Day 24 (33k)
Villavante – Santa Catalina de Somosa
Every day we rise early with a new group of pilgrims. Everyone is half asleep yet we hustle to dress, organize our packs and do our morning bathroom routine. Then out in to the darkness we go. Today we seem to be on auto pilot as we wander out of Villavante. We are walking to the next village in search of a café con leche (coffee) and a some kind of food. It was cold (45°) so we were dressed in hats and gloves. Headlamps in the “on” position searching for the yellow arrows (also known as “yellow fever “) marking our Way. As we reach the end of town we turn onto the dirt trail and walk in the light of a full moon for the first 4k. The sun was rising and the full moon was still high above the western horizon.
As we entered Puente de Orbigo we crossed one of the longest and best preserved medieval bridges in Spain dating from the13th century.
A famous jousting event took place here in 1434. A knight scorned by a beautiful lady threw down the gauntlet and challenged all knights to a “dare” and pass over the bridge. He defeated 300 knights from all over Europe, thus restoring his honor. Once a year they hold a jousting event in his honor. Oh, how romantic!! These historical events are so interesting, and make us feel so young! After our morning coffee we moved along a bit quicker and traversed over some small hills and came upon an unusual bit of “trail magic”.
It appears that a Spainard named “David” and his Australian girlfriend “Susan” have been living in an abandoned adobe/stone ruin and have been treating peregrinos (at no cost as they will NOT accept any donations) to coffee, juice, assorted fruit and a wonderful place to rest your legs (or even stay if you wish) 24/7 for six years now. Absolutely incredible. Not sure how they pull this off, as they have no transportation and this is truly in the middle of nowhere.
Just before we arrive in Astorga, as we pose for pictures at what appears to be an iconic “stop”, we are beckoned by an older gentleman tending the trees surrounding this hilltop. He asks us where we are from. We tell him California. He grabs my hand and bring me over to a tree and points. ” Do you know what this is?”, he asks in a gravelly voice. Some type of pine we respond.
He laughs, and excitedly explains that it is from California, and is a Giant Sequoia sapling he planted last November (it is nearly 8′ tall now).
He shows us several other trees indigenous to California. He then asks how long we have been married, and if we are “true believers”. Turns out, he is a Catholic priest and gives us a blessing before he sends us on our way wishing us, ” Buen Camino “. Around noon we arrive in Astorga. As usual, the Camino leads to the town center and the church. Always on the highest point in the village. Known to us as “up hill”. This church was quite large and had an unusual figure on one of the roof tops. A woman with an umbrella. It was here that we saw our Auzzie friends Ruth and Neil about to enjoy a sandwich and a beer. We took advantage of this opportunity to eat and catch up before heading to Santa Catalina de Somoza.
The afternoon was hot, but underneath our hiking umbrellas we stayed in the shade as we covered the last 12 k. We checked into the first albergue on the recommendation of the exhausted pilgrim sitting outside the front door. She told us the albergue was clean, comfortable, and only 5€. As has become our habit, we make our beds, shower, and get a “grande” cervaza! Today was no different, except we drank with Charleston.
Charleston is a Welshman from the U.K. with and accent as thick as a good chocolate shake. He uses words like “bloody” and “bloke”, and ends every sentence with “you know eh”, which we nod as to say …a ya sure. When in reality, we miss most of the words, but understand what he saying. He’s 51 years old and a bit round, but the happiest man with shin splints you will ever meet. We actually met him weeks ago just before Pamplona. He asked where we were from and Paul said the U.K., but he scoffed at the the notion, and we all laughed. So when we saw each other again we had to catch up on our travels. He has been walking and taking the bus a bit. Turns out that we have met some of the same pilgrims along the way. Three hours of laughing, eating dinner, and consuming beer together, made for a great evening.
Be Strong! Austin Strong!
Uncle Paul looks so much like Uncle Mike in the picture with Charleston! Buen Camino!