Day 18, Oct 16: Cacabelos to La Faba, 19mi

Today I started slowly due to a sore right foot where my arch tightened up yesterday evening.  I wasnt too concerned, but needed to warm it up this morning so I didn’t do my usual “morning pace” which is pretty quick.

 

It was a gorgeous, peaceful vineyard walk with hilly views.  It was quite chilly this morning, my hands were freezing even in my thicker gloves – but the warming sun was coming up over vineyards.
This morning scene gave my heart an extra dose of peace this morning.

This morning scene gave my heart an extra dose of peace this morning.

In about 5 miles, I stopped in Villafranca de Bierza, a lovely 3,500-pop town with nice range of restaurants and shops.  Two days ago, my watch quit working (not the the battery), and this morning I happened upon a Tienda de Relojes (Watch Shop) – lucky me!  The lady working there was out front sweeping the stoop.  In Spanish, I told her my watch had stopped and I needed a new one but didn’t want to spend a lot of money.  She was so kind, and seeing that I was a Pilgrim on the Camino, seemed to be even more helpful to me.  She showed me some that she said cost 20 euros, which I said was great.  She didn’t take credit cards, so I doled out my dwindling cash supply (I need to get more cash at an ATM soon; I have done it twice so far.  Most places, even the in the bigger towns, only take cash or only take a card if it is over a minimum amount).  She returned with my change, and then with a kind smile, handed me an extra 2-euro coin and said “this is for you to get yourself a coffee”.   I was so touched!  I thanked her very much and then asked if she had a favorite coffee shop she would recommend.  That really warmed my heart.
I then rested in a cafe for at least half hour, had my cafe con leche and pan tostadp (just toast, made out of the amazing, thickly-cut Spanish bread), checked my guidebook and re-grouped.  My foot was feeling a lot better, thankfully!
I wandered around town a bit looking at a few historic sites listed in my guidebook:  Castillo Palacio de los Marqueses (which sustained some damage in the Peninsular WAr of 1808), and the Jardin Muncipal – a lovely garden in the middle of town.  I meandered down a couple streets just because I liked the feel and seeing peple out – mostly older, retired folks at this hour on a Friday!
Me in front of the Castillo Palacio.

Me in front of the Castillo Palacio.

 

Jardin (garden) Municipal in the middle of VillFranca del Bierzo.

Jardin (garden) Municipal in the middle of VillFranca del Bierzo.

It was a lovely walk out of town, though along highway was not that busy.  There was a river to my left, foliage and a partly-sunny sky made for a beautiful walk.
I came upon a man about my age who I had seen a couple hours ago, before Villafranca, walking  very slowly with a limp.  I paused to greet him and ask if he was ok.  He introduced himself as Ollig; he was from Russia.  He said he had a lot of muscle soreness (his English was decent but a little hard to follow), but he said “I am ok.  It’s life.”  We chatted for about 10 minutes about our Caminos, albergue commentaries, and he asked me how to find church services.  I really admired the attitude I saw in him, just within 10 minutes.  He was walking so slowly, and I, even with my sore right foot-arch, was practically running compared to him.  I took a minute to internally process this:  his outlook, my luck and gratitude for health – to not take it for granted and to not always expect it.
Next I came upon Dean, who is orginally from Detroit but has been living in South Africa for close to 30 years.  He is affected with Dwarfism,  I believe the politically-correct term  is Little Person, though I did not ask him directly.   I saw him yesterday late afternoon, on my way in to Cacabelos, but did not stop and greet him then.  I did observe his very short stride and unique gait, and wondered about him.  So today, I slowed and walked with him for a while.  He was delightful; very friendly and willing to chat.  We shared some basic info, and some of our Camino stories.
Because of his slow gait, he sometimes would walk late into the evening; didn’t like to do it regularly but told me to two instances where the albergue he planned on wasn’t open, or some other circumstance.  Once he got a ride, and another time he camped in a shelter on a wooden bench. He was SO positive, matter-of-fact, and easy to talk to.  He stooped to pick up a nut that I had been seeing many of today – chestnuts, we call them; Catanas (tilde on the n:  ”roll” the “n’ when you say it in Spanish) they are here.  I would see hundreds of trees for the remaider of my walk today and tomorrow.  Dean showed me how easily they come out of their fuzzy covering, crack the shell between your teeth, and eat the meat.  Usually we have them roasted, and raw can be bitter, but the one I tried was buttery and pleasant.  Then I started picking them up – they were abundant and it was kind of fun.  I realized I didnt want to eat the 12-15 I gathered, and didn’t really want to carry them either, oops!  Some people were on the side of the road gathering them, so I donated my handful.
Dean holding a Castana (chestnut) to show the nut (still in shell) inside the funny hairy covering.  They must be in season right now, because you can hear and see them literally falling out of the trees along the road.  I duck in case one bonks me on the head!  I have seen many people along the road gathering them in bags and buckets.

