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Published: October 23rd 2015
28 September 2015, Monday, Stage 24 Mazarife to Astorga
GPS: 20.67 miles, 6 hours 43 minutes moving and 8 hours total from Albergue Padua to Pousada Real Casa de Tepa
Fitbit: 20.67 miles, 44,213 steps, 77 Stairs
Leave Villar de Mazarife albergue at 7.36, arrive in Astorga at 3:36
It is still very dark. In the middle of the town, Harlan is looking at the night sky with Google Sky as there is a very bright object in the sky. I happen to fall in step with a young girl from Chattanooga; her husband walks with Harlan. They got up around 4:30 am to see the eclipse and said it was outstanding as it was so dark outside and the constellations and Milky Way were incredibly bright. Now the crazy thing is that we knew members of the morning walking group in Las Vegas were gathering to imbibe and watch the eclipse---what were we thinking of---the Spanish moon is a different one and there was not going to be an eclipse in our neighborhood? We missed it!
My Chattanooga friend and her sister have started a drive through coffee shop. They had noticed there were none
in the area and being coffee aficionados from the Pacific Northwest they decided to have a most simple electric pole hookup for a food truck and try it out. Once we are out of the little town the road is straight as an arrow. My young companion is admittedly a 'doer' and is not letting any grass grow under her feet! I, for some unknown reason, have an abundance of energy, and readily keep up. Perhaps this happens when all my body energy systems are turned on by an eclipse? The moon is full and enormous, the fields are of field corn with burnished tassels and dried. As the moon glow goes down in the west and the daylight brightens the eastern sky one feels as if they are in a golden universe. Her husband who is walking with Harlan is a software engineer and they are walking the Camino to celebrate his dad's 60th birthday. His father is a retired Navy doctor and still practices in the Seattle area. The whole family will join them for some portion of the trip. For now there are nine of them walking this section.
By our first break we have covered
Rio Orbigo in Hospital de Orbigo
Puente de Orbigo dates from 13th Century built over foundations of earlier Roman bridge
one third of the mileage for the day. The couple go to another cafe/bar area as they are waiting for other members of their crew, his brother and his Mom and Dad. His father is sixty and has wanted to do this trip for some time.
The highlight for the day, other than managing to walk the 20.5 miles to Astorga, is the ancient bridge at Hospital de Orbigo. It has nineteen arches and is most beautiful.
Today we see fields that have structures for hop growing, fields of sugar beets, field corn and potatoes. There is much activity, the fall harvest is in full swing.
We make our second stop of the day in Santibanez and have a tonic water. We gradually stop climbing through fields, passing a rather strange shrine to the camino. A scare-crow like figure is collecting all kinds of offerings from pilgrims. We pass by a sandstone quarry and then must cover three dry river bed valleys, up and down, up and down, up and then it is quite a walk over the top of a high plateau that has been sporadically planted with trees. There does not seem to be any
rhyme or reason to how the tree planting is being done.
Now we come to the David and Susie Oasis! It is a refreshment stand in the middle of the plateau with some straggly 'outbuildings.' From what Margie and Nick had indicated we thought we would be having lunch here but instead had some juice, boiled eggs, olives and a rice cake. We thought they would be safe! We were busy shooing flies as we ate. Quite a set-up. David has one of these irrepressible personalities that is hard to resist. Business was on a donation basis.
We continue traipsing onward until we reach a large cross. Beyond it was a metal map of the various mountain peaks and chains. It is a stunning picture before us. We tumble down a hill to a level surface where there is a most interesting statue of a pilgrim. If you draw water from an adjacent fountain water flows from a gourd that the pilgrim is holding.
We move on toward the city, keeping the twin towers of the cathedral in sight. Our lodging, Pousada Real Casa de Tepa is easy to miss. Although it is on the Camino we
were right beside it almost past it and did not see the sign. It was constructed in the late 18th century. We have the Napoleon Suite and it is delightful. A big, deep bathtub to soak my very weary and aching legs.
Later we go out to The Peseta Hotel for dinner. Both our hotel and the Tourist Information Center has recommended it. It has been in the hands of the same family since the 1880s. We are 12 minutes early and they will not open the dining room so we go for a walk and purchase some Maragato sweets and roam along the city ramparts. The views overlooking the valley are lovely. This park was originally the first synagogue in the prosperous city of commerce.
Back we go to the hotel and have a super dinner. The green salad features goat cheese from the region. I have veal and Harlan has pork and they both fall off the bone. The meat is accompanied by puréed potatoes that are so fine it is almost soupy.
We manage to find our room after dinner. This is quite a feat considering the windy streets. Astorga is considered to be
a hub for the Maragato culture. Some think they are descended from Berber tribes who came to Spain as part of the Moorish invasion in the 8th century, becoming 'misplaced' in this remote mountainous area. Others link them to Visigoths and their king, Mauregato. Most agree they were muleteers and active in commerce with a reputation that their word was true and they could be trusted in business dealings. They have a distinctive cuisine that features game and fish from the streams. Particularly notable are their sweet pastries and chocolates.
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