Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Cold, colder, rain, dry, sun, rainbows, rain, rain, rain

Day 1 - Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo 22.5 kms

The journey from London to Madrid was without delay and soon we emerged out of the Metro into a Puerto del Sol teeming with people and teeming with rain. The square which marks the exact middle of Spain was dominated by a huge modernistic Christmas tree. Quite beautiful. There, tens of thousands of Spaniards will eat a grape with each of the 12 strikes of the great town hall clock to herald the New Year at midnight on the Noche Vieja - known to the civilised Scots as Hogmanay. But our plan is to celebrate that night far to the North and so after a lovely evening in the Capital we boarded the bus for the 4.5 hour journey to Ponferrada.

The further north we travelled the heavier the rain and the lower the temperature. We drove through the hills with snow lying on the fields but this had cleared by the time we reached our destination.We had an early night. The Big Man is still recovering from a recent illness and the wet weather has revived a throbbing rheumatic in my elbow. We mused as to whether we could invent a new class of "early old crocks" just like "early retired". It had rained steadily all evening and it didn't let up. The evening news was followed by a weather report which almost comically showed all of Spain getting rain. I woke during the night and it was still raining. It was the same at breakfast. We donned our full gear, said our farewells and stepped out into...dry weather.

And so it contined for the morning's walk to Cacabelos. The trail was waterlogged and awash at times. Dark clouds hung heavily above us. Lots of threats but still no rain. A couple of hours passed before we met our first fellow pilgrims in total throughout the day it felt as if there were about 20 pilgrims on the route. But no one was really speaking. Some were obviously suffering from overheating in their rain gear and we passed a small group of young people with seemingly impossibly large rucksacks. As the morning came to an end and lunch approached the sun broke through. Strong. Hot. Everything looked incongruous. We began a deep discussion. Not about whether the equity market was still rallying but rather about whether we shoud stop and take off our long johns. Ah how el Camino simplifies life! But before the question could be resolved the drizzle started. A rainbow crossed our path and the wind billowed the ponchos of two pilgrims in the distance. We were glad to stop and watch the rain beat down from inside a warm bar. Then the rain stopped just as suddenly. The afternoon passed pleasantly. I watched three young pilgrims run up a hill with their large rucksacks and wondered if I was becoming an old crock. But then we passed four middle aged pilgrims walking without rucksacks but painfully moving forward at a snail's pace. They looked miserable when the clouds opened.

We have now established a number of things. Don't wear very much under rain jackets, don't discard long johns at the first sign of sun and Farmacias sell a Spanish version of Lemsip.

A lasting image is of the blackened stumps of shorn olive trees queuing for Spring standing in alien lakes of rain water. They gazed at us without interest. They've seen it all before.


  1. Keep going and keep taking care of yourself. Can you find out for us if you can get lomo flavoured lemsip?


  2. Glad you are on your way. Sounds like real rain! Keep warm, and remember us when you eat your grapes this New Year's Eve. You probably are an old crock.... but old crocks are my favourite sort- full of character ;-)
    If you were following the blog of young Australian Jo who clambered up O'Cebreiro in a quartet with snow..... she has made it safely to Santiago. And she encountered quite a lot of rain in Galicia :-)

  3. Here is Jo and her friend Ariel on the 100km marker:


    it does make your cold feel better - although Scotch does too