Camino de Santiago Day 11:
Villafranca del Bierzo to Las Herrerías
There were three ways out of Villafranca del Bierzo.
I had studied all three before going to bed and had chosen the one I would take.
I got an earlier start and the morning air was fresh and cool.
I wouldn’t have said I felt like a new woman but I definitely felt better than the day before.
So I confidently took the hard right out of town on the La Pradela trail, which quickly started climbing above Villafranca del Bierzo.
The other two choices were a path that ran right along the road and an even higher mountain climb that ran on the other side of the road.
I could see that the range to the south of me was higher so I felt good about my choice.
At least for a little while.
The path kept climbing and similar to the road I had taken the previous day through the vineyards, it seemed less well-marked and a bit deserted.
I kept turning around to see Villafranca del Bierzo growing smaller and smaller. And to look to see if anyone else had joined me on this route.
It took me a while but I settled into being alone and began to recite the prayer or mantra I wrote down for this trip before I left home:
Christ before me.
Christ behind me.
Christ all around me.
Christ within me.
It became a walking meditation.
A phrase with each step.
And a reminder that I never walk alone.
When the ridge flattened out, the walking got a bit easier, though my blistered feet at this point are screaming are me most of the day. I just try to ignore them.
They say that if you are paying attention, the Camino will give you a gift every day.
After I walked the whole morning alone, and without passing any little cafes, I started to feel hungry and tired.
I entered a forest and saw a sign for a cafe in a few more kilometers.
I stopped to take a few photos in the forest of chestnut tress and a little shrine.
And also to catch my breath.
And then I heard footsteps coming behind me. Another pilgrim did take this route!
I’m so glad to see you! I haven’t seen anyone all morning.
He said the same and we quickly fell into introductions and conversation. And just as we did, we came upon the little cafe that we’d seen the sign for in the forest.
Since this path is so deserted there was a sign indicating to ring the bell and they would open up. So we rang the bell and a kind lady came down from her house and opened up the cafe. She served us drinks and snacks. I ordered her homemade cake and she cut me the biggest slice you’ve ever seen.
We took our drinks out to the terrace and enjoyed a quick break before carrying on together.
We soon descended from our mountain trek and rejoined the central path that ran along the road. We walked and talked all the way until we were 5 km from Las Herrerías when we stopped again for a bit of lunch.
Afterwards the path hugged the road in a single track, so he pushed on ahead and we said farewell.
The last 5km went by fairly easily though I was very happy to see the little village come into view at the end of the day.
I stopped in at a church on my way into town. I wasn’t sure it would be open when I saw its crumbling state but the inside was welcoming and cozy.
I paused and said a quick prayer of gratitude for my Camino gift of the day.
Someone to share the road with at just the right time.
And then it was onto my little home for the night to collect my keys and tend to my poor little feet.