Today we rise even earlier and set off by 6.45 am (yes, really!) as Rosie feels she might cope better with breakfast on the hoof if she has to eat early. Fortunately she spots that the cereal bars I’ve bought have peanuts in before she tries one. Yesterday we left Astorgas amidst a constant stream of pilgrims, which thinned out as people found their natural pace, but today we often seem to be alone on the path. However appearances are deceptive and, whenever we stop for a short break, people we recognise from Rabanal catch us up.
We climb up to Foncebadon where we break for freshly-squeezed orange juice and coffee. From here, we carry on up to the pass of Irago – at 1505 m, the highest point on the Camino. By this time the scenery is reminiscent of moorland at home – the yellow broom has been replaced by a smaller, white-fllowered species and heather is abundant. The tiny refugio at Manjarin provides a welcome, shaded break, though Rosie finds the canned Mozart a bit over the top ;-). She is really just disappointed not to have found a glow-in-the dark rosary amongst the souvenirs which is, apparently, high on her list of reasons for walking the Camino! Up here the scenery is more alpine, complete with cows and cow bells, and we see gentians and yellow mountain pansies as well as all manner of rock roses. Having the sun behind us all morning is great, but it ‘s still very hot by the time we descend steeply to the village of Acebo, just before noon. Wooden balconies sporting red geraniums complete the alpine look.
Enormous baguettes and ice cold drinks make for a welcome lunch and break in the shade. We carry on down afterwards, partly on the road, to Riego de Ambros then down a valley with enormous, ancient sweet chestnut trees and beautiful wildflower meadows. The heat is intense by this time, approaching 2pm, and it feels airless in the sheltered valley, which rather dulls our enjoyment. We are very glad to cross the river into Molinaseca and walk through the shady streets to Albergue Santa Marina. We are 26.5 km nearer Santiago, 216 km to go, and now have the blisters to prove it :-(. On the up-side, we both felt much more comfortable today carrying our packs, and have almost stopped noticing them already.