El Acebo to Ponferrada – 17 Kms, 23,65 steps
No taxis were involved today, but the first half of my day involved more of the incredibly difficult, toe-banging descents of yesterday. I shouted out “Hallelujah” when it was finally over.
I remember this stretch of the Camino from 2019 and not fondly. There were a lot more level areas and areas of packed dirt today than yesterday, but the concentration required to pick my way down the steep descents was the same.
I slept really well las night, due to fatigue from yesterday and a good mattress, in a hotel that listed numerous amenities online: a swimming pool, a steam room, a massage service. Well, yes, and no. The hotel was at one end of the village and, at the other end and half a kilometer away down a pretty good hill, was a brand new albergue owned by the same company. The pool, steam room, etc. were all down there, and hotel guests were welcome to go use them. Right. No one wants to walk down there and then walk back. How do you say “bait and switch” in Spanish?
I’m meeting more Camino veterans this time, people who have walked it multiple times, like me. For example, I met a nurse from Toronto the other night who was on her fourth Camino. She said, “some people go to their beach house every summer, I go on the Camino”. Doesn’t seem quite the same to me, but okay if it works for her. Sadly, I think this increased frequency of vets relates to the large number of Camino know-it-alls I’ve encountered. I see these folks pontificating and remind myself again not to be one of them.
The term Buen Camino (have a good [walk on the] way) is the universal pilgrim greeting, regardless of your nationality. It’s the polite thing to say when you pass another pilgrim or get passed. As an effort at good PR, I make a point of saying hello to every single local person out for a stroll that I encounter, and 99% of them have wished me a buen camino in return.
I finally made it to Ponferrada, and it only took me four hours. That was pretty good considering my snail’s pace down the descents and a 25-minute halfway point break in Molinaseca. Some of the stuff I’m remembering from 2019 as hard or long is turning out to be easier and shorter, and that’s a nice result.
I’m in a very nice hostal, with a great private room. My bathroom is huge and the shower has nozzles at all sorts of heights. In addition, there’s a great laundry room in the basement. Yes, I stayed here in 2019 and it was too good not to come back.
Tomorrow, I have a relatively short day of 14 Kms, and a fairly flat route to Cacabelos. That will let my feet and legs rest and recover. The weather continues to be what we’d call Indian Summer back in Virginia: clear and cool in the morning, sunny and 70 by midday. Only 11 more days to go.