Friday, April 11, 2003

October 20, 2001
Ponferrada- Villafranca del Bierzo (rainy)
14.4m/23.0km - 353.5m/565.6km

Leaving Ponferrada we walk through a residential section of town. The houses and the wide streets lined with trees remind me of the city of Bogota in Columbia. We lived there when I was five and walking these streets puts me back there.

When we reach Cacabelos Tony is sitting on the front steps of the church. We try the church door but it is locked. The church is also a refugio and when we walk into the courtyard we see sleeping quarters build against the stone wall surrounding the courtyard. They look like connecting sheds with one long tin roof covering them. The back of each shed is missing, so that wall is the stone wall of the courtyard. Each one sleeps two people and there are no windows. I am glad we are not staying here. I cannot imagine being sealed in one of those rooms for the night.

We go to the refugio office and ask the woman there if we can go into the church. No, it's not open and it won't be open again until Mass on Saturday. I am so disappointed. I was so looking forward to seeing Baby Jesus playing cards.

When we come out of the courtyard Tony is gone. We start making the trek up the road out of Cacabelos. As we walk I realize we should not have seen Tony back at the church. He said he was staying at the refugio in Manjarin. We did not see him in Ponferrada and since he does not walk as fast as we do, he should be somewhere behind us. How did he get to Cacabelos before us? He must have ridden the bus. I tell B and J what I think. J thinks Tony may be taking the bus because we never meet him on the road as we do other pilgrims, we only see him at the refugios. B thinks he could be walking and the only reason we never see him is because he starts so early.

In Villafranca we stay in the famous private refugio run by the Jesus Jato family. This place is great. Remember when I said the refugio in Manjarin reminded me of a bad hippy commune? Well, this is a good hippy commune. An old building is the main part of the refugio and it is used as the dinning room. Three long tables with benches are lined up side by side against on wall; one end of each table touching the wall. There is also a bar. Since this is the only place to sit, people are hanging out here and either drinking something hot or cold, or reading, or talking, or writing in their journals.

Part of the refugio burned down and what is left is covered with clear plastic sheets. There is a patio and couches and this area has been made into a smoking area. Up the stairs is the bathroom/shower and then to the left are the sleeping rooms. The rooms are divided by age. Those over 40 to the right and those under 40 straight ahead and up another short stairway. B and J tease me, saying I'll have to sleep in the over 40 room. I say at least it will be quiet because older people are not as wild as younger ones. B says maybe so but the younger ones don't snore so I should come sleep with them. I tell her I'll take my chances.

When I get into the room I am surprised to find a lower corner bunk open. Those are the best because you are up against two walls and only have one bed next to you. Won't be stuck between two snorers there. There is a backpack sitting on the floor between the two bunks but since it is not on the bed I want I pull my sleeping bag out of my pack and spread it out on the bed I've picked. Tony is here and comes up to me downstairs and says I took his bed. I tell him I couldn't have because I picked a bed that did not have a pack or sleeping bag on it. He says his pack was next to the bed. Sorry, the unwritten rule has been, any bed without a pack or sleeping bag on it is open. He is out of luck and he knows it.

Later B comes up to me and says she now thinks Tony is taking the bus. The last section we walked was very muddy so our boots are dirty but she noticed Tony's boots are clean. We do not care if Tony is taking the bus. We don't like the fact that he is lying about it. Whenever we see him he talks about how hard the walk was that day. We are insulted because he thinks we are not smart enough to figure out he is not walking.

The dinning is communal with dinner offered to any pilgrim who wants to pay for it. So a lot of people come here for their evening meal. This room is cold and if anyone coming in leaves the door open behind them someone yells out, "Cerrar la puerta!" One time Jesus comes in and leaves the door open and I turn in his direction and mutter, "Geez, Jesus, were you born in a barn? Shut the door!" J is sitting right beside me so I end up muttering this into his ear. As soon as I realize what I've said I collapse into laughter and so does J. I cannot believe I said that.

Tomorrow we make the climb up to O'Cebreiro. B and J have decided to let Jesus take their packs too. I am looking forward to walking a day without my pack. It should be enjoyable, like a day hike in the foothills outside Denver.

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