Day 24: Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo
Crush. My feet bore down on the berries and cherries lying on the road. Dyed red the cherry berry road was just one of the many highlights of today’s walk. I hobbled out of Ponderrada in the early morning. My blister causing me some pain. Not enough to make give up walking unlike the poor Italian girl we met going through town who fifteen minutes into the day realised her body had given out and her Camino was over. She was, understandably, distressed.
The day proved a beautiful one, weather perfect and the scenery providing enough variety to keep even the jaded walker happy. We walked through Apple orchards, wound our way around vineyards and strolled through lively, lovely towns. The wine town of Cocobelos provided some great views of vineyards and some of the friendliest locals around. I got given more “buen Camino’s” in that town than any other.
From there it was a walk to test the legs as the trail rose and fell as it slowly worked it’s way towards the mountain town of Villafranca del Bierzo. The walk was hot and dusty but enjoyable as I worked my through beautiful tendered vineyards. I arrived in Villafranca del Bierzo and decided to stay at a smallish private Albergue at the end of town. Owned by a young couple this place was a delight, best showers on the Camino thus far, friendly people, good breakfast – the ideal Albergue even if slightly more expensive at €8 per night.
That evening a motley crew of peregrinos from Italy, France, Lithuania, Sweden and Korea joined together for an evening meal in the Plaza Major. It was nice to catch up with friends again although the nature of the Camino is changing. Earlier on we would recognize many faces on the walk. Since Leon and Burgos however new faces join the walk everyday. Mostly groups of younger Spanish people. It’s changing the nature of the walk for us and we miss the days when we knew almost every face in the Albergue. From Sarria (about 100km from Santiago) the trail is expected to get even busier and us old hands will be horribly outnumbered.