Ah, the joys of the albergue. I had quite forgotten about the squeaky toilet door in the Mesón, which is still squeaking as loudly as ever. Coupled with the automatic light, it is bound to wake even dog tired pilgrims up. So when someone went to the toilet in the night, he or she woke up half the others, who then thought they might as well go to the loo while they were awake, and so started a veritable concerto of slippered steps, squeaks, toilet door closings and lockings, flushes and taps running, with the lights flashing on and off, until I am pretty sure we had all been. And then it went quiet again.
I do not walk in the dark, so by the time I got out of my lovely, pricey-but-so-worth-it sleeping bag, most of my fellow pilgrims had left the building. I headed out in search of coffee and found it in the new, big albergue at the end of town. I also found Piia, who I had met in Rabanal and Foncebadón. Then I promptly lost her again – this would also become a recurring theme – and started on the trail down to Molinaseca in the morning light.
By some form of wonderful camino magic I had the trail virtually all to myself all the way down, apart from one wild-bearded pilgrim walking back home again and a small band of Italian men who were picking their way down very slowly and seemed to be more interested in taking pictures. I can’t say I blame them – the views and landscape on this hill are just fantastic and yes, it is still my favourite downhill ever.
When I got to Molinaseca, it was time for a light lunch. Normally pilgrims congregate in the two main bars/restaurants by the river and sit there and enjoy the sun and a well deserved refreshment while they watch out for friends coming down from the steep trail. I didn’t really know anyone, but the place was full so I asked if I could sit with two ladies my age-ish. They were Irish and Australian, arrived separately and now walking together, which so often happens. I could easily have stayed there a good long while rather than start on the boring concrete slog into Ponferrada, but luckily (?) a large group of Spanish cyclists, older than me – old enough to know better – descended on the outside seats with their music blasting out. Time to go.
I had decided to walk the Campo route again, since I have followed the road the last couple of times. I was glad I did – the flowers were amazing at the bottom of the valley and the walk was nicer than I remembered.
The albergue Guyana in Ponferrada was very new and clean and spacious, though the first half hour was a bit … interesting: a small bird had ended up in the vent in the toilet ceiling, so someone had to come and get it out. When one of the cleaners did, it turned out the bird was alive, so she had to run through the room with it in a towel and throw it out of the window, and as she did, all of us thought the same thing at the same time – what if it can’t fly? But it did, and when it took to the sky, we all cheered. Ice thoroughly broken, we had a chat and a lovely Canadian lady came along to the town square for some Italian food.
On the square we met Piia, who had booked a private room and was having a drink in the sun, and after joining her, she joined us for dinner. Albariño was had, and a very fun evening – I had missed the easy camaraderie and instant friendships of the camino, but now it was as if I’d never been away. After dinner we met Yogi, another of the three I met on the first night, and joined him and his table for a nightcap before CC and I had to go back to the albergue. The room was dark when we came in, and we had to tiptoe around so we wouldn’t wake the others.
I really need to learn to pack before I go out! I have gotten used to having a private room, leaving stuff in the bathroom and packing up at my own pace with the lights on, but that night I realised I needed a more efficient approach to bedtime routines, packing and albergue living. Must do better!