Camino de Santiago: Day 22, Camponaraya, Spain
Distance from El Acebo to Camponaraya, Spain 25.9 kilometers
We woke up early, ate the included breakfast at the nice and new Albergue La Casa Del Peregrino in El Acebo, and again, started walking. It really was another one of those perfect hiking days. We started off along the road, but soon diverged and went along the “real camino”. We were too early to stop for coffee in Riego de Ambros; it looked like a great place, but we decided to continue down the mountain to Molinaseca.
The camino from Riego de Ambros was truly some of the most beautiful hiking on the Camino de Santiago so far. It was mostly steep downhill, some of it quite difficult, but the spring flowers, the clean air and the mountain views made it memorable.
We stopped for coffee on the river at a small cafe in Molinaseca, a 12 century medieval town with a beautiful church and a pleasant town square and although we wanted to linger, we had to make a bit of time today.
After Molinaseca, we could see out next stop, Ponferrada, but no matter how far we hiked, we never seems to move closer. We could see the church, we could see the castle, but every turn seemed to take us on a parallel course to the city. There were some occasionally interesting places, but for the most part it was typical suburb close enough to see the city center, but too far away not to be boring. It was like we were looping around the town.
Finally we made crossed a bridge and were at Castillo de Ponferrada, a 13th century castle famous for hosting the Knights Templar. We bought tickets and wandered through the old fortress, amazed by how well restored and preserved this ancient fort was. Before moving on, we had a coffee, served to us by an uninterested waiter, in Plaza Mayor.
The departure from Ponferrada felt relentless. Suburbs and paved roads made up most of the trek to Camponaraya, where we found a private room in a new albergue. There was nothing to do in the, mostly contemporary, highway through the middle, little village, until dinner at the albergue at 7PM (only place nearby). The food was expensive and adequate, if not inspiring. I was tired and sore, but before I fell asleep, already ready to move on the next day.