Day Two – 25th May 2012 – Right into the middle of nowhere
Leon – Hospital de Orbigo – Astorga
The next morning I woke up sometime after 6am and while I want to get started, I decided to hold on for some breakfast at 8am. It was a good decision. There was a decent breakfast on offer and I took advantage of it. I get chatting to two women from New Zealand who were starting their Camino the day after. They have been traveling for nearly two days and they thought I was very lucky living so close to the Camino. Well, close compared to where they live. After saying goodbye, I head off to the Estacion de Autobuses in Leon, which is a brisk 15 mins walk away from the hotel. I didn’t get to see the Cathedral unfortunately, as I needed to get the next bus. Maybe next time.
I got to the bus station and after finding the right bus, I jumped on and travelled out to Hospital de Orbigo. I had my eyes on the road as I just knew I would miss the stop and end up in Pontferrada without anyone telling me. While on the bus, I saw many people walking along the Camino, easily over 100. It won’t be long before I would join them.
Eventually I get off..and at the right stop too. Ponferrada will have to wait for another day. I walked up a side road and before long I was on the Camino. Blue signs with yellow arrows littered the road so it was very hard to get lost..even if you tried. I saw the Puente de Orbigo which was amazing and just like it looks in the guides. It looked extra clean and it was only when I got home that I discovered the town’s festival started on the 3rd of June.
Once I walked through Hospital de Orbigo, the scenery changed. I was surrounded by green fields, haystacks and croaking insects which I assume were frogs. It was surreal and the fact that I was the only one on the road made the experience better. I later discovered I was alone as I started to walk so late. 11am is close to finishing time for most people. Not for me though. I decided not to walk far this day, to Astorga maybe, as it was my first day. Who knows, if I felt like it I would walk on.
I walked through Villares de Orbigo and Santibanez saying hi to various people along the way. Most of these people I would bump into later on in the week and it did become a habit. I stopped off in Santibanez for a sit down and a coffee break. It also gave me a chance to fill up with more water in the many fuentes that I passed along the Camino. I got talking to Ingrid from Finland who had little English but when I pointed where I was from, her eyes lit up. The words Wexford, Arklow and Cliffs of Mohir were mentioned so she had been to Ireland before. Good times! I didn’t stay long and said goodbye to Ingrid. She looked very tired so I assume she had been walking for since the morning.
I walked on and met a girl called Rosa and her father, both from Italy. Both had walked from St Jean Pied de Port and had been 25 days on the road. I often think about walking the full way but I am not prepared to do it, maybe later on in life. Walking in stages would be fine for the time being. Rosa had great English and finally I met someone who I could converse with. Her father however had next to none and it was funny at times when I asked Rosa a question and she would translate this for her father. His response was translated from Italian to English by Rosa. Time consuming to say the least, but enjoyable. We talked about the Camino, how I looked fresh and Rome. I decided to move on however as my pace was much quicker than theirs. This is due to my starting that day! This pace would change considerably over the next few days. I wished them a Buen Camino and moved on. I would later meet both in Villafranca del Bierzo, four days from then.
San Justo de la Vega was a whole 7 kms from where I was at this stage and with the sun shining down, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard going. My water ran out and I was glad to see a renovated barn yard ran by Davd. He has become a bit of a legend around those parts and offered refreshments of your choosing for a small donation. If you want a rest, there is a sofa made up. A real nice guy. I move on and after I pass San Justo de la Vega, I realise I was close to Astorga. I decide to stay here for the night. I walk alone into the town and after a long walk into the city, I stop off in Albergue San Javier which is located right beside the Cathedral. A nice town, alot of scenery and alot to do for a few hours. I find a bed and discover what life is like in an albergue for the first time. It was far from ideal with wooden floors that would wake the heaviest sleepers. It had all I needed but I just wanted to put my feet up before I did anything. 17km I had walked today in just over 4 hours. Not bad!
I rest up here for the night after checking out some sights and having some food in the Hotel Gaudi. I decide to wake up much earlier the next day so I get to Rabanal del Camino before midday.