Camino de Frances, Days 15 -16

Another night of no sleep. I hope this doesn’t become a regular occurrence but I fear it might with how crowded the albergues are. I asked google what percentage of the population snores. Turns out it’s fifty percent. So odds are pretty high I’ll be suffering through more sleepless nights.

According to all the chatter around the albergue last night there’s supposed to be a big climb this morning. Everyone had their guidebooks out, studying the elevation profile intently. As I pass the herds of people this morning I keep waiting for the trail to get steep. Eventually I realize it’s not getting steep, the “big climb” is almost unnoticeable and before I know it I’m already descending down the mountain. It’s funny how much hype any slight change in this mostly flat trail creates. The descent is actually pretty steep so I jog most of the way down, zigzagging around people. I catch some annoyed looks as I pass, but I retaliate with lots of smiles and “Buen Caminos.” It’s honestly easier for me to jog and work with gravity rather than trying to slow myself down.

Soon, after 16 miles, I’m in the town of Molinaseca. It’s an adorable town nestled at the base of the mountains. I’m sleepy and decide to try for an albergue here even though it’s barely noon. I walk through town and stop by one that has good reviews online. It turns out they’re already full. I’m at the edge of town and don’t feel like backtracking so I keep walking another 3-1/2 miles to the next town, Ponferrada. It feels like the longest 3-1/2 miles of my life. I’m so sluggish and tired. When I reach the albergue, a cute old house that’s been converted into bunk rooms, I immediately lay down on my bunk and fall asleep. There’s no one else here yet because I arrived so early, so it’s nice to get a good little nap in.

The town looks like it has lots to explore and I read there’s a really cool Templar castle, but I’m too tired to do any sightseeing. After my nap I do laundry, go to the grocery store, make a sandwich, and go to bed. There’s only four of us in the room and miraculously enough, no one snores!

Templar castle, Ponferrada

What a difference a good night’s sleep makes! I’m realizing my crabby, cynical attitude is mostly a result of sleep deprivation. Today I feel happy and energetic and I’m loving the trail.

It’s a cold morning so I move fast to keep warm. I’m hoping the sunrise will warm me up but I’ve noticed it actually feels colder just after sunrise. It seems backward but I look it up online and sure enough, once the sun comes up, the sunlight excites the cold air in the first foot or so above the ground (which can be 10 or more degrees colder), causing it to move around and mix into the next several feet of air. So I wasn’t just imagining the drop in temperature after sunrise.

I’m really really cold. My hands are going numb so I stop in a coffee shop in a town called Camponaraya. I order an americano and it’s the best coffee I’ve had in ages. It’s in a huge cup (a rarity over here) and served with a piece of sponge cake. I sit for a while, savor my coffee, and let the feeling come back into my hands while watching “Spain’s Got Talent” on the giant tv.

It’s finally warmed up after I finish my coffee and the rest of the day I’m in great spirits and in awe of the rolling hills covered in a patchwork of vineyards, all beginning to show their fall colors. There’s a ton of fruit trees along the way and I snag some apples, a pear, and some figs. I even find a few walnuts—a feast!

Castle, Villagranca de Bierzo

Some road-walking in the afternoon

I put in a long day, over 40 km, but I feel great. I get to my albergue in the late afternoon and it’s the best place I’ve stayed yet. It’s called Casa del Pescador and it’s like a cute little rustic resort. The bunk rooms are in small cabins and there’s a long porch overlooking a small pond. When I arrive I’m greeted by the owners, a super friendly German couple. I shower, do yoga in a big grassy area next to the pond while a donkey eyes me curiously, then relax on the porch with a glass of wine until dinner.

The group dinner is the best meal I’ve had my whole time in Europe! It’s all cooked from scratch with ingredients from the garden—pumpkin soup, salad, whole grilled trout, mashed potatoes, grilled squash, a bottle of Spanish wine, and apple cake for dessert. There’s only two other people staying at the albergue, a father and son from Colombia. The son speaks great English (though he claims it’s not good) and we’re able to chat over dinner while he translates for his dad. The son works in the floral industry, exporting flowers to the states and to Japan. He says it’s mostly carnations and chrysanthemums and the Japanese prefer small, delicate flowers in pale colors while the American market prefers bigger flowers in super bright, often unnatural colors. He also tells me a lot about the coffee industry in Colombia, he worked in coffee for years before getting into flowers. He has some really bad things to say about Starbucks, the poor quality of beans they use and how they’ve negatively affected the market, especially for the small growers, in Colombia. He says Starbucks is one of the major reasons he has no desire to visit the states. It’s been interesting on this journey to hear how America is portrayed in so many different countries.

We go to sleep with pleasantly full bellies listening to the gurgling of the pond outside. And hallelujah, no one snores!

Casa del Pescador

Donkey watching me do yoga

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