Saturday, 22 October 2016

Camino Day 11 - ticking off kilometres to Palas de Rei

Today was one of the most bland routes that we've had in the past 11 days. That said, we had a great walk and the 27 kilometres from Vilachá, past nearby Portomarín and to our destination, Palas de Rei were smooth.

We left Gordon's Casa Banderas a little after 8am, having eaten a tasty breakfast and a mug of tea (for me). We said goodbye to our German and French friends and a fond farewell to Gordon and set off through this little hamlet.

Portomarín is a big town (2000 population) only 2.5km away. We decided to skip the short jaunt through town - so save mom and Ashala going up the steep steps into the town and then a certainly steep descent back to the main road.

What we thoroughly enjoyed was the walk across the bridge to the town. The river was dammed downstream from the town in 1962 to create a reservoir. Before then, the town existed on the river banks. They moved the church and several historic monuments brick by brick to the town's new location higher up on the hill.

What is really cool is that they left all the stone houses and over the past 50 years the water flowing through the dam has mostly washed the walls away leaving ruins and stones that litter the river bed. 

At the moment the dam is pretty much empty (the river is running but no dam to speak of) and so the ruins of the town are clearly visible. You can see where the roads and the houses were. At the start of the bridge they have an information board, which had a few photos of the old town. It must be good fun to walk down there among the ruins (nice orienteering variation).

After a steep uphill,  the rest of the route was mostly a gentle uphill on trails - and through very few villages.  

After about 10km we hit the village of Gonzar and stopped at the cafė there to get coffee and to buy bocadillos (sandwiches). They're really big so we each at a half and packed the rest away to eat later.

Onward through Ventas de Narón, where mom spent a night last year. And then through a bunch of loose hamlets. These settlements are pretty and the scenery was more interesting than that of this morning.

The weather continues to be excellent. Although the grey, overcast sky does nothing for my photos, it is absolutely perfect for walking. We seem to have missed a light shower, which had passed and left the roads wet further along. The weather is predicted to be similar for the week.

The town we're in tonight, Palas de Rei, has a great feel to it. Population is around 4,500. While I liked Astorga and wasn't taken by Ponferrada, I really didn't like Sarria. This town has a bit of energy.

We're staying in a private albergue, Buen Camino. It is nice and spacious and it has a bunch of small rooms. We have a room for just the three of us, which is nice. It has a pleasant view too. There are also nice areas with tables and chairs and the shower was hot and strong.

Municipal albergues in this province charge 6€ (it was 5€ in the previous province). Private albergues are 10€. They vary in size an may sleep as few as 14 people or as many as 120.

I think this is the second or third private albergue we've stayed in. Some may only have a few beds, like Gordon's place. Others are bigger (this one can sleep 41).

Seeing so many people on the route yesterday and today we were really worried about availability, especially as municipal hostels are first-come, first-served. Chatting to a fellow peregrino, he said the municipal in Portomarín last night had very few people. So we're confident of getting a spot tomorrow in Ribadiso at the municipal.

I haven't had much opportunity to really practice my Spanish other than the regular greetings and well wishing and ordering food.  Last night Gordon phoned a few places for us to reserve our accommodation for tonight and tomorrow night. As we'll end up in a different location tomorrow, I phoned the lady to tell her that we would not be staying with her. In Spanish, I understood her and she understood me. On the phone one can't use gestures and so I was super chuffed.

Mom and Ashala both did so well today. I was a bit worried about mom's left thigh, which has been troubling her for a few days on the steep descents. We were also in for one of our longest days yet. As we had little in the way of steep descents, she was fine and we all kept a good pace to have us in Palas de Rei before 5pm (around 8.5hrs - including stops).

We've also got a longer section tomorrow at 26km to Ribadiso. There's a big town at about half way,  Melide (8000 population) where we'll stop for lunch and them just have snacks for dinner at the albergue.

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