Day 24 – Pereje
I woke this morning amazed that I didn’t fall to the concrete below. Sleep didn’t come easy as I was really concerned that I would move more than a few inches and tumble down. The bunks really are narrow in Ponferrada. We dined on bread, cheese, chorizo, and fruit in the main hall. Out of curiosity, I rooted through the discarded clothes/equipment pile that you find in most albergues. I found a nice floral dress that seemed to spark the jester in Keith’s soul. Within minutes, he had the dress on, bringing smiles and laughs from the pilgrims in the room. Keith has a way of bringing a smile to people’s faces. He certainly brightened the room this morning.
After breakfast, we moved out into blue morning light of Ponferrada and worked our way through the streets. Along the way we came upon statues of the Pepper Women. The women are chopping and cleaning peppers, which I assume are popular in the area. I walked with Peter, Morag, Keith, and Danny. Along the way we stopped in Camponaraya long enough for some café con leche and tortilla or pastries. Shortly thereafter, we stopped again so I could get some throat lozenges to deal with the rough throat I woke with.
I started to lead Peter again. It was a little bit harder as in town you have to pay closer attention to obstacles such as branches, curbs, and thin walkways and parked cars. I enjoyed the walking with Peter though as he has a great sense of humour and he is simply an interesting person to chat with. We walked through a fair bit of vineyards and pleasant rolling hills. There were many poppies along the way as well as a huge amount of traffic on one of the dirt roads we were walking down.
We decided to stop in Cacabelos for a lunch and we all decided that hamburgessas were in order. It was a nice little café and the burgers were quite good. We all had a good laugh when Danny tried to add some ketchup to her burger, the cap popped off, and a huge mound of ketchup appeared on her burger, plate, and table. The woman who was running the café helped clean it up and supplied a new burger. I then adjourned to the street to tend to my feet, not something you want to do in a café. Morag joined me and we chatted a bit and enjoyed the soft sun that was shining down on us. We all had some ice cream and headed off. We discussed the fact that we were getting low on some pack food and that we were not sure if we would make Villafranca del Bierzo before the siesta.
So, Keith and I volunteered to pick up our pace and do the shopping for everyone. So off we set, just as the sun decided to burn hot. It was a stifling walk; there was little shade and a lot of dry open fields and hot roadways. We turned off the main Camino to follow and small side path that travels through a small village and through the hills instead of following the highway. We enjoyed the walk but were concerned that we may miss the shops. So we sped up a bit more and made Villafranca del Bierzo at about 1:30. Villafranca del Bierzo is a pretty town with several plazas and roads that run left and right and up and down. We found ourselves a Dios and quickly picked up our shopping list. We were beat at this point, my legs were wobbly, and my knees and toes were hurting. So we found a table at an outdoor café, removed shoes and socks to stretch our toes out, and had some large cerveza. I also ordered up some patatas and spicy cheese sauce. Heaven.
We waited about an hour. Finally, Keith decided that the others may be sitting in one of the other plazas; so I sat and waited on look-out while he went to retrace our steps. When he got back, he mentioned that he saw Petra. She said that she had left Ponferrada late and that she hadn’t seen Peter, Morag, or Danny. They must have gotten ahead of us at some point. So, we geared back up and set off for Pereje. It was another five klicks and to be honest we were still a bit tired, though somewhat revived by the food and drink. We followed the Camino, we crossed the pretty bridge that leads out from Villafranca del Bierzo, and walked at a good pace, hoping to get to the albergue as soon as possible. The road followed the highway the entire time, and although some of the terrain on the left was pretty, we didn’t really take much notice as we were fairly goal driven at this point.
Finally, the Camino swung off the highway a bit to run through the small village of Pereje. It was a 31 km day. Walking through this, quite literally, one street village that sits on the side of the highway we searched for the albergue. It was, of course, at the far end of town. Thankfully, that wasn’t too far. 🙂
We found the pretty albergue’s reception area empty but for a note on the table referring people to the café/bar to sign in. We went in search of a bed to throw our gear in front of. We ended up in the basement where we finally caught up with our companions just as they were deciding to come looking for us. Reunion time! So, we went through the normal catch-up chat while we all divided the food and unpacked for the night (I’ve lost another sock… Sandy will have to bring many clothes for me). I showered and then walked a couple of klicks down the highway looking for a phone as Pereje has no public phones or net access. I didn’t find one, but I enjoyed walking along the large creek that followed the highway. I even stopped to watch a fly angler for a few minutes. When I go back, I found that the others had headed off to the café patio that sits across the road from the café itself. Peter, Danny, and Keith were sitting having some cool cerveza and I joined them happily. After the first one, Morag showed up from her nap and I went in to buy the next round, and while I stood at the bar, I noticed high on a shell a bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I ordered up a glass. They staff had to get a chair to reach the bottle and they needed to dust it off before uncorking it. I happily went back to join my friends. Peter and Morag had never had a nice bourbon so I offered them a sip, which they seemed to enjoy. I certainly did.
We finally went in for supper, which was nice. Then we headed back to the albergue to wind down, write, administer some first aid to ourselves, and I called Sandy courtesy of Peter and his cell phone.
Tomorrow we will take a short day (only 22 km) as it’s all uphill. I’m looking forward to O Cebreiro tomorrow. Seven days to Santiago.
Soundscape: Café con lech por favor