Catch up from Mark on the Camino and nearly in Santiago.

Mark’s updates have always been important to me and for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was very excited when I first met him and he shared with me his intention to do the walk. In the past he has not ben a walker so each update has been letting me know how he’s getting on and therefore letting me feel reassured that he’s OK. Secondly, as someone wanting to do it myself, it was great to hear the stories, to hear about the experiences etc and finally , as he’s so near the end I want to know how that feels as I am so far from that.

Here are two of the updates posted when I was on my first few days in France.

Ultreia! Ultreia! Posted: 03 Oct 2008 10:21 AM CDT

Right now I am in Ponferrada, and it is the last large city on the walk. After two long days on the second mountain, I decided to take a day off and checked into a hotel. I have only seven full days of walking left beginning tommorrow. I am planning to stay in Monte de Gozo, the city of joy next Friday night and then walk into Santiago on Saturday morning the 11th. I am feeling fine, but after ten days of flat land, we´re back in the hills, valleys and mountains. It´s beautiful and hard to believe it is coming to the final chapter. Ultreia means carry on or march forward. We are now seeing it written on rocks and buildings during this last stretch. I have walked 380 miles and have 120 to go. I can´t even imagine not doing this again. It is that amazing of an experience. But, believe me, it´s no walk in the park. The Camino either gets you physically, mentally, or emotionally. Ultreia! Mark LeBlanc

Here is how I know where to walk
Posted: 03 Oct 2008 01:08 PM CDT
Some people have written me and asked about the actual route. I am walking a plan of 31 stages. Many of the people I have met are walking a different plan of 34 stages. It´s up to you on when and where you want to break your days up. For those of you who are interested, here are my marching orders for tommorrow, Saturday. It is the 25th stage for me and only 24 kilometers.

Route from Ponferrada to Villafranca del Bierzo

The pilgrims´ route leads down calle Mateo Garza to the bridge over the river Sil, crosses it and continues along the Carretera de Madrid. A few meters further on, the Paseo Huertas del Sacramento leads off to the right along the river until it crosses the railway track and passes the slag heap of the electrical power plant of Compostilla on the left. You then cross the Bajo Bierzo canal and carry on into Compostilla, passing the parish church on the left. On reaching Columbrianos which, like Compostilla, is a suburb of Ponferrada, you emerge onto the Villablino road, only to bear left off of it a few meters down along calle de las Eras, also known as the Camino Real. After going through a tunnel underneath the railway track, you soon come out onto the road to Vega de Espinareda and, a couple of kilometers later, past houses and vegetable patches, reach Fuentes Nuevas. After following the Calle Real through the village, you continue on through fertile farmland to Camponaraya, just over a kilometer away. In Camponaraya, follow the road to the outskirts of the village, where you take a path on the left opposite a wine-growing cooperative. After following the path through vineyards, you reach a low, flat hilltop, after which the path drops down into the pretty Arroyo Magaz valley, crosses the river and runs through a leafy riverside wood until it crosses the road. On the far side, you continue down a farm track through vineyards and then up a small hill, before dropping into Cimadevila, from where you enter Cacabelos along the Calle de los Peregrinos. The N-VI leads out of Cacabelos and across a bridge over the river Cua, passing the beautiful Chapel of Nuestra Senora de las Angustias on the right. 2 km later you come to Pieros passing the hilltop ruins of Castrum Bergidium. At km 406.8, bear right off the road along a path which, after crossing the Arroyo de los Valtuilles stream, narrows through dense vegetation before leading out onto a wider track known as the Camino de la Virgen, coming from Valtuille de Arriba. Less then 2 km from there, you reach the Iglesia de Santiago at the entrance of Villafranca del Bierzo.

Mark LeBlanc


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