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Walking the Olvidado: A Solo Pilgrim's Experience and Accommodations Guide

Time of past OR future Camino
Aragon/CF 08, Arles 10, Le Puy 12, Geneva 14, VdlP 15, Norte/Primitivo 15, VF 17, Levante 18, Moz 19
Camino Olvidado: Bilbao to Congosto (near Ponferrada)

In preparing for this walk, I felt overwhelmed by the multiple sources of information and found sorting through it challenging. Much of it was from the pre-pandemic era. The multiple variants add to the complexity. Also, much of the information was oriented more towards private accommodations, rather than albergues, and was written by pilgrims who walk longer distances than I do.
So in the hopes of making it easier for others, here are my stages, and a few comments. I walked October 12 - November 3; 2022; 23 days. I used the orange Camino app for basic information. I used the Buen Camino Wise Pilgrim app for my map with GPS to prevent straying from the trail, and enderjace Wikilocs on occasion. I used the 2014 Susanne Scherman/Laurie Reynolds guide for some basics, as well as the 2019 Confraternity of Saint James guide by Roger Brankin. And I used Jose Antonia Cunarro’s (Ender’) guide. I don’t use Facebook very well and perhaps for that reason, did not find the Olvidado facebook sites useful. The most useful and recent guide to accommodations was notes by Omicko and the 3 page handwritten notes by AshireGal referenced on this Ivar site.

Unfortunately I had stormy, rainy, and extremely windy weather for parts of the walk, which meant I did not take mountain variants as I had planned: stages 10B, 12B, 13B and 14B. This was disappointing, but having almost gotten blown off the mountain between Arroyo and Olea, I was not taking more chances. It was sobering to learn what severe wind warning means.

Day 1. Bilbao to Guenes. 25 km. I don’t mind pavement in moderation, and find leaving cities and walking through old industrial areas interesting, perhaps because in Alaska we don’t have much of that. So it was fine. It is easy to miss the turnoff to the Olvidado, so I walked a bit more of the Camino Norte than I had intended and had to backtrack. I just didn’t initially see the Puente del Diablo bridge which was the landmark after which the Olvidado splits from the Norte. I met a Spanish pilgrim couple in the Alonsotegui Centro Social , just out of Bilbao, where I stopped for coffee, and we all had high hopes we would see much of one another. That did not happen; they were walking several days of a variant, and then I think when the weather turned nasty, they headed home to await better weather.
In Guenes, I stayed in Hotel Guenes 45 E. 946 690 964. There are several ways to avoid this expense. One, suggested by hospitalero Adolfo, is to walk to Guenes, take the train back to Bilbao, and the next morning, return by train to Guenes and continue. The other, which the Spanish couple were doing, was to walk to Guenes, take the train on to Balmaseda where the Albergue Juvenile is an inexpensive option, and return the next morning to Guenes by train and continue.

Day 2. Guenes to Nava de Ordunte. 23 km. I stayed in the wonderful Albergue de las Estrellas, of Adolfo and his wife Rosa. 662 773 055. Both were kind and helpful. Adolfo is, to the early portions of the Olvidado, as Cunarro (Enders) is to the later sections: a tireless promoter and supporter of pilgrims. They ask for a minimum of 8 E. Adolfo explained the route and lodging for the subsequent 3 days,

Day 3. Nava de Ordunte to Villasante 26 km. I stayed in Albergue Villasante, donativo. 626 825 930. Hospitalera Isabel is another example of the warmth and care provided by hospitaleros on this route. She fixed me a simple delicious dinner, provided a wonderful room, had coffee with me in the morning and joined me for several km as I continued in the morning. I was lucky. She was about to leave for a week or two, so I would have missed her if I had been later.

Day 4. Villasante to Quintanilla del Rebollar. 17 km. to the donativo Albergue Casa de Rafi. 628 703 672. Rafi is wonderful and warm. His house/albergue is old and musty but perfectly adequate for a good night’s sleep. There is a full kitchen, which is helpful if you are carrying food, as there is no food in the town. There is a Centro Social bar with limited hours for coffee. It was here that I met Chuchi, another of the amigos of the Camino Olvidado and someone who was helpful to me by text in the days that followed. Chuchi and Rafi recommended the accommodation for the next night.

Day 5. Quintanilla de Rebollar to Santelices. 18 km. Though this is Chuchi’s home town, he has not been successful in reopening an albergue here. So I stayed in Hotel Rural El Rincon de Las Merindades. 40 E included a large self-service breakfast as early as I wanted. Call Araceli at 616 561 783. It did take me 20 minutes and review of a you-tube video to figure out how to use the coffee machine. There is a good menu del dia at the Meson across the street for a late lunch.

Day 6. Santelices to Arija. 20 km. to Camping El Playa de Arija. 30 E. 942 773 300, for a bunk in a small cabin which was pretty basic: 2 bunk beds, one electric outlet, one light, one window, one door, a porch, and a picnic table out front. The shower/bathrooms were a minutes walk away. My understanding is that the price for 2 pilgrims was the same as 1. This was obviously a simple place to stay, but very quiet as there were very few people around in the October cold, and the elderly man was perfectly pleasant, once he understood that I didn’t object to the price or the distance to the bathhouse. The accommodation is a good km beyond the town proper out a spit on the shores of the reservoir.

Day 7. Arija to Olea. 25 km. This day had some walking challenges. The bridge is out between lower Arija and upper Arija, so the morning began in the dark, navigating the beach between the two and finding the stepping stones over the stream. Luckily the owner of Camping El Playa had drawn me a good map and carefully explained how to navigate this route. Chuchi had given me Ender’s Wikiloc route for the day, which he said was created when Enders walked the Olvidado in July 2022. The new route decreases the amount of pavement walking considerably. The Camino no longer goes through Villafria, Juliobriga, or Retortillo. It involved turning left off the road just before the last house in Arroyo and climbing to the top of a ridge, following a fence through the Pena Cutral summer pastures for some distance along the ridge, and then angling left and finding a twisty road/path down the other side. Well and good, but here was where I found out what the severe wind warnings were all about. I actually considered crawling, as walking was incredibly challenging along the ridge. Without two walking sticks, I am sure I would have been blown over repeatedly. I was relieved that I could text back and forth with Chuchi, so felt less alone. Then down the other side to the village of Cervatos, where I visited the 12th century church, San Pedro de Cervatos, and then up another lesser mountain, on hard-to-follow Roman stones to Olea where I stayed in Casa Miguel. 30 E. 659 930 804. Miguel actually met me on the road, probably worried as the weather was not just incredibly windy but also rainy and cold. We both agreed that this was not a day for walking, especially in the mountains. He was so kind and his hospitality was generous. I had carried food with me, knowing that there would be no food in Olea, but Miguel provided more food (olive oil, 4 eggs, sausage, cheese) so I could make an omelet and a huge breakfast. His casa rural is lovely, and he is a gem.

