Tuesday 12 September 2023 – The prospect of a shortish walk, just 13km or so to Hospital de Orbigo, and the desire not to arrive before check-in was likely to open at our destination, led us to have a relaxed start to the day. Iñigo cooked us some eggs to go with toast and endeared himself to us even more, should that be possible, by producing some tea for our breakfast that he called “Twings”, but which proved to be Twining’s finest Earl Grey. We even imposed upon his hospitality by having two mugs apiece. We have no shame.
Once his other guests had buggered off, we had a chance to chat to Iñigo about his background and that of the extremely charming guest house that he runs. He’s Spanish, but his wife is half-Swedish; he loves Sweden and I think has taken some of the décor elements from Scandinavia. They live in Mallorca (with him presumably spending the season in Villar de Mazarife) and run an interior design business, hence the assured expertise behind the beautifully-judged shabby chic nature of La Santa’s décor. The place had fallen into ruin through 40 years of neglect and had largely to be rebuilt – a project that took four years – but they kept to the original floor plan and have created a place that we found it a pleasure to stay in.
We started out at about 0930 on a journey that was about half-and-half paved roads
and farm track.
The tracks on both surfaces were somewhat straight
and reminded us that we were headed towards a reasonably substantial range of mountains which we will have to cross in order to reach Santiago de Compostela. They also ran through a very wide-ranging system of irrigation channels, substantial enough that they register on Google maps.
So we passed quite a variety of irrigation tactics.
All this to water largely a single crop. It’s amaizing.
The route, frankly, was not all that varied. Worse still, it didn’t lead past any refreshment stops for the first two-thirds. So even a resting place
and a (very fine) weeping willow
offered any kind of photographic interest. Indeed, there was a little frustrointment* when we came across this:
which was a clear 10km on from the one we saw which said 301km. Perhaps the designers suffered from discalculia? **.
The tedium was relieved when we reached Villavante,
which was more interesting and also enabled us to get a coffee. The albergue we stopped at had a very charming pair of flower vases by the door,
and the village generally had some noteworthy features.
The Martini glass water tower
had swallows’ (or possibly martins’) nests all around its stalk
and there was a garden which provided its own booty pic.
As I was taking the shot of the water tower, a tractor drove past demonstrating just how much attention has to be paid to watering the crops hereabouts.
We passed a water mill, the Molino Golachas
which is now a decent-looking b&b, if the internet is to be believed; and eventually reached Hospital de Orbigo, via a bridge.
Not just any old bridge, either – a medieval one, and very extensive, too.
The surface charm it exuded was swiftly dispelled by the fancy footwork needed, in crossing it, to avoid the very significant amount of dogshit lying around; there was so much it almost looked as if there was a competition between the town’s dog-owners as to who could find and remedy a few square inches unfouled.
When we arrived at the hotel, we discovered that we had, after all, left Villar too early, for there was half an hour before we could check in, which was a bit of a nuisance; but check in we eventually did, into the Don Suero Quiñones, named for, yes, that’s right, one Suero de Quiñones, also called Él del Passo (“he of the pass”), who was a Leonese knight, nobleman, and author in the Kingdom of León. He gained fame for his Passo Honroso, a pas d’armes (passage of arms), at the Órbigo River in 1434. This was basically (I summarise, here) a jousting contest and he beat everyone. Amazingly, the town celebrates his feat of arms to this very day
with an event lasting two days. For this, there is a vast space reserved alongside the vast bridge
and indeed the whole town is given over to it with special parking, camping, VIP areas for people in 15th-century dress and so forth. It must be a huge amount of fun, but it leaves enormous areas of open space unused for the other 363 days.
You can find some photos of the event on this page, and there’s a longish YouTube video featuring some actual jousting if you’d like to watch it.
I was particularly amused by a piece of fencing alongside the bridge.
Someone, somewhere, cocked up. (“You had one job…”)
The town itself is quite handsome
and there are a couple of buildings in it which feature courageous design decisions,
as I discovered on a post-prandial walkabout.
Despite having to wait to check in, the hotel seems a decent one. We had a good lunch there and the room is a model of efficient modern design; and we have extra pillows! So we can reasonably hope for a comfortable night before we depart tomorrow.
The target, when we leave, is Astorga, which will mark the start of our crossing the aforementioned hills. We have two climbs, actually, both to about 1500m, but the second one will be the harder, and is not for a week or so.
The blue dot is us, and the green markers are the course which we will be taking between here and Santiago.
Stats, then: Relive reckons we did 14.8km today, which takes us to 513.3, or 319 miles. There is a considerable disconnect between this figure and what the official mileposts (kilometreposts?) are telling us. If the length of the Camino is 780km, then we have 267 to go, not just a few shy of 300. Only time will tell.
In the short term, though, we have just 17km to deal with tomorrow which is another relatively short walk. The weather forecast is for cool but dry conditions; let’s hope Accuweather is right. I’ll update you when I can, so please stay in contact with these pages to see how we get on.
* A combination of frustration and disappointment and (c) swpics.co.uk
** Look it up. Do I have to explain everything?