Day 19 : Congosto —> Ponferrada

The last day of the Camino Olvidado. ~550km prescribed and I’ve waked 495km since May 1st.

On the Camino del Invierno, there are 266km from Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela. That makes a total of 761km. I start the Camino del Invierno tomorrow morning.

So today…

It was supposed to be a short down day of about 12km. Ended up being just under 15km about 9km on asphalt, 5km on a beautiful single track trail called Senda de Bas and two km in town on city streets.

We made excellent time of about 5kph on the first segment and 4kph on the remainder. We got into town just about 10am. Most of the day was walking through pine forests with aromatic flowers blooming – wild jasmine mostly – although there was a lot of wild lavender as well.

Today was a “down” day. We washed our clothes, fixed my phone – 😁 and saw the sights. I visited the Knights Templar Castle of Ponferrada- quite an impressive castle. We visited lots of bars and in general a low key day.

My impressions and opinion of the Camino Olvidado…

The Camino Olvidado is a beautiful trek through some remote country with lots of history and historical sights. The Camino infrastructure is lacking, which makes this a difficult Camino. There are many people who are trying to organize and build infrastructure but there’s a long way to go. It is certainly possible, but there’s really no comparison to other caminos as far as infrastructure. Some people want this type of Camino and it is therefore neither good nor bad – it’s just the way it is.

There are very few pilgrims on the Camino Olvidado. I met one – Paco – who’s backpack you see in some pictures. I heard of a few In front of us and a couple behind us. But didn’t see any others. It’s a rather solitary trip – again, neither good nor bad, that’s just the way it is.

The vistas and countryside are fabulous. Springtime on this route would be, in my opinion, is the best time to walk this route. The colors, fragrances, lack of rain, temperatures etc. would be difficult to beat.

One of the most impressive things I encountered on this Camino were the people. The locals willing to go out of their way to help a pilgrim are absolutely outstanding. These people help just because they are -real- people. They don’t expect anything in return, they are just down to earth good people.

Was this Camino what I imagined it would be? Yes and no. I imagined some solitude, the sights and remoteness of this Camino. I did not imaging how few other pilgrims I would encounter. I also didn’t imagine the degree to the lack of infrastructure.

All-in-all, for my gusto, this is near the top of the list for the caminos that I have been on and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been able to experience it.

Day 18 : Noceda del Bierzo —> Congosto

Today is the penultimate etapa for me on the Camino Olvidado. There are 22 etapas published, the last three head west to meet up with the Camino Frances in Villafranca (my favorite part of the Camino Frances). But I am headed south to Ponferrada tomorrow where I will cross the Camino Frances and start the Camino del Invierno – or the Winter route. This route was used in the winter (bet you didn’t guess that) when the high passes on the Camino Frances were snowed in. I’ll give final personal stats on the Camino Olvidado tomorrow when I complete it.

So with today’s etapa, as I mentioned yesterday, the etapa used (arguably still does) to go through Labaniego – where there are no services and just a shelter – less than an albergue. The locals decided to reroute the two etapas that finished and started in Labaniego so that they finished and started in Noceda. What this did was to cut 4km off yesterdays etapa and add about 6km to today’s etapa. We actually cut 5km off that by making our own alternate route so we came in at 20km door-to-door.

Today took us through coal mining villages where the mines have long since been abandon and are ghost complexes now. Trees are growing back where there was once bare rock and the mining facilities and equipment are overgrown and rusted.

We were treated to green pastures, oak and pine forests, babbling creeks, chaparral and some ups and downs. Most of the walking was on dirt roads with about 6km on asphalt. The hiking was rather pleasant overall with the chaparral being hot-hot and shadeless. Good thing as we got to the top of the climb, the breeze from the reservoir below hit us and cooled us off to a nice stroll down the hill through vineyards to the town of Congosto.

Tomorrow is a short day, only 12km or so, but that will give us kind of a down day and in a city with enough services to get my phone fixed (SIM card not working) and laundry done.

On to the pics…

Day 17 : Igüeña—> Noceda 14.3km

Today was almost a down day/recovery day. At just over 14km and rolling hills with only two climbs that got your heart pounding, it’s just what my feet were asking for.

Starting out at 0800, we had arranged for the owners of the bar/restaurant La Playa to open early and serve us a simple breakfast to get us on our way.

