12 July 2008

Astorga to Ponferrada

Day 16
7:00 am - 6:15 pm
53.7 km

Due to my pasta breakfast, I got an uncharacteristically late start this day but still managed the ridiculous and painful feat of walking over 33 miles today. Not much compared to past occasions, but with my backpack, this was difficult. Since, once again, very little happened (I saw lots of beautiful scenery, etc.), I want to point out if I haven't already, and if I have I want to reinforce, that every year only about 350 American pilgrims set out on the Camino de Santiago. That's pathetic! "But America is so far away from Europe. It's easy for the Germans to go there." Nice try! Even more Canadians do it than Americans, and there are ten times more of us! I know you'd all love to wake up every day at 5:30 am for 30+ days in a row and walk all day until your blisters outnumber your toes in the blazing Spanish summer. But you don't have long enough vacations, right? That's really too bad. I don't know what you should do, in that case. Start fighting to change the system or something. Ponferrada is named for a famous (medieval?) bridge made out of metal that crosses the adjacent river. I couldn't find it. I soaked my feet and had oatmeal for breakfast.

After re-reading this post, I realized that it's all lies. This day was, in fact, quite interesting because I finally passed over some topography. I was cautioned to sleep at the bottom of this first of two ranges of mountains before ascending, because they are "difficult", but I don't listen to such nonsense. Instead, I walked the 22 km from Astorga to the town at the bottom, marveled at how the Spanish pilgrims can drink beer in the morning before a full day of hiking, and then up, up, up I went. I think spring came later in the mountains this year, as you might expect, because there were still little mountain flowers in bloom everywhere. The visibility was excellent, too, unlike the first day, so I could see a great distance among the high, rolling hills (not many actual peaks). I was so excited to be crossing mountains, I think I went faster than usual, though going down is always rough. Still, I managed to walk my greatest distance so far and *with* a mountain obstacle in the way. So I am not impressed with that old French guy's assessment of "difficult" hiking conditions (back in St. Jean... did I mention him? I can't remember anything!). Yes, this was a great day, a great day indeed! I even had my customary beer with lemon before staggering into the albergue.

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