We ate breakfast as soon as the dining room opened. While seated at our table we spoke with a guy we had seen from time to time on the Camino. He was in his sixties, from Switzerland, and had walked the Camino before. This was his second or third trip I believe, and he could really move at a fast pace. He was always in the next town well ahead of us and always cleaned up and beginning his evening before we even checked in to our hotel. Quite impressive. Before long, the American woman I had heard arguing with the host yesterday came into the dining room with her husband and surveyed the scene. Gesturing with her hands, she asked: “This is breakfast?” as if to say that she had expected more than this. Greg told her this was an unusually good spread, but that was not going to mollify our American princess, and she told her husband that they would just have to go someplace else to find a better meal. He looked at us and shrugged his shoulders. We felt sorry for him. We never saw them again. It was a nice, mild morning, but the sky was overcast, perhaps because we were so high in the mountains. There was no sign of Phyllis or Manfred on the street as we took off. Soon we were climbing on narrow mountain paths that wound up and over the Irago Pass. Along the way were fields of beautiful wild flowers.
Before long we reached Foncebadon, and the sun came out.
An hour later we had climbed to the Cruz de Ferro where there was a considerable crowd gathered. We waited for an opportunity and stepped forward to lay our rocks that we had brought from California at the foot of the cross.
Richard was there also and offered to take our picture.
I left the stone that Heather had given me next to mine and stopped to pray for a short time.
When I had finished, I came back down the hill from the cross and saw that Greg was engaged in a “serious” discussion with Richard. Greg finally got away from him and we left to head down the hill towards Manjarin. Here we found this rather unique alberque.
From Manjarin, there was an exceedingly steep climb down to Acebo. Along the way we encountered some crazy bike riders who were coming down these rocky paths at breakneck speeds that endangered all of us. They screamed for us to get out of the way, and it was really quite annoying. The climb down was hard enough, and these guys were making it hazardous.
We came down into Acebo and decided this was a good place to stop and eat. There we found an old wooden bench in an alley between buildings and plunked down on that to rest. At the outskirts of Acebo, the view opened up to the mountains that we would soon be climbing over.
This was a daunting prospect ahead of us and a little bit intimidating for me. After an hour or so, we got to Riego de Ambros, a tiny place that was very well kept up.
After Riego, there was another extremely steep climb down on a narrow path that was once again strewn with rocks and big roots.
This was slow going, but soon we noticed that there were some middle aged Germans who were seemingly undaunted by the present danger. They were nearly running down the hill, all the while laughing and having a good old time. After passing them as they stopped to rest for a bit, we could hear them behind us as they once again were on their way and coming closer to us. Greg, who was slightly ahead of me, looked back up the trail and grimaced as he stated that one of the Germans had fallen. I was not surprised to hear this. We stopped and looked back for a while, but it appeared that the others in the group were attending to their friend. Since there was more laughter, we assumed everything was OK. Before long, the group had caught up to me, and as the fallen one passed, noticed that he was bleeding from his ear. I indicated this to him, and he shrugged it off. That was the last we saw of this group.
In an hour or so, we descended into Molinaseca, through hills filled with wild flowers, but before entering the town, we found a bench on the east side of the river by the bridge and took our shoes off to change socks and let our feet dry out.
Greg was feeling the effects of a cold that was coming on, and I needed to get some more blister tape, so we decided to try and find a Farmacia in Molinaseca before moving on to Ponferrada where we would spend the night. After getting our shoes back on, we crossed the bridge into the delightful old part of town.
Greg needed to stop at a local bar to go to the bathroom, so I waited at a table outside where I struck up a conversation with a woman from Denmark who had bandages all over her feet. We shared our blister stories. She had stopped in Leon for a couple of days and gone to a clinic and received professional treatment. She was hurting though as she walked along and had to stop often to rest. Greg came out of the bar with a coke and sat with us for a while. We all introduced ourselves. The woman’s name was Linda. She had also run into the other Linda from Denmark, so we all laughed about that for a bit. After about ten minutes, Greg and I took off, found a local Farmacia and got what we needed. The road out of Molinaseca was a long uphill and then a long downhill on residential streets before we crossed over the rio Boeza and into Ponferrada. I suppose we were so tired by the time we reached the inner city, that we missed our turn to the right by the Castillo de los Templarios, and we headed downhill on Av. Del Castillo and wound up on the other side of rio Sil. Fortunately, we discovered our mistake before we went too far, and re-traced our steps back up the hill, across the river and turned left by the Castillo.
After walking through the Plaza Encina, we eventually found the Plaza Ayuntamiento and the Hotel Aroi Bierzo Plaza. We checked in and got up to our beautiful and spacious room and flopped down on our beds, exhausted.
The WiFi worked in the room, but we were both too tired to even post messages and email. I was first up and into the shower only to discover that there was no hot water! I took a cold shower and dressed. Then I told Greg about the predicament and went down to the desk to complain. The desk clerk said she would send a repairman up to our room and see what was wrong. Ten minutes later, no one had come. After complaining again, we discovered that there was a problem hotel-wide with the water. We both laughed, realizing that there were probably many others out on the Camino that would have gladly taken a cold shower and would have been happy to have this beautiful room and bed to sleep in. Greg went in to get a cold shower. Later we found an Italian restaurant on the plaza and had a good meal. Ponferrada was a big city, and we were surprised at its modernity. We were staying in the old section of town and were distressed to see how many beautiful buildings had been ravaged with grafitti.