Tag Archives: Villafranca del Bierzo

Camino Family Update

Villafranca del Bierzo to Ruitelan
Thursday 27 November

The heating was turned up high overnight in our little hotel, I woke in an almost tropical sweat. Outside it wasn’t so steamy. However, it wasn’t as cold as it had been a few days previously. It seems my dreams of snow on the Camino my be thwarted.

I was pleased to be walking again today, as felt a little slothenly having had a couple of detour days. I was enjoying the company of my American friend, but her timeline is longer than mine. I was starting to feel I need to move on, but was happy to walk with her today and spend another evening together. I think tomorrow I will try and speed up a little.

The walk today followed the river out of Villafranca, twisting through a carpet of autumn leaves. It’s getting later in the season now, and most of the trees are now bare. The sun was shinning. The sky was blue. We shared anecdotes, and laughed the day away.

At our first coffee stop, we met a young American girl who had news of my Brazilian friend. She had walked with him for a few days, and was planning to meet up with him again this evening, in a town past the one we had planned to stay at. I also had had news from my older Canadian friend, unfortunately he had fallen ill, and had returned to Canada. He was recovering. My Dutch friend had stayed in the same alburgue I was in tonight the previous evening, he was now one day ahead of me. My Camino angel is two days ahead. My Irish, and Italian friends are speeding ahead, almost in Santiago more than seventy kilometers ahead of me.

I passed a sign today saying I was only 190 kilometers to Santiago. It seems too close. But I have now planned to walk on to Muxia if I have time, another day past Finisterra. This walking thing is certainly addictive.

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There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills

Salas de Barrios to Villafranca del Bierzo
Wednesday 26 November

Rising from a comfortable sleep in our fifteenth century mansion alburgue, our charming and passionate host was preparing breakfast in the warm and ancient kitchen. Fruit smoothies, wholesome bread with homemade conserves, coffee. Conversation flowed, we could have stayed all day, but we had sights to see.

We first toured several small mountain villages. Our host had grown up in the area, and knew the ancient history as well as telling stories of his personal history. I was born here, my uncle lives there, a king owned this, this family is famous for that. He is an architect by trade, so could explain some of the ancient building techniques, illustrating the colourful stories from the area. Fascinating.

We ventured down to Ponferrada, walking around the twelfth century Templar castle. It looked like something Walt Disney would have dreamt up, the stuff of fairy tales. I searched for dragons. Our host pointed out a small hole and told tales of when he was a child crawling through that very hole to explore. I suddenly realised my necklace had broken, and I had lost my pendant. It’s a Balinese Hindu symbol, that I’ve had for several years, and am very fond of. I had recently added a small Camino symbol to the chain, however that had remained. I didn’t feel panicky or particularly upset, as I thought I might, but felt I would find it. We searched the surrounding area, and retraced our steps, then searched the car, but it was not to be found. I thought perhaps it had fallen off back at the alburgue. I was almost pleased that I would have an excuse or visit our host again.

We next drove to Las Medulas, the ancient Roman, UNESCO listed gold mines, and the reason for our Camino detour. We parked near a wooden platform on the edge of the cliff. Our view was obscured, until we climbed the platform. My jaw dropped. Giant red ancient anthills. A once towering mountain, now desolate, almost completely carved away. Spectacular barren landscape. We were then able to enter one of the Roman tunnels, but first we had to don hard hats. We descended into the dimly lit red passage. The first few meters were wide, but not very tall, so we had to duck. It then opened up, and we were able to stand. The shaft branched out into several tunnels, we followed one until the end, then backtracked along another. I marveled at the centuries old technology that had managed to carve out this mountain. Continuing through the tunnel system, it opened to a large abyss on the side of the mountain, through which we could view the anthill-like forms. My jaw dropped again.

It was time to go, and we were all a little hungry. We drove to Villafranca to look for a resturant. As I was getting out of the car, I saw something shinny wedged between the seats, it was my pendant! I will have to find another excuse to visit Salas de Barrios again. My American friend and I had planned to walk from near Ponferrada to Villafranca today, but as we were already there, we decided to forgo our Camino for another day it was getting late. She said the municipal Albergue would be too much of a shock for us after our luxurious mansion, so suggested a small hotel she knew. It was very reasonable and included breakfast in the price, so basically the cost of an alburgue, as we split the cost of a room.