The following morning we got up and had a great breakfast in the lower level of the hotel and set out on the plaza to find the Camino. Right in front of the hotel we ran into the Irish ladies from Dublin, who were finished walking and would take a bus from here to Santiago. Once again, they told us what a wonderful walk was ahead of us in Galicia, through all the farms and hills. I asked them if I could pray for them in the Cathedral, and they said to pray for “good intentions”. Soon after they left, Greg came down from the room, and we ran into the other Irish couple that we had met along the way. The woman’s sister had joined them a day or so ago and they were getting ready to head out of town also.
After some congenial chatting, we all took off together and found the Camino just a couple of blocks from the plaza. The Irish folks stopped shortly to adjust their gear and Greg and I kept on going, across the river and headed towards the outskirts of town to the west. Soon we were across the busy N-VI and into Columbrianos, another curious mixture of the old and new. From here we kept moving through the rural areas of Fuentes Nuevas and Camponaraya before reaching Cacabelos where we stopped for lunch.
We were now deep into another wine grape area known as The Bierzo. The vineyards stretched out for miles, just as they had in Rioja and Navarre. While we were airing out our feet at lunch, the Irish trio came by and said hello. They were stopping in Pieros for the night. We finished eating and took the long downhill road into Cacabelos and walked through the bustling town. After crossing the ria Cua, the road turned sharply uphill. After Pieros, the trail split, and Greg and I took the seemingly more scenic route northwest. This led us through some hilly country and occasionally steep uphills, but the views were definitely worth it.
It was slow going for the most part. Finally we hit the high point of the day and began descending into Villafranca del Bierzo. As we came into town, there was a rather large alberque down on our right just before we got to Iglesia de Santiago. Outside the church, a man was selling fresh cherries, and Greg stopped to buy some. We took Calle Santiago into town past the Castillo de los Marqueses and climbed down the steep steps to the center of the city. From here we found our way across the rio Burba and located the Casa Mendez shortly after that.
In the lobby were two German girls we had passed continually along the way, and they were also checking in. We got the WiFi code and carried our bags up to our room. Greg was not feeling well, and he now had a full-blown cold with lots of sneezing and congestion. He had been taking the medicine that he got in Molinaseca, but it didn’t seem to be helping very much. There were no laundry facilities in the hotel, so Greg washed a lot of his stuff in the shower and tried to find places to hang everything on doors and also on chairs on the balcony. The cherries were another issue for him since he had no way of washing them or getting them dry after washing. He wound up washing them in the bathroom sink and then laying them out on a towel on the table on the balcony. More trouble than they were worth I thought. The WiFi only worked downstairs near the front desk, so I took my shower and went downstairs and sat on a cold granite slab and emailed Heather and posted some pictures of the day. After that I tried to get a nap in the room, but the coughing and nose blowing was making that impossible. Greg had told Marianne that he had the flu, but there was no apparent fever, and I think he just had a bad cold. I tried to talk him out of walking the next day and for him just to take a bus to O’Cebriero, but he was having none of that. Tomorrow would be the big climb up the mountain, and it was sure to be quite strenuous. We decided to take the practical route that would lead us along the river road through Pereje to Trabadelo, because we knew that the climb from Herrerias on would be intense. Later, we had a great dinner in the hotel dining room and got to bed early.