we found ourselves walking along the road, for most of the time the highway was high above our heads, but overall, surprisingly, I found the way quite peaceful, probably because it was too early. There was a divider to separate pilgrims from the road. Level walking on flat surface early in the morning was not a bad idea. Some lovely small villages for an occasional cafe con leche were quite welcome as well.
This day of walking the Camino was not only long (more than 30 km), but it also started extremely early! Snoring in the room was unbearable during the night and when I felt the vibrations of the alarm I felt so relieved! I was ready in no time (something I usually do not do in normal life) and we were out (of course after breakfast). We started following the road in front of the albergue in the opposite direction of the village and after a while I seriously got worried that we had taken the wrong direction. It was completely dark, we saw no yellow arrows and there were no pilgrims walking the Camino after us. So we walked in silence, hoping.
Luckily, finally it turned out we are on the right track.
Before we realized it, we were in Ponferrada.
After our first day on Camino Frances, we started the second as proper pilgrims – early! Had a quick breakfast of toast and jam in the warm and cozy kitchen of the albergue and we set off. After walking for about 10 metres, I was convinced I should have put more clothes on, so we had to stop and, of course, it turned out my rain/wind jacket was at the very bottom of my backpack, so all the contents were taken out and then put back in again. Practice makes perfect, however, to limit the numbers of roaming through my things during the day, from now on I started to put items I would probably need during the day on the top!
After we went out of Rabanal (about 3-4 minutes after we started walking), even though it was completely dark, I quickly came to understand we were going to have some mountainous experience that day.The wind was a little discouraging but after a while we looked back to see one of the most beautiful sunrises on the Camino Frances so far. The sun definitely made things better.
The Camino de Santiago packing list…I have read so many advice and Camino packing lists before I started packing, that I was feeling a little confused what I should bring at all costs and what I can live without. The truth is that it is indeed a very good idea to have a look of other people’s packing lists, however, you should also take into consideration that packing lists vary depending on season of travelling, individual needs, physical condition, weight and personality! Make your own choices, and remember – the lighter, the better!
Here is what I took with me, my luggage was rather light at the end, perfect for the long hours of walking. Keep in mind my weight is only 45 kg. so I had to be even more choosy with the stuff I carried on my back.
The things listed covered all my needs for a September Camino. We were lucky that the weather was warm and sunny during the whole period, with the exception of a 10-minute-rainfall and 2 misty mornings.
Take your time and create your own list and also keep in mind that every day you are passing through villages and there are also some towns along the way, so you can buy any item you have forgotten or discover you need on Your Camino.
Day 1 of our Camino walk started at lovely Astorga. After spending the night on a bus travelling from Barcelona, taking about 11-12 hours (blissfully spent in sleep), we finally reached our starting point. It was dark when we got off the bus and immediately began looking for a place to take our credentials from. We found the first albergue very easily, it was so close to the cathedral, however, the hospitalero was not willing to spend any of his time on us. He was speaking to us in Spanish (like so so many people on the Camino), but it became clear he was welcoming us at 11 o’clock. 4 hours? No way.
One pilgrim on the street showed us the municipal albergue and we decided to give it a try. We were lucky because right after holding our credentials in hands, it closed as well. What followed was a memorable breakfast – cafe con leche (it is amazing that while in Spain even in the smallest of villages I enjoyed fantastic cafe con leche-s) and churros - the sole thought is mouth-watering.