The Route Less Traveled

October 19, 2019

Today we took an alternate route on the Camino, leaving the busy highway and most of the pilgrims far below as we climbed high into the hills.

Leaving the town of Villafranca del Bierzo, dimly seen below.

Rain was our constant companion. Not the soft, misty, soaking rain that makes plants glad to be alive. Nor was it the hard pelting arrows of rain, drumming through our skulls. Rather, this was a slow, methodical soaking rain with big, steady drops of water filling the air, turning the ground into a sponge, and determinedly working its way through my rain gear, dripping off my nose, down my neck, running in rivulets through my shirt and down my legs.

Zero wind meant the rain fell vertically, far nicer than horizontal or diagonal streams of water. With temperatures in the high 40s, we could stay warm even in dripping wet clothes as long as we stayed moving.

This high route promised a walk through oaks and pines and chestnuts with gorgeous long views from ridge top to ridge top.

Trees, yes. View? Umm, well … no!

Later in the afternoon, a slight lessening of the downpour did give us a glimpse of our neighbor ridge framed in ragged white clouds.

As we came off the ridge, nearing the town of La Portela de Valcarce, we passed between hundreds of chestnut trees. We saw an older woman, carrying an umbrella and wearing a rain cape over her skirt, putting chestnuts into a split wood hand woven basket. I felt as if we’d stepped back in time, seeing this woman working alone under the trees in the rain.

Even closer to the town, we ducked under the clouds and were able to see a bit of the countryside around us.

The cows didn’t seem too affected by our water-filled day.

Water dripped busily off our clothes and gear as we entered the hostel. The woman at the counter took one look at us, grabbed a room key, and led us straight to our room, joking, “Hoy es todo agua, por dentro y por fuera.” (Today is all water, inside and outside.)

It was such a relief to peel off wet clothes, wring them out over the sink, and hang them up, then relax in a hot shower! I close this post with a picture of our gear, strung over one end of our room. As we snuggled into warm beds amid drying clothes, misty memories of peaceful beauty replayed in our heads.