Day 8. Olea to Aguilar de Campoo. 25 km. This was another difficult day with strong winds, but luckily not on mountain tops. I stayed in Hotel Cortes, 40 E. 979 125 505. on the street just behind the tourist office. It was fine, nothing special.

Just a comment - many others have commented on how they enjoyed the route after Aguilar de Campoo so much more than the first week out of Bilbao. While I understand that the first week has more pavement, and less spectacular scenery, it does have a number of wonderful hospitaleros: Adolfo, Isabel, Rafi, Chuchi, Miguel - these folks were important to me as a solo walker, and I was very appreciative. I am so glad I started in Bilbao.

Day 9. Aguilar de Campoo to Cervera de Pisuerga. 28 km. Hotel Pineda. 40 E. which included breakfast. 979 870 390.

Day 10. Cervera de Pisuerga to Santibanez de la Pena. 28 km. in one of the four rooms above Bar Mylo. 30 E. which included a self-service breakfast (single serving coffees - the kind you can buy in grocery stores, fruit and packaged pastries).
979 860 294. It is probably not a good idea to accept the proprietor’s offer to cook you dinner, unless you are very hungry and there are no other options. This stage was a good option for me as I did not want a longer stage.

Day 11. Santibanez de la Pena to Guardo. 15 km. Hotel Don Edmundo. 30 E.
979 861 010. This residential hotel is conveniently near the entrance into town. There is a nice bar roughly opposite with good meats and tortilla con patatas open in the afternoon and not open early the next morning. There is a bar that opens early in the plaza opposite the ayuntamiento, which is close to the camino route through town, for the following morning.

Day 12. Guardo to Puente Almuhey. 16 km. Albergue Municipal. 10E. 606 240 480 (Sonia). This was another day of walking in clouds or just below clouds. I think there might have been fine mountain views if it weren’t cloudy, rainy and windy. Finally an albergue! With 10 beds in 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen and dining area, and heat. This is just a lovely albergue, and Sonia is a great hospitalero who is happy to show off her town, and visit. And this is finally where I met another pilgrim for the evening, a Spanish cyclist, quite disgruntled about the lack of albergues on this camino. Sonia recommended Bar Restaurante La Mezquita for a late lunch, which was delicious. The tienda was closed for a week, but the tobacco store had some staples so I could stock up on food for the next few days.

Day 13. Puente Almuhey to Cistierna. 22 km Finally the clouds lifted a bit and I loved this day. I visited the church with the 2 carved mermaids, and had a picnic at the sanctuary before climbing up to the pass with a shepherd, his 5 dogs, and sheep. I could actually see the dramatic cliff faces, rather than imagine mountains in the mist. I loved the old oak forest followed by paths in the pine forest on the far side of the path, and enjoyed the descent into Cistierna where I stayed at Hostal Restaurante Moderno, 25 E. 987 700 170. The second floor restaurant was superb.

Day 14. Cistierna to Bonar. 28 km. There was a bar open in La Ercina for a morning coffee, just at the entrance of town on the right, and a second in the village of La Losilla, I think, where I met up with an elderly Belgian woman who married a Spaniard and settled in Spain 50 years ago. She was eager to speak English, and had interesting things to say about how Spanish village life had been transformed in her lifetime. In Bonar I stayed at Hostal Nisi. 20 E. 987 735 210 run by two elderly ladies who I suspect provide social services to the town. At any rate, I was an unregistered guest.

Day 15. Bonar to La Robla. 33 km. I stayed at Pension Mundo 20 E as the albergue is still closed. 987 570 733. The Pension serves breakfast early. In the morning I don’t remember how many people tried to tell me I was not taking the right path out of town, thinking that I was walking the Camino Salvador.

Continued below (I hope)
 
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Continuing:


Day 16. La Robla to La Magdalena. 17 km. Keys to Albergue Municipal at nearby Bar El Cruce, just before the bridge. 10 E. 685 920 895. This albergue is super modern and interesting architecturally. It has a full kitchen, one large bathroom, maybe beds for 9 or 10. Bar El Cruce will do an evening delivery of substantial breakfast foods, so you can make an early start. No nearby bars are open early. Very nice folks (Paulo and Julio). The last pilgrim had stayed there 8 days previously, a reminder that the Camino Olvidado is not well traveled.

From La Magdalena on, the Camino Olvidado has albergue or albergue like accommodations and feels more like a “traditional” camino.

Day 17. La Magdalena to Riello. 17 km. This was a hard day as I was ill with a GI illness, the cold rain and wind had returned with a vengeance, and the morning involved a sometimes very steep climb up a transhumance route in the forests. In the first village, at the top, Villayuste, at 10 or 11 km, I stopped to ask for directions and ended up getting a ride into Riello. Bar Restaurante Villamor in Rielllo is where I connected with my hosts for the night, as Laura and Anna work in the kitchen there. They took me to Robledo de Omana 7 km from Riello off camino to their home, Casa Rural La Magia de las Nubes. 15 E for bed and breakfast.
661 977 305 (Laura). It was great meeting Laura (previously hospitalera of the Mansilla de las Mulas albergue on the Camino Frances) whom I had heard a lot about. They would love to host more pilgrims of the Olvidado, as Laura is missing her prior involvement with pilgrims. I would strongly urge all Olvidado pilgrims to connect with her.

