Ponferrada Stories and Tips

On the camino-Molineseca to Cacabelos

I was a little sore after the descent when I got up, but after a bit of walking I started to loosen up again. There was a choice as we were leaving town to walk on a lane or along the road until the top of a rise, I decided that there was little traffic and as the lane looked a little rough just to walk along the road. Then came another decision- most guidebooks suggested a route through Campo to avoid the main road, but I decided to carry on as there was not really much traffic in the early morning. But it was initially through a nice residential area with trees and flowers, then across a river, and then you could follow a lane that took me away from a more industrial area, instead it was beside fields and what looked like allotments. Then into the town, and the main albergue in the town. But as we continued into the town, there was alot of graffiti and it was definitely more of an industrial sort of town. I was actually quite glad that I decided not to go on the day before to Ponferrada, even if it would have been nice to get in and see the castle.
There was a nice looking cafe just opposite the castle, so I decided it was time for some breakfast. But as soon as I went to go in, four young Spanish guys came in who were still drunk from their partying- and decided it would be quite fun to pick up a peregrina, rucksack and all and take some photos of me. So instead of breakfast, it was a quick coffee so I could get out of their and away from them.
On through the city, the exit is through much more what remains of what was once quite an industrial city, there are still old industrial chimneys to be seen, but also lots of grey blocks of flats. The camino is not the best marked coming out of the city and at one stage I nearly turned back as I thought I must had gone the wrong way as I had seen no markers or yellow arrows for a long time. I was glad to have notes about the route. Then out to the village of Compostilla, past the side of the church, there were murals in the porch but as even the porch was railed off and the gate locked you couldn’t really see them well. Further on is a tiny chapel Santa Maria de la Compostilla, which has a mural at its gable end and also a stone cross. I stopped here for a few minutes and took my boots off as the grass was still slightly damp and so was cool on my feet, and there was a smell of freshly mown grass as well. I started moving again, but due to roadworks on a motorway bridge there was a detour from the normal camino route missing a church but still lead to the next village of Columbranos. Here I got a nice surprise- I saw a water fountain and went to fill my bottle up but the tap was broken, but as I glanced over my shoulder there was a little square just off the camino route and I could see another water fountain, so I went to see if it was working, having filled my bottle, I turned around to head back to the camino route and there I saw a pastry shop, and decided it was a special and unexpected treat and went in and bought a delicious bun. But from the camino there was no way you could spot it!
The next part of the walk was on a quiet country road onto the next village of Fuente Nueves. I remember noticing a storks’ nest on top of a telegraph pole, perched precariously as I walked through the village. Then carrying on along the road, much of the land close to the road were small holdings, like market gardens, and there were quite a few people out tending these with lots of small pieces of machinery like hand pushed rotavators, but I fell in love with the rows of apple trees that were blossoming with gentle pink flowers. Reaching the next town of Camponaraya, I have never been so glad to reach the end of a town, it wasn’t because it was unpleasant or scary or weird, but it just seemed that the town was build mainly along the main road and so we walked the whole length of the town, and it was getting really quite hot and all the concrete seemed to be reflecting heat. Now my notes told me there was a pilgrim rest area at the far end of the town just before the bridge over the motorway so I kept going, planning to stop there for a picnic lunch that I was carrying, but when I got there it was all cordoned off as they were remodelling the whole area, but I broke in anyway and sat and ate lunch.
From here the camino moves away from the road and we were walking on a track, up over a bridge over the motorway and then into hills covered with vines. The tracks lead through a small wood, and here a few people had set up stalls to tempt pilgrims to stop for a few minutes, but as I was on my own and knew there was no-one close behind me, the guys there felt a little freaky so I didn’t stop and kept marching on. By this stage my ankle was giving me serious bother. Then appeared huge billboards for a hotel in Cacabelos clearly aimed at the pilgrim market. I stopped in the shade of a building to take the weight off my ankle for a few minutes, I read my guide notes. Now I tend to think through the options for each day’s walk- with a stretch option, and today I had hoped to reach Villafranca as there were no major ascents or descents and the path had been decent, yet this was the stretch option in my head, but the other option had been to stop short in Cacabelos and I knew if I kept going to Villafranca my ankle would be giving me serious problems.
From here it was back to road walking but it was only a kilometre to the edge of the town and here there was a pilgrim rest area with a shelter and fountain, every stone in the shelter had been graffitied with names dates and places of past pilgrims which was kind of cool. Cacabelos was actually bigger than I expected and it was a long walk from the edge of town into the centre of it. My ankle made me think of getting a hotel room for the night but I discovered this was unlikely as there was a big football match on that night and the town was packed out with fans, but unlike my guide which said the albergue here did not open until May it was open, but it was at the far end of the town over the river. The albergue was a municipal one, which can hugely vary in quality, this one I remembered someone describing the rooms as like being in a tomb, turns out I actually liked the place. The albergue is built in a horseshoe around a church- Santuario de la Quinta, against a stone wall. The building is sectioned off with partitions to create two bed dorms with two single beds, and in the end I actually did not get a room mate so had it to myself which was a nice treat to get some privacy. Today my normal pilgrim schedule varied, yes I did have a shower (the bathrooms were not the cleanest I had encountered) but decided that after that I needed to rest my ankle so I did no laundry nor any sightseeing, so I found a spot in the courtyard created between the horseshoe albergue and the church to sit and relax and get a cold drink. It was kind of nice to have an 18th century church as the view from my room and the shaping of this albergue.

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