Sunday, May 22, 2022

Day 29 - 21 May - Villafranca del Bierzo to Herrerias

As Bette Midler famously sang:

And I am all alone
There is no one here beside me
And my problems have all gone
There is no one to deride me
… But yah got to have friends

Courtesy of a very comfortable private hostal double room, we woke to the six o’clock alarm feeling suitably refreshed after yesterday’s hard day’s walking. We had coffee and toast in the bar next door and were back on the road at quarter past seven. We had a relatively easy twelve miles ahead of us but were keen to avoid the high temperatures forecast for the afternoon. Beyond our destination of Herrerias awaits a five mile, six hundred metre ascent to the town of O’Cebreiro - we thought we would rather tackle that in the cool of the morning rather than the heat of the afternoon.

This is going to sound like we had a really boring walk but it was quite the opposite. Most of the time we were walking alongside, sometimes on, local roads, tracking the Rio Valcarce all the way to Herrerias. We were also tracking the A-6 motorway but this was a motorway in the sky which we could see, but rarely hear from our vantage point way below.

Down at ground level, we were walking through a sea of greenery, interspersed by the lovely little villages of Pereje, Trabadelo, La Portela de Valcarce, Ambasmestas, Vega de Valcarce, Ruitelan and, finally, Herrerias. We stopped for beers at two of the villages but I have no idea which ones - they seemed to come at us thick and fast today. 

At the entrance to the village of Herrerias, we checked in to our accommodation for the night being Hostal Paraiso del Bierzo. Wow. Sensational. Undoubtedly the best accommodation we have experienced over the last four weeks. Having arrived there just before one o’clock, we had time to relax before heading in to the village where we spent a very pleasant three hours, drinking beer in the company of Lars and Inger (rapidly becoming my best buddies), Sarah (USA), Julie (Denmark), Petra (Holland), Carolin (Germany), Rosa (Canada) and………….my sister Gill and husband Tony!

Gill and Tony have been on their own adventure over the last three weeks, travelling in their camper van through France and Spain and heading shortly to the Picos de Europa in northern Spain before moving on to Italy. 

It was great to see them, particularly in an environment where we are all in adventure mode. Gill said something to me a year or so back which really stuck with me, now that we are (fortunate enough to be) done with work. “This is our time” she said, meaning our time to bloody well make the most of our opportunities whilst we are young enough and fit enough to do so. She didn’t necessarily mean to go for a five hundred mile walk but I’m sure you get the gist.

And all this is great. But without others to share it with? That’s why this afternoon was so nice. After four weeks a “Camino family” is forming. It’s not in the slightest cliquey and new family members appear each day but the essence is a shared journey which is bringing all sorts of weird and wonderful people together. Yah got to have friends!

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