Day 22: Ponferrada – Vega de Valcarce

37.8 kmThere was some confusion on the way out of town.  When confronting a roundabout, it’s not always clear which way is straight ahead.  The street named “Calle de Santiago” sounded promising.  There weren’t many rucksacks along the way though.

Eventually encountered some French pilgrims, who informed the Calle was not the Camino, but would save us a couple kilometers. Bon chance!

Stopping for my first cafe con leche of the day, met a Paraguayan couple who had walked to Santiago five times before, following a different route each time.

Again the path diverged, I had decided to take the beautiful but difficult route.  As I made my way out of the city, though an old women insisted I was going the wrong way and sent me back to the road.  Later that night, I’d learn from the Dutch that there were in fact three alternate routes and that I was headed in the right direction before I returned to the main road.  Not sure if the lesson here is to do what you think is right or not to force what you think is right on to others.

Walk, walk, walk. Avoid cars on the highway.  Some pretty villages.  A snake crossing the road took the initiative to raise his head and make his presence known to me.  I think there was some hissing.  Walk, walk, walk.

Raphael and I had parted ways at coffee with the expectation to meet up, but no plans.  Would that, should that, affect my decision of where to stop for the day?

It didn’t. I walked as far as I could to Vega de Valcarce at the foot of a verdant mount.  The albergue was raised with an outdoor kitchen which looked out onto the mountain.  It all seemed very South American.

Raphael was not there, but the Indian professor of English was.  His claim to fame was writing a book called The Ethics of Travel.  I still haven’t read it, but know I should.

After a nap, I headed down through the kitchen to do my daily laundry duty. As I looked out across the village and the “mountains” who do see climbing up to the albergue but Raphael.

That night we’d eat at the table outside with four French woman who have been walking the Camino in stages for four years — this was their last night  — and another French man traveling along.  It was the only night of the whole journey, during which English was not the predominate language.

I learned: Jonathan Livingston Seagull was a popular book in France;  all good Frenchmen have Opinel knives; and when wine is bouchonee (corked) it is completely unpalatable.

The next morning, I’d have a glass of the bouchonee wine — after giving it an appropriate amount of time to breathe — for breakfast to get my heart going.

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