Day 18. Riello to Vegarienza 11 km. Still ill, I enjoyed a very short day. Laura and Anna gave me a ride back to Riello at 10am as they were going to work (but would take pilgrims back to Riello at any hour). The path along the river at La Omanuela is magical. The Municipal Albergue in Vegarienza is managed by Estela, minimum donation 8 E. 680 799 927. The albergue is now in one of the town’s three historic 17th century monastery buildings. It is quite an amazing old building with 10 beds in 3 bedrooms, a fully stocked kitchen with hot water, a nice kitchen table, a sitting room, and a clothesline out the upstairs windows. There is even a bathroom scale. It felt like having a whole house. Estela provided some basic breakfast items (milk, instant coffee, instant hot chocolate, fruit and packaged pastries) and there was an apple tree loaded with fruit in the courtyard. Heat might be an issue when it gets colder, but the provided blankets and my sleeping bag kept me warm. I felt lucky to get a late lunch at Meson-Maxi just up the street, as it was Todo los Santos weekend and the place was packed. Meson-Maxi also had a shelf behind the bar with tinned sardines and a few other grocery items.

Day 19. Vegarienza to Fasgar. 17 km. A beautiful fall walk up the valley, though some of the off-road options were impressively muddy, and the one at Barrio de la Puente (I think) seemed to lead nowhere. Rosi is the perfect hospitalera (and mayor) of the Fasgar municipal albergue, 15 E, and made sure the pellet stove was up and running in the large common room/kitchen, and that the space heater was working for the bedroom. The kitchen cabinets were stocked with many choices of canned foods,pasta, coffee, boxed milk, in case pilgrims arrive without food. Rosi’s number is 607 027 949. I was lucky as it was Todos los Santos weekend, Fasgar was full of city folks returning to their ancestral village to visit the cemetery, and I was invited to the Halloween party in the community room just below the albergue, and had a fine time celebrating, visiting and tasting local foods. The Fasgar albergue is impressive and the town exceedingly welcoming.

Day 20. Fasgar to Iguena. 18 km. I was grateful for a day of decent weather, the first without either rain or severe wind or both since Arija. And what a spectacular day to climb up to the pass, descend to the Campo de Santiago, and wind my way over a broken stony Roman road through the gorge into first, the town of Colinas del Campo de Martin Moro, where I had a coffee and lemon cake at the welcoming Cafe Bar El Aguzo. Then on to Iguena where the simple Albergue del Catoute, 6 E, provided a heated room of five bunk beds. 987 519 517. The following morning, Nacho, I think the owner, welcomed me to join him for a 7:45 am coffee at the bar (which does not officially open until 11am) before he drove his kids to school at 8:15am.

Day 21. Iguena to Noceda del Bierzo. 15 km. This is now the official route with clear yellow arrows all the way. Signage is excellent. The option of proceeding directly to Lebaniego Is only shown by a sign for something commercial in Lebaniego at an intersection. Bar Bombay in Quintana de Fuseros, has good tapas, and is very welcoming. It was worth the detour into town. The Noceda Albergue Peregrinos, donativo, is right at the entrance of Noceda in an old school building. 618 741 810 (Manolo I think). The kitchen is fairly well equipped, and has a separate entrance from the sleeping room of maybe 5 bunk beds. There is hot water (well, at least tepid), but no heat the night I was there. The hospitalero provides a code to open the door, when you call on arrival, though of course, a call the day before to make sure someone is around, is always a good practice. Noceda is an interesting strung out town 4 km long. The nearest bar was closed for the day, taking a well deserved rest after the long Todos los Santos weekend; there is no grocery store anywhere, and the nearest place to get a bocadillo in a heated space was 2 km up the town. On the day I was there, there was no place to get a hot meal, despite this being a fair size town.

Day 22. Noceda del Bierzo to Congosto. 20 km. The new portion of this reroute is well signed, and crosses pastures and woods. The trail in the woods looked fairly freshly cut, and goes up and down over the hills. At one point it involved literally crawling up a slippery steep muddy slope. In dry weather this would not have been a challenge, but my Olvidado camino was challenged by inclement weather most days. Once beyond the woodland trails, the signage on the logging/mining roads was there, but required very careful attention and some common sense. Coffee, but no food, was available in Losada bar (which has no plans to reopen their pilgrim lodging). Congosto is another village with minimal food options, but the hospitalero, Gloria (670 057 542) when I called her the day prior, urged me to Whatsapp Mason La Tueca Nuevo (679 511 337) to reserve a late lunch. I was so glad I did, as this was one of the best meals I have had on any camino - simple, delicious, filling, and I was told I need not finish the large serving of cocido because they would send me back to the albergue with whatever I didn’t eat, for my dinner. The homemade flan with slices of caramelized pineapple embedded in it was delicious. They were so kind. The Congosto Albergue Municipal. 8 E. is as perfect an albergue as one person could want with 2 bunk beds, heat, heat sufficient to dry clothes, a drying rack, coffee maker, microwave, breakfast foods, snack foods, and hot water. After many albergues with no or minimal heat, and with cold rain and wind most days, heat was wonderful. It was clearly planned by someone who understood what pilgrims need. Now for 4 people (there are 4 beds and 4 communal shower heads) it would be incredibly cramped, but for one person, it was heaven. It was originally a locker room at the soccer field, which explains the four shower heads.

Day 23 Congosto to Ponferrada. ?15 km. I took the 7:20am bus (essentially the school bus) into Ponferrada to start the Camino Invierno, regretting that I did not have the several extra days to complete the Camino Olvidado to Villafranca del Bierzo and get my Olvidada certificate. Another time perhaps - to rewalk the Olvidado in better weather, take the mountain variants, and proceed to Villafranca del Bierzo. I don't usually take the bus, but was so short of time, and it was quite fun to be with the students.

I found the Camino Olvidado a beautiful, solitary, welcoming camino, beautiful even without the mountain variants. I suspect it will become much more popular when there are more albergues. I found it much more to my taste than the Camino Invierno which followed, though that was also a fine walk.

I hope this is helpful to others. (and I hope the listed phone numbers are accurate!)
 
Thank-you so much for your detailed account. I walked this camino in November as well and loved it! I was fortunate enough to take the alternative routes which were exceptional.
 
