Tag Archives: Molinaseca

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.




Camino Day 28 – Rabanal to Molinaseca: Lows and Highs. And Lows.

Friday 15 September 2023 – The day’s weather forecast worsened somewhat overnight and we woke to find that (a) the prospect of rain in the morning had increased and (b) the likely timing of thunderstorms in the afternoon had shifted earlier. With just a 20% chance of rain for the morning, we thought we might escape getting wet.

We were wrong.

You can see the usual Relive summary of the route and pictures here, if you want to avoid my moaning about the day as laid out below.

As we stepped out of the hotel and prepared to start off

it started to rain. And

continued to rain for quite some time, with very occasional breaks from heavyish rain to lightish rain

before closing in again.

The path

was stony and really not all that rewarding to walk on, particularly not in the wet. We passed a sobering memorial.

Memo to self: perhaps best to walk the Camino just once?

Thankfully the rain stopped after only an hour or so

as we approached a village, Foncebadón,

which actually had some places open and serving coffee, so we stopped to refresh ourselves. The weather improved as we carried on

and the sun actually came out as we approached what, for some people, is the crux of the Camino – the Iron Cross.

This is an iconic point on the Camino Francés, with all kinds of meanings depending upon what you read; but people regard it as an important landmark on the way and often (as we did) leave a stone around the base as a mark of some kind of reflection.

Every website I browsed asserted that, at 1504m above sea level, it’s the high point of the Camino.

They’re wrong. Read on to find out more.

The cross is admittedly at a good height, and the reasonable weather provided the possibility of reasonable views as we carried on.

The path drops down a little, past a couple of notable items: a coffee stop;

and the village of Manjarin. Manjarin is notable because it’s very small, So small, in fact, that its official population is 1.

His name is Tomás and he has a small and ramshackle property

which he shares with a couple of dogs and a couple of kittens.

He’s eccentric, but not, it seems, quite as much as Marcelino the eccentric “pilgrim in training” we met on the way out of Logroño. Jane secured us a stamp on our Credenciales and we went on our way, ascending as the path went uphill…

…to the real high point of the Camino – 1563m above sea level, according to Relive, or 1500 according to Garmin. (They’re both using my phone’s GPS to measure things, so I’m buggered if I can understand the discrepancy.)

The views were, quite simply, wonderful.

It was just as well that the views were great, because this is the point at which the day’s suffering really started, because we had to drop 1km in altitude in about 11km.  We started on the official Camino path, but it was somewhat stony and very unrewarding to walk on, so we copped out for a bit and walked down the road, which was more comfortable, albeit slightly more circuitous than the path.  It led to El Aceibo de San Miguel,

where we stopped for coffee. It’s an attractive village, with dwellings clearly built from, and roofed with, the local stone which, we were to discover, littered the onward path.

The onward path was stony and really quite uncomfortable to walk on, but we soldiered on, in the hope that we might get some relief in the form of another coffee break in the next village. We encountered a dog which appeared to be out on its own and seemed to want to lead us into the village.

Riego de Ambrós, even more than El Aceibo, seemed to be made entirely of stone dwellings with slate roofs.

It reminded us strongly of some of the villages you find in North Wales.  The fact that it started to rain at this point merely reinforced the impression.

The path from then on was an utter bastard.  It was raining, so the path was at best steep, downhill and wet,

and at worst

steep, downhill, wet, rocky and treacherous. And the thunderstorms originally forecast for later in the day got under way, too.  It really was most unpleasant. We had the company of Lara, who we’d bumped into periodically during the day, as a bit of a pleasant distraction, but it didn’t detract from the brute hard work of getting down the path without damaging ourselves.

It was slow going, and meant that our eventual arrival into Molinaseca

was around an hour later than we’d originally thought it would be. We passed allotments

whose owners were probably delighted to see the rain, and eventually came to the town bridge

just across which was our hotel – El Palacio. Its palatiality didn’t extend to a lift so we had to lug our bags up the stairs to our room, but the room itself is decent and the hotel restaurant was still open so we grabbed a quick lunch. After a meal, we normally go for a walk. Obviously. But the prospect was not an enticing one

so we spent the rest of the day relaxing and preparing for the morrow.

Our next destination, Cacabelos is, overall, a descent from Molinaseca, but not overall a steep one, although there may be one or two sharpish sections. Hopefully the 22km to get there will not be such a test for the knees and quads as today, and with luck not conducted in the pissing rain.

I’d describe today as being one of the toughest, perhaps even the toughest yet, of our Camino. As far as stats are concerned, Relive reckons we covered 25.5km, taking our total to 576.3km; just over 358 miles. We ascended 451m and descended 1,027 – the largest descent, I think, that we have ever achieved. That’s what my knees are telling me, anyway.

It says here that tomorrow will be an easier day, and that’s certainly to be hoped for. Come back soon and find out, eh?