As Elizabeth and I continued our pilgrimage towards Santiago, we started to feel like real pilgrims. We seemed to recognize the others everywhere we went and felt comfortable eating and socializing with them.
Just like the other pilgrims, we washed our sweat soaked clothes in a sink each day and then immediately tried to air dry them, because we would be wearing them the following morning. We took a glorious siesta every day after our walk by falling into a deep sleep for a couple of hours around 4:00 pm. This allowed us to recharge and recover from the brutal heat and the steep hills, both up and down. The best part of all was all the stress and concerns from our life back home ceased to exist for us. Camino related concerns were the only thing we worried about, and they were minimal at best. Life was definitely good.
After Cruz de Ferro we walked several kilometers through mostly mountain trails. At one point we saw a paved street abutting the Camino. Parked in a small pullout area was a food truck complete with 5 or 6 plastic tables with umbrellas. This truck stop/rest area was clearly popular because it was the first place to buy anything in a long while. We stopped and had some refreshments including my first beer of this trip. I hardly ever drink beer, but this drink was the best cold one I have ever had in my life. I was so depleted from the heat and the Estrella Galicia beer was so cold and delicious, that I did not care that I was drinking a beer at 10:30 in the morning in front of my daughter. After that day I made a rule that I would reward myself with one delicious Estrella every day until we left Spain.
While at the rest stop we were speaking with a Spanish pilgrim and she explained there were 2 Camino routes available to get to the next town of El Acerbo. One was on the paved road we were on and the entry to the more difficult route was across the street back into a mountain trail. Up to this point we had been walking on loose rock-filled dirt trails and you had to be extra cautious of where you were placing your feet because the rocks were so unstable. My feet were killing me, it was hotter than hell out and I had no desire to fight pesky unstable rocks anymore that day, so we decided to walk on the side of the asphalt road to the next town.
When I grew up, many years ago, the kids in my neighborhood use to race barefoot and I was quite good at it. After walking about 20 minutes on the asphalt route, I removed my hiking boots and walked for the next 45 minutes with just my socks on my feet. Having shed the heavy boots for a period proved to be the most comfortable my feet felt the entire time we were in Spain. My daughter removed her hiking boots as well and walked the same distance in her flip-flops. We were happy campers.
After about an hour we re-entered the other route and started hiking in the mountains again. The trail was treacherous and I fell once, but soon enough we were back in our grove. We passed through El Acerbo and the picturesque village of Molinaseca and spent the night in the city of Ponferrada, which has a population of about 65,000.
At this point, Elizabeth complained of a blister on her toe. On the Camino blisters are a big deal and the pain can dash a pilgrim’s hope of finishing the pilgrimage, so off to the pharmacy we went. In Spain, you don’t have to go to the Emergency Room for some basic medical care instead people go to the local pharmacy. The pharmacist listened to our blister problem and then provided expert treatment recommendations. I then purchased every kind of blister remedy she suggested and then some.
We then walked around this fairly large city and visited a few of the cultural and religious sites, including the exquisite Basilica of Our Lady of Encina.
Here is the website if you want to learn more: http://www.basilicadelaencina.es
After strolling through a couple of the pretty plazas within Ponferrada and having a quick supper, we retired to our rooms and collapsed for the evening.