Today was another relatively easy day, although there were some hills. First thing out of most villages is usually uphill, as the villages tend to be in river valleys. My destination for today was not too far; I was back to carrying my pack and didn’t want things to be too difficult. I was still not over my cold, and given to coughing spells, especially when taxing my lungs with uphill.
The route took me through the town of Hospital de Òrbigo, with its very long bridge. I arrived here around 1:00 in time for lunch. I met a few folks from the night before who stopped here, but I had bigger plans.
I had what was probably a mediocore paella for lunch, but it tasted good to me! I also had a carafe of bartender-made sangria. While I didn’t finish the carafe, I had enough that strapping the pack back on was difficult. But I am so glad I travelled the additional few miles to the extremely small hamlet of Villares de Òrbigo. Kerry and Nancy were also there, in the hacienda syle home of Christine, a German woman who had purchased this albergue a few years prior.
Christine is a model of energy and efficiency who has the vibe of being incredibly relaxed. And boy, is she kind! There weren’t too many of us staying there, and she could have put us all in one room. But she spread us amongst her different rooms so we each had a bottom bunk and a modicum of privacy. That in itself is worth writing home about.
Her additional strength is her passion for cooking. Both dinner and breakfast were donativo, meaning we paid what we chose to. Meals were communal, which helps foster camaraderie even with newly met pilgrims. Dinner was a real treat, as it is difficult to find true home-cooked food on the Way. Pumpkin soup and a fabulous mixed salad with tomatoes from her own garden as starters. For the main course, it was a base of mashed potatoes with spinach topped with two varities of local sausage.
The other thing about this home is that someone told Christine that this home looks very similar to that of Frida Kahlo. There was a courtyard where we ate, lounged, and did laundry. She had purchased a wringer, a machine to spin our hand washing so it would dry more quickly. Between that and the hot sun, it did indeed dry quickly.
It was an interesting crew at her albergue, too. There were two Israeli women, an Italian vegetarian who is cycling, a Dutch man, a British guy who felt “obligated” to finish all the food, Rebecca, a young British woman who was hoping to quit smoking and Erika, a Dutch woman probably in her 50s who had been walking already for 2 months, having left from the border of Holland and France. Like the Belgian chef I’d met earlier, she had carried a tent with her through France, but sent it home when she got to St. Jean. She was beautiful and so down to earth about her walk.
Christine also had two bathrooms upstairs, segregating by gender, which made sharing the rooms much easier.
The village was interesting. At one end, there was an outdoor exercise station, with a large number of different pieces of equipment. When I was there, there was a group of abuelas (grandmothers) who were sitting, talking. I joked with them about coming over and exercising, but they just laughed at me. They probabaly had no idea what the crazy foreigner was saying! Beyond that, there was a pool, clearly no longer used, divided into 3 parts where the local women used to do their laundry. It was filled by diverting some of the water from the canal that ran through town. So the way it worked, when it was kept clean, was that you’d do the washing at the far so the soap would run out without touching the clean clothes. First rinse in the middle, and final rinse closest to the water source. I’ve since seen this in other small towns, too.
Breakfast was lovely, too. Christine had made yogurt, into which I put some of her homemade jam. There were other things, too, but these were memorable.
I was so sorry to leave this place. Kerry and Nancy and I thought we’d see one another in Astorga, but that was not to be, as it turned out. But that is a story for tomorrow.