Day 8 – Astorga to Villafranca del Bierzo

Today we started just before dawn. Several factor cooperated to have us on our way very early. For one, breakfast was served at 6:30. This was one of the all you can eat breakfast that we like so much. Another factor that contributed was that we had everything prepackaged and ready to go.

The streets were still dark so we did not get to see much of Astorga on the way out. We slowly started to gain height. We steadily climbed during the next 16 km. the elevation gain wasn’t that much but it was enough to be noticed. Halfway during our climb we stopped for coffee in Santa Catalina were we we’re greater by sunrise. Beautiful sunrise. My favorite star did not disappoint me. It came up nice and warm.
Then we pushed on to Rabanal del Camino where we consumed bananas and made the decision to climb on the trail instead of the road. It was great. By the time we arrived in Foncebadon I started to feel the cold air and some of the wind. Foncebadon is at 1440 meters. We took a break there before continuing to our highest point which was at the Cruz de Ferro- 1504 meters. We spent some time talking to people and taking pictures.
We followed the trail until the descent where Chris and I took different paths. Chris went down using the trail where I went down using the road. The total descent is 15 Km and it is interrupted by a town. I spent a total of 21 minutes descending at speeds of up to 65 km/h. It was exhilarating. By time I was in Molinaseca (bottom of the descent) I had a smile that nobody could erase from my face. LOVED IT!
We had a quick meal and went back on our way passing thru Ponferrada. There we saw a great looking castle and traverse the city following the yellow arrow signs that took us past the city. Nice looking city.
The rest of the ride was on the road. Not the best place to ride. Things got better once we left the road and rod thru vineyards. I made a quick stop to eat some grapes. Very good! After quite a few hills we entered the town of Villafranca del Bierzo and picked a hotel, took the mandatory shower, did some bathroom emergency laundry we went off for a long and relaxing dinner.
A couple of things worth mentioning.
People loved my ankle tattoo. The reason why is because it is in the form of the Camino symbol from the Rioja province. I got a few complements, got a couple of people to recognize me because of it and I even got asked to get pictures of my ankle taken twice.
I also used my GoPro on my helmet almost all day. It was funny to see how people reacted to the camera. Most loved the idea and some asked what it was. I have almost 32 GB of video so far. This video includes many rides thru town, the moment a broke my first bike, some races I played with Robert and a few downhills. I will try to make a condensed version and post it on my blog when I come back.
Well, it’s late and I must rest because tomorrow we have our big mountain cross and I need to be rested if I want to make this a pleasurable experience. So for now, I wish you a good night and Buen Camino!

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