As I made my way down the mountain, I ran in to Cody and Becca (Missouri kids). They were taking a break, as Becca’s foot was acting up again. Back in Rabanal, they thought that her foot issue was from a large blister that wrapped around her toe. When the blister guy took care of her, she felt much better and determined that she could walk again, instead of taking a taxi. Unfortunately, however, it started to hurt again, and they were taking a break. Alternatively, Cody and I talked about how great we were feeling (maybe it was the mountain air?). My feet and legs were feeling great. I felt like I could walk all day. The walking poles were working beautifully, and I have no doubt, were playing a large role in saving my knees and keeping me steady on the rocky ground.
In the sections in between trail and rock, I saw enumerable abandoned homes along the way. Stone houses with walls completely broken down, others with caved in roofs.
All empty and abandoned.
It was eerie, sad, and other worldly all at the same time. I wondered who had lived in these homes before, and why they had left.
My next stop was in Acebo. I was starving and getting light headed. Not a good combination when working your way down steep, muddy, and rocky mountains. I also wanted to refuel since I had decided to try for Ponferrada. A city that was 6.3 kilometers further than the days’ “scheduled” distance of 26.5 kilometers.
Why was I walking another 19/20 mile day when I swore I wasn’t going to do it again?
Simple…I was going to treat myself to a day off and a hotel. I reasoned that the extra day would help to heal my feet and I could rest all I wanted. For me, it was sufficient motivation.
The meal in Acebo was delicious and I chatted with a couple from Idaho, who sat a few tables over from mine. Prior to walking the Camino they quit their jobs and sold everything, using their time on the Camino to think about what they wanted to do next in life. How amazing is that?
After Acebo, I lost track of all my “buddies” and didn’t see many pilgrims in general. It was certainly a time for solitude.
As I walked through the next town of Riego de Ambrós, it was strangely quiet. Everything was closed up. Some of the homes were totally run down and some looked nice and well kept.
But I saw no one. Did anyone live here?
The narrow path out of Riego was incredibly rocky. Long slabs of rock covered much of the path, with some places where loose rock threatened to turn an ankle if you weren’t paying attention. I was very thankful that during this time there was no rain. The sun had come out and dried the rocks, making for much surer footing.
As I walked this path, I soon became very tired of walking on rocks. I was on constant high alert to keep from losing my footing, and my mind and body were weary from it. I was not thinking about anything else but just enduring to the end. At times, reminding myself to pay attention to the path so I didn’t kill or horribly injure myself. Otherwise, I was pretty much on auto pilot.
Finally, at the bottom of the mountain, was Molinaseca. The “scheduled” stop for the day, according to the guidebook. However, I had decided early on that I would go for Ponferrada, and I was sticking to the plan.
And I wanted that hotel room.
As I walked through Molinaseca, I ran in to Nick, one of the Missouri kids. He was catching up to the rest of his group who was staying at an albergue just outside of town. We walked together and chatted along the way. He seemed to be the quiet one of the group, and I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk with him much before. It was nice to have the opportunity to get to know him a bit one on one.
When we reach his albergue, we say our good-bye’s, and I continue on the road to Ponferrada. It is hard to tell if I am on the Camino. My guidebook says I should be on some sort of a path, but I didn’t see any arrows or signs that would have taken me off the road. There are lots of signs saying that this road goes to Ponferrada, though, so I stay on it, figuring I will get to the town eventually.
The 6 kilometers in to Ponferrada are all walked on road. Turns out this makes a world of difference for the feet, and not in a good way. They have walked a long way, on some treacherous ground, and quickly become unhappy and fed-up with being pounded against the hard concrete.
It seems to take forever to get to Ponferrada. I can see the city in the distance, but the more I walk, the less it seems that distance is shortened. I always seem to be just outside of it. I feel like I am chasing a mirage in the desert.
These last kilometers are dragging, and the only thing keeping me going, is knowing that I will have a room and bathroom all to myself for two whole nights.
Finally, I reach the city, but am still on the outskirts. I need to get to the inner old town, since that is where my hotel is. The basic map my guidebook provides isn’t great, so I wander around a bit to find my way inside. When I finally find my way in, I begin the next adventure of finding my hotel.
Miraculously, I find my hotel, which is down a short alley, and pray for availability. With my limited and broken Spanish I ask the gentleman behind the counter if he has availability for two nights, and he does.
I am thrilled to have a room to myself. I take a LONG shower, wash my clothes, and collapse on the bed too tired to go out to eat (this is where I am thankful for my granola bars) or explore.
I will tomorrow. I have all day. Tonight, I sleep.