Through Serene Hills to Astorga

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Before long we were climbing out of Santibanez through some dairy farms where some friendly working dogs greeted us to let us know to just keep moving. We did stop to take some pictures of the young calves in their feeding pens, while the locals kept a close eye on us. We passed Cruz del Valle and began heading uphill soon after with a couple of relatively challenging climbs, not as bad as I remember the last time. Perhaps I was more tired then, having started the day in Villadangos some 15km further east.

At the top of the plateau, before reaching Santo Toribio we stopped at the Cantina run by David who lives there on the land and provides refreshments “donativo.” I spoke with him for a few minutes, telling him that I remembered meeting him two years ago. He seemed genuinely happy to see me again and showed me all the improvements he had made over the last two years. They are significant, to say the least. On a bench nearby a young couple that we had seen near Cruz del Valle, had already stopped and the young man was carving a walking stick for the girl. He was Spanish and she was from Massachussetts. Heather gave the girl one of her bandanas to adorn the walking stick.
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We moved on across the mesa and slightly down to Cruceiro Santo Toribio. From here on such a clear day we could get a beautiful view of Astorga and beyond that the Montes de Leon which we would be climbing up over the next couple of days. All Heather could do was utter: “oy!”
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At the foot of the steep path leading directly down from Santo Toribio, we ran into Christine from Boston and Arja (one of the Finnish women) from the alberge in Villares De Orbigo. Christine was really suffering with her leg injury, and Arja had stayed with her to be of whatever help she could. Christine was hoping to get some medical treatment in Astorga. We all told her that most likely the best thing she could do was to rest and stay off the leg. I know this was not what she wanted to hear. A hundred meters or so down the street in San Justo we encountered the rest of the Finnish delegation who were now getting sunburned from the days travels. We asked Christine if we could pray for her and she enthusiastically said “yes”. I told her where we were staying in Astorga and that she should call on us if she needed any help, and she seemed very grateful for that. At the outskirts of San Justo, we crossed a noisy iron bridge and headed across the cornfields bordered by the busy N-120 and warehouses and met up with the green monster that crosses the railroad tracks:
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In a few moments we were climbing up the steep cobblestone street leading to Puerta Sol and the Plaza San Francisco before making our way through three or four busy plazas and then reaching our destination for the night, the Hotel Gaudi in Plaza Catedral.
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Our room overlooked the plaza with an unobstructed view of Palacio Episcopal (Gaudi) and the 15th century Catedral de St. Marta. We then got cleaned up from the days travels, took a short nap, ate dinner in the hotel dining room and retired to get a good sleep for a long day ahead as we will head up, up to Rabanal

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