Hospital de Orbigo – Santa Catalina de Somoza
26.6 km / 16.5 miles
You never know what you are going to see walking on the Camino. Every village has its own uniqueness to it. The cafes, Albergues, the cobblestone ground, medieval castles, cathedrals, mountains and even the people. I have learned that you never know what you will see or who you will meet. This is what excites me and keeps me going.
Today, just as I am summiting a peak on what is the start of mountainous terrain, a plateau opens up with pilgrims playing music. This type of thing lights me up. A man welcomes me. He explains to me that this is his land and after walking the Camino himself, he wanted to give back. He gathers fruits and drinks to give away for donations only, which funds his ability to provide for pilgrims. He sleep in a hammock and pretty much lives outside.
Time after time, just as I am struggling, the Camino gives back. Today I was very tired after a strenuous incline. There is no village in site to stop for lunch or a cafe and this shows up for me. A bowl of fresh ripe cherries. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness because of his existence and what this guy has decided to do for pilgrims like me.
We pass through the town of Astorga, with its many sites. I stop to admire the Plaza Catedral. Another Gaudi building known as the Bishop’s Palace with its neo-Gothic turrets soaring heavenwards. It houses historical notes and artefacts on the many Roman roads that converged on this city and provided the main trade, military and pilgrim routes through northern Spain.
I do not linger in Astorga, I admire whatever sites are on my way and press on. I have learned that the day can escape you if you indulge too much in any one place. Albergues generally fill and the possibility of losing the sun when you still have 3 k or so to walk is terrifying. I’ve been there and do not want it to happen again.
There is more elevation today which means more vegetation and shade. The days of flat endless fields might be behind me. I hear the last 3rd portion is the more spiritual part. The first physical, due to crossing the Pyrenees Mountains which is no small feet. The second, mental. It takes a strong mind to walk for what feels like endless days with not much scenery, shade or even places to rest. I feel a sense of relief just knowing how far I have come.
Just outside of Astorga, this cross commemorates the 5th century Bishop Toribio of Astorga. Supposedly he fell to his knees here in a final farewell having been banished from the town. Behind the city stand the Montes de Leon that we will cross in coming days – the highest part of our whole journey at 1,515m.