Were you worried? Me too. I hesitate as I watch the snow fall. There is nothing for it but to go, it will not stop snowing here. I gather my stuff quickly, resolved, and head downstairs. I order a coffee. “What will you have for breakfast?” This woman only asks rhetorical questions concernings meals; what she is actually saying is, “You are a skinny young boy, and you are riding through the mountains, you must have your energy, and it is irresponsible of you to turn down a good home-cooked meal before going out in this weather.” Bacon and eggs please, with the coffee.
Yep, clearly the right decision. I am sure they will insist I stay another night, but no, they are completely unconcerned! I mention the snow, and they look at me in amusement. The husband says I will be out of the snow in 4 kilometers, and the sun will shine. They also tell me I am going to Ponferrada, and I look at the map. They are correct. It is a very short day, only 50 kilometers. I am told I have plenty of time to get there, too, for it is all downhill. Okay, I am a bit hesitant to go so little distance, in so little time, but there is a mountain between Ponferrada and León, and it can wait. The snow has stopped as I get going, and the sun is already peeking out. The day is absolutely gorgeous, a winter wonderland.
I stop and a take a few pictures with a fellow soggy pilgrim, though today my boots are dry, which is a blessing.
I cruise downhill, and it is steep, exhilerating. There is nothing like a sunny, snow-covered landscape. I am exultant, thankful to be here. As I scream down the hill I see four cyclists with almost no luggage pushing their bikes up the hill. I smile and wish them a Buen Camino, but I also feel for them. This is a very long, very steep hill, and they have at least two more to go. They also have a few long downhills as well though. I have put in my climbs, now they are putting in theirs.
It is absolutely beautiful. Once more I am winding along a river valley through charming villages. What is that on the hill?
Oh, just another humble CASTLE. I can’t get enough of it!
I had to go through another tunnel today, but the road was almost empty. I saw a lot of pilgrims today too, their numbers are rising.
This tunnel has a scallop shell as a decorative keystone. There were funny signs in this tunnel, telling pedestrians how far they had come and how far they had to go, but I giggled because the figures are running, which is exactly how one feels, that you need to get through quick!
From here it was a flat, warm, dry cruise into Ponferrada. I have a hostel picked out, but when I get there I discover it is closed for another 3 days. Shoot. Well, some old men direct me to another one, but it is a pilgrims only hostel. Hm. Well, may as well give it a shot! I do and it is no problem! It is not one of those 60 beds in one room either, it is a standard hostel, and all run on donation! I was not stingy, I gave them 10 euros. This is a good place, and I am very grateful they let me in, depite having almost no stamps, passed through Santiago without getting my certificate, and now travelling backwards. Good people. The two middle-aged ladies and I have fun talking about English, Spanish, Catalan, and American Spanish. They compliment me on my fluency. I tell them I need practice.
So I am here, safe, dry, warm, on schedule, resting my legs, and the sun is out. Bravo! There is a castle here as well, and a bike shop. I think I will pop in and see what is happening, maybe even do some laundry… How full of worry and self pity I was as I watched the snow this morning! Ah, me. A bit of grace today, and I am a little further along.