Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Molinaseca to Portomarin

Bell tower in Ponferrada's old city
Friday 22 June: Molinaseca to Villafranca - 19 miles (31km).
I'm walking with Adam & Joanne from Bournemouth, until they stop for a coffee just short of Ponferrada, then I continue alone past the medieval Templar castle and into the city's old quarter where I meet Mechteld again. She's trying to buy a needle to puncture a blister. Both Adam and I have explained the technique:
a) Sterilise a small needle and thread.
b) Put a stitch through your blister.
c) Knot at both ends to stop it sliding out and trim the thread ends.
d) Repeat as necessary depending on the size of your blister.
e) Leave the threads in place as the blister drains and the loose skin toughens to protect the tender skin underneath.
f) After a few days when all is well, remove the threads.
We queue for what seems like hours in the local haberdashery and have a picnic lunch in the town plaza. Here Mechteld doctors her poor feet and it works a treat (she won't let me near them).
Chatting as we leave the old city we find ourselves on a busy road in a modern industrial area - we've missed a right turn so have to backtrack to find the route again. Stopping at a fountain in Fuentes Nuevas we share fruit with three American girls who Mechteld had met previously before carrying on to a quirky albergue in Villafranca, the cosy beamed attic with comfortable mats resembles a ship, we love it. 
Ave Fenix (6), mats on the floor in attic and tasty communal dinner. 
Saturday 23: Villafranca to Herrerias - 17 miles (27km). 
Opting to take the scenic but remote and poorly waymarked Dragonte route to Herrerias we find it's a long hard climb on this high-level route but it's quieter and more beautiful than the road route. However, there are few water fountains or other amenities. It's a hot day and when we stop for lunch Mechteld is shocked when I use my precious water to rinse my hands. 
Mechteld: "We could die of thirst up here!"
I laugh and joke back:  "Are you sure you have enough oxygen with you for this altitude?".
We are still in farmland but I'm sure this would be a mountain in Holland. 
The maps in the guidebook are inadequate and just above the San Fiz de Soe rock quarry we loose our way as each path we try runs into a muddy bog or stops at a field boundary. We can see a hilltop village but can't get to it. Mechteld is tired and, I think, quite worried but eventually we reach a village which we hope is Vilasinde, the only one with a bar on the entire route. Mechteld is so releaved that when a gnarled old woman appears in the cobbled street she runs up and hugs her - I can't stop laughing. Kindly, the lady shows us to the bar, it's closed, but after a few knocks on the door we are welcomed in. We are the only customers, this is nice, I wish we could stay the night.
Hours later we eventually reach the cosy albergue in Herrerias, a long and tiring day but I enjoyed Mechteld's company, it was fun.
Albergue Myriam (5).
Sunday 24 June: Herrerias to Fonfria - 12 miles (20km). Another uphill morning and we cross the border into Galicia. After lunch in the pretty hilltop town of O'Cebreiro we agree to meet up later and I go on ahead as far as Alto do polo. The albergue is not so good so I continue onto Fonfria where I meet up with the three American girls again - I hope Mechteld catches up. Nice communal dinner, but no pretty little Dutch girl.
Albergue Reboleira (8).
Monday 25: Fonfria to Triacastela - 6 miles (9km). Short day today as I wait for Mechteld to catch up - no joy.
Albergue Xacobeo (9).
Tuesday 26: Triacastela to Sarria - 12 miles (19km). Walking with Adam & Joanne for a while today I relate to them, a little unfairly, one story I told Mechteld when we were talking about countryside lore (we had earlier  been discussing gullible people).
Me: "Do you know how to tell if it's going to be a harsh winter?"
Mechteld: "No."
Me: "Blackbirds build their nests with bricks."
Mechteld: "Really, I didn't know that." 
Albergue O Durminento (10).
Wednesday 27: Sarria to Portomarin - 14 miles (22km). Another hot but otherwise uneventful day.
Albergue Ultreia (10).
Photos of the Camino de Santiago: Molinaseca to Portomarin. I've now walked  372 miles (598km). 

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