Anytime a post starts that way you know it’s not going to be particularly good. But the thing is that stuff will go wrong – what’s important is how we deal with it. And something about the Camino causes problems to not be frustrating or stressful.
As illustration, today started off OK – up at 6:30, breakfast in the hotel (at this place, the owner simply showed the folks where stuff was and you were on your own to fix anytime you want – good for Pilgrims as some like to leave early). I slept OK; I could hear a couple of other folks heading out the door by/before 6:30.
I was out the door at 8, and about 3 km down the road I realized that I left my really nice sun/rain hat at the hotel. &$**& may have been uttered. At that point, about 40 minutes into my day, it wasn’t worth it to go back. Aside from the 30 km walk today, the hotel is a little place and it’s not staffed most of the time (in fact, check-in is done at the owners store) so I’d have to wait a couple of hours for the owner to show up.
So I needed to stop in Ponferrada anyway to get cash, as some places don’t take plastic, so I simply added a new hat to the list.
Arriving in Ponferrada, the arrow pointed right, so I turned right. About 500 meters in, things didn’t look right so out came the trusty GPS map app. Yup, the sign was wrong, I should have turned left. Grumble, grumble, and an extra 1 km+ was walked today. But I got to the Templar Castle in the end and continued into town. The time burned meant I had no time to visit the castle, so I’ll add this town to the growing list of places to visit in the future.
Got the cash without any issue and at that point decided to take the alternate route through the center of Ponferrada in hopes of seeing a sports store to buy a hat.
A brief related aside: one thing I love about Europe is that stores are generally carrying one type of item – there will be a grocery store, a clothing store, a sporting goods store, a pharmacy, etc. which stick to the stuff they do best. So you can’t get a hat at a pharmacy (unlike CVS in the states). I needed either a hat store, a sports store, or a clothing store that had hats. So the thing I love made it a bit more difficult to get what I needed.
Economic conditions have not been good to downtown areas and Ponferrada is no exception. I eventually came across a clothing store that had a couple of caps in the window, but she said to go to the sports store next door – except that it didn’t open for 1-1/2 more hours. No bueno. So on I pushed walking on sidewalks with traffic buzzing by. The main route was away from the hustle and bustle…. But would have had no stores at all.
Fortunately, I stumbled upon an Asian “bazaar” store and they had hats. Baseball caps with fabric flowing down the back so I didn’t burn my neck. It wasn’t the ideal hat, but it a)covers my head, b) has a bill for eye shade, and c) has something to cover my neck. A five minute stop and I was back on my way.
All tasks accomplished at the cost of €5 and having to listen to traffic. I’ll take the trade-off.
The trail rejoins the main path about 2 kilometers later and I was able to stop, get lunch, and meet a couple of other pilgrims. Then back on the trail where I met a woman from Amsterdam and a guy from Frankfurt. They took a shorter break than I at one point and I proceeded the rest of the way into Villafranca.
This is a great little town. Not big, but lively and some historic structures. Where Molinaseca had little energy, this town is alive. And the hotel has a bathtub, so I was able to marinate the sore muscles a bit.
A couple of friends are here but they already made dinner plans so we’ll meet up in the next nights stop. But I did see a new friend from New Jersey and chatted a bit.
Dinner was a pizza & sangria, and I’m back in the hotel writing this.
Tomorrow is a shorter day – and it’ll leave a steep climb for the following morning. I can deal with that. Forecast calls for rain in the afternoon and I sure wouldn’t want to do a 900 meter elevation climb in the rain. But it makes the following day longer. So be it.
With that, I’ll call it a night and be ready to get breakfast at 0730 and head out right afterward.
8 days to go. It’ll be good to finish, but a change to go back to real life.