Before we knew it, we had hit two, then three km as we put one foot in front of the other. We then headed up the first climb – a series of climbs for about 2-3 km where we came to a broken cross.

The significance of the cross is that Almanzor – the Moor general of the 10th century wanted to destroy all signs of the pilgrimage to Santiago and thus destroyed ermitas, churches and Christian crosses all over northern Spain.

The modern day significance is purportedly similar to the Cruz de Fiero on the Camino Frances where pilgrims leave a rock at the base which signifies a burden that they have been carrying and leaving it at the cross takes that burden away. I didn’t notice any rocks at the base. I didn’t leave one. I didn’t even carry one. Although I have been carrying a yellow racquetball that I found on the street the second day of the camino in Güeñes.

The Camino today took us through rolling hills, oak woodlands, countryside, orchards and pastures. One orchard we walked through was a chestnut orchard which made my mouth water as I remembered the last time I had roasted chestnuts in Istanbul in 2015. 😋

This stage is normally from Igüeña to Labagniego but there is no Camino infrastructure there. So several years ago, a group of people interested in the Camino redirected the route through Noceda, and built an albergue from the old schoolhouse. Noceda has bars, cafes, restaurants, a pharmacy and the albergue. So it’s a better stop than Labagniego. The diversion happens just out of Quintana de Fuseros.

With this diversion tomorrow’s route to Congosto will be about 20km. You could do one long day of 34km if you are short on time, but after yesterdays tough climb, why not take a rest.

Day 16 : Fasgar—>Igüeña : Etapa Reina

Today was a short day – just over 18km. But in the first three km, we climbed 350m. That’s like climbing ~620 feet per mile (steeper that Wrights Lake Jerry).

Coming up to the summit called Collado de Campo at 1641m, we were presented with an indescribable view of the valley below called Campo de Santiago. Sheer rock cliffs to one side, emerald green pastures below and purple flowered covered mountains on the other side.

Looking at the valley below you wouldn’t even imagine that it is a graveyard of what is said to be 70,000 Moors. The legend has it that in 981CE, an apparition of Santiago appeared before the Spanish on the mountain sides and the Moors in the valley below on his white stallion and with a legion of angles behind him. This gave the Spaniards faith and resolve and scared the Moors. The end result is that that very few Moors escaped and the rest were killed.

This is just a fable and there are many competing stories about this battle. Here’s a link to an article that poses a couple of them to contemplate:…/…

At the base of the valley, a hermitage was erected in remembrance of the battle and it has been rebuilt several times. The latest was built in the 19th century.

Following the river Boeza out of the valley for 15km – which is the headwaters, you could easily step across it – we were treated to countless waterfalls and natural springs feeding the river to a beautiful mountain water source and home to many trophy trout. It was difficult to get pictures of the river as the vegetation is so think.

Today was a foggy day in Fasgar and cloudy at the summit, clearing as we made our way down 700+ meters (2300’) in 15km. This trail was a single track trail for the most part which was carved out of the sides of the canyon. It’s been in use for more than 2000 years as a mountain pass between two fertile valleys connecting people which would normally take four days to go around the mountains.

The Camino Olvidado goes through many beautiful valleys and while there are alternate mountain routes that I did not follow, this by far was subjectively the most wild and natural etapa so far. It wasn’t an easy day by any means due to the elevation changes and technical nature of the trail, but it was one of the most rewarding.

Day 15: Vegarienza—>Fasgar

Fasgar is at the end of the road. Year round inhabitants are about 10. It’s mostly a vacation spot for hiking, mountain biking, fishing and escaping reality. Local economy is cows and horses (for meat).

Last night at the mouth of the Valle Gordo a storm came though and performed with heavy rain, lightning and thunder. It didn’t last long, or maybe I fell asleep during the storm. The results were that the farm tracks were impassible due to the amount of water, mud and wet. So today’s hike was 18km all on asphalt. Because this area is so remote as the high season has not yet started, any little towns we passed were mostly shuttered and had no services. We had to plan and bring food today’s and tomorrow’s meals – which added several kilos to the pack.

The day was mostly blustery and rain threatened but I was able to stay dry. In the morning the overcast made picture taking less than desirable but I did get some pictures later in the day.

