Day #8 – to Pradela
Change of Plans
As if things could not get any better, we made an instantaneous decision (or maybe *I* made the instantaneous decision and my sweetheart was simply kind enough to go with it) to stop in Pradela for the evening. Wow, I love these unexpected plan changes when they feel so right!
We started out this morning with every intention of having a shorter distance day because we were going to take the “Ruta Dura” the “hard route” or the mountain route out of Villafranca del Bierzo. We were deciding upon going to Trabedelo or Portela de la Valcarce but were just going to wing it for our accommodations. Even though we had heard that things had been so busy, every single albergue that we had stayed at thus far had beds available at the end of the evening. So, we didn’t book anything and would decide based upon how we felt after coming down from the mountain. Except that we decided not to come down … ha!
The alternative “ruta dura” was in fact quite strenuous, however, as my sweetheart said “You can’t have a mountaintop experience if you don’t do the climb”. Well put! So, we climbed and climbed and climbed. As we rose higher and higher the views became more and more spectacular. We walked through fern forrests, and then pine forests, and finally, forests of chestnut trees. It. Was. Spectacular. We were so filled with joy and wonder and happiness that we were doing this – even though it was hard. We could have simply followed the road, but I had done that before, and I knew that we could do this. I felt strong today, and doing this climb validated that I was in fact getting stronger.
When the sun finally crested over the mountain ridge around 9:30 or so the coolness of the morning dissipated and very quickly we were under the full on, scorching sun. I had not filled my camelback fully as water is heavy and I knew that we were not going that far today. I did not take into account the overall effort that we’d be putting out to get us to the top – and along and over – this hill. I had, however, purchased my secret weapon for the weary pilgrim – a can of Coca Cola. Ha. I never touch the stuff at home, but it is my secret weapon on the Camino to power me through those final tough kilometers. Half way through our mileage I was glad to have it.
We had not planned on staying at the little albergue in Pradelo, however, once we arrived to this little hilltop town, and were so warmly welcomed into the courtyard by Angela who was volunteering and helping Ana, the owner of the albergue, we/I made a decision to stay. It was not unlike my split second decision to stay at San Anton, two years ago – a decision that has so drastically changed my life. It was that type of decision. Who stays at a little hilltop place out in the middle of nowhere “just because” … well, apparently, we do!!
It was a crazy decision because it was only 12 noon! It was not much further, actually, to where we were going, but the reality is that going the extra kilometers today, or adding them on to tomorrow’s walk wasn’t going to really make much of a difference. It would make tomorrow’s hike shorter, but it was already a fairly short day. So, we stayed for the experience. We were not going to have this type of experience at any other place down in Trabadelo – we’d have a different experience, but, not *this* one.
Wonderful Ana made up a bed for each of us in the small Albergue sleeping room – sheets and blankets and everything. She then took our laundry and washed absolutely everything that we weren’t actually wearing. Boy we needed that. Clean clothes for the rest of our days on the trail. We then spent our afternoon in the courtyard, relaxing, writing, drawing … and occasionally welcoming the random pilgrim who also decided to take the “ruta dura”. One such couple were Michael and Virginia from Sydney, Australia and we have been enjoying our entire afternoon talking and enjoying the wine made by this family and talking about all things camino … and the world. I couldn’t think of any way better to spend the day.
I can smell aromas emanating from the kitchen – our dinner this evening. As we had arrived Ana was cutting up fresh produce from her garden into a soup that she was making for tonight – zucchini and carrots and potatoes and onions and peppers had already made it into the pot. With as much as I love soup, I can hardly wait.
One by one random pilgrims have arrived and decided to stay and it looks like we are going to have a full house tonight – maybe 10 pilgrims in total. I’m looking forward to our communal meal and the opportunity to meet and learn about everyone who has decided to stay at this little place. As we say at San Anton, it is a special pilgrim who decides to stay at such a place. It looks like we have two Irish men, two Australians, two Spanish, two Americans, one German and one British. A lively group indeed!