Camino update 4: Leon to Ponferrada

This was posted on this day last year on travelalphabetabc.wordpress.com as part of my Camino journey.

Today is my last rest day before I arrive in Santiago on the 18th May so I hope to post before Santiago. Over the past few days I have wanted to post especially when the walk or the place was particularly worth mentioning however no doubt sleep won in the end.

If you’re looking for posts more about what the Camino can offer you personally rather than travel updates then please check out beingthebestyoucanbeblog.wordpress.com as I have just posted the latest update there.

As I always say when I write, these are my thoughts along the journey of what I have seen and what stood out to me. Other pilgrims may see different things and that’s ok as we all walk our own Camino and therefore notice different things.

Leon to Villar de Mazarife started with a bus ride to Virgen del Camino. I took the A1 bus from Santo Domingo Plaza which cut out all of the industrialized parts of the walk. It was advised in my guidebook and after the long and difficult walk into Burgos, I have learnt to follow the advice. The walk through to Villar de Mazarife was mostly flat with just a couple of slight inclines but not too difficult. The routes split after Virgen del Camino and if you’re going to Villar de Mazarife then you’ll be on the more scenic route as opposed to following the highway. There are a couple of stretches of 5km without any services but you can distract yourself with the scenery or by chatting to fellow pilgrims. The mountains followed us so that was enough for me.

From Villar de Mazarife I walked to Hospital de Orbigo which was not the most interesting of walks and I can understand why people either skipped ahead by bus or did the whole walk from Leon to Hospital de Orbigo to get it out of the way. There were no services for the first 9km through fields and road. Arriving at Hospital de Orbigo is more stunning though as you come to the Gothic bridge over Rio Orbigo and see where they used to joust.

Pilgrims are rewarded from Hospital de Orbigo to Astorga with a beautiful walk full of delightful scenery and farm life. The mountains still follow but you have many choices of what to look at along the way. On the last stretch you come to Crucero de Santo Toribio which stands above Astorga and from there you start to see the city and also the mountains you will enter over the next few days of the Camino. On the final stage into Astorga there is a green ramped bridge to cross over the railtracks however there is a shortcut across tbe tracks which a Spanish lady advised us to take rather than going up and down the ramps.

Astorga is a lovely city to stay in and offers the chance for a rest day if one wasn’t taken in Leon as there is certainly enough to see. The cathedral and museum cost €3.50 with your credencial and is well worth it especially as the cathedral is just as beautiful as those in Burgos and Leon but not so busy with pilgrims. You can also visit Palacio de Gaudi, Museo Romano and Museo del Chocolate. Be aware of closing times if just passing through as you may wish to arrive earlier or later to avoid the 2pm to 4pm siesta times.

The walk to Rabanal del Camino offers the chance to test your legs again on inclines ahead of the next day in the mountains. The walk out of Astorga is pleasant enough and the mountains ahead pull you towards them. As you pass through villages on the way to Rabanal you notice the difference in buildings and it is clear you have entered mountain villages. Rabanal is well worth a stopover even if it is just to hear the Gregorian chanting at the vespers prayers at 7pm in the church.

From there I walked through to Molinaseca however some pilgrims chose to stay in El Acebo. Wherever you stop this day’s walk can be difficult as you start by going up all the way to Cruz Ferro and then the descents are very steep and the terrains are not easy to walk on. You may wish to choose the longer route of walking on the highway. You will leave your stone and burden at Cruz Ferro which is an interesting stop however as it gets busy with pilgrims wanting photos, you may wish to consider staying the previous night at Foncebadon and arrive at the Cruz for sunrise to have some quiet reflective time to yourself.

As I stayed in Molinaseca, I only had a short walk to Ponferrada the next day which I thoroughly enjoyed taking my time on especially after the difficult descents the previous day. Ponferrada is a beautiful town with a Templar castle and a couple of museums and worth the rest day I spent here however some pilgrims decided to walk straight through to make the next part of their walk easier. I was able to arrive in time for a mass at 11am at the basilica and receive a pilgrims blessing along with 2 Polish pilgrims.

So onwards and upwards now to Santiago as from here I head towards the mountains of the Galicia region. I will try to update before Santiago if possible. Until then buen Camino!

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