Day 35 – El Acebo to Ponferrada – 15.79km Ascent 184 Descent 760m – With hoards of students!

We actually left before someone this morning. Al from Kentucky as I recall – but he overtook us not far down the track. He had entertained me with his tale of not knowing how to open the door in the albergue room. He said “I have a masters degree and I cannot figure out how to open the door – I had to wait until a girl up the end woke up and went to the bathroom before I could get out”. I didnt tell him but I couldnt work out how to turn on the tap at Albergue Verde (it was a foot pedal). A masters degree clearly does not provide all necessary answers to the universe – nor to the camino. Actually one of my various yoda's informed me quite rightly “the Camino is the University of Life”.

Anyway we had another huge descent today and the cool of the morning made for quite a pleasant walk to the first village. It was only 9am and all was quiet in the town as usual. It was shortly after this village that our journey took on a new dimension. I may exagerrate, but just after we hit the dirty stone track, I think at least 200 students started tramping down the hill with us, past us, in front of us and behind us. We were seriously eating dirt. My knee was straining and I watched a girl go down rather suddenly trying to keep up with her peers. A couple of times we thought we'd stop and let them past and they just kept coming and coming. Good grief is this what they mean by the Camino gets busy from hereon in? I hope not.

We eventually arrived at the foot of the mountains of Leon and heard melodic guitar playing ringing across the valley. “That sounds like JC” said my beloved. I agreed and set off across the road to see from where it did'th come. There was a beautiful river with stone foot baths and a gorgeous stone village surrounded by green grass along the river. And there, enjoying the peace and serenity at one end were JC and Michelle – and at the other – 200 spanish students!

So we laughed, crossed the stone bridge and low and behold, Al from Kentucky was sitting with JC eating lunch. We stopped for a while, I wished I hadn't sent my swimmers on, we ate a salad and laughed with a French American who interpreted for JC for a while. We laughed some more – JC's English is cause for a good laugh after he'd been partying all night!

 

Anyway we headed off again for the last 6 or 7km to Ponferrada where we planned a day of rest. It was damned hot again and my beloved discovered a k or two out that he'd left his water bottle on the table. I had a miniature one I kept from an airplane somewhere and we both assumed we would see a drinking font or a shop on the way – we were both wrong! Luckily we were well hydrated earlier in the day because this afternoon was scorching. Again there were constant reminders of Pilgrims who had gone before us.

 

We finally arrived in Ponferrada with its magnificent Templar Knights Castle and found our room right across from it. Luckily I had asked for a double with air conditioning for a change. Well almost lucky. The room was on the roof – the day was probably early 40s and the air con was seriously struggling. We were exhausted but the room was too hot to rest in. We wandered about town and everything was shut – it was siesta and it was Saturday! We sat outside an ice-cream shop and ate some cold stuff to cool us down – we would have sat inside but the air-con didnt work! Eventually at around 10pm, when the sun went down, we opened our windows and finally felt cool enough to sleep. The coolness apparently meant it was time for the Spaniards to hit the streets and party! We kept a wet towel beside us to cool us down when the breeze drifted in – it was a long long night – there were loud bangs from fire crackers, Spanish singing, laughing and clapping – there was no buenos noches!

 

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