Today we walked 13.6 miles (22 km) in 7 hours with breaks.
The private room last night was great — we got caught up on sleep and woke up recharged and ready to go. We started at our usual time of 7 a.m., which happened to also be exactly sunrise. It was a brisk 39°F (4°C) so we put all our layers on and quickly warmed up as we started walking. It was a nice long day and good to be back at our normal distance. The picture-perfect weather sure was nice as well.
After a one hour warmup walk, we came to the town of Hospital de Órbigo, with its impressive Gothic bridge that was the site of a legendary medieval jousting competition in 1434. Apparently the knight Don Suero de Quiñones defeated 300 other knights there over the course of a month, and is celebrated as they re-create the scene during festivals. I celebrated it by having a giant plate of fried eggs and paper-thin Serrano ham for breakfast. ;-)
After a couple more miles, Lisa said, “Look! We can’t see the horizon!” and there was much rejoicing. ;-) After all of the never-ending flat stretches we had last year, it was nice to finally see hills and trees again. That excitement may wear off pretty quickly tomorrow as we walk up the first of two mountains we have to get over this year, but it’s a welcome sight for the time being.
We also stopped today at the famous “snack stand” that was mentioned in our guide book. A Spanish guy named David provides all kinds of fruit, juices, and other snacks to the pilgrims walking by, from his stand on the side of a long road between towns. I remember reading about this place actually, when I was following a blog by a woman named Trish, and her two daughters aged 8 and 10, as they did the Camino two years ago (girlsontheway.com). Apparently David had peanut butter for the three of them, which they were very excited to see because they hadn’t had any since leaving the United States. When David asked me where I was from today, and I said the USA, he immediately offered me peanut butter as well. :-) Actually I passed on it though, but took him up on some great fruit that really hit the spot as the temperatures were starting to rise. David has been living at the snack stand and providing snacks for pilgrims for six years now, completely living off of donations. He says he does it for the pleasure of giving things to people without asking for anything in return, and all the pilgrims we saw there really seemed to appreciate the kind gesture and free service he provides.
We ended the day in the pretty town of Astorga, population 12,000 — a rather large sized town Camino-wise. Astorga dates back to Celtic and then Roman times, and both St, James and St. Paul reportedly preached here. Today it’s also famous for its chocolate museum, but we unfortunately missed it because it closes early on Sundays (2 p.m., not 4 p.m. as mentioned in our guide book). We made up for it though, by sampling some of the many kinds found in all the stores.
Like so many other regions along the Camino, this area is also famous for its wine. It wasn’t always though — apparently a German pilgrim in the 1400s once wrote about this area, “When you get there, drink wine sparingly as it burns like a candle and can scorch your very soul.” Fortunately that advice is no longer true today. :-)
Here are the photos for today.