Ugh, what a terrible night. It started when we couldn’t find a single restaurant in Ponferrada willing to serve food before 7:30pm, so we decided to cook at the albergue, which is enormous (200 places). The kitchen and bathrooms were crowded, but it really started to go bad when we tried to fall asleep.

There was the group of Germans who had departed early from Foncebadón, singing and talking loudly as they packed their bags next to other pilgrims who were trying to sleep; they were near us again in Ponferrada, but they were the least of our worries. We were in bunk beds, with bright fluorescent lights glaring down on the top bunks, and the lights were kept on until everybody had crawled in from the bars. Then somebody took it upon themselves to give several shouted ultimatums about turning off the lights, which would have been helpful except that most people were trying to fall asleep at that point. The dormitory door squeaked and slammed all night long as people came in, went to the bathroom, and started packing up and leaving well before sunrise. I think I only got a couple hours of sleep.

Sometimes, hell is other pilgrims. But it was blessing, too, because it made me realize that it was worth the 50€ or whatever it would cost per day to stay in private accommodations for the rest of our Camino – especially after Sarria, the traditional starting point for those who can only be bothered to walk the last 100 kilometers (the bare minimum to get the compostela/certificate in Santiago). I was not going to be sharing dormitories with inexperienced pilgrims who hadn’t learned how to behave in communal accommodations.

Below: The 12th-century castle in Ponferrada.

Below: Some strange graffiti in Columbrianos (Street View). We stopped for coffee at the bar across the street.

Below: This was our last day of sunshine – Galicia lived up to its reputation for rain.

Below: Exotic fruit by the side of the path.

Below: This is one of my favourite photos from the Camino.

Below: Beautiful countryside in the west of Castilla y León.

Below: A sculptor’s studio (Estudio de Escultura A. Nogueira) along the way.

Below: Coming into Villafranca del Bierzo, where we stopped for the night. In Villafranca, the path split into an easy road (left) and a more difficult route (right) for the climb up into Galicia.

Below: At our albergue, the resident dog knew he wasn’t allowed in the kitchen.

Below: But that didn’t stop him from begging!

Below: Cooking dinner in Villafranca. Our albergue was called “La Piedra,” and it was named for the stone cliff into which it had been built. You can see it outside the window.

Compared to last night, we had a great evening. For 12€ per person (instead of 8€ for the dormitory), we had a private room with a balcony overlooking the Valcarce river. We cooked spaghetti alla busara (a Venetian favourite) and chatted with the other Canadians who were staying there that night.

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