...and ship it to Santiago for storage. You pick it up once in Santiago. Service offered by Casa Ivar (we use DHL for transportation).
Continuing:


Day 16. La Robla to La Magdalena. 17 km. Keys to Albergue Municipal at nearby Bar El Cruce, just before the bridge. 10 E. 685 920 895. This albergue is super modern and interesting architecturally. It has a full kitchen, one large bathroom, maybe beds for 9 or 10. Bar El Cruce will do an evening delivery of substantial breakfast foods, so you can make an early start. No nearby bars are open early. Very nice folks (Paulo and Julio). The last pilgrim had stayed there 8 days previously, a reminder that the Camino Olvidado is not well traveled.

From La Magdalena on, the Camino Olvidado has albergue or albergue like accommodations and feels more like a “traditional” camino.

Day 17. La Magdalena to Riello. 17 km. This was a hard day as I was ill with a GI illness, the cold rain and wind had returned with a vengeance, and the morning involved a sometimes very steep climb up a transhumance route in the forests. In the first village, at the top, Villayuste, at 10 or 11 km, I stopped to ask for directions and ended up getting a ride into Riello. Bar Restaurante Villamor in Rielllo is where I connected with my hosts for the night, as Laura and Anna work in the kitchen there. They took me to Robledo de Omana 7 km from Riello off camino to their home, Casa Rural La Magia de las Nubes. 15 E for bed and breakfast.
661 977 305 (Laura). It was great meeting Laura (previously hospitalera of the Mansilla de las Mulas albergue on the Camino Frances) whom I had heard a lot about. They would love to host more pilgrims of the Olvidado, as Laura is missing her prior involvement with pilgrims. I would strongly urge all Olvidado pilgrims to connect with her.

Day 18. Riello to Vegarienza 11 km. Still ill, I enjoyed a very short day. Laura and Anna gave me a ride back to Riello at 10am as they were going to work (but would take pilgrims back to Riello at any hour). The path along the river at La Omanuela is magical. The Municipal Albergue in Vegarienza is managed by Estela, minimum donation 8 E. 680 799 927. The albergue is now in one of the town’s three historic 17th century monastery buildings. It is quite an amazing old building with 10 beds in 3 bedrooms, a fully stocked kitchen with hot water, a nice kitchen table, a sitting room, and a clothesline out the upstairs windows. There is even a bathroom scale. It felt like having a whole house. Estela provided some basic breakfast items (milk, instant coffee, instant hot chocolate, fruit and packaged pastries) and there was an apple tree loaded with fruit in the courtyard. Heat might be an issue when it gets colder, but the provided blankets and my sleeping bag kept me warm. I felt lucky to get a late lunch at Meson-Maxi just up the street, as it was Todo los Santos weekend and the place was packed. Meson-Maxi also had a shelf behind the bar with tinned sardines and a few other grocery items.

Day 19. Vegarienza to Fasgar. 17 km. A beautiful fall walk up the valley, though some of the off-road options were impressively muddy, and the one at Barrio de la Puente (I think) seemed to lead nowhere. Rosi is the perfect hospitalera (and mayor) of the Fasgar municipal albergue, 15 E, and made sure the pellet stove was up and running in the large common room/kitchen, and that the space heater was working for the bedroom. The kitchen cabinets were stocked with many choices of canned foods,pasta, coffee, boxed milk, in case pilgrims arrive without food. Rosi’s number is 607 027 949. I was lucky as it was Todos los Santos weekend, Fasgar was full of city folks returning to their ancestral village to visit the cemetery, and I was invited to the Halloween party in the community room just below the albergue, and had a fine time celebrating, visiting and tasting local foods. The Fasgar albergue is impressive and the town exceedingly welcoming.

Day 20. Fasgar to Iguena. 18 km. I was grateful for a day of decent weather, the first without either rain or severe wind or both since Arija. And what a spectacular day to climb up to the pass, descend to the Campo de Santiago, and wind my way over a broken stony Roman road through the gorge into first, the town of Colinas del Campo de Martin Moro, where I had a coffee and lemon cake at the welcoming Cafe Bar El Aguzo. Then on to Iguena where the simple Albergue del Catoute, 6 E, provided a heated room of five bunk beds. 987 519 517. The following morning, Nacho, I think the owner, welcomed me to join him for a 7:45 am coffee at the bar (which does not officially open until 11am) before he drove his kids to school at 8:15am.

Day 21. Iguena to Noceda del Bierzo. 15 km. This is now the official route with clear yellow arrows all the way. Signage is excellent. The option of proceeding directly to Lebaniego Is only shown by a sign for something commercial in Lebaniego at an intersection. Bar Bombay in Quintana de Fuseros, has good tapas, and is very welcoming. It was worth the detour into town. The Noceda Albergue Peregrinos, donativo, is right at the entrance of Noceda in an old school building. 618 741 810 (Manolo I think). The kitchen is fairly well equipped, and has a separate entrance from the sleeping room of maybe 5 bunk beds. There is hot water (well, at least tepid), but no heat the night I was there. The hospitalero provides a code to open the door, when you call on arrival, though of course, a call the day before to make sure someone is around, is always a good practice. Noceda is an interesting strung out town 4 km long. The nearest bar was closed for the day, taking a well deserved rest after the long Todos los Santos weekend; there is no grocery store anywhere, and the nearest place to get a bocadillo in a heated space was 2 km up the town. On the day I was there, there was no place to get a hot meal, despite this being a fair size town.

