June 21, 2014 - Distance Traveled: 30.9 km
Once again we started out earlier, because it was going to be a long day (30 km). Emilie, Allison and I stuck together for the first 3 or 4 kilometers of the day and began to separate the closer we got to Ponferradda, where we had decided to stop for our first rest break of the day. Along the way, I chatted with Father Stephen. He walked the camino Camino last fall. He returned this summer, bringing with him a bunch of people who wanted to share in the journey. They have actually been walking in step with our group for most of the the journey. I guess you would say they are our Camino cousins.
We stopped at a cafe which was across the street from the Templar castle, Castillo de los Templarios. It provided a great view as we sipped our cafe con leche and indulged in some very tasty danishes. These days, instead of being used to protect pilgrims, the castle now offers tours. We were in town too early to be able to explore its interior, but did think it was pretty impressive from the outside.
After our break, I found myself weaving through the city and into the countryside, simply asking God to open my heart to want he wanted to do today. About that time, I went to pass a young girl from Ireland, she was sixteen. She was on of the people who had been walking with Father Stephen's group. I had seen her many times, and most days would pass her at some point and we would simply greet one another with Buen Camino! This time, when I reached her, she began to match my steps. I asked her how her Camino was going and for the next hour and a half she told me. Without repeating the whole conversation she basically shared she has not struggle physically on the Camino, but it has been emotionally hard. She expressed how good it is to walk each day and have time to think and pray. I could not agree more. She went on to share how she was changing because of the Camino. The experience is strengthening her faith. It is amazing how quickly a conversation can go deep out here. I affirmed what it seems God is doing in her journey and reflected the insights I had heard in what she had shared. Then, as quickly as the conversations started, it ended, when we reached the place where her cohort agreed to meet one another. She stopped, thanked me for walking and listening and I walked on.
The walk remainder of the walk to Vaillafranca del Bierzo was relatively flat, taking us through rolling hills covered with vineyards, hay fields, and several small villages.
I walked the rest of the way non-stop (about 15 km) which put me about and hour and a half ahead of Emilie and Allison. In fact, as I sat on the edge of town waiting for them to arrive, I began to think they had decided to stop for the day somewhere along the way. I decided to leave a note on a post along the road, letting them know where I would be and headed to the Albergue. It was not much longer before they all arrived and were busy doing their afternoon chores in Vaillafranca Del Bierzo.
It wasn't long before they all arrived and we settled into our afternoon chores.
Here is Emilie and Allison peaking down from the Convento de los Padres Paúles in Vaillafranca. We spent the afternoon exploring this small village and eating lunch in the main square. For the first time on the trip, I ordered a hamburger. They only had one on the menu and I did not pay attention to the description. When it arrived, I was surprised to see it had a fried egg on top of it. Well, when is Spain. It was actually, delicious.