2 Oct 2019
I had only 15 Kms planned today, so I decided not to rush out in the darkness with a headlamp and instead to sleep a little later, timing my departure to coincide with sun up (around 8:20). Much more civilized.
It turned out that that a lot of other pilgrims do the same, so it’s easy to find my way out of town on the Camino: just follow the crowd of backpacks. It was 44 F and dry, and a mostly sunny day was promised, going up to 72 F.
I stopped for my usual cafe con leche after a couple of hours and discovered a nice reminder of my college days in Charlottesville:
Within a couple of kilometers of starting to walk, I encountered an “alternate route” option. The Camino splits and the guide books and signage strongly urge you to take the new, alternate route, often because it’s “more scenic” or “rewarding”. I noticed that these new routes are also longer and harder (more ups and downs), and I wonder about the decision-making process leading to their creation. Safety is surely a concern: the classic or original routes are often next to (or sometimes, right on) busy highways. Not a problem for a single pilgrim like me, but I can imagine that a gaggle of pilgrims in the high season would be in danger.
And, of course, I’m sure there are political and economic reasons deciding for the Camino route; some little towns would simply die off without the flow of pilgrim euros. In general, I have chosen to take the shorter, easier original routes. Five or six extra Kms at the end of a long day is significant! I’ve found the original routes to be plenty scenic, too. Thank God for the Wise Camino app on my iPhone, though, which gives me real-time location positioning along the Camino; sometimes the way marking on the original routes has been neglected.
While I’m at it, I should mention that I’m also using the Camino de Santiago Maps book by Anna Dintaman and David Landis. While I sometimes disagree with their characterization of the trail sections, the maps are outstanding and the book is compact and lightweight compared to other guide books.
The morning passed by, along with many acres of grape vines, and I reached this cross (where an alternate route joined mine) and had a view down into Astorga. Heads up, Lauderdale brothers, nearby I saw this trashcan with its vandalized “Don’t Mess with Texas” sticker:
At the foot of the hill, I saw this statue celebrating the pilgrim and the region’s wine industry:
And, of course, someone’s always trying to horn in on the refreshments:
I wound my way into Astorga, got lost, had Google Maps tell me there was no way to get from where I was to my hotel, and eventually arrived by dead reckoning at the Hotel Spa Ciudad, a boutique, grossly overly-luxurious establishment for a pilgrim to stay at:
However, I did find a super deal on Booking.com for it, and it was right across the street from the big cathedral:
And the Camino souvenir shop:
Tomorrow I’m off on a 20 Km walk to Rabanal del Camino, as the towns and cities go by on the road to Santiago.