Walk 28.0 km, 6 hours 52 minutes
Ascent: 600 meters
Descend: 50 meters
Kilometers to be traveled: 243.9
Well what would you do one morning before you leave the alberge to walk again for a day? I am not even going to repeat myself, the only thing I want to say about this is that we leave a little later than usual, namely at 7 a.m. This very late time means that we not only go out on the road, but also connect more or less in a train, through the herd of hikers. It is nice walking weather, so we now have nothing to complain about, just that sometimes people walk at your feet.
Following a small tourist route following the road through Astorga, we now also pass a building designed by Gaudi, but this was taken over by others during the construction phase. One could not agree with the style etc. It is the Bishop’s Palace, if I am right. Palácio Episcopal de Astorga.
Just outside Astorga is a small chapel, Paseo and Calesa, where you can make a prayer for this day. It will be a day that only goes uphill, with a short slight drop here and there, but we started at 880 meters in Astorga and if we can spend the night in Foncebadón we are at 1430 meters. So it can be an exciting walking day.
The crowds are clearly visible, the busiest day on my camino so far and perhaps also for the remaining days up to SdC. Regularly avoiding hikers who maintain a slightly slower pace, or faster. It is a gravel path that the route leads us to. Easy to walk and through a heath-like area. Until the first stop place, the usual coffee and croussant stop, the light is rolling, Santa Catalina de Somoza. Here you can clearly see that Astorga was a great stopping place for pilgrims, the transit of pilgrims is very high here at the early hour. And yet again above average many Koreans, of all age groups. Most with a small daypack, their normal luggage goes by courier service from sleeping place to sleeping place.
Even after this stop I can confirm again that the Spanish coffee culture does not disappoint me, I have not had any bad drinks in the last few weeks, also the choice to take something for the inner man is good. Now slowly start asking myself where the best coffee is served: Italy or Spain.
Follow the road without many problems, you just walk in the crowd again, although it gets a little less busy, the day progresses and pilgrims take their time to rest, to stay stuck or do other things. The route still follows a beautiful landscape and the mountains are becoming more visible, it looks like they are getting closer and closer to every step I take. Strange sensation is this.
The road that slowly brings us up is a rural road with little traffic and we mainly walk on a gravel path next to it. I pass El Ganso, also a beloved place for that coffee break, but not now, I’m walking on in my duckling, yes I know it has to be with a T, but this is much more fun … Especially for the observant reader looking goes to the necessary language errors on each of my published pages. After Al Ganso, which, according to Rother, is already at 1,018 meters, it goes up a little more stylishly, but is not annoying or tiring. The weather is still exceptionally good and the landscape varied, with beautiful colors.
A single pasture with cows, then cornfields and heaths. The road continues in the direction of the height of the Monte Irago plateau. The day is progressing and the time to treat the inner man with a lunch is in sight. Rabanal del Camino is a suitable place to do this. A village at an altitude of 1,162 meters and before the steepest stretch to Foncebadon begins. The village seems to consist of 1 street that goes uphill and every 4th house is a food / beverage facility.
At the last restaurant, at the top of the village, I find a nice moment to stop. Nice and quiet and in a courtyard. You can then see the other walkers who walk further pass well. I’m at the forefront of our friends club, so if one comes along, I can shoot it. This time it will be a café con leche, soft drink with beer, so a Radler, a croussant and tortilla. Who knows what we can eat today, at least we have one inside on which we can use if it doesn’t matter today.
After a short period, a couple enters the courtyard for a break. They speak a familiar language with each other, very closely related to Dutch. If I hear them speak a little more clearly, I know for sure, it is African, the African from South Africa. I speak to them in Dutch and we have a short conversation in Dutch. They are only a few days on the road, they walk small pieces of the camino Frances, because they only have 14 days. They do intend to run the last 100 kilometers required to qualify for the Compostella.
My break is over, I will continue, the last 300 meters. No, not to the alberge, but up. In a little more than 5 kilometers, another 300 meters rise to my highest overnight place on my pilgrimage. That should have happened in the first week, sleeping at the highest point, but yes, the Somport pass, which was snowy and very cold, threw a spanner in the way.
The route runs a bit over a mountainous area, no longer a paved path but with rocks and loose stones strewn paths. You see the main road, still not busy, but meandering near the path, but actually no traffic using it. The weather changes a bit, the sun seems to be losing the clouds and near Foncebadón I unfortunately have to put on the poncho again. I also get a call from Valeria, where I hang out, because she doesn’t know where everyone hangs out. She is not far behind me and I say that I am waiting for her at the edge of the village.
This former extinct village comes back to life in recent years thanks to the camino. From this place it is not far to the highest point of the camino Francés, Cruz de Ferro, where I will pass tomorrow. Waiting for Valeria also means that I get wetter, not me but the poncho does, it rains a little harder. Now looking for an alberge. The houses that can still be repaired somewhat, seem to be converted into alberges, “booming-bussiness”. The first alberge where we knock has no room for 3 in the main building, but they still have a separate room outside, in the shed. If we want we can first see if we want to sleep there.
So let’s see what that shed entails. It is an old stable that has been converted into a semi dormitory with stretchers and a few chairs, with 1 bed reserved for a voluntary hospital eros. There are 2 bathrooms and 2 toilets and hot water. The view, as far as this is still visible, is great, but the clouds climb slowly up the hill and it is not long before everything is covered in fog. Unfortunately there is no heating, but there is enough blankets, because it will still be very cool here. It looks neat and tidy, so yes, we want to spend the night here.
Register as pilgrims and whether we want to eat here tonight, then we must already reserve and pay, so that they know how many people to cook for. The main meal is vegetarian, but the side dishes are with meat. Then also make a reservation, we also have one less problem there: where are we going to eat. We move in and yes…. You already know what follows. Then our 3rd group member comes to Domenique. We decide to have a drink somewhere, in the alberge itself, nice and short.
There are also the 2 Canadian ladies and Victor again with a good glass of beer. So we don’t have to walk much further and join. When we have seen it, we jointly look for another drinking / eating opportunity, 2 houses away. Here too we are going to drink a beer or 2 and in this way time flies and the rain keeps falling. The time for dinner is approaching, so say goodbye to the 3 and on to our alberge for the evening meal. It is well filled and there are still 3 places available, ours. Everyone was already awaiting our arrival, so it seems.
We are not yet seated or food is being served. The meal is more than adequate and the discussion material is huge. At our table is also a mother with her 2 sons, from America, who think they could not have gotten a “better” president than the current one, just kidding … Of all the Americans I have met and talked about this journey, there was no 1 bee who was indeed positive. Weird people those Americans. They, too, as a family, are only running parts of the Frances, due to lack of vacation days. It is the first time I see them, but not the last time.
After dinner we also informed that we want to have breakfast tomorrow morning, again a worry and less attack on our provisions. Then it is time to return to the place where the beds are occupied. The northern hemisphere is fully represented here. Some familiar faces that I have seen before and some new ones. Turn out the lights in time because tomorrow we will climb to the top and then on to Ponferrada, a short climb followed by a long descent.
Accommodation: Albergue Monte Irago