May 16th 2015 – Day 11
Villavante to Astorga, 22km
I had enjoyed my stay in Villavante and had no problems sleeping, however I was back on the top bunk again! Mustn’t grumble though! Today was due to be a shorter walk compared to the last few days but it was forecast to be pretty warm. I aimed to get up early and planned accordingly. The next morning, I didn’t need an alarm clock as there were others leaving with me. Hmm…I’m usually the first out! I said goodbye to the parrot and walked on.
It was pitch black again but I could see the sun peak over the horizon. Leaving Villavante, there is a 6km straight walk ahead to Hospital de Orbigo. The sun was fully up before I reached the town’s large water tower. The other route from Leon meets at this points so I saw a number of other pilgrims coming from that direction. Still, I was quite happy with the route I took. Two American girls who kept to themselves walked ahead of me. They mustn’t want to talk, or maybe it’s too early? Otherwise, I have music in my ears while taking in the scenes. I’m coming to the end of the “meseta”..once I reach Astorga, I will start on a climb to the Leon mountains. But I will leave that until I get there. I’ve enjoyed the walk through the meseta thoroughly and it is still by far my favourite part of the Camino.
I arrive at Hospital de Orbigo, with it’s long bridge. I passed here in 2012 when it was being repaired. The town can be deceiving as it looks small from a map, but it is big when you pass through it. Most of the cafes were not open when I passed through, in fact, the town was asleep. I had a look around for Albergue Verde to see if I could spot Judith from the previous day. Unfortunately, that was the last I saw of her. I hope she had an enjoyable Camino! I took my time passing through Orbigo. I had wanted to stay there but it wasn’t to be..so I moved on once I drank a morning coffee.
On leaving the town, you have two options. Going straight brings you on to the main road and can be a little mundane, while taking a sharp right leads you to country rounds and dirt tracks. It is 2-3km longer and there are a number of small towns to pass through before you reach Astorga. I chose the 2nd option. What is it with me and making my Caminos longer??
But I made the right choice. It was a fab walk this day. I passed through Villares de Orbigo a few kms later and stopped for a second breakfast. The town may as well not be there it is so small. It was definitely busier on the Camino now and most people I met were new to me. However, I was still greeted with a smile. I reckon most had started in Leon and were on their way to Santiago. The crowd I had been walking with from Burgos were well ahead of me now…but I had hope of meeting Tom, Caroline and the gang again. Maybe in Astorga.
I passed through Santaibanez de Valdeiglesias and had a rest stop. Most of the terrain was on the flat but there were sections that proved challenging. A highlight for me was meeting David again at Casa de los Dios. David is from Barcelona who, after walking the Camino, decided to help pilgrims. He lives in an abandoned warehouse and offers drinks and fruit for a donation to passing walkers. I said hello and mentioned that his home looked much better since I passed in 2012. I received a hug and he wished me a Buen Camino. Nice guy! I would love to do what he has done.
It wasn’t long before I was back on concrete by the cross at Santo Toribo. I was greeted by a Spanish singer with an acoustic guitar. Although he sang the same song over and over, he knew how to entertain! Check him out here.
After a long walk through the suburb of San Justo de la Vega, I arrived at Astorga just before the Association albergue was opening at 11.30am. I was 5th or so in line behind some German men who I had not met before. I don’t bother with pleasantries with Germans. I’m sure they are nice people, but I’m not sure they have a sense of humour. A few moments later, Samuel arrives in and grabs a top bunk. It was great to see him despite to language barrier. We understood enough to talk in simple English. I grabbed a shower, looked after my washing and went for some food with Samuel.
Astorga is a fine city. I have stayed here before but in another albergue further down the Camino. It is a good walk from the albergue to the main plaza, to the museum, the Cathedral and the Gaudi Palace but it is worthwhile checking these out if you are staying there. I was happy to eat out as a result, so I had dinner in the plaza mayor with Des and Josephine from Australia. They had stayed in Villavante. On completing the Camino, they were to visit Ireland so I told them where to go and where to avoid, but they had an idea already.
I wasn’t sure where I wanted to walk to the next day..Rabanal del Camino or Foncebadon. All I knew was the next day would be the start of a progressive climb. My leg had started to bother me again so I promised myself I would go easy. I was thinking Rabanal but I would decide in the morning.