Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, pilgrimage, Spain

September 26th, Day 25: Molinaseca to Villafranca – A Long Walk and Zero Sense of Urgency

An old deserted village on the outskirts of Ponferrada.

We have just over 30 kilometers to cover today, so we are up early to get on the road. Jennifer has been feeling unwell over the past couple of days and is too sick to walk today. She and Kyle decide to take a cab to Villafranca, and we plan to meet them there.

Ramon, Jesse, Tammy and I link up with Dima and Keren at the municipal albergue and head out. We walk parallel to a main road for most of the morning, picking ripe blackberries all along the way. On the outskirts of Ponferrada, we pass a wine dispatch center. The building looks empty, but the gates are open, so we head in to scope things out.

The wine dispatcher in Ponferrada.

We meet a young girl who is working in the dispatch center, filling bottles with three types of red wine. She doesn’t blink an eye when we ask if we can sample the vino tinto. In fact, she offers to fill our water bottles full. Well, it would be impolite to decline her offer, so we all take turns having our bottles filled from a petrol pump-like contraption. We thank her and bid her farewell, making our way to the center of Ponferrada.

Ponferrada.

Here, we find a cafe and sit down for a long, morning coffee. We have only covered 8 kilometers, and still have over 20 to go, but no one seems to be in a hurry to go anywhere. We check email and hear from Gill. He lets us know that he will be meeting us in a few days time in Triacastella, where he will walk with us for a couple of days. The whole Camino family will be together again soon! I sit at the cafe with Tammy, while a few others head out to tour the castle, and when they return, we make a move out of town.

It’s growing increasingly warmer, and for the most part of the day we are on unshaded roads. Tammy and I keep pace with Ramon and Jesse, alternating walking partners throughout the afternoon. We break away in Cacabelos when the guys sit down for lunch, and shortly after, Tammy stops for a break.

I continue on and pass Dima and Keren in Pieros. They have sat down to have lunch and I visit with them briefly before moving on. We have 5 kilometers to go to Villafranca.

I am walking through vineyards and farmland again now, and not too long after leaving town, I cross a river. I debate about stopping, but remember what Gill said on day eight of the Camino, “We cross too many rivers, without touching the water.” I turn around, walk to the riverbed, drop my pack and unlace my boots. I put my feet in the ice cold water, which is more painful than refreshing, and I rest until I hear Jesse and Ramon approaching. Tammy arrives a few moments later, and the four of us walk on.

Villafranca.

The last five kilometers seem to drag on forever. When I feel like we should be close to arriving in Villafranca, I see a sign indicating we have another 3 km to go. It can’t be!! ┬áTo top off a hot, long day of walking, we finish with an uphill climb. We are all exhausted and drop our packs at a bench overlooking the town below and catch our breath.

Dima and Keren are ahead of us somehow and have held four beds for us. We get checked in, and it’s only moments before we recognize a sort of somber mood permeating the albergue. It’s old, damp and dingy and the hosts demeanor seems to be in keeping with the feel of the place. Still, we have come this far and if we walk on, we risk not finding beds. It will make do.

We get settled in, and cleaned up before dinner. Even at dinner, everyone seems on edge, walking on egg shells around the two hosts running the albergue. I decide it’s time to open my Nalgene water bottle, which is still full of free wine. Tammy is sitting next to me, and I pour us both big glasses of vino tinto. We make an effort to not let the energy of this place and the people here zap us of ours, well, what we have left anyways. Dinner is good, filling, and just what we need, and we all head back to our room together. Dima, Keren, Ramon, Tammy, Jesse and I are all in a room with one or two others, and we climb into our bunks for a well deserved night of rest.

We say goodnight, goodnight….Don’t let the bedbugs bite…

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