I got my earliest start to date when I left Columbrianos. On previous days I’d been leaving around 8:00, but I wanted to see what happened if I tried to leave earlier. Could I go farther? Would I not get as hot?
I left the albergue around 7 and headed out of town.
I’m so glad I decided to start early because I saw the most spectacular sunrise. What a gift.
I was also treated to the exuberant crows of a very determined rooster who sounded like it was using the very last bits of its voice to help bring up the sun that day.
When I left the albergue no one else was up yet, so there was no food. I planned to get breakfast in the next town. I was feeling hungry and so ready to eat.
I didn’t have a good dinner the night before, and I was feeling it.
Usually restaurants and albergues on the Camino will have a pilgrim’s menu for dinner, a version of the menú del día that you’ll often find in Spanish restaurants. Dinner on the pilgrim’s menu will generally consist of a first course (salad, pasta), second course (some kind of meat), dessert, bread, and wine (of course) for about €10-11.
The albergue in Columbrianos didn’t have much of a selection, so I just had a sandwich and a salad. This morning I learned how important a good dinner is to fuel you for the next day, as I felt like I was lagging right from the start.
My quest for breakfast turned into another Goldilocks moment. When I got to the next town, Fuentes Nuevas, the restaurant that was open didn’t have their bread delivered yet. The second restaurant didn’t have fresh-squeezed orange juice.
I went to the next town, Camponaraya, and was able to get my usual bocadillo de jamón, banana, and OJ.
The walk out of Camponaraya leads into one of my favorite sections of the Camino, the route through El Bierzo. This region of Spain is known for its wine production and you get to walk through so many vineyards.
As I walked through rows and rows of grapes I eventually came to a wooded area. Nestled in the middle of the trees was a mobile café. Ivan owns La Siesta, and in addition to refreshments he also provides cool tunes.
After relaxing in the woods I continued walking through vineyards as far as the eye could see.
I hit a really hilly stretch that was quite challenging for me. I decided to stop and eat in Villafranca del Bierzo, but I needed to actually get there first. It didn’t seem that far away on the map, but the inclines made it a lot more difficult.
I was feeling really tired, and apparently that was quite visible because other pilgrims commented on my sluggishness.
I made it to Villafranca and decided to stop to eat before continuing on to the next town. I was going to stop for the day in Pereje or Trabadelo.
I stopped at a restaurant and had spaghetti bolognese, which totally hit the spot.
While I was eating I met a Spanish couple in their 70s who were doing the Camino. I was amazed. I knew how I had struggled through the mountains, and I admired their fortitude.
The food and the company were great, but my body was still aching. Going through all the hills had really done a number on my hips and knees.
I started to wonder if I needed to stop there for the day. I wanted to go another town or two, but was that really for the best?
I had my head set on going a certain distance, but was it really that important? I was already feeling achy; I had to realize that it was not necessary to push myself into further pain. I decided that I should probably stay where I was.
I had just stopped to eat, but now I was stopping for the day. It was a really hard decision for me to make and to be okay with.
It’s hard when your mind and will want to do one thing but your body says no. It’s hard to learn to actually listen to, obey, and honor what your body is telling you.
Since I was going to stay in Villafranca I needed to find a place to sleep. I walked around from albergue to albergue reprising my role as Goldilocks.
I wasn’t sold on any of the places until I got to the last albergue, Albergue De La Piedra, on the other side of town.
There was only one more bed available, but I was told it was in a two-person room with a man. It wasn’t ideal, but as I saw other people walking through town I thought I needed to secure a place to sleep before I was stuck.
I was shown to my room and there was José Miguel! I had already shared a room with him in Murias and El Acebo, so I felt a lot more comfortable.
The albergue is built into the side of a mountain, which is really interesting.
The coolest thing was meeting two fellow peregrinas, Esti and Johanna. Johanna brought her dog Kai, who was doing the Camino with them, which was incredible to me. The four of us went into town to grab a drink at a place overlooking the river.
I was so amazed with this little four-legged friend, and seeing him made me miss my Stella even more.
Esti and Johanna were cooking dinner at the albergue, but after my meager meal the night before I was determined to find a pilgrim’s menu somewhere.
I went to El Guardia down the street from De La Piedra. I had a good solid meal there. A solid meal in a solid thunderstorm. The sky opened up, the building shook, and the power went out. It was something else.
I was grateful for a break in the storm when I was able to get back to De La Piedra and get to bed. It had been a long day, and I was ready to rest.