We left Hospital de Orbigo at 8:00 am, just ahead of the Alburgue Parrochial kicking us out. As always, we were the last two out of our room. I think the German cyclist was the only other perigrino in the entire alburgue. From the weather forecasts we expected rain at 10:00 am and 3:00 pm (as much as we can ever anticipate rain from the forecasts).
Astorga lay only 20 km to the west, so we hoped to arrive before 10:00 am and explore the city while inclement weather passed. Arriving in Astorga, we met two other cyclists who were combining walking with bike rental, rented from the same company as Wayne as Charlotte. We found a small square to leave our bicycles and eat lunch. We visited the cathedral, and I followed up with a couple of churches while Sam searched for jacket in nearby stores.
Leaving Astorga, challenges lay ahead with our next destination of Ponteferra. Now at an elevation of 800 m, we would climb to 1500 m before descending to Ponteferra at only 500 m.
Struggling our way finally to the peak, Sam and I stopped for a while to admire a perigrino monument. I headed off to enjoy the descent, with (I thought) Sam right behind me. Grey skies and clouds closed in; I’d lost track of the fact that we expected rain at 3:00 pm. The temperature dropped into the low 40s and as the rain began I realized I could get myself in real trouble. Looking back I didn’t see Sam – unusual because even if I start a bit before him he catches back up. I stopped to wait, taking shelter behind some trees.
The rain continued to fall and I started to get cold. After 20 minutes, still no Sam. Worried about what equipment failure might have befallen him, I turned back, climbing back up to the summit. On the way I passed a turn off to the Camino trail that I hadn’t seen on the way down. Sam and I have mostly followed the Camino trail, but for the steep climb we’d been following the road, and I wondered if Sam had returned to the trail and passed me. Arriving back at the monument, no Sam.
So back I went. Just as I returned to where I had turned around, a small white car appeared with Sam inside. Sam had indeed taken the trail, passed me, and realized he’d lost me. Asking others going by, he had eventually caught a car to go back and search for me. The American tourists drove him back to his bicycle, where I found him shortly thereafter, wrapped in his bicycle bag for warmth. Reunited, we continued onwards.
At 1500 meters we were enshrouded in clouds, reducing visibility on this narrow mountain roadto less than 20 meters. With rain continuing to pelt us, and Sam without a jacket, we began our steep descent. The next 14 km dropped us 1000 meters, with the road twisting back and forth. Visibility finally improved when we dropped below the clouds.
Except for when enshrouded by clouds, we found spectacular views, which photos can’t do justice.
Arriving in Ponteferra, we left our gear at the Albergue de Peregrinos san Nicholas de Flue, a chaotic frenzy of activity, before heading over to the nearby Castillo de los Templanos. We learned the castillo didn’t close until 8:30 pm, so we took our time exploring it. Most of the castle has been restored, with information scattered about. While I can mostly translate Spanish, most displays included English and Spanish, making both of our lives easier.
Afterwards I cycled around the castle to take pictures, and Sam returned to the albergue. Returning to the albergue I found a supermarket and loaded up for dinner and tomorrow. Making dinner in the albergue kitchen proved a challenge, with dozens of people all preparing dinner on top of each other, me with my meager pot of pasta, and another pot where I boiled eggs, with creative cooking occurring all around me.
Looking at altitude charts for tomorrow, we only have to climb back up to 1200 meters, but we start at only 500 m.