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Day 1 Ponferrada to Orellán (Las Médulas)

Friday 26th April 2019


Distance Time Elevation in meters

Gain Loss Min Max
25.92 7H42 5H26 662 414 481 789




Courtesy of www.gronze.com

Courtesy of www.gronze.com

Breakfast at El Castilo was a bit "Fawlty Towers". First I tried downstairs in the breakfast room; I gave my room number on arrival, got a coffee and orange juice and sat down. The lady just about had a fit and said that I could not sit at the table I had selected as it was for Groups; she showed me a table for "Solars". I was just about to sip my coffee and she came over again to say I could not have breakfast there and must go to the coffee shop on the ground floor. I obeyed "her with the loud Spanish voice!" I had to wait quite a while at the bar in the coffee shop for my turn; I was just about to open my mouth to order when the lady said "Two coffees?" As she went to serve a local who had just come in behind me! I thought am I invisible or what? After the performance downstairs I thought, you know, I don't need breakfast! I just grabbed a coffee before I set off.

And so it was that I started Camino de Invierno trail a bit grumpy to say the least!



The start of the Camino de Invierno

The old Roman bridge over the River Boeza on the right

Crossing the Roman Bridge (Puente de Boeza) to the far side of the River Boeza I turned
right and departed Ponferrada. The first part of the walk was quite nice,
following the river through lush countryside with vines growing alongside the path.

Turning right to follow the banks of the River Boeza



The area is noted for its wines





The medieval bridge at Toral de Merayo over the River Oza

Just after the medieval bridge at Toral de Merayo, I met my first two fellow pilgrims, two Spanish ladies. I only saw them once more, and that was in Monforte de Lemos at Mon ComeySueñya Guesthouse. I soon realised that the path was exceptionally well signposted with "mojons" and yellow arrows, so I hardly referred to my maps again.

Toral de Merayo

Ermita Santo Cristo at Toral de Merayo

Iglesia San Salvador


Approaching Villabre de la Jurisdiccion

Villalibre de la Jurisdiccion





Next came a road called " Calle Del Camino de Invierno" ........ This all looked promising. I was soon in Priaranza Del Bierzo, and then Santalla Del Bierzo, where I crossed the N-536 road. Here I saw the signs for Castillo de Cornatel and for Las Médulas. I had not been able to get a room in Las Médulas, and had booked nearby Orellán; I knew I was in for a tough climb to Orellán l and that I had an alternative route possibility near Castillo de Cornatel. A decision to make later.


Lovely old streets in Priaranza

I eventually came to the sign for La Villavieja; bearing in mind that this was my first day and that I had a big climb to Orellán, I opted to follow the road at this point. No mistake the road route involved a climb as well, but it was shorter. I eventually came to a small work yard with Pizarra in the name; could I get a pizza here? Dream on, pizarra refers to the local slate industry! I sat on a bench in their yard and ate my sandwich, accompanied by three salivating dogs (all harmless) who delighted as I threw them bits of bread.

Certainly no lack of signs indicating the way

Reaching Santalla

Fantastic irises coming into bloom

The whole of the Bierzo valley is visible from the Santalla lookout. The barrancas (gullies)
are remnants of Roman mining activities for gold

The barrancas


Off to the right at Santalla del Bierzo, towards Castillo de Cornatel and Las Médulas


The climb to Castillo de Cornatel and Villavieja goes off at this point, Rioferreiros


The route via Villavieja involved a lot of climbing (to approximately 800 m of elevation) , and I estimated it to be 4 km longer than the road route. There was climbing involved in the shorter road route as well, but it seemed to be the better option this being Day 1 and I still had a big climb ahead to Orellán
(Route map courtesy of www.douglasajohnson.com)

The road route

View across the valley to Castillo de Cornatel. I have to admit, when I saw this view,
that I was glad that I was not climbing it with my 10kg backpack!

I crested the hill by the slate works; the road to the left went to Villavieja,
and that to the right led to my next point of Borrenes

I had three big dogs for company as I ate my lunch just inside the slate works on a bench; they were
harmless and did not bother me........ as long as I kept throwing them a morsel of food!

After a short stretch along the road, the path went off to the left on a track towards Borrenes

Borrenes village


Leaving Borrenes and back into open countryside. Again, the sign posting was superb


I eventually reached a road with a signpost; Carucedo to the right; Las Médulas straight on;
the road to the left leading to Orellán

In hindsight, bearing in mind that I had not been here before and did not know exactly where Orellán was or where the hotel was, perhaps I should have walked into Carucedo and taken a taxi to the hotel. But instead, I turned left and began the big climb up the hill along the road. And what a tough climb it was.

LE 6220 to Orellán

(Route map courtesy of www.douglasajohnson.com)

At last........ the T-junction with the village to the right

The village sign and the church (Iglesia de San Pedro) .... but where is the hotel? Another 2 km!

The climb to the hotel involved 280 m of climbing and took me an hour and a half! I reached the T-junction and turned right and could see the village signpost and the church just ahead. There was also a sign for the hotel saying that it was another 2 km ahead! I was pretty whacked by now and phoned ahead to see if Isabel, the owner could pick me up. No such luck as she was serving food to guests, so I had to trudge on. I was in dire need of a beer by the time I arrived, and so glad that I had not made the climb to Villavieja earlier in the d

A climb of 280 m to Orellán village





6 rooms available

A very comfortable room

The bar

The dining room


View from the dining room

And a good bottle of Bierzo red! What a day it had been! And this was only Day 1.