Distance Today: 16.5 km
Total Distance from Oviedo: 108.7 km.
Elevation Gain: 479 metres.
Weather: Sunny with cloudy periods; cool
Highlight: Worried about tomorrow…
Today had the potential to be one of the most stunning days of any Camino but also one of the most challenging ones. We left Albergue Ricardo in Campiello just after 8 AM and about an hour later had to make a decision: follow the Hospitales route (recommended) or take the Pola route.
The Hospitales option leads into the mountains and away from civilization for most of the day. While this is one of the most demanding walks on any Camino, made more so by the lack of resources, it is strikingly beautiful with expansive mountain vistas unfolding in all directions. It passes several ruined former pilgrim hospitals. The distance of the Hospitales route from Campiello to Berducedo is 27 km and reaches 1146 elevation at Puerto del Palo.
The Pola de Allande option is longer than the Hospitales route but it provides an opportunity to break the journey in half by staying a night in Pola de Allande. While this route provides some impressive views, it is a far cry from the Hospitales route. It involves a challenging climb out of Pola on the second day (roughly 600 metres gained) followed by an abrupt descent. It reaches the same elevation (1146 metres) as the Hospitales route at Puerto del Palo where the two routes reunite.
Dave hadn’t slept well last night and didn’t have the energy to walk 27 km via the Hospitales route, so off we went to Pola de Allande, 16.5 km away.
About half way to Pola de Allande we regretted not hiking the Hospitales route. Should we walk back to Borres close to where the trail splits, stay the night, and take the Hospitales route tomorrow? What about taking a taxi for the hardest part of the steep ascent coming out of Pola tomorrow? Would that give us time to walk backwards on the Hospitales route for part of the way so we can see what we missed today? Could we do that and still get to our destination, Berducedo, at a decent hour? What options do we have?
When we arrived at the Albergue de Peregrinos in Pola de Allande, the hospitalero wasn’t here, nor were there any other pilgrims. The door wasn’t locked, so we let ourselves in and helped ourselves to one of the 24 bunk beds. We went for lunch and on our return the place was still empty. Eventually the hospitalero showed up and now there are four other pilgrims.
This accommodation is 5 Euros each and gives us a roof over our head, a bed to sleep in, and a washroom to get clean in. There is nothing you would call “charming” about the place, it’s not exactly clean, and there is no heat (again!).
Who knows what tomorrow will bring? It is a blank slate and what we do with it will be of our own making. Maybe we’ll be so well rested, we’ll simply fly up the mountain. “Ultreia” in any case! We’ll put one foot in front of the other and won’t look at the hill ahead.