Walk 29.6 km, 6 hours 16 minutes
Ascent: 200 meters
Descend: 220 meters
Kilometers to be traveled: 186.7
It is Saturday, weekend, sleeping late. Normally not for the pilgrim on his way to SdC, because the sooner you leave, the sooner you arrive at your next sleeping location and have the chance of a bed in the alberge that you prefer. But we take it today, get up at 06.20 and finish the morning ritual. No breakfast in the alberge with its own provisions, but hope that a cafe is open where we can strengthen the inner man for another walking day. My 5th walking week starts today. Unbelievable that it was already 4 weeks ago that I started in Lourdes. My final goal is approaching fast.
The clock has long beaten the 7 beats of 7 o’clock when we leave and start our journey through this Templar city, again, because yesterday we hung out the tourist and now the pilgrim. We are not yet walking with warmed calves or we take the breakfast-coffee break in a cafe. The recipe has since been announced, but I am taking something extra, something tasty with a lot of calories, as we have to cover many kilometers today.
I have actually been walking the camino with others for 4 weeks now, while my intention was for the start to walk alone and gain all the experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed it so far and also the company I was in every day, but now that the end is coming, that urge to be alone on the road comes to the surface again. Especially at the start today, this idea comes up strongly. I want to clear my head, set to 0, perform a hard reset. That is only possible if I only have moments again.
It is therefore time for “Me, Myself and I”, as a well-known American proverb puts it. I hope that I don’t come across as selfish, also about what will happen later today. It is dry this morning, so no poncho and nice walk. Again quite a few hikers on the road. We are now slowly going up the highway, the roads are getting busier with walkers.
Walking out of Ponferrada takes a while, this is also a decent city, not a cosmopolitan city but still. On the outskirts you can see a beautiful church where a restoration is underway. After a visit and some pictures the weather continues, still with nice weather. A blue sky with beautiful white clouds, walking is going well and I have to admit, I walk a lot alone. I am the front line of the gang of 4.
We agreed in the morning that we would walk to Villafranca del Bierzo. We had already figured out how we would walk the last days and where we would spend the night. I want to arrive in SdC on Saturday the 16th, 21 years after the birth of our daughter Marielle. Valeria wants to travel that day to Madrid, she has already bought a train ticket, so she wants to arrive in SdC on Friday. Domenique and Oliver don’t care when they arrive.
My walking day is again energetic and when I arrive in Villafranca del Bierzo, I have already decided for myself, contrary to what we have decided as a group, to continue to another sleeping place. Without saying goodbye, I am now leaving my walking friends. I need to do my own interpretation during the last week. I will adjust my previously made schedule for the last 8 days to my wishes. For example, I want to walk a short distance on the last day, Saturday, June 16, to arrive early in SdC, if no one, or only a few, are standing in the square in front of the cathedral.
So I walk on to Pereje, the next village after Villafranca. It is a small village, of which only a few houses are inhabited. But there is an alberge and a restaurant, so more than enough for the pilgrim. It is also somewhat hidden from the busy road, along which I have walked the last kilometers. I also hardly encountered any hikers before Villafranca and after Villafranca. That is probably due to my choice to follow the main road for Villafranca.
When I arrive in Pereje at the alberge and go to the dormitory, I meet the Italian family again. We have met for more than 2 weeks, if there are no 3, regularly in the alberges or on the road. It does not go beyond the usual “Hello how are you and where are you going tomorrow”, they speak almost no English, even though they are walking with 3 generations. You know the actions on arrival now, so I’m not going to describe them again. I just want to say that I have a real bed again, no bunk beds here, with unfortunately little space between the beds.
I go to the restaurant for the very late lunch, or very early dinner, to order and eat the usual menu of the day, of course accompanied by a bottle of local wine. As so often it is a simple menu, more than enough to fill the stomach. When I am back in the alberge I will make a new plan for the remaining 7 walking days. The last night before SdC is planned at Monte de Gozo, the last stop before SdC. It is then only 5 kilometers to the square.
The remaining 6 days are divided into stages that shrink more or less slowly per kilometer, but unfortunately that is not possible if I cannot plan my nights at the usual distances. In the schedule, at another place on my site, you can see what the last week looked like in terms of mileage.
Pereje is not a usual, busy place on the route according to Rother, I think that is great, getting the peace I am looking for again, but oh dear, the coming night… .. You will read that in tomorrow’s report. Earlier today I received a text message from Valeria asking where I was. I was actually a bit rude today by not responding to my companions of the past 4 weeks. I have distanced myself by walking further than planned and following my own plan. I hope they will forgive me.
My time alone has now arrived, these last 7 days I will go solo, see where I want and can spend the night. Just don’t care about others and maybe meet new people for 1 day, to wish them a “Buen Camino” the next day. I go to sleep on time, before the light has to go out. Tomorrow again on time and then we see where my ship is stranded.
Accommodation: Albergue Peregrinos