Day 22. Noceda del Bierzo to Congosto. 20 km. The new portion of this reroute is well signed, and crosses pastures and woods. The trail in the woods looked fairly freshly cut, and goes up and down over the hills. At one point it involved literally crawling up a slippery steep muddy slope. In dry weather this would not have been a challenge, but my Olvidado camino was challenged by inclement weather most days. Once beyond the woodland trails, the signage on the logging/mining roads was there, but required very careful attention and some common sense. Coffee, but no food, was available in Losada bar (which has no plans to reopen their pilgrim lodging). Congosto is another village with minimal food options, but the hospitalero, Gloria (670 057 542) when I called her the day prior, urged me to Whatsapp Mason La Tueca Nuevo (679 511 337) to reserve a late lunch. I was so glad I did, as this was one of the best meals I have had on any camino - simple, delicious, filling, and I was told I need not finish the large serving of cocido because they would send me back to the albergue with whatever I didn’t eat, for my dinner. The homemade flan with slices of caramelized pineapple embedded in it was delicious. They were so kind. The Congosto Albergue Municipal. 8 E. is as perfect an albergue as one person could want with 2 bunk beds, heat, heat sufficient to dry clothes, a drying rack, coffee maker, microwave, breakfast foods, snack foods, and hot water. After many albergues with no or minimal heat, and with cold rain and wind most days, heat was wonderful. It was clearly planned by someone who understood what pilgrims need. Now for 4 people (there are 4 beds and 4 communal shower heads) it would be incredibly cramped, but for one person, it was heaven. It was originally a locker room at the soccer field, which explains the four shower heads.

Day 23 Congosto to Ponferrada. ?15 km. I took the 7:20am bus (essentially the school bus) into Ponferrada to start the Camino Invierno, regretting that I did not have the several extra days to complete the Camino Olvidado to Villafranca del Bierzo and get my Olvidada certificate. Another time perhaps - to rewalk the Olvidado in better weather, take the mountain variants, and proceed to Villafranca del Bierzo. I don't usually take the bus, but was so short of time, and it was quite fun to be with the students.

I found the Camino Olvidado a beautiful, solitary, welcoming camino, beautiful even without the mountain variants. I suspect it will become much more popular when there are more albergues. I found it much more to my taste than the Camino Invierno which followed, though that was also a fine walk.

I hope this is helpful to others. (and I hope the listed phone numbers are accurate!)
An excellent report on your camino, and congrats on persevering despite the challenges. Thank you. Maybe you will follow up with an account of your following camino, Invierno...
 
I can't speak for @Maggie5859 but If I had been able to do the mountainous variants, it would have added one day. I chose the low 16.7 km route between Guardo to Puente Almuhey (which is Stage 10A on the Camino Olvidado official app). The mountainous variant , Stage 10B, is 31.7 km, but is still one day.
The other mountainous variant is between Cistierna and La Magdalena. Stages !2A, 13A and 14A are the lower route which I took going through Bonar and La Robla to La Magdalena. The beautiful mountainous variant, which I so wish I had been able to take, goes through Vegacervera, Buiza and La Pola de Gordon to rejoin before La Magdalena: Stages 12B, 13B, 14B and 15B on the orange official Camino app.

 
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Hope to do the same in June. What were your stages @Maggie5859 including the mountain routes?
I was incorrect when I said I walked in November. I actually started on October 7th and arrived in Villafranca del Bierzo on October 24th, and then walked on to Santiago to arrive on October 31st. Sorry for the confusion. Post-Christmas confusion!
My stages were as follows:1. Bilbao-Balmaseda, 2. Balmaseda-Espinosa, 3. Espinosa-Santelices, 4. Santelices-Santa Galdea(near Arija), 5. Santa Galdea-Olea, 6. Olea-Aquilar de Campoo, 7. Aquilar de Campoo-Cervera de Pisuerga, 8. Cervera de Pisuerga-Guardo, 9. Guardo-Puente Almuey, 10. Puente Almuey -Cistierna, 11. Cistierna-Bonar, 12. Bonar-Vegacervera, 13. Vegacervera-La Pola de Gordon, 14. Pola de Gordon-La Magdalena, 15. La Magdalena-Vegarienza, 16. Vegarienza-Iguena, 17. Iguana-Congosto, 18. Congosto-Villafranca del Bierzo.
 
I was incorrect when I said I walked in November. I actually started on October 7th and arrived in Villafranca del Bierzo on October 24th, and then walked on to Santiago to arrive on October 31st. Sorry for the confusion. Post-Christmas confusion!
My stages were as follows:1. Bilbao-Balmaseda, 2. Balmaseda-Espinosa, 3. Espinosa-Santelices, 4. Santelices-Santa Galdea(near Arija), 5. Santa Galdea-Olea, 6. Olea-Aquilar de Campoo, 7. Aquilar de Campoo-Cervera de Pisuerga, 8. Cervera de Pisuerga-Guardo, 9. Guardo-Puente Almuey, 10. Puente Almuey -Cistierna, 11. Cistierna-Bonar, 12. Bonar-Vegacervera, 13. Vegacervera-La Pola de Gordon, 14. Pola de Gordon-La Magdalena, 15. La Magdalena-Vegarienza, 16. Vegarienza-Iguena, 17. Iguana-Congosto, 18. Congosto-Villafranca del Bierzo.
Many thanks @Maggie5859 ! Your stages look similar to those I was planning on doing last June but decided last minute to do the Norte as a couple of albergues were closed and the first few stages were very expensive accomodations wise.

Did you use gpx tracks on the mountain alternatives?
 
Thank-you so much for your detailed account. I walked this camino in November as well and loved it! I was fortunate enough to take the alternative routes which were exceptional.
Many thanks @Maggie5859 ! Your stages look similar to those I was planning on doing last June but decided last minute to do the Norte as a couple of albergues were closed and the first few stages were very expensive accomodations wise.

Did you use gpx tracks on the mountain alternatives?
I used Wisepilgrim and it proved to be extremely useful in the mountainous areas where the path meandered. This camino was truly exceptional and in my opinion, the only unfortunate part was from Congosto to Cabanas Raras, which was made less unfortunate by the incredible hospitality I experienced in Cubillos del Sil.
 
The 2024 Camino guides will be coming out little by little. Here is a collection of the ones that are out so far.
I used Wisepilgrim and it proved to be extremely useful in the mountainous areas where the path meandered. This camino was truly exceptional and in my opinion, the only unfortunate part was from Congosto to Cabanas Raras, which was made less unfortunate by the incredible hospitality I experienced in Cubillos del Sil.
May I ask what happened?
 
