Distance to go: 258.8 Kms
Both Debbies and my ear plugs worked so well last night that neither of us heard the alarm go off on my mobile phone at 6am this morning. Whitney who was with her mother and us last night did and roused us both. So we got ourselves ready and by 06:40 we were on the road. There was a chilly wind and the air felt damp. A few spots of light rain fell. Ahead the mountains got closer. They were shrouded in mist and the sun rising behind us created rainbows.
The gradients for the first part of the day were very gradual and now and then we stopped to look back to see where we had come from. Astorga lay away in the distance.
First stop of the day was for breakfast after we had walked just over 4 Kms. This was the sleepy village of Santa Catalina de Somoza. First cup of tea of the day and a chocolate croissant helped to get the body up and running properly in El Caminente hotel cafe. The difference that having something first thing in the morning makes cannot be underestimated. Most places dont start serving breakfast until after 7am by which time we want to be on the path. This avoids having to walk in the heat of the afternoon.
Feeling much better we moved on another 4.9 Kms to the village of El Ganso. Described as a hauntingly crumbling village in the guidebook, it proved to be just that. One entrepreneural local had opened the Cowboy Bar to attract passing custom. It was the only colour we saw in the village. We stopped on a bench to rest our feet, take some water and a snack and moved on.
The path followed a local road. It was rough in places and where it passed between trees was difficult going among the protruding roots.
The guidebook mentions a specimen ‘Pilgrim oak’ which has bench seats beneath where we can rest in its shade. We found the spot. There was no shade. In fact there was no tree.
We moved on to Rabanal del Camino. There was a steep climb through the village centre with cafes and albergues on both sides vying for business.
We stopped at the appropriately named La Posada de Gaspar as we were gasping for another cup of tea. This establishment was the last one on the left before leaving town and was very nice. We had a big mug of tea in a nice mug and saucer and a big slice of egg and potato fritatta. 5 out of 5 for this place. We knew we had the mountain climb ahead and a bit of lunch would assist.
It was only 5.8 Kms to our final stop of Foncebadón. We took a photo of our feet leaving Rabanal and stepping onto the mountain path. At first it was easy going. Always climbing but steady. It crossed heathland and moor and then, just when we thought this was not so bad it passed through thick broom bushes and broke up into a loose and rocky path for most of the way to Foncebadón. This required careful footwork lest we twist an ankle.
Mountain springs that crossed the path turned it to a sticky mush in places. We kept a steady pace that we could breath easily with in the thinning air. We are around 1450 metres above sea level here. The mist had all but burnt off with the sun coming up but a chilly head wind let you know you were in the mountains.
All of a sudden when the lungs and legs are pumping away Foncebadón pops into view from behind a tree. What a welcome sight it was.
We had a cup of tea at the convent cafe and mulled over our options. We decided to stay at the albergue Monte IRago. We are on a mattress each right up in the attic where I hope we will be warmest and quieter. The Hilton it is not but it is bed for the night. Whitney and Ingram turned up 2 hours later. It is now 16:30 and the place is full. I have put a star beside it in my guidebook. I can’t remember why. But here we will stay for the night.
As for Foncebadón? Well Las vegas it is not. Its sole raison D’etre is to look after pilgrims and tourists on the road that runs through the mountains. We really are in the boondocks here. We just need Julie Andrews to run past singing the hills are alive with the sound of music and the scene is complete.
Oh and the wind. The bloody bloody wind…….Mariah……Mariah has probably blown our socks back to Astorga.
Distance walked today: 21.9 Kms