Camino Day 29 – Molinaseca to Cacabelos: we dodged the rain!

Saturday 16 September 2023 – Today, it’s one calendar month since we started out from SJPdP.

If you’d prefer, you can watch the Relive summary of route and photos by clicking here. Otherwise, read on….

When I looked out of the window at 0730, the weather omens were, well, ominous.

We were first in to breakfast at 0800 and were joined over the following minutes by various locals brandishing umbrellas or shaking off rain jackets.  So, having finished a slightly odd but nonetheless functional breakfast, we put our rain covers on our back packs and donned walking boots (instead of the normal sandals) and rain jackets….and walked out into dry conditions.

Walking was, for me at least, a bit of a problem, as yesterday’s torturous descent had taken its toll; my left knee was somewhat painful. At first, I was worried that I would be unable to walk the 22km to Cacabelos, but I actually managed to work out a subtle change to my gait that minimised discomfort; however it meant a more leisurely pace than we’d normally adopt. No matter; it wasn’t raining, and that is a Good Thing.

Because it had been raining the previous day, we hadn’t expored Molinaseca at all, so it was nice to see it as we walked along the Camino trail. It’s-a nice-a place.

As we left the town and got into country, the weather gave us some nice views

and as we approached the next town, Ponferrada, we were, if not bathed in sunshine, then at least under a sprinkling of it.

We passed a mysterious and ruined castle, San Blas,

which we might have got a little closer to had it not involved going down a rather perilous-looking set of steps; my knee problem made this an activity of dubious merit. Instead we cut across to an approach to Ponferrada which was rather delightful, leading us past allotments

along a quiet road until we got to the medieval bridge that brings one of the Camino tracks into the town.

Ponferrada is a handsome town

with an astonishingly Disneyesque castle, which dates from the time of the Knights Templar.

Serendipity allowed us to break our journey for a coffee and croissant with a good friend, Freddie, who is visiting the area with a view to taking the Camino journey from Ponferrada to Santiago – by bicycle. It was a very pleasant break to our walk and a chance to catch up; we hope to see him again before he dwindles into a dot in the distance.

The town has other attractive buildings, such as the church of San Andrés;

the Basilica de la Virgen de la Encina,

in front of which is a statue of the Knight Templar who found, in a niche in a tree being used during construction of the castle, a statue of the virgin Mary and baby Jesus which had, according to legend, been hidden there by a monk a long time before (la encina is the Spanish for the Holm Oak tree);

and a rather handsome clock tower, Torre del Reloj.

On the way out of Ponferrada is the “Factory of Light” – a museum of energy,

and, shortly after, an area surrounding the church of Santa Maria de Compostilla, which is a rather lovely environment, reached via an underpass which, for once, is not daubed in crude graffiti.

The conurbation continues into an area called Fuentes Nuevas,

and the Camino passes another Interesting Church, the Parish Church of San Ildefonso, in an area called Camponayara.

It looked, from the outside, as if the church might have some interesting modern stained glass, and so we took a quick look in.

It was around this time that we decided that the chance of rain was small enough to permit an experiment on my knee. I changed out of my walking shoes (Merrills) and back into the Teva sandals that I had been wearing every day, with only one exception, since Day 2 of our Camino. I was pleased to find that getting back into my unstylish-but-comfortable socks-and-sandals combination actually made my knee a lot more comfortable. It wasn’t that the discomfort vanished; but it lessened considerably, which was, well, a relief.

We passed a place where you can buy ferrets

and the only CBD shop I have noticed so far in Spain.

Not far from there is an interestingly-constructed tribute to Lydia Valentin, a Spanish Olympic and World Champion weightlifter.

Look through the installation at the right angle and it exactly frames the statue behind it – a neat piece of design.

More artwork is on display close by. At first blush, it looks a bit odd

but it soon becomes clear that it’s to do with wine-making, and these statues are outside the Bierzo Wine Co-operative.

It becomes abundantly clear that we have entered wine country again. The Camino trail leaves the roads at this point

to go through a series of vineyards,

some of which feature some very old and gnarly vines.  At one point, the trail leads between two different styles of vine training: the one familiar to the eyes of anyone who’s been to France’s vineyards

and the other seeming to be entirely less disciplined.

We appeared to have reached a part of Castilla y León where the Castillian camp was fighting back in its own small way

and we also passed quite a significant milestone (kilometerstone?).

There was publicity for a hotel that was for old ladies only

and, as we approached Cacabelos, some interesting architecture on view.

Then we reached the outskirts of Cacabelos

and, shortly thereafter, our hotel, the Moncloa de San Lázaro.

It is a traditional Bercian building (i.e. from the Bierzo region) that was an old pilgrim hospital in the 17th century. It’s not clear what a Moncloa is – even ChatGPT is equivocal on the subject – but I think it signifies a building of some pith and moment to the politics of the area. It’s certainly quite large and quite impressive inside.

We had a late lunch there which was a decent meal – apparently the staff were amazed at our capacity for consuming huge quantities of salad – and retired to relax for the rest of the day and to prepare for tomorrow.

Stats. We covered 23.8km today, which brings us to a total of (fanfare, please) 600.1km, or very nearly 373 miles. Tomorrow is a short walk, just 10km to Villafranca del Bierzo.  Given that the forecast is for a dry morning but a wet afternoon, I think I’m glad about that; we should be able to get there and be safely ensconced behind a glass of something nice before the heavens open. That, at least, is the profound hope. Keep in touch with these pages to see if the plan came together OK.




4 thoughts on “Camino Day 29 – Molinaseca to Cacabelos: we dodged the rain!

  1. Karin Wennas

    I’m so sorry to hear about your knee. You can buy knee braces or some kind of stretchy knee support at the farmacies, which might help. I used it on and off. Hope you enjoy your rest day!

  2. Katharine C Burridge

    What a castle! Beautiful walk today – getting closer & closer. It is great that your knee prefers sandals.


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