It had been a late night last night so few were out of bed before ten. As it was a private albergue, the Paraiso de Jesus wasn’t in a hurry to throw anyone out. We all sat in the garden listening to some laid back music trying not to think of the effort it would take to start walking the bleak ‘paramo’ again. By 11am it was scorching hot but I was determined to walk at least a few kilometres today. Hospital de Orbigo, fifteen kilometres away, seemed like a good place to aim for. Another swim in the pool first.
Slowly I packed up delaying whenever I could to sit down and have another coffee. I wanted to leave and I wanted to stay. Most of the others were either staying another night at the albergue, or heading off in the late evening to avoid the heat.
Outside the village the Way continued along a straight road towards the Montes de Leon range in the distance. It looked a long way away and the heat was oppressive. The road was dead straight and was sealed. The boots pounding on the paved road soon became uncomfortable as the heat haze and mirages rose from the tarmac ahead.
It was about 8 kilometres before a hint of a bend appeared. It was exhausting. I kept staring at the mountains ahead knowing that I had to climb and cross the distant ridges before arriving in Galicia. Mentally it was a difficult thought to deal with in the heat. It was an empty land with a lone farmer in the distance irrigating his maize crop from the irrigation canals.
The small village of Villavente appeared after 10 kilometres and I had run out of water. It lay just off the Camino so I went to explore. There was not a soul around. It took me almost half an hour to find the only life in town, a small bar. It was like stepping back in time. The walls were made of wooden panels and all the seats were from the early sixties – low knee-high vinyl covered chairs hardly reached the small tables. After a refreshing drink things were better. There were no other shops, no cafes, no businesses and no people.
The Way followed a railwayline for a short distance before crossing the motorway. Soon after I was in Puente de Orbigo, again a deserted place. I had heard about and seen photographs of the Bridge of the Paso Honroso. This bridge is the longest pilgrim bridge in Spain. It’s 240 metres and 20 arches span the Orbigo River. I was a bit disappointed that it was covered in scaffolding and undergoing extensive repairs. It was however still an impressive structure.
On the river bank workmen were dismantling the remains of the jousting competition that had finished the day before. The bridge is named in memory of a month-long jousting tournament that took place in 1434. Walking across the long bridge you could imagine the tournament taking place all those years ago. Large flags and banners still adorned the length of the structure. The town of Hospital de Orbigo was small with a main street and a large square. It was a pleasant place and had a very relaxing and very Spanish atmosphere. There were some small bars and restaurants where the locals were sitting in the shade chatting.
It was not long before I found the Albergue San Miguel. It had a magnificent courtyard, a cobbled floor, and a large garden. Like last night’s albergue it was a special place and I felt immediately at home. I met up with Patricia again and we chatted for a while before cooking up some dinner.
I ventured out later to take photographs in the last light of the day. The light from the setting sun was spectacular and the hardships of the heat and long straight road earlier were soon forgotten.
TIP: Remember the water! I carried a one litre water bottle. Not really enough for the longer stretches in Spain. While there are numerous water fountains, the distance between them can vary. With the temperature sometimes reaching 38 degrees centigrade or more, its best to carry more water. It helps to drink a lot of water each morning before starting off in the heat.