24 The Big Descent

Today has been planned in advance. I will be walking from Acebo to Ponferada. In fact this road today is only 18 km. The plan is made as the road is Alonso’s entirely a descent of 500m (1500 ft) These downhill sections are murder on my knee and hip. Oddly my left ankle seems to have recovered almost completely. Sometimes I wonder if the human mind concentrates on the greatest pain, and the others become more of an annoyance.

This extended period of walking down, especially on the large rubble trails is sure to dig into my injuries if I am not careful.

On this basis I decide the shorter day will be prudent to preserve the body parts I am sure to need in this last stretch. Besides the next place with Albergues is another 2 hour walk……nope. Ponferada for me it is.

The pilgrims in this Acebo Albergue are really not wanting to leave. The luxury offered here is quite unique. When I actually depart I can’t see another soul on the road. Head lamp on….I’m on my way at 7:30. (In some respects even I was not wanting to leave)

I checked before I left and the temperature is 6 degrees and sunrise is at 8:30am. This means I will be walking for a half an hour in the dark.

Fortunately or unfortunately the first 1/2 hour is on the only road out of town. The slope on this road isn’t terribly steep, but it is noticeable. I walk on the side of the road just in case someone is driving down from the town. Safety first, but there are no cars going in or out of Acebo at this hour.

Just as a passing note, the Japanese tradition of closing the house up, closing shutters on windows and doors is also common with the Spanish. No such thing as a cool night breeze blowing through the house in Spain.

Just as the sun’s first light is lightening the landscape I come across a young lady (Pilgrim of course) wondering which way to go. She is standing on the pavement, but there is an obvious trail on the right. I introduce myself and she says her name is Sonia from the Azores. Together we discover the path to the right is the correct route…and off we go. Sonia being from a tiny island in the Atlantic needs to get away and experience big places. She feels a sense of freedom on the Camino, with such big open skies, and so much land. I half jokingly tell her she needs to visit Saskatchewan if this is a feeling she enjoys.

It turns out Sonia is quite proficient in languages speaking Portuguese, French, English, and she is working on her Spanish.

The path is becoming treacherous at this point. Loose rocks are a serious threat. Our progress is slow. At least the such has breached the mountain tops behind us. The lighting is a definite asset to my little headlamp.

After Walking for 2 hours we come to the picturesque town of Molinaseca. We are joined by a French couple who started their Camino in Burgos with Sonia, and have been her Camino Family. They have coffees and I have a hot chocolate to try and shed this inner chill.

Finally The French couple decides to head out and make a pit stop before leaving. Sonia asks where the French Couple is and I explain they have already left. She says “ OK, then we shall leave too”. I wasn’t really looking for  a walking partner, but imagine I represent some form of safety. I can imagine a single woman may feel somewhat vulnerable walking alone. And so I have a walking partner for the rest of the morning.

Walking out of Molinaseca you will get to enjoy more asphalt than you imagined. The walk is now almost entirely on a road or a sidewalk. After about an hour we see the French woman walking behind us. She had become separated from her husband, and taken a wrong turn. By the time she figured out she needed to back track she had walked about a kilometer.

Now she was walking to Ponferada with us.

The French woman decides to call her husband and he is waiting in town at the Tourist information building. We all decide this is a good place to go.

Once we arrive I say I am staying, and Sofia and the French couple say they are continuing for another couple of hours. I wish them well….and then look for a place to stay.

Lightning can strike the same person twice….Of this I am convinced.

I find a brand new Albergue with top of the line showers, new mattresses, blankets, dual vanity sinks, all built as an en suite. This is our shower. We have our own toilet….and as of this writing there are only 5 people in our room….and I have a bed. Not a bunk.

A simple pleasure by many people’s standards….but to a Pilgrim….this is hard to beat.