Today was my longest walk so far on the Camino, and it included a nearly 2000’ climb, a good chunk at the end of the day. As a reference point for my Mad River Valley friends, from the Mad River Glen basebox to General Stark’s Peak is 2036 vertical feet. This walk felt easier than that hike, which Ray and I traditionally do each fall.
A miracle happened last night and I slept like a baby in the same room with nine others! I am so happy I stayed at Por se Hoge, which is Portuguese for Just One Night. After a couple of pieces of buttered toast and coffee (the breakfast of Champions in Spain) I took off before sunrise.
The exit from Astorga was relatively short for a big city and soon we were on a gravel path. The Camino rush hour was quite busy.
Two Camino routes converge in Astorga; the Camino Francés, which I am on, and the Via de la Plata, the longest Camino Route in Spain that originates in Sevilla in the southern region known as Andalusia. I have a couple of friends eyeing that route for their next Camino.
I had heard several days ago that there is someone from Vermont on the Camino Francés now and his name is Connor and he has red hair. I had kind of forgotten about him.
So, today I had a woman walking in front of me in a red hiking skirt and I was soon next to her as she slowed down to take off a layer of clothing. With her obvious US accent, I asked where she was from and she said Vermont! Deborah is walking with two other women also from the Burlington VT area. They were both ahead of Deborah. So we walked for a while and she told me about Connor too. And, I kid you not, within 5 minutes, Connor went walking past us!
We snapped a selfie. And within a few more minutes, we entered a village and Deborah’s friends were there. All three are educators in the Burlington and I knew at least one had to know my friend Zelda who worked in the Chittenden South school system for many years. Sure enough Joan knows Zelda!
The three women went off and I continued the trek on my own. Today was a kind of Camino landmark day because we would be walking past the famous Cowboy Bar.
It is a quirky place with all kinds of memorabilia.
So, it only makes sense I would bump into this character again at the Cowboy Bar.
We both ate half a boccadillo and I washed it down with an Aquarius and we took off together along with Angie from California. Angie is insightful and smart and the conversation with these two women was interesting. Both decided when we got to Rabinal Del Camino that they would go the extra 7km today to get to Foncebaden. This plan would leave a very short 2 km-100 meter climb to get to the famous Cruz de Ferro, the iron cross where pilgrims leave a small stone representing the burdens they want to leave behind. It is also THE HIGHEST point on the Camino.
Last year before my first Camino, I put a stone from our property into the pocket of my backpack and it has been there since. Through the winter it sat in the closet and it was with me on all of my training walks this summer. Tomorrow I say goodbye to the stone.
I am hoping to get to Cruz de Ferro to see the sunrise. That will mean hiking on a rocky trail with a headlamp.
This is what we walked on today for much of the climb and I suspect that is what it will be like tomorrow morning. I will definitely wait for full light to start walking down.
Allyson strongly believes that the best pilgrim experience includes staying in Alburgue dorms and not having a reservation; you show up and ask for a bed. I had really hoped that would be my Camino experience, but I have had too much fun micromanaging my overnight accommodations. I guess this is one lesson I will not get from the Camino.
When we passed this building-ish on the way into town, we kidded that was where Allyson would be staying tonight with her no reservation, dorm-life Camino principles.
But, the truth is that Allyson and Angie got a bed in the municipal Alburgue and when I went to visit them after I ate, it was clear that is where the action was in town.
A young Spanish man was playing the guitar and singing, lots of people were out on the front porch listening to him, drinking wine and chilling out.
I had a wonderful dinner tonight. I started with a Caesar Salad (with lots of salad dressing!)
And then Hake with vegetables.
It was yummy, but too much. I should have started with the hake and as Ray says, if I was still hungry I could have had the salad for dessert.
Heading back to my Alburgue, I had a pinch me moment, am I really here? Such beauty!
Today was a long distance with a challenging climb after days of flat flat. It was relatively easy for me. I am not going to say I ran up the hill, and I was definitely sucking wind, but I really think all of the work I have done preparing for this year’s Camino has helped. It also really helped to be walking with two other women, Allyson and Angie. I am grateful for the time I got to spend with the two of them.