Continuing:


Day 16. La Robla to La Magdalena. 17 km. Keys to Albergue Municipal at nearby Bar El Cruce, just before the bridge. 10 E. 685 920 895. This albergue is super modern and interesting architecturally. It has a full kitchen, one large bathroom, maybe beds for 9 or 10. Bar El Cruce will do an evening delivery of substantial breakfast foods, so you can make an early start. No nearby bars are open early. Very nice folks (Paulo and Julio). The last pilgrim had stayed there 8 days previously, a reminder that the Camino Olvidado is not well traveled.

From La Magdalena on, the Camino Olvidado has albergue or albergue like accommodations and feels more like a “traditional” camino.

Day 17. La Magdalena to Riello. 17 km. This was a hard day as I was ill with a GI illness, the cold rain and wind had returned with a vengeance, and the morning involved a sometimes very steep climb up a transhumance route in the forests. In the first village, at the top, Villayuste, at 10 or 11 km, I stopped to ask for directions and ended up getting a ride into Riello. Bar Restaurante Villamor in Rielllo is where I connected with my hosts for the night, as Laura and Anna work in the kitchen there. They took me to Robledo de Omana 7 km from Riello off camino to their home, Casa Rural La Magia de las Nubes. 15 E for bed and breakfast.
661 977 305 (Laura). It was great meeting Laura (previously hospitalera of the Mansilla de las Mulas albergue on the Camino Frances) whom I had heard a lot about. They would love to host more pilgrims of the Olvidado, as Laura is missing her prior involvement with pilgrims. I would strongly urge all Olvidado pilgrims to connect with her.

Day 18. Riello to Vegarienza 11 km. Still ill, I enjoyed a very short day. Laura and Anna gave me a ride back to Riello at 10am as they were going to work (but would take pilgrims back to Riello at any hour). The path along the river at La Omanuela is magical. The Municipal Albergue in Vegarienza is managed by Estela, minimum donation 8 E. 680 799 927. The albergue is now in one of the town’s three historic 17th century monastery buildings. It is quite an amazing old building with 10 beds in 3 bedrooms, a fully stocked kitchen with hot water, a nice kitchen table, a sitting room, and a clothesline out the upstairs windows. There is even a bathroom scale. It felt like having a whole house. Estela provided some basic breakfast items (milk, instant coffee, instant hot chocolate, fruit and packaged pastries) and there was an apple tree loaded with fruit in the courtyard. Heat might be an issue when it gets colder, but the provided blankets and my sleeping bag kept me warm. I felt lucky to get a late lunch at Meson-Maxi just up the street, as it was Todo los Santos weekend and the place was packed. Meson-Maxi also had a shelf behind the bar with tinned sardines and a few other grocery items.

Day 19. Vegarienza to Fasgar. 17 km. A beautiful fall walk up the valley, though some of the off-road options were impressively muddy, and the one at Barrio de la Puente (I think) seemed to lead nowhere. Rosi is the perfect hospitalera (and mayor) of the Fasgar municipal albergue, 15 E, and made sure the pellet stove was up and running in the large common room/kitchen, and that the space heater was working for the bedroom. The kitchen cabinets were stocked with many choices of canned foods,pasta, coffee, boxed milk, in case pilgrims arrive without food. Rosi’s number is 607 027 949. I was lucky as it was Todos los Santos weekend, Fasgar was full of city folks returning to their ancestral village to visit the cemetery, and I was invited to the Halloween party in the community room just below the albergue, and had a fine time celebrating, visiting and tasting local foods. The Fasgar albergue is impressive and the town exceedingly welcoming.

Day 20. Fasgar to Iguena. 18 km. I was grateful for a day of decent weather, the first without either rain or severe wind or both since Arija. And what a spectacular day to climb up to the pass, descend to the Campo de Santiago, and wind my way over a broken stony Roman road through the gorge into first, the town of Colinas del Campo de Martin Moro, where I had a coffee and lemon cake at the welcoming Cafe Bar El Aguzo. Then on to Iguena where the simple Albergue del Catoute, 6 E, provided a heated room of five bunk beds. 987 519 517. The following morning, Nacho, I think the owner, welcomed me to join him for a 7:45 am coffee at the bar (which does not officially open until 11am) before he drove his kids to school at 8:15am.

Day 21. Iguena to Noceda del Bierzo. 15 km. This is now the official route with clear yellow arrows all the way. Signage is excellent. The option of proceeding directly to Lebaniego Is only shown by a sign for something commercial in Lebaniego at an intersection. Bar Bombay in Quintana de Fuseros, has good tapas, and is very welcoming. It was worth the detour into town. The Noceda Albergue Peregrinos, donativo, is right at the entrance of Noceda in an old school building. 618 741 810 (Manolo I think). The kitchen is fairly well equipped, and has a separate entrance from the sleeping room of maybe 5 bunk beds. There is hot water (well, at least tepid), but no heat the night I was there. The hospitalero provides a code to open the door, when you call on arrival, though of course, a call the day before to make sure someone is around, is always a good practice. Noceda is an interesting strung out town 4 km long. The nearest bar was closed for the day, taking a well deserved rest after the long Todos los Santos weekend; there is no grocery store anywhere, and the nearest place to get a bocadillo in a heated space was 2 km up the town. On the day I was there, there was no place to get a hot meal, despite this being a fair size town.

Day 22. Noceda del Bierzo to Congosto. 20 km. The new portion of this reroute is well signed, and crosses pastures and woods. The trail in the woods looked fairly freshly cut, and goes up and down over the hills. At one point it involved literally crawling up a slippery steep muddy slope. In dry weather this would not have been a challenge, but my Olvidado camino was challenged by inclement weather most days. Once beyond the woodland trails, the signage on the logging/mining roads was there, but required very careful attention and some common sense. Coffee, but no food, was available in Losada bar (which has no plans to reopen their pilgrim lodging). Congosto is another village with minimal food options, but the hospitalero, Gloria (670 057 542) when I called her the day prior, urged me to Whatsapp Mason La Tueca Nuevo (679 511 337) to reserve a late lunch. I was so glad I did, as this was one of the best meals I have had on any camino - simple, delicious, filling, and I was told I need not finish the large serving of cocido because they would send me back to the albergue with whatever I didn’t eat, for my dinner. The homemade flan with slices of caramelized pineapple embedded in it was delicious. They were so kind. The Congosto Albergue Municipal. 8 E. is as perfect an albergue as one person could want with 2 bunk beds, heat, heat sufficient to dry clothes, a drying rack, coffee maker, microwave, breakfast foods, snack foods, and hot water. After many albergues with no or minimal heat, and with cold rain and wind most days, heat was wonderful. It was clearly planned by someone who understood what pilgrims need. Now for 4 people (there are 4 beds and 4 communal shower heads) it would be incredibly cramped, but for one person, it was heaven. It was originally a locker room at the soccer field, which explains the four shower heads.

