Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Distance: 22.7 km
7:24 – I’m not sure if I was the last guest to leave La Llave Alojamiento Rural or if I was the only guest last night. Both scenarios are hard to believe but I didn’t see anyone on my way out, the owner hadn’t prepared the optional breakfast that I declined upon check-in, and I had to get him to unlock the confusing deadbolt on the front door. If I wasn’t the first out, the other guy must have been Houdini.
8:45 – I thought it would be a quick breakfast stop but I’m now leaving a cafe after more than an hour. I can’t blame anyone but myself for this one. At least I’m caught up on the news from TO. I should also give a shout out to Alpa’s (cafe) where they make the best patata tortilla I’ve had to date. It was more like warm buttery scalloped potatoes than the cold slab of mashed potatoes that you get at some places. It’s as it some bars and cafes really don’t care what they serve as they never get any repeat business. One day they’ll wake up and realize what’s being said about them on Trip Advisor.
9:01 – The guidebooks say that I’m in for a full day of gentle hills with much of the path being on the shoulder of a two-lane paved road that has recently been made redundant by a new multi-lane highway. The view looking back on Villafranca from about 15 minutes out of town was gorgeous, especially in bright sunshine with birds chirping happily, distant church bells chiming nine o’clock, and dozens of cowbells clanging gently from the the hills above town.
10:14 – I stopped for water at an outdoor cafe in the village of Pereja and ended up closing my eyes in the sunshine and just daydreaming for half an hour. I’m not in the habit of doing this and I don’t know what came over me. Is this the Camino telling me something? For what it’s worth, I wondered whatever happened to Rod Pare who worked at Central Program in Langley in the 80s? If you’re reading this, Rod, drop me a line. And Joe and Norma Ives? Now there’s a pair who would LOVE the Camino! For some reason I was taken back to BC in the mid-1980s: The Irish Rovers’ Pub at Expo 86, The Gandydancer, Richards on Richards and the English Bay Cafe. I have no idea what it all means.
13:00 – I walked for close to two hours with a 30-year-old guy from Switzerland. Marcus is a social worker who manages a small charity that helps retrain the blind. He said that he started the Camino two weeks before me, which sounded odd since I can’t imagine someone as fit as he was actually taking longer than it has taken me, but he later explained what has happened. His retired father had been living in Spain and Marcus planned to spend some time with him after he completed the Camino. Unfortunately his father had a heart attack and died a few days after Marcus left Saint Jean. He took three weeks off to deal with family matters but is now back on the trail, finishing this for his father. He’s seriously considering a career change and starting to take life a little slower. We had a good discussion about getting the most out of our time on earth.
14:38 – There’s no shortage of renovation projects along the Camino. With a lot of TLC, this building in the heart of La Portela “might” make a great cafe / bar / pension. I say “might” as it seems the most popular pilgrim stops are on the edge of town (when approaching) and any pilgrim with the faintest thoughts of stopping has already done so by the time they hit the middle of town which is where this old taverna was located.
15:19 – The heart of Vega de Valcarce is just a short distance from the Camino but few people make the two minute detour. And speaking of detours, the new highway (visible below) now bi-passes Vega de Valcarce. Motorists couldn’t stop in town even if they wanted to since there’s no interchange and much of the road is elevated.
16:31 – I arrived in Las Herrerias and checked into El Capricho de Josana when I noticed a sign in the window indicating two vacancies. It’s the satellite location of a small inn that I stayed at in Molinaseca so I’m familiar with the brand. This place was good but not quite up to the standards set by the other location. My main gripe was the fact that my room had two power outlets and both were behind the large wooden headboard. To charge a phone you had to move the bed and unplug the table lamps. Unless you travel with a powerbar, you couldn’t simultaneously charge anything and have a light on in the room as there was no ceiling fixture. And don’t get me started on the shower that was about the size of a pillow even though the bathroom itself was large enough to accommodate another double bed.