The Valle Gordo is a beautiful valley and the hike was a constant upwards hike. Fasgar is situated at the end of the valley with a mountain pass on a single track headed out, up over the mountains to the south and into another valley – one of which has a huge historical story with Santiago (Saint James). I will tell you the story tomorrow, but from what I understand, he lived up to his name Santiago Matamoros.

The albergue here in Fasgar is clean, modern and well equipped, and run by a nice lady who we didn’t meet as she was up in the mountains. Not sure if she was leading a hike or just passing the day up there.

Pictures: few but nice scenery…

Day 14 – Etapa 16/17. La Robla —> Vegarienza

Last night in Canales- La Magdalena I stayed at a new albergue not listed in any of the guides. Six beds, clean, modern, hot water, kitchen, wash machine, etc. The only thing missing was wifi but the owners also own the Cafe Bar down the street and they have wifi there.

A couple of days ago I met another pilgrim – Paco – from near Barcelona. He’s an avid walker and has done many Caminos. We walked together for 18km or so. I’m going to wait for him to catch up in the morning so we will walk 18km together tomorrow as well.

This is where the days on the Camino and the Etapas diverge. Today’s etapa was 18km. I went 28km today. I’ll have an 18km day tomorrow instead of 28km – I’m ok with that.

Today was a -tough- day. I think mostly because I’m fairly exhausted. But six climbs of over 100m and three of those combined for a total ascent of 400m in 4km will do it too.

Most of today’s hike was off road. Farm track and single track. Some of which were probably Roman roads at one time but since overgrown so difficult to tell. It rained on me the last 4km, but it was a light rain and I am really no wetter than if it was sunny outside and I sweat.

For the next 40km, there are no stores or places to eat. So one thing I ended up doing was buying food for the next two days – although I am eating a great home-cooked meal at Maxi’s right now.

The little hamlet maybe less than a dozen houses here in Vegarienza is along the bank of the river Omaña – a famous trout river here in Spain. It was quite evident by all of the fisherman trying to outsmart the trout. There is one albergue which used to be a move the Casa Médica but because of the pandemic has moved down the block. It’s an old house with creaky floors and doors that get stuck – but it’s right next to the river so the sound of the rushing water will surely lull me to sleep tonight.

The community of Vegarienza is united in their concern for the continued vitality of this town. Estela who runs the albergue retired from Madrid after she moved there when she was 19 after growing up here. She’s a sweat lady who was surprised that I gave her 20€ for the night at the albergue. It’s donativo with a minimum of 8€. I have the whole alberguento myself so it’s like a private room.

It was a tough but good day on the Camino today.

I didn’t take too many pics as it was a tough hike a bit here are some…

Day 13 : etapa 14A – La Robla —> La MagdalenaDay 13 : etapa 14A –

Just over 16km today. that’s almost a day off. Except for the 250m climb out and a steep 250m descent dividing the day in half.

I slept in today. Well not really. I woke to my neighbor’s snoring around 0500hrs this morning. Woke up to street noise at 0600 and then just putzed around for a while. I ended up leaving at 0900 and rolled in to La Magdalena at 1300.

The route was nice the best part I think was from about 10km-14km. Nice shaded overgrown farm track that ended up being a nice single track path.

Again, the season is perfect in this area – springtime brings emerald greens, a cacophony of colors if you will, with the wildflower blooms, young calves and foals and soft but not muddy trails.

Today wasn’t a real good day for pictures (hazy valley and flies kept me moving) so not many were taken.

One thing I noticed, even though this was a short day, it doesn’t matter how long of a day you have, the last two kilometers are so tiring. Arrival at the cafe/bar is always accompanied by sore feet.

The next several stages are difficult ones. Not for distance or terrain, but for Camino infrastructure. What I have read and what I have been told is that I will have to carry food for the next 2-3 days. There are places to eat on the way and some stores, but if they are not hit at the right time, you’re out of luck.

I have called ahead three days now and verified the albergues are open and “reserved” a bed by giving them my name – not that they wrote it down. Later tonight I will go to the grocery store and find the right food for BLD for a few days. I have to balance volume, weight, ease of preparation, etc. (even though they just rolled a keg of beer into the pub and however much I’d like to take it, that is just not an option).

There are seven etapas left on the Camino Olvidado until it hits the Camino Frances. I have three of those days dialed in. We will see what happens after that.