Day 23 Congosto to Ponferrada. ?15 km. I took the 7:20am bus (essentially the school bus) into Ponferrada to start the Camino Invierno, regretting that I did not have the several extra days to complete the Camino Olvidado to Villafranca del Bierzo and get my Olvidada certificate. Another time perhaps - to rewalk the Olvidado in better weather, take the mountain variants, and proceed to Villafranca del Bierzo. I don't usually take the bus, but was so short of time, and it was quite fun to be with the students.

I found the Camino Olvidado a beautiful, solitary, welcoming camino, beautiful even without the mountain variants. I suspect it will become much more popular when there are more albergues. I found it much more to my taste than the Camino Invierno which followed, though that was also a fine walk.

I hope this is helpful to others. (and I hope the listed phone numbers are accurate!)
Thank you for taking the time to write up this information which is so helpful. I am planning to walk the Olvidado in 2024.
 
Get a spanish phone number with Airalo. eSim, so no physical SIM card. Easy to use app to add more funds if needed.
May I ask what happened?
Nothing terrible happened but the camino itself does not pass through particularly beautiful areas. Having said that, I met a lovely couple and they directed me to the bar where I was received with great hospitality. This camino surprised and delighted me daily. I would happily walk it again!
 
so glad to have found this posting as I am in the midst of planning my stages on the Olvidado to walk this September. It is interesting that both @sharon w and @Maggie5859 walked different stages. I have been researching the stages listed in Ender's guide and also Gronze's guide which are very different. I can now see there is great flexibility in deciding what route to walk but primarily it must depend on weather and of course accommodation. I do hope I get to stay in Adolfo's Albergue de las Estrellas and some of the others mentioned.
 
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I was incorrect when I said I walked in November. I actually started on October 7th and arrived in Villafranca del Bierzo on October 24th, and then walked on to Santiago to arrive on October 31st. Sorry for the confusion. Post-Christmas confusion!
My stages were as follows:1. Bilbao-Balmaseda, 2. Balmaseda-Espinosa, 3. Espinosa-Santelices, 4. Santelices-Santa Galdea(near Arija), 5. Santa Galdea-Olea, 6. Olea-Aquilar de Campoo, 7. Aquilar de Campoo-Cervera de Pisuerga, 8. Cervera de Pisuerga-Guardo, 9. Guardo-Puente Almuey, 10. Puente Almuey -Cistierna, 11. Cistierna-Bonar, 12. Bonar-Vegacervera, 13. Vegacervera-La Pola de Gordon, 14. Pola de Gordon-La Magdalena, 15. La Magdalena-Vegarienza, 16. Vegarienza-Iguena, 17. Iguana-Congosto, 18. Congosto-Villafranca del Bierzo.
Thanks again @Maggie5859 , somehow I forgot about your post and made a tentative plan this afternoon which, after seeing your post now, coincidentally also came out to 18 stages. The only difference I see with my plan is day 2 to Villasante instead of Espinosa (there is an albergue in Villasante) and day 4 to Arija instead of Santa Galdea but it would be great if I can avoid the campground in Arija for €30 (I'm walking alone). Where did you sleep that night?

Quite a few of the stages are actually a combo of 1 of Ender's stages plus a part of another, in a few cases actually 2 stages.

Were to pleased with the stages? Recommendations or suggestions?

I have downloaded all of Ender's Wikilocs tracks (he now has a dedicated list for the Olvidado on his personal page) which I plan on using.

Cheers
 
Thanks again @Maggie5859 , somehow I forgot about your post and made a tentative plan this afternoon which, after seeing your post now, coincidentally also came out to 18 stages. The only difference I see with my plan is day 2 to Villasante instead of Espinosa (there is an albergue in Villasante) and day 4 to Arija instead of Santa Galdea but it would be great if I can avoid the campground in Arija for €30 (I'm walking alone). Where did you sleep that night?

Quite a few of the stages are actually a combo of 1 of Ender's stages plus a part of another, in a few cases actually 2 stages.

Were to pleased with the stages? Recommendations or suggestions?

I have downloaded all of Ender's Wikilocs tracks (he now has a dedicated list for the Olvidado on his personal page) which I plan on using.

Cheers
Good morning! I didn’t stay in Arija, but in El Rincon de Galdea which is 4.2km from Arija. You must detour to get there but the Hotel Rural El Rincon de Galdea is wonderful! The cost was 55 Euro with excellent food for both supper and breakfast. The number is 942 733 313. I really enjoyed all my stages, particularly the alternatives which covered some high ground. Congosto to Villafranca del Bierzo was my least favourite, but the Cafe-Bar La Madrilena in Cubillos del Sil was amazing! On the camino, on the left in the town Center. A warm welcome awaits you there!
 
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Camino Olvidado: Bilbao to Congosto (near Ponferrada)

In preparing for this walk, I felt overwhelmed by the multiple sources of information and found sorting through it challenging. Much of it was from the pre-pandemic era. The multiple variants add to the complexity. Also, much of the information was oriented more towards private accommodations, rather than albergues, and was written by pilgrims who walk longer distances than I do.
So in the hopes of making it easier for others, here are my stages, and a few comments. I walked October 12 - November 3; 2022; 23 days. I used the orange Camino app for basic information. I used the Buen Camino Wise Pilgrim app for my map with GPS to prevent straying from the trail, and enderjace Wikilocs on occasion. I used the 2014 Susanne Scherman/Laurie Reynolds guide for some basics, as well as the 2019 Confraternity of Saint James guide by Roger Brankin. And I used Jose Antonia Cunarro’s (Ender’) guide. I don’t use Facebook very well and perhaps for that reason, did not find the Olvidado facebook sites useful. The most useful and recent guide to accommodations was notes by Omicko and the 3 page handwritten notes by AshireGal referenced on this Ivar site.

