Now that my Zen was restored, I decided not to rock the boat and start the day walking on tarmac. I have problems with Plantar Fasciitis (PF) and it tends to flare up when walking on hard surfaces like tarmac/asphalt. So – since this first part of the walk was all about the Zen and the next all about the Vicarie Pro, I decided to spare my feet and skip all the tarmac that would make up a whole walking day. I got a taxi past Ponferrada and along the looong straight tarmac road out of town, all the way to the bodegas after Camponaraya. There is a leisure area there and then the Camino goes over the motorway and winds through vineyards on the way to Cacabelos.
I got a few looks from other pilgrims when I got out but I hung on to my Zen and didn’t let them get to me. We each do what we can and we have to listen to our bodies, right? If I aggravated my PF this early on I might not be able to carry on from Sarria to Santiago, which was my main priority.
In Cacabelos I stopped at my favourite café, the Siglo XIX, where I met M, a Swedish woman also walking on her own. We didn’t walk together from there but we kept meeting up and walking some stretches together for the rest of the Camino.
From Cacabelos I walked on to Villafanca del Bierzo, and again the weather was on my side. It was perfect for walking – not too hot, not too windy, not too dull – and when I arrived in Villafranca I had the same feeling as the day before: I didn’t want to move on. So when I saw the albergue and hotel San Nicolas el Real there was no doubt – I had to go and check it out.
The place is huge! The hospitalera took me up and up and into a room with three beds and a bathroom, and asked me to leave my shoes outside. I noticed that there were shoes outside two other doors too, but only one pair outside each. It seems she was putting us all in our own rooms until there were more pilgrims than rooms and I was very happy with this. Yet again I had avoided the climb into a top bunk!
I then took myself back into the sunny main square, where I met other pilgrims and had a meal. Then I went sightseeing a bit before I ended the evening sitting at a quiet place and had some wine and tapas until the sun went down and it went chilly. It turned out only one other pilgrim was sharing my room, so yet again I was in for a good night’s sleep. I could get used to this.