Vía de la Plata – Day 4: Monesterio to Fuente de Cantos

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22 kilometers, 5 hours and 30 minutes. And no villages, or anything other than ranch lands, in between, not even drinkable water. That stretch must be a bear to walk in the heat of summer.

A little about our cadre: Eric and I always seemed to leave town at the same time. That morning, I left the albergue with José and Fran, then stopped for a café con leche before getting out of town. At the edge of the village, Eric walked out of another café, and we hit the trail, together again.

Before long, we caught up to Carlos as we passed by some friendly pigs. Eric and Carlos wandered on, and I starting taking pictures and videos. We walked within sight of each other for the rest of the day. Carlos spoke only Spanish, and very fast. He’s probably my age and pretty quiet, and preferred to walk alone.

Another half hour, and we caught up to José, the joker, and Fran, his friend. José and Fran would not finish the VDLP in Santiago, as they did not have enough holiday time. They were both from Ourense, which the Camino passed through shortly before Santiago. Both spoke little English. But we managed.

The young women in our little group: Nina, from Switzerland, left first and got to Cantos first. Lara, from Germany, started after us and came into Cantos two hours behind us. She spoke German, Spanish, and English, but she didn’t spend much time around us and preferred the solitude. Nina was a delight, a bit shy; her English was excellent because her father was Canadian, and she lived in Canada for many years before she settled in Switzerland.

And Fernando: He was from the north of Spain and spoke with a gruff, fast dialect that only the Spaniards understood. He always left later, walked fast, and came in shortly after us. He was our senior, but strong as a bull.

For slideshow, click on imagine.

As we neared Cantos, we passed an Italian couple in my age bracket who lived near Lake Como. They spoke very little English, and my Italian ended with the expression ciao bella. But when they said where they were from, they referenced George Clooney. I didn’t diss him; I liked Clooney, but Lake Como had so much more to offer than just a famous actor when talking about the region. My wife and I and our friends had spent a few days on Lake Como just weeks before.

The funny part about our group was that we all stayed at the same albergues after I caught up to them in Castilblanco, and we all managed to find the same albergue again that night in Cantos. It was the Albergue Zaguán, near the town center. Cantos was bigger than a village but wasn’t quite a city. Don’t tell them I said so. Zaguán was run by Antonio, who also ran the insurance office next door. He’s helped by another man, the one who found us on the edge of town and directed us to the albergue.

Unlike the high season for the Via (springtime), our little group of travelers were the only pilgrims in the albergue that night. The previous night, we all stayed in the same dorm, a room with over twenty bunk beds (there were two other dorms, both empty). The eight of us each had a bottom bunk to sleep on and a top one to spread out our stuff. Quite decadent by Camino standards.

Costs: €12 for the albergue and breakfast, €1.20 for beer, €5.50 for dinner, and €2.13 for snacks for the next day at a store. I was really breaking the budget there.