Friday, November 13, 2009
Villafranca del Bierzo to Vega de Valcarce
I had a little trouble finding the right trailhead on the way out of Villafranca, because my guidebook gave me 3 options, and on the actual signs I could only find 2. It was important to find the right one, because one went along the road, shorter, but on paved roads, and not nearly as scenic as the one I was after, which went higher up on small pathways, with stunning views. The third option, according to my book, was also very scenic, but over 40 km over very rugged and partly unmarked trails, so I definitely did not want to end up on that one!
After a bit of searching and asking around, I found the trailhead, and started the long hike up the mountain. It was a beautiful, if strenuous walk up into the mountains, but I enjoyed it!
It's a little miracle how at the end of the day I am so tired, my feet hurt, and many other parts of my body aches as well, and yet the next morning I am ready to walk again! When I get to the albergue of the day, have my shower and maybe a nap, I walk around wherever I am, to see the sights!
Anyway, this morning was gorgeous, I enjoyed being all alone on the beautiful natural trail, just me and the birds - and there were lots of them - all the way to the first village of Trabadelo - a stretch of about 12 km. From there the trail went from idyllic to a hazardous and unpleasant walk along a busy highway, with a very treacherous crossing of the busy highway! After this unpleasant stretch I was back on quiet country roads, where I tried to walk on the shoulder of the road as much as possible, to spare my feet from the pavement.
I walked through several tiny villages, and got as far as Vega de Valcarce, before I found an open and appealing albergue - so I landed in Albergue do Brazil just on the outskirts of the little village of Vega de Valcarce!
I was welcomed in by the very cheerful Christina from Brazil, she spoke English with a charming Brazilian accent, and was just so exuberant and Brazilian! She sprayed my backpack outside - custom procedure to curb any infestation of bugs - I appreciated that effort! She assured me the washed and changed the sheets on the beds every day - and I actually saw it in action the next morning! Most places that's not the case, that's for sure! In spite of all these efforts, I am sure it's an uphill battle, because the buildings are just so old, and full of cracks in the walls, old wooden plank floors, etc. I did have 2 new bites on my hands the next morning, but luckily no severe reaction!
I was tired from the long walk, and after shower and laundry I rested almost until dinnertime, which was early - 6 PM. We were a small group seated around the big round granite table outside, where Christina seated us, and then told us a bit about how she had landed in this tiny village all the way from Brazil! She had walked the Camino herself, and had ended up helping out at this albergue, and after completing the Camino she came back, and now she had been here for several years, and felt she learned something new every day, and loved being here. You could feel she was speaking from the heart, she was so bubbly and enthusiastic! Then she asked us to introduce ourselves, and in one word sum up our Camino experience so far - "camaraderie" was what I came up with.
I got to talk quite a bit with the South African couple I had met here and there for the last week or so, but we had never really talked, just greeted each other as we met in cafés or albergues.
They had stayed at San Bol - the little albergue with the field as "potty" - and she told me of a wonderful experience she had there.
When she started the Camino she had wished that somehow God would show himself to her during her Camino. So at San Bol she sat in the sun that was shining through the tall poplar trees, and all of a sudden she saw a cross, when she closed her eyes there was a bright silver cross. Then she opened her eyes, and looked down at her hands, and they were covered in glowing gold - as she turned them in amazement they stayed covered in gold. She would close her eyes, then look again - they were still covered in gold. This went on for about 10-15 minutes, until she was absolutely certain this was really happening. Then the hospitalero, who was a Hungarian woman, arrived with her groceries, and she looked over and said: "Yes, this is a magical place where miracles happen - now you can help me carry in my groceries, so I can cook dinner for us!"
It was such a beautiful story, and as she was telling it, tears slowly rolled down her cheeks, and she discreetly dried them. I was very taken by her story, and grateful that she trusted me to tell it.
After the lovely dinner Christina had prepared Brazilian style - which was a nice change from the usual Pilgrim's Menus, we went upstairs and got ready for the night. We were only a few there, so it was nice and quiet, and we didn't get up until it was way past 7 AM.
It was hard to get up in the mornings by now, because it was dark outside way past 8 AM. - We all had a nice breakfast with ham and cheese toast, coffee, and soon we went off one by one, heading west along the Camino.