Just call me Rev Tevye. Or not.
I got underway this morning from El Acebo before dawn. In this part of Spain on February 1, that means by around 8:30 in the morning. Once I found my way out of town, I realized what a spectacular view I had and so I just stood and watched (and snapped a few photos) while the rising sun gradually touched the snow-capped peaks around me and 40 kilometers across the valley at the next major ridge of mountains. Wow.
The first 10 kilometers of walking yesterday was glorious -- cold and crisp and snowy. (I've uploaded some of those photos to Flickr already.) The problem was that once we'd hit 1517 m above sea level, there was nowhere left to go but down. And that's when the fun began. I don't know what our altitude was when the snow turned to rain and the head wind picked up, but after 90 minutes of high winds and rain at about the 3 degree mark I had decided to call it a day at the first town after the pass. My friends decided they would push on, however, so we parted after a mid-afternoon meal. It was 3:30 when they left, and I figured they would be walking for at least another four hours. Oh, and sunset in the mountains comes quickly. By 7:00 it is dark.
Since I knew where they were planning to walk to today, I decided that after a short walk and long rest yesterday, I'd catch up with them today. On to Ponferrada, then, where I dawdled a bit. I spent three hours in the city, in fact. Apparently Mondays the museums in this part of the world close, but the 10th century Mozarabic church on the outskirts of town had a sign telling me which of the neighbours had the key to unlock the church. That was well worth seeing.
By the time I was done poking around, it was almost 4:00 pm and I was sorely tempted to take another short day and just stay in the city. I knew there would be a Mass at the cathedral for the celebration of Christ's entry into the temple 40 days after His birth. If there had been a service in the church of Santo Tomás (the 1100 year old church previously mentioned) I probably would have stayed put.
Instead, I decided to head out to Cacabelos. Yesterday when we parted ways in El Acebo, that's where my friends said they hoped to spend tonight. It is a good 18 km from the city centre, and the church of Santo Tomás was on the opposite side of the city. Still, it was a flat route with a nice smooth, even path and I made it in three hours.
Except that the albergue in town is closed until March. Since my friends had arrived in mid-afternoon, they simply kept walking to the next town, but it was 7:30 by the time I realized the place was closed. (Yes, it is located at the far end of town.) I rested for a few minutes and then headed back to where I'd noticed a few hostals. And thank God for friendly helpful strangers, because one guy I asked pointed me towards a place that had rooms for almost a third less than the place I was headed towards. And the clincher was, they have internet access with computers I can plug my USB devices into.
So, today I walked from sunrise to sunset, probably a total of about 40 km. My friends are 8 kilometers further along than I am, but at least tonight the only snoring in the room will be my own.