Villafranca del Bierzo to Laguna de Castilla (Pop: maybe 7?)
April 26, 2015
7:45 AM to 2:05 PM
6 hrs 20 min for 26.27 km
5.7 km per hr moving average
Yahoo! We made it! No, we are not at O’Cebreiro. That will be our first two and a half kilometres tomorrow with another 150 metres of altitude. We rose 600 metres since this morning, half of that in the last 6 kilometres.
Until the last six kilometres we thought we had a relatively easy day. Since it poured all night we sagely decided not to take the Pradela route which would have started us up then down a steep hill on muddy track. Instead we went along the old highway through Pereje which kept us more on the valley floor between the mountains. We had a fast flowing mountain river beside us all day, first the Burbia, then the Pereje, but most of the way, the Valcarce.
Although most of the path, to just past Herrerias, is along side a highway, it is the old road and not very busy. And on the other side, the river. For much of the way there is a knee high concrete divider between pedestrians and vehicles, the most viewed vehicles are the bread truck and the company moving backpacks to the next town. The locals, few though they are, drive old jeeps (from the fifties in mint shape) or other small four wheel drive vehicles or old VW buses painted Hippie style.
We saw lots of old growth forest today, chestnuts, large deciduous trees, many hawthorns blooming their sweet white scent. There were some very large pines, looked like jack pines. Yellow flowered plants that looked like jewel weed, minus its normal poison ivy companion, was everywhere. We saw lots of woodland flowers: pink Herb Robert, many tiny flowers: pink, blue or purple, some pale yellow primula and once again lime green hellebores. The higher we went the more prevalent was heather.
As we travelled through the valley we were always looking up to the mountains, watching the sky darken then brighten and not shower us with rain. Yeah! We saw a faded rainbow. The new highway went through tunnels while we went around those hills. The highway passed over us and as it did so, cars sounded like thunder. Sometimes there were two highways at dizzying heights above us, but we continued to enjoy the sound of rushing rivers and birds singing.
Occasionally there was a patch of pasture surrounded by an electric fence fueled by a small solar battery. The fence kept its small flock of sheep or light brown cows from falling into the river.
Shortly after Herrerias, our yellow arrow directed us down a dirt path toward La Faba. Dirt soon became mud then the rocky trail took us ever upward in switchbacks through the woods. This had more of a Bruce Trail feel to it. There were even fiddleheads out. No part of the Bruce Trail, however, takes us to such a change in altitude.
We were enjoying the cooler air and beautiful countryside as we rose higher until the black cloud doused us with cold rain and the path became a sea of mud. Fortunately this was only for the last two kilometres, but, oh my, that felt like a very long two kilometres.
We are above the bar of the Albergue La Escuela in our private room with bath. True there is not much room to turn around, nor many places to hang our wet clothes, but we have three beds ( Margaret on a cot) and the two heaters are working well to dry things and warm us.
Actually Brian and Margaret are enjoying beer and wine by the fire in the bar, but I am quite cozy here in the room. The sun started shining soon after we arrived and it is warming me and my bed.
Two women just arrived on horseback with their packs. That was an option for the past five kilometres but I would not want to have ridden on the track we came on.