Thursday, 13 October 2016

Camino Day 2 - long 31km to Astorga

Day 2 brought with it one of the longest distances at 31km and 11hrs on the road. With scenery far more interesting today, we ticked through the kilometres and enjoyed seeing familiar faces - from last night's hostel - along the way.

The first part of our walk stayed on flat terrain, which was made sweet and scenic by the corn fields and old irrigation canals.

A highlight for both of us was finding ripe blackberries! We've seen thousands of plants but, being here at the end of the season, the berries are dried or gone. But then... Mom spotted a few ripe ones. Oh! What a treat! Alert, we found a good few handfuls to enjoy along the way.

The towns today were sweet - small and tidy with friendly people. We delighted in the old Roman bridge (across the Rio Órbigo) and cobbles in the town of Hospital de Órbigo and we bought fresh bread from the baker's van in Santibanez de Valdeiglesi (he was making his daily rounds).

From here we headed past a dairy and into the hills. Up and up and up a hard-packed dirt road. Fields and trees and lovely views.

An interesting spot today was the 'cantina', which has been hosted and run by a chap named David for the past seven years. He has fruit and cookies and coffee and a wide variety of treats on offer (including a hammock) - and a donation box. He has planted pretty flowers and created a haven. Apparently he leaves in three days and the place will be taken over by another guy.

For seven years, every day - summer, winter, holidays, day and night - he has been there for the walkers. For him it is now time to move on. He said that after a visit to Barcelona he plans to head for the mountains "where there are no people".

Up on this hill we bumped into a lady who is walking with her perky Maltese poodle. We saw her yesterday afternoon walking into Vilar de Mazarife - the dog's ears are dyed pink and it was wearing a raincoat.

We spoke to her a little and asked about the dog's paws. She said she massages its feet when they stop. The dog seems happy. We don't know how many days they have been out here.

From this same spot we walked with Arshula, who we met at the hostel last night. She had told us about a good service of sending bags ahead, which we did with mom's backpack today - and will continue to do. Arshula is from San Francisco and she is close in age to mom. She is good company.

It was a long trek into the large town of Astorga. The church spires were visible from kilometres away and it took an age to get to the town. It was a walled city and boasts the ruin of Roman house (discovered only a few years ago). According to a charming gentleman (he teaches English), the city was raised to the ground three times in the Medieval period.

The catedral is very impressive as are the many other churches in town as well as the old city walls.

We are staying at a monastery hostel tonight - Albergue San Antonio. It is a big place but with many rooms - and three levels. There are 6 bunks in our room. Of course, we are on the highest 3rd floor... it is only 5 € for the night and we've just had a filling and delicious pelegrino meal at a local restaurant(10.70 € each). I couldn't even fit in the dessert, as much as I was looking forward to the three - chocolate cake. Instead we opted for yoghurts, which we took back with us and will enjoy eating tomorrow.

Our route to Rabanel tomorrow is shorter at 21.4km. It looks to climb steadily up-up-up and passes through three small villages on the way.

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