Talking to an Australian pilgrim last night – she said her friend is currently ”touring” the Camino Frances. The word is that due to the pandemic, not all albergues have reopened and are charging double what they did pre-pandemic. Not only that but due to the scarcity of beds, pilgrims are reserving beds three and four days in advance. I hope that’s not the case – I don’t like having an agenda on the Camino. But if it ends up being that way, well… it really doesn’t matter. The Camino is and the Camino provides.

Like I said, I didn’t take a lot of pictures…

Day 12 : Etapa 13A – Boñar -> La Robla

Today was one of those days where I didn’t want to get out of bed. But it was a 33.4km day today. Luckily it was mostly flat. There is a variant of this route that takes three days while the A route takes two days. The B variant today goes through the mountains and To tell the truth, I just wasn’t up for it. A total elevation change of almost 2200m. The B variant was also what I had originally planned to do as there is a trail through rocky craigs. I sat at the intersection for a good 10-15 minutes contemplating which way I should go. I ended up taking the A variant.

So – the A variant: it was 33.4km, 10 on farm track, 10km through little towns on asphalt or concrete and 13km on highways.

There were not a lot of historical items to visit, but there were some. So it was basically walking through much of the same as the past few days.

For about 10km towards the end, there were some beautiful farm track roads with everything budding out in its springtime glory. The wildflowers were in bloom, the grasses were emerald green, the trees were in varying stages of budding out. It was beautiful. The one drag is that this is pasture land too and where there are pastures, there are flies. And these little suckers swarm your face and like to land on my glasses. Inhaling them is always of concern.

The highway walking was tough, this wasn’t a country road, but more like a two lane state highway – at least there was a shoulder.

It rained on and off today but not really enough to get me wet – at least not wetter than my sweat. I opted to cover the pack and pack my rain coat at I would have been wetter with the raincoat on than with it off.

This morning I met another pilgrim in Boñar at the cafe. We chatted a little and then he left. I never saw him in the trail, although there were many places where the rain hadn’t washed out the fresh footprints.

This afternoon, I met a couple of pilgrims headed to Oviedo. It looks like this town is a crossroads of multiple ways.

Today was pretty evenly divided in three by towns with bars in them. The first on I rolled into at 10:00, the bars were closed. Just at the dar side of town I heard a blaring horn blasting several times. It ended up being the bread delivery so I waited by the side of the road and bought some bread to eat on the trail. That made me happy 😊


While the last 10km of was really beautiful, it was a long haul and I probably would have enjoyed 13B better but I was just not in the mood. Rain, mountains and me not knowing the area made me chose the valley route for safety. I probably would have been fine – I definitely would have done the mountain route if I had someone with me.

A good day on the Camino

Day 11 : Etapa 12A – Cistierna -> Boñar

Yesterday I took the train from Cervera de Pisuerga to Cistierna due to a lack of lodging for the next three days between the two. So, starting today from Cistierna…

Today was 28ish KM. I am impressed at the quality and quantity of signage in this area. Not only are there yellow arrows pointing the way, there are yellow crosses telling you which ways not to go and reminder arrows to just to let you know you’re still on the right track – even though there weren’t any side trails.

In addition to the yellow arrows, there are full-blown signs explaining the Camino, maps demonstrating different options, how far, how much elevation gain, etc.

You will also find anecdotal stories along 12A of how the original pilgrims and settlers lived along the route.

Another thing I noticed, is that the villages take pride in being on the Camino and make sure their trails are maintained, signage is clear and welcoming/send-off signage is there.

I also share these posts to a Camino group and many have said that when I get to León, things will improve as far as infrastructure. So far that is the case.

Let me be clear though – this is my fourth Camino and while I don’t walk it for a pilgrimage to see Saint James’ tomb, I do do it for personal pilgrimages of sorts. I don’t expect every Camino to go smoothly. In fact, I expect challenges to be had and I look forward to them as a personal test of sorts. Walking the Camino Olvidado has been challenging but it has not been a bad experience – I appreciate everything it has given me and I look forward to what it has in store for me tomorrow and the next few weeks.

So… now on to today:

27.7km +/- my watch battery died and I lost the last couple of KMs walking into Boñar. Due to the angle of the sun, I walked mostly in the shade except the last 7-10km. My calves got a little red.

