24th Day: Molinaseca to Villafranca del Bierzo

I decided that the communal life isn’t for me (see Day 23). I started walking without breakfast and quickly left the busy and cheerful little town of Molinaseca behind me. When I arrived in Monlinaseca yesterday at 6:30 pm, there were a group of teenagers sunbathing on the banks of Rio Maruelo. Behind them, a restaurant along the river was brimming with patrons, both Peregrinos and locals. Some towns, especially in the meseta, were eerily silent when I arrived. Sometimes I felt like the towns were there just to house Pilgrims along the way. Perhaps those sleepy towns were hit more by the crisis; prices have seemed to increase the more west I go.

I arrived 6k later in Ponferrada, the capital of the province of Leon and home to 63,000 people, where I had the first bit of bad luck since losing my SD card adapter 10 days ago. After having to trek an unplanned 2k that didn’t get me any closer to Santiago to find an ATM (there was a miscommunication with the restaurant owner on whether they take credit cards – miscommunications happen often when you don’t speak the language), I stripped off my jacket in the plaza of Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Encina and inadvertently flung my phone five feet high. I could see it swirling in the air. Instinctually my right foot extended to try to cushion the blow. Unfortunately, I was too slow. After getting over a case of rain herpes last week, my phone is now in need of major facial reconstructive surgery. The front glass is shattered.

I headed into the Basilica to calm my nerves – Churches are great for that. The rest of the day went without incident
and I crossed quickly through the towns of Fuentes Nuevas, Componaraya and then Cacabelos, where I met Ivo, from Latvia. He is in the lucky situation off being between two jobs (his new job starts in May). At 36 he has had his share of hard work. He decided to walk the Camino to do something for himself. With his family’s blessing, he took off four days ago from Leon to make his way 325 kilometers to Santiago. We chatted only briefly and Ivo was off ahead of me. It took another one and a half hours before I arrived in the equally busy town of Villafranca. Tomorrow I am off to O’Cibreiro, which houses the oldest church on the Camino, Iglesia de Santa Maria Real (So many churches named Maria!), dating from the 9th century.

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