Distance: 20.7km, Steps: 28,794, Time total: 7 hrs.
Our room got very warm overnight, especially the bathroom that felt like a sauna room. We opened the window to let the morning cold air cool the room down. Mr D saw the heating racks in the bathroom & goes, “Damn! They are heating racks! I could have dried my socks on them last night! They are still damp!” I said, “Yeah, I noticed it yesterday & tried to turn it on but it still felt cold.” Then I touched it & it was quite warm! I had turned it on alright & it had been on all night heating up the place, hilarious! Geez we were so tired yesterday!
We went down for breakfast & the breakfast buffet was pretty good, not as extravagant as the other Parador, but we wolfed down a hearty breakfast. Mr D’s welt lumps had gone down considerably which was a relief. His only concern was the one on the ankle. It was still big with a hard red lump in the middle. He hoped it wouldn’t burst & blister while he was walking. We left late at 8.30am after paying for our expensive stay. Feet were still feeling sore as we set off out of town, over the bridge where there is 3 options to take: Dragonte – hardest goes over 3 mountains & is 32kms long. Pradela – scenic route over one mountain before rejoining main route. Takes an extra couple of hours. Pereje – main Camino route that follows the main highway. Easy but noisy walk.
I was pretty keen on the Dragonte route but Mr D wasn’t, “It’s too long & the climb too high! And it’s not marked well!” So we agreed on the Pradela route which is still a challenge & takes longer time than the flat route. So we set off up the very steep incline. One man in his car was trying to tell us we were going the wrong way, but we told him this is another Camino route. The steepness soon eased into a gradual climb on dirt rocky paths, winding up & around. Views out over Villafranca & the Valcarce valleys & the noisy highway below. We have been so blessed with good weather. Another cool day with slivers of clouds breaking up the blue sky. Soon I was removing my jacket & gloves as I quickly warmed up.
I didn’t rush it taking my time to take pictures & admire the views. We had the mountain all to ourselves as we saw no other Pilgrims on the same route. We climbed into an area full of pine trees with the lovely smell of pine, the birds chirping & the distant noise of motor vehicles far below. We climbed 400meters & was at the highest point of 930meters. Heading down we moved into chestnut woodlands & passed two cars – up on the mountain?! What & how did they get up here?! People drive up & they take their baskets & fill them up with chestnuts fallen from the trees. Well we came to a junction where we were meant to go left but turned right, following the arrows 1km into the town of Pradela & the new Albergue. Feeling annoyed, we had to u-turn around & head back to the track. Waste of time & extra walking! We rejoined the track & headed down a steep descent, passing more chestnut pickers & one person that had come up with his donkey & tied the donkey to a tree while he went chestnut picking.
Descents take so long when you just want to get to the bottom! It hurts the knees, legs & feet. It was already lunchtime & I was getting hungry! After more downhill walking which seem to go backwards & around, we arrived in Trabadelo where the route rejoins the Camino route called Pereje. Only 11kms out of Villafranca & it was 12.45pm! We walked through town but saw no food places open. Feeling most annoyed & frustrated we had to continue on, the next town 4kms away. Now we join the asphalt road again & end up walking besides the beautiful Rio river in the crash barrier next to the highway. They have built an A – 6 flyover which takes most of the traffic away from the highway now. We walked in shade where it was quite pleasant & cool.
It only took us over half an hour when we came to the Hotel Valcarce & ordered lunch. There we enjoyed our cokes & big steak & chips outside on the balcony. They also gave us a big bowl of bread rolls! I think Spain has too many bread rolls they don’t know what to do with them! By about 2.30pm we had to set off & decide where to stay. At least the towns were so close together. Mr D wanted to get close to the big climb tomorrow so hopefully we have a shorter walk. We went through Portela, Ambasmestas where I had picked an Albergue. So we went there & they said they had closed now but could offer a room & dinner for over 50€. I thought that was steep even through it was a nice quiet spot. So we moved on to Vega de Valcarce. The town got Mr D’s tick of approval. Some Albergues had already closed now for the season. But we came to a nice looking one & continued along but turned back to it. Albergue Santa Maria Magdalena. A small townhouse on the street corner. There we met Rodrigo a very warm & welcoming young man that showed us inside, made us feel at home. The upstairs had a very inviting dining room – the guitar we both spotted straight away! Another Camino provides as Mr D had commented recently there had been no guitar for him to play for awhile.
We made ourselves at home & went off to buy a bottle of red wine to celebrate walking over 600kms now. Mr D had a spring in his step, happily saying he loves this town. It is nestled in the valley with hills on both sides. He said, “I could easily stay here 2 nights!” Then we just kicked back what little was left of the afternoon, Mr D happily playing the guitar, us drinking wine. We watched a few other Pilgrim drifters walk through town & continue on. There is a noticeable decrease in Pilgrims numbers now – until Sarria at least!
Rodrigo is from Chile, his girlfriend Giovanna from Italy helps run the Albergue. They took over renting the Albergue this year from the previous people. They are both such friendly & welcoming. Their hospitality 5 star! As we ended up being the only two staying in the Albergue, they cooked us a lovely Italian meal. Pasta bolognese & salad followed by ice cream. Then they both joined us as we chatted & laughed. Mr D & Rodrigo took turns playing the guitar & singing. Their little dog, Noah was cute as & liked to attack shoes with such ferocity. Giovanna bought out a basket of delicious cooked chestnuts that were still warm. Damn they tasted so good! No wonder those people go out on the mountain to pick them.
It ended up being such a super night with the best Albergue hosts we have encountered. Now we need to get some rest for tomorrow’s big climb!