Stage 6 The Way of St James:
León – Ponferrada
Distance: 118,44 km
– 4,5€ Food
– 12€ Dinner + Beers (Double)
– 0€ Hostel (I forgot to give a donation)
It dawns early in León, although for some people the night has not yet ended. Through the streets of the city, there are still remnants of the party of last night. Groups of drunks, some more lucid and others not so much, wander around. I do not know who is more amazed if we observing such a grotesque scene, or they watching a group of bikers pedalling so early in the morning. But without any doubt, the ones who are lost are us.
The Way of St James is a very easy path to follow, it is well signposted and the only thing you have to do is to follow the yellow arrows. But in big cities… in big cities, it’s a totally different story. With so many streets, so many cars, people, buildings and distractions it is very difficult to follow the signs of the Camino and, therefore, very easy to get lost.
We are a large group, about 10 cyclists. Some of them are already known and others are not, not yet. We go through the streets of León in search of the route which will take us out of the city. After several errors, it seems that we’ve got it, but we are uneasy since there are not as many yellow arrows as there should be. When we reach the first town after Leon our fears become true, we have taken the wrong way. We go back as quickly as possible while several curses slip between our teeth.
A little later we finally find the way, it has been a tip of 12 km and one hour extra, well, it is what it is! As we move away from León the landscape changes. The Cantabrian Mountains which the previous days were just watching us distant from the north, they stand firmly right in front of us today. They have been waiting for us and are ready for the battle, and we are too! I hope so.
On the path, we find a hippie living on a clay hill. It lives on the will of the pilgrims and in exchange offers all kinds of juices, teas, coffees, fruits, etc. There is everything you need and the guy is very nice. I really envy his way of life.
We continue with the way and then the fight begins, well, not just yet. Before starting the climbing we stop to regain strength. First and foremost my knee, massage with the ointment and anti-inflammatory. Then food for the body, which will soon need. And finally the bike, she also suffers the consequences of the road. The clip of the right pedal has broken, so from now on the right foot will go loose. Also, I have to ask for a little bit of lubricant to another cyclist, since the chain of my bike creaks in a very scary way.
Now yes, we begin the ascent to the Cruz de Ferro. The way is hard but beautiful. The yellow and gold of the numerous flowers that colour the landscape, sweeten this bitter climb. And, thank God, the path is good for cycling. I just found out that the pilgrims leave something on the Cross on the summit, so I am supposed to put the stone I took the first day there. But when I reach the top I refuse to do so, that is a dump. I will look for a better place for the stone.
We stop for a moment, not only to take a rest but to enjoy the views as well. From up there you can see the whole plain we have left behind. You are not able to see the end of it. And now, now it’s time to go down. The descent is full of sharp stones and very dangerous, so we will suffer as much as in the climbing up, what a pity. But when we get down, we get the reward that the descent has not given us.
We arrive at Molinaseca, a small village through which a river passes. In its waters and banks people bathe and have fun. We do not doubt it, we take off our clothes to take a swim which is as refreshing as pleasant. With the heat of these days, a cool water bath should be mandatory. A pity that we do not have much time. We get dressed and head to Ponferrada.
We arrive at Ponferrada and we also find a hostel that only asks for a donation. And now, the routine of every day at the end of the day. First, settle, then take a shower and wash clothes by hand, then have a well deserved and great dinner and, finally, rest and sleep peacefully. Well, sometimes sleeping peacefully in a big dorm with several snoring people is a bit difficult…
The only thing that worries me a bit is my body. My knee is killing me, although taking ibuprofen and massage it with the ointment helps me to keep it under control. Then, I just feel some fingers of my hands, the others not so much. I spend so many hours with my hands on the handlebars hence I’m pressing on some nerve or artery more than I should. I feel a constant tingling in half my hand and the mobility of some fingers is affected, today I could barely wash clothes and shower. And this is happening to me down there too, every time I piss I almost not feel it! But hey, I have little left to get to the end, and then I’ll have time to rest.
By the way! Two more panniers like mine, how many of them have I counted already?