Dean holding a Castana (chestnut) to show the nut (still in shell) inside the funny hairy covering. They must be in season right now, because you can hear and see them literally falling out of the trees along the road. I duck in case one bonks me on the head! I have seen many people along the road gathering them in bags and buckets.

A group of chestnut coverings and nuts on the ground - it was unique to me to see today, in the days following I would see thousands of these covering the ground.

A group of chestnut coverings and nuts on the ground – it was unique to me to see today, in the days following I would see thousands of these covering the ground.

 

 

I said goodbye to Dean and picked up my pace.  Soon I saw another couple with their 22-month year old adorable son; they were from Russia (didn’t speak much English).  They are the second little family I’ve seen walking Camino!  They said they do walk every day, but do not stay in albergues.
My next stop was a small, delightful town called Vega de Valcarce which is within a beautiful valley leading up to the hills/mountains that I will be in within the province of Galacia (will arrive there tomorrow).  The story here is that I have a lovely client at Frasier Meadows, Charlotte, who told me she has a friend whose son owns/works at an albergue along the Camino.  I had gotten the info and wanted to stay there or at least visit it when I passed through.  Today was the day.
It was earlier than I wanted to stop and stay for the night, but I entered to see if I could meet the owner, Matthew Sanchez, and look around.  He was there, available, and we had such a nice visit for over an hour!  I  had bought a piece of cake at the cute bakery at the entrance to town, so we split that he he made tea.  Matthew is from Great Britain (his mother is English and father is Spanish), and he has done the Camino twice.  After the first time he said he had to find a way to make the Camino part of his life “forever”.  One thing and pursuit and luck led to another, and he ended up with this cute albergue.  I asked him tons of questions about the Camino, about Spain and its people and culture and language, about owning an albergue, about the weather, seasons, and pilgrims.  It was so educational and interesting, and I was very appreciative of his time and willingness to chat.  I took some photos and we said goodbye.
Matthew Sanchez, son of friend of my client Charlotte's,  at the entrance of his Albergue Magdalena in Vega de Valcarce.

Matthew Sanchez, son of friend of my client Charlotte’s, at the entrance of his Albergue La Magdalena in beautiful Vega de Valcarce.

 

I walked on about 8k more, stopping in La Faba which is a little mountain-town albergue run by Germans.  It was really well-done and organized.  I ate dinner at the only restaurant in town, but quite good and nice service.
GREAT day; loved the scenery and all the various people interactions I had today!

 

The scenery was beautiful, lush and peaceful for the remained of my walk up (and it really climbed UP) to La Faba this evening.

The scenery was beautiful, lush and peaceful for the remained of my walk up (and it really climbed UP) to La Faba this evening.

 

 

Very common to see animals, chickens, roosters out and about in this beautiful and natural landscape through small towns.

Very common to see animals, chickens, roosters out and about in this beautiful and natural landscape through small towns.

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