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Day Thirty Five: Ponferrada to Villafranca Del Bierzo

Distance: 25.3km, Steps: 34,303, Time total: 7hrs

Got a great nights sleep, it was hard to get out of bed & get packing. There was a clear window fitted to the bedroom’s sloping roof & we could see out & look at the stars in the sky while it was still dark outside. It also made the room bright with the night light coming through. Nevertheless, we had planned to hopefully cover 25kms today to lovely Villafranca so we had to start walking early. Breakfast opened at 6.30am. It was only us & Kim. Kim is the lady from Alaska that we met in El Acebo. She is walking alone as her husband works away. She said the bunk rooms were full but obviously everyone was sleeping in. There is one man in her room that is coughing, sputtering & sneezing all over the place. The two Canadian ladies also in there were not happy to share the room with him but they were told that the other bunk room was full too. Mr D said Kim was hinting at leaving with us but he prefers to walk with me or on his own, otherwise he feels he has to match the others pace. Which he gets with me as I start at a fast walking pace.

We were walking by 7.30am & set off out the city. The Camino route has changed to allow us to walk alongside the river & out rather than through the busy streets. It was a lovely cool morning & we only saw one other Pilgrim leaving at the same time. We pass through the outer suburbs & then into small towns close by. Going through one town, there seemed to be cats everywhere. One torti cat spotted me as I stopped to take a picture, ran up & started meowing & rubbing herself on me. She wanted food but I had none on me. She looked a well fed cat anyhow! At this stage Mr D had rocketed ahead as I kept stopping to take pictures. I helped out one guy that was lost & couldn’t see the Camino marker.

I could see Rocket man ahead but I couldn’t catch up to him! Nothing could slow Mr D down – he was trooping ahead to get as many kms in before it got too warm or he got too tired. My quad muscles & feet were tight & sore from all the stair climbing I did in the Castle yesterday. They were not happy with me. And today I was going to push the friendship with a long day. So Mr D out of sight now sent a text to say he’ll wait at the next town called Camponaraya. It’s lucky I’m in charge of taking photos for the blog! If it was Mr D – the blog would contain photos of the asphalt road, gravel road, rocks & pebbles, maybe some grass hahaha! And all this walking was on asphalt road with cars zooming past, wasn’t impressed with the amount of road walking, there wasn’t even a side path to take off the road.

I walked over half way through the next town before I spotted where Mr D was waiting. Some pokey small bar / cafe joint. He said it was a dive, dark & smokey inside. Also the sick man Kim had mentioned in her bunk room was there having a coffee. He did alright to get there early! I needed the toilet so I had to buy something. A coffee for Mr D for 1€, I also got for free, a tiny glass of OJ & slice of cake. The damn toilet flush button was broken too. Oh well, we drank up & got moving. We were making very good time. On the way out, there was a wine tasting with cheese – that would of made a better toilet stop! We didn’t stop as we had far to go today.

After this town it became nicer as we stepped on gravel dirt road that went off through vineyards & beautiful tall yellow trees & bushes. It was so nice & quiet without all the car noises. One man had set up a caravan cafe in a peaceful little clearing, the ground covered in autumn coloured leaves. Some tables to sit at. But it was too early for lunch – such a nice spot. But we marched on! The sick man was following behind us as Mr D sped up to try to put some distance between him & us. The last thing Mr D needs is some germ virus bug from him!

We came into the town of Cacabelos. A reasonably big town with a population of 5,500. It was 11.30am with 10kms left to go. I was pleased with our fast progress. We stopped here for lunch in some nice looking restaurant. There was no one eating so we went in & asked. Yes they could do lunch. We were the first customers. The lady took off to start cooking up our lunches. We took a seat inside, the restaurant was still decorated with Halloween stuff. Fake cobwebs, witches, big fake spiders. Even though they are fake I still get the shivers! Hate spiders!

Much to Mr D’s dismay, the sick man had followed us in! This time he had a tissue wedged in his nostril, half of it sticking out. And he wasn’t happy. He was getting impatient that the lady had disappeared into the kitchen & no one was behind the counter. Then when she came out, he couldn’t converse in Spanish as only spoke English so he asked us if we knew Spanish. Then the lady fetched a man that spoke English so he could order. What a lot of drama! Then more people came, so lucky we got there first, we could of been waiting awhile for lunch. I had Patatas aioli but I prefer the Patatas bravas. The last one was too hot so I wasn’t too keen to try another. Mr D had Calamari again – hoping these ones won’t upset his tummy like the last ones. And our mandatory glasses of Coke. Kim had caught up to us but she said she was not stopping for lunch there so with a wave, she was on her way & we didn’t see her again.

Feeling full & a little rested, we set off again by 12.15pm while everyone was eating their lunches. It was freezing in the laneways, but as soon as we left the town, it was feeling quite warm under the sun. We followed the road again – joy joy. Up, up & up we went alongside the road, feeling hot, feeling tired. We passed the last town with an Albergue called Pieros. So after that, we had to continue to Villafranca. We turned off the road & followed a wide dirt road through vineyards until we came to a small town called Valtuille de Arriba. I call this town black cats town. I passed 4 black cats that came up meowing for food. One was a young kitten that was skin & bone the poor thing. Then just further on was a black tomcat that sat there meowing sadly. It’s terrible, the stray cats must be a big problem like they are in Australia. It was too sad & I quickly walked on out of there.

The last 4 something kms were the hardest. We were getting very tired. Our feet were hurting. Mr D was slowing down…. & down…… the last km took forever back on asphalt road winding down into Villafranca. Then onto cobblestones that made it harder to walk when your feet are so sore! Mr D was keen to check into the Parador there. This one is nowhere near as fantastic as the Leon Parador. The outside looked very bland. With Pilgrim rates, we paid 85€ for the night. I was too tired to care. Our room is spacious & very nice. The first thing we did was drop the backpacks, take off our boots & collapse on the bed! We were totally spent! I took a soak in the bath for my poor aching legs & feet. We cracked open a couple of beers. Mr D stayed put on his bed while I went for a short walk around the town. I didn’t see anyone we knew, besides the sick man sitting in the plaza having a drink. My feet were not happy & protested at me, so back to the room where I rested up too. Ahhhhh! What a hard day! But we had walked fast & arrived at the Parador at 2.30pm so that was pretty good going!

We rested until the kitchen in the Parador restaurant opened at 8.30pm for dinner. There was no way we were walking into town to get any dinner earlier. Baileys & ice was in order & sure went down a treat. Dinner was delayed, the restaurant opened late, we had to wait 10 minutes to order ( service nowhere near as good as the Leon Parador ). One large real grumpy looking older lady at the table across from us couldn’t stop staring & glaring our way. Mr D was getting annoyed but managed to ignore her. We didn’t finish until after 10pm, by this time, Mr D’s eyelids were getting heavy…..and heavy…. So off to bed to collapse & not move until tomorrow morning.

About the author AmblingRose

We are keen hikers based in Perth, Western Australia. We have hiked 7 New Zealand multi-day walk trails, the 800km Camino Frances in Spain, the Cape to Cape in WA, Mount Kinabalu in Borneo, Malaysia. We have hiked sections of the 1003 km Bibbulmun Track in WA with plans to complete an end to end this year in Spring, 2019.

All posts by AmblingRose →

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