The wildflowers were out in force – beautiful colors and shapes, Gaia has a way of putting all of these colors in perfect arrangement to share the beauty of them with us.

While there is a total of just over 900m total elevation gain, you really don’t notice it as it is so gradual and the country side is so beautiful through oak forests that you just walk right up it. Only in one or two places did I notice it where I put my trekking poles into low gear and my heart pounded.

After the climb, I followed a ridge for about 7-10km of mostly sparse oak and chaparral with wildflowers. Just before the decent into the valley, there were some pine trees that offered a nice place to take a nap – so I did.

Once in the valley, another 10km or so to Boñar through villages, pasture and rolling hills. This was where the sun was out in force and there was little shade. By the end, it was pretty warm. I took advantage of the village fountains to wash my face of sweat and salt so it didn’t get into my eyes.

Many little parochial Romanesque churches, bridges and even a Roman road post – and I thought I was on a farm track.

I am staying in a hostal that is run by a venerable matriarch, who takes the proceeds and takes care of elderly without resources.

Today was a good day on the Camino. Much gratitude to those that make it work…

Now for the pics…

Day 10: etapa 8 – Aguilar de Campoo —> Cervera de Pisuerga

An interesting day. Accommodation hell if you will…

First the etapa…

Today was to be just under 30km along the east and north side of a reservoir and then along a river. Sort of…

Today was 29.5km of shadeless asphalt/concrete and hard packed farm track. I started out an hour early after getting a refreshing down day in Aguilar. Headed towards the dam and then up and over, not to cross it. Then through pastures, pastures, more pastures. 18km to the first pit stop – only drinks, no food. Good thing I brought some pinchos I bought to go the day before…. The Camino only took me next to the resevoir for about 2km, and then a forest was between the trail and the resevoir, so viewing opportunities were limited.

At about 5km in, the trail veered towards a necropolis and more tombs, all facing east to see the sun rise.

At 18km, after a pit stop and a KAZLimon, the trail crossed a river and generally followed it for 12km to Cervera. This river has a very healthy population of trout. I saw probably a hundred or so varying in size from 12”-18”. Made me wish I had a pole.

I was hoping for some shade on those sections but that was not to be. The trail went through pastures and towns and some birch forests, but the leaves were thin and the shade they created did not fall on the trail when I passed through. I think my arms and neck are a bit red, although I wouldn’t say burned.

Once I got to Cervera at about 1430hrs, I started looking for a pace to stay. There are about a half dozen or so places to stay – and they were all shuttered during the hora de siesta. So I headed to the town square and had a beer.

I took this opportunity to try and figure out why my phone stopped working – alas – it still doesn’t work. My OrangeES and AT&T SIMs don’t work at all, only my eSIM works. Apple wants to point the finger at OrangeES, but with two different SIM cards not working, it’s likely the phone – of which I won’t be able to resolve until I get home. In the diagnostic process, I had to reset my phone so everything is all messed up on it.

Once people finished their siestas, they started to come back to the bar. I started calling around for lodging in Cervera. ALL of the hotels were full and the Albergue didn’t answer the door nor phone calls, nor WhatsApp messages.

By this time, it was about 1800hrs and with no lodging, I started looking at how to get to the next stage: either Guardo – 40km or Tarilonte – 20km. Neither of them had lodging. Something is up – the whole area was booked for the entire week. The nearest lodging I could get was in Cistierna – a whole four etapas and 77km away. The train was at 1900hrs and 3km away – no way I was going to rush there with a pack on and two beers. So I called a cab…

I should say that the bartender called the cab and he told her that I needed to go to Aguilar!!! That’s back 30km the way I came. D’Oh! Well, I went for a ride. Good thing it was a shared cab and we made it to the correct station with plenty of time.

The summary is that there were beautiful parts to todays Camino but I wish there was more shade and I wonder what’s going on that there was no lodging available for 77km…. I’m disappointed I will miss several etapas, but there really was no way around it without lodging. This will however allow me more flexibility on the end – I will now have plenty of time to extend the Camino from Santiago to Finesterre/Muxia. I’ve been to both places before, but I haven’t walked them. We will see – that’s still a good 3-4 weeks from now and things might change.

Now for some pics…