Tuesday, May 17 -Some days are better than others - we had a self-serve breakfast at the hotel -we couldn't get the coffee maker to work, we burned the toast. Karen tripped on two steps and yelled out "shit" loud enough to wake everyone sleeping -- but we went 17.4 KM - mostly downhill over loose stones - (Karen says, "Stones are my friends. I am a rock. I love rocks). slipping but not falling. By mid-morn, we are walking through Molinageca and by 12:30 arrived in Ponferrada - with a 12th century castle of the knights Templar. After laundry (another balcony) and siesta, we walked around the square -found the Iglesia de la Virgen de Encina -which marks the place where the Virgin was seen in a tree.
had dinner with Yolanda and her friends from Holland and Australia - bumped into Ogden and Sindra. We plan to take a day off.
Wednesday, May 18 - breakfast - cafe con leche and tostas.
went to the Basilica - and the Castillo -found out that Wednesdays are free! We explored every corner of the castle. They had a great exhibit of illuminated manuscripts, music, Bibles - facimiles from all over - including the Book of Kells.
Jim brought empanadas to eat in bed - Karen must rest her feet. In the evening, we went to a Turkish kabab place in the square - and then went to a museum - a lovely evening.
Thursday, May 19 - Up early - a long day's walk to Villafranca - good weather - some trouble finding the camino markings as we leave Ponferrada- we ask a postman "Donde esta el camino?" He does not know - It is not always easy!
We spotted some other hikers -followed them - We could not keep up - missed the camino again. Eventually got back on track . We walked through Cacabelos - just before noon. Two churches were open! Got our thing stamped! Ate our lunch of cheese, bread, mustard. went through beautiful orchards (grapes, cherry trees) - roses planted at the end of the rows - We arrived at Villafranca -but our hotel was full-- so we got a room at another place. This town has a castle - a church where you can stand in the door and get your sins pardoned (of course, the church is closed as are most of them).
The restaurant didn't serve until 8:30 PM - so we ended up eating large ham sandwiches (we had ham slices)- then went to our room and ate yogurt. The guide book describes a dangerous stretch - he descibes almost getting killed repeatedly.
Friday, May 20 - the walk was mostly roadway. The cement barrier prevented the cars for killing the peregrinos - Every 4 or 5 kms, the trail left the highway to do into a town with places for food and drink. We bumbed into Sef this morning while having coffee and then walked for a time with Turlock, an Irishman from hamilton, Toronto; he is a professor of mircrobiology. He said he was doing the camino for "me" time, for his body, mind and spirit. he started the same day as we did and walked 40 km per day without a day off. Taking the bus seemed to have helped us!!!
We arrived at 2 PM to a wonderful hostal with cows and dalves grazing in the yard. Jim washed clothes but it started to thunder and rain - We sat on a covered porch with rocking chairs to read our books (Karen is finishing another book -- what to do when it is finished?). Not a good day for drying clothes.
Dinner was at 8 PM -- there were four hikers - all different nationalities - Ensalata with peppers, asparagus, tuna, veal steaks - tarte Santiago for de3ssert - a moist cake that has almonds in it.
Jim arranged to have Karen's pack transported to our next hotel - no lugging it up the mountain. We go to O'Cebreiro, the steeping section of our journey. We put all the heavy stuff in Karen's pack - so he will be carrying mainly food and water.
Saturday - May 21 - no hot water in the morning- we started before sunrise - full moon was out - very quiet - we had the road to ourselves. We stopped for coffee and toast - many other sweaty climbers there - the ascent was steady - not too hard - sun came out - very beautiful. We reached O'Cebriero by mid morn - not really the summit but the town close to it. There were souvenir shops selling pregrino paraphenalia and postcards - we spent some time in the chapel and walked on.
In the afternoon, we bought little croissants with chocolate inside - and some canned octupus (pulpo) - very good - not fishy. Sweating during a steep climb - then finally - alto do Paoi- the highest point of the day.
No real town here - merely a hostal and alburgue - we could hear every sound through the walls of our room - this one was a bit seedy but at least we had hot water and the lights stayed on in the evening.