Astorga to Foncebadon (Pop: semi-abandoned- who knows?)
April 23, 2015
7:35 AM to 2:05 PM
6.5 hrs for 25.77 km
That beer with lemon sure went down well! The last five kilometres were all uphill on very rocky ground (large, toe tripping rocks or slabs of schist). We went up three hundred metres in altitude. We went up six hundred metres since this morning but the earlier part was gradual. Margaret thought it was easy. Margaret had The Sound of Music playing in her head.
I enjoyed the walk because of the beauty that surrounded me. We walked through five to six foot high pinky purple shrubs that I believe are heather. Our landscape became more and more hilly after Astorga and the hills became more and more alive with this shrub. The agricultural land first gave way to oak and pine forests. The young pines have suffered from pests or fungi as they are quite brown.
Feet update: yesterday I bought some metatarsal pain pads and applied one to my right foot at the first break. Until then my foot had not hurt but my toes were beginning to be painful. My toes have never bothered me. For the rest of the walk, the sole of my foot never hurt but my toes hurt more and more. C’est la vie!
We saw lizards yesterday as we entered Astorga. They were running in and out of the cracks of the concrete blocks that formed the sidewalk beside the railway crossing ramp. The government, in its desire to bump off fewer pilgrims, had a blue metal pedestrian ramp constructed. We had to climb five ramps, cross above the tracks then go down five ramps. We figure it took us a kilometre more to cross the single set of tracks. We did get to see a train go under us.
Today we saw bigger green lizards as we walked up through scrub land. The biggest was about seven centimetres in diameter and twenty centimetres long. The rest were much smaller but equally green.
Other animal sightings: Brian and Margaret stopped to talk to a large brown horse who sniffed out the pear in Brian’s pack; so, he fed it to him and made a friend. We spotted a large hairy white castrated bull who did not care to give us the time of day, too busy munching grass. I saw two small startlingly blue butterflies dart across my path. Margaret saw a big black beetle (3 inches long), only Kanji got his photo. The storks continue to make us smile as they soar overhead or stand up in their church tower nests or feed their babies. We do not see many sheep but we keep seeing their droppings along the Camino. Maybe shepherds herd flocks by night! Birds of many sizes continue to chirp and sing to us.
We had our picnic lunch on a slate bench beside a fallen oak tree that was three hundred years old, the biggest tree we have seen in Spain.
There was a small chapel open past Puente de Panote. The eighteenth century Capilla de St Juan was much adorned with gold statuary. I was surprised to see so much gold in such a small church. We have seen a lot of Quartz in these hills. Brian says that gold is often found with Quartz. Even though the large boulders of Quartz were beautiful we were not inclined to put any chunks in our packs.
Yesterday we went into the pouring rain hoping to go to the chocolate factory but the cathedral was closer. Even Brian went into it and the accompanying museum because he did not want to stand in the rain. The other pilgrims we have seen each day also came in while we were there. Every cathedral is different with its own unique character and incredible carvings in stone and wood. It is difficult to imagine sculptors and stone masons working at such terrific heights without today’s lifts and equipment.
The Gaudi palace next door was not open; so, we just admired the exterior before visiting a few chocolate shops. We gave up on going to the chocolate museum. It was too far to go in the rain. This is a sweets town: lots of chocolate shops. People also sell the local specialties everywhere: mantacadas ( honey cupcakes) and hojaldes ( cream filled pastries we never did try). We thought the mantacadas would be improved with a chocolate centre or at the very least some chocolate drizzled over them.
After looking at several pilgrim menus and wanting an early supper (7 PM), we had our meal in a side street at Cuba50L. It has been in business fifty-five years. When you see a gathering of locals in such a bar, you figure it is a safe bet. It was! We had a delicious meal at one of the lowest prices yet, less than nine euros. Brian had pasta in tomato sauce followed by beef stew made with big vertebrae. Margaret had tomato slices accompanied by fried cheese then a whole fish ( flounder) with fries. I had the flounder as well preceded by cauliflower cheese cream. It was a thick soup even though the server insisted it was not soup. I had tiramisu that was more like a custard than tiramisu, but tasty. Wine, water and coffee/tea were our liquids.
We are now in the one street village of Foncebadon which has been a mountain village here for more than a thousand years. According to the Brierley guide, it is a “semi-abandoned village stirring back to life.” It has a deserted look about it, piles of rock and rubble, caved in dwellings line the street. Today’s villages have all been stone where we have seen a lot more red brick and red Adobe in the past several days.
We are staying in a former convent: Convento de Foncebadon. It has been charmingly renovated. Oscar has been here fifteen years. He is our friendly host. We reserved dinner here for six with Kanji and Susie. Oscar’s motorcycle collection inside the restaurant is joined by a statue of the Madonna and a mural of medieval noblemen, and an eclectic mix of bric a brac. Wifi is not very strong, not enough businesses to create demand for a stronger signal, much to Oscar’s lament.
Brian and Margaret have showered and done their laundry and suspended it on the metal roof outside our window. Time for me to get clean.
Well, that was fun… A small capsule of a shower but it had a seat and fifteen jets to massage my back.
Today is a fiesta day for Castilla y Leon. A parade just went by under our window that is draped with laundry. People walked by carrying three tall flags, mostly red flags with some green; several drummers accompanied them; the rest of the walkers were dressed in red and white or blue and white.