Unfortunately I had stormy, rainy, and extremely windy weather for parts of the walk, which meant I did not take mountain variants as I had planned: stages 10B, 12B, 13B and 14B. This was disappointing, but having almost gotten blown off the mountain between Arroyo and Olea, I was not taking more chances. It was sobering to learn what severe wind warning means.

Day 1. Bilbao to Guenes. 25 km. I don’t mind pavement in moderation, and find leaving cities and walking through old industrial areas interesting, perhaps because in Alaska we don’t have much of that. So it was fine. It is easy to miss the turnoff to the Olvidado, so I walked a bit more of the Camino Norte than I had intended and had to backtrack. I just didn’t initially see the Puente del Diablo bridge which was the landmark after which the Olvidado splits from the Norte. I met a Spanish pilgrim couple in the Alonsotegui Centro Social , just out of Bilbao, where I stopped for coffee, and we all had high hopes we would see much of one another. That did not happen; they were walking several days of a variant, and then I think when the weather turned nasty, they headed home to await better weather.
In Guenes, I stayed in Hotel Guenes 45 E. 946 690 964. There are several ways to avoid this expense. One, suggested by hospitalero Adolfo, is to walk to Guenes, take the train back to Bilbao, and the next morning, return by train to Guenes and continue. The other, which the Spanish couple were doing, was to walk to Guenes, take the train on to Balmaseda where the Albergue Juvenile is an inexpensive option, and return the next morning to Guenes by train and continue.

Day 2. Guenes to Nava de Ordunte. 23 km. I stayed in the wonderful Albergue de las Estrellas, of Adolfo and his wife Rosa. 662 773 055. Both were kind and helpful. Adolfo is, to the early portions of the Olvidado, as Cunarro (Enders) is to the later sections: a tireless promoter and supporter of pilgrims. They ask for a minimum of 8 E. Adolfo explained the route and lodging for the subsequent 3 days,

Day 3. Nava de Ordunte to Villasante 26 km. I stayed in Albergue Villasante, donativo. 626 825 930. Hospitalera Isabel is another example of the warmth and care provided by hospitaleros on this route. She fixed me a simple delicious dinner, provided a wonderful room, had coffee with me in the morning and joined me for several km as I continued in the morning. I was lucky. She was about to leave for a week or two, so I would have missed her if I had been later.

Day 4. Villasante to Quintanilla del Rebollar. 17 km. to the donativo Albergue Casa de Rafi. 628 703 672. Rafi is wonderful and warm. His house/albergue is old and musty but perfectly adequate for a good night’s sleep. There is a full kitchen, which is helpful if you are carrying food, as there is no food in the town. There is a Centro Social bar with limited hours for coffee. It was here that I met Chuchi, another of the amigos of the Camino Olvidado and someone who was helpful to me by text in the days that followed. Chuchi and Rafi recommended the accommodation for the next night.

Day 5. Quintanilla de Rebollar to Santelices. 18 km. Though this is Chuchi’s home town, he has not been successful in reopening an albergue here. So I stayed in Hotel Rural El Rincon de Las Merindades. 40 E included a large self-service breakfast as early as I wanted. Call Araceli at 616 561 783. It did take me 20 minutes and review of a you-tube video to figure out how to use the coffee machine. There is a good menu del dia at the Meson across the street for a late lunch.

Day 6. Santelices to Arija. 20 km. to Camping El Playa de Arija. 30 E. 942 773 300, for a bunk in a small cabin which was pretty basic: 2 bunk beds, one electric outlet, one light, one window, one door, a porch, and a picnic table out front. The shower/bathrooms were a minutes walk away. My understanding is that the price for 2 pilgrims was the same as 1. This was obviously a simple place to stay, but very quiet as there were very few people around in the October cold, and the elderly man was perfectly pleasant, once he understood that I didn’t object to the price or the distance to the bathhouse. The accommodation is a good km beyond the town proper out a spit on the shores of the reservoir.

Day 7. Arija to Olea. 25 km. This day had some walking challenges. The bridge is out between lower Arija and upper Arija, so the morning began in the dark, navigating the beach between the two and finding the stepping stones over the stream. Luckily the owner of Camping El Playa had drawn me a good map and carefully explained how to navigate this route. Chuchi had given me Ender’s Wikiloc route for the day, which he said was created when Enders walked the Olvidado in July 2022. The new route decreases the amount of pavement walking considerably. The Camino no longer goes through Villafria, Juliobriga, or Retortillo. It involved turning left off the road just before the last house in Arroyo and climbing to the top of a ridge, following a fence through the Pena Cutral summer pastures for some distance along the ridge, and then angling left and finding a twisty road/path down the other side. Well and good, but here was where I found out what the severe wind warnings were all about. I actually considered crawling, as walking was incredibly challenging along the ridge. Without two walking sticks, I am sure I would have been blown over repeatedly. I was relieved that I could text back and forth with Chuchi, so felt less alone. Then down the other side to the village of Cervatos, where I visited the 12th century church, San Pedro de Cervatos, and then up another lesser mountain, on hard-to-follow Roman stones to Olea where I stayed in Casa Miguel. 30 E. 659 930 804. Miguel actually met me on the road, probably worried as the weather was not just incredibly windy but also rainy and cold. We both agreed that this was not a day for walking, especially in the mountains. He was so kind and his hospitality was generous. I had carried food with me, knowing that there would be no food in Olea, but Miguel provided more food (olive oil, 4 eggs, sausage, cheese) so I could make an omelet and a huge breakfast. His casa rural is lovely, and he is a gem.

Day 8. Olea to Aguilar de Campoo. 25 km. This was another difficult day with strong winds, but luckily not on mountain tops. I stayed in Hotel Cortes, 40 E. 979 125 505. on the street just behind the tourist office. It was fine, nothing special.

Just a comment - many others have commented on how they enjoyed the route after Aguilar de Campoo so much more than the first week out of Bilbao. While I understand that the first week has more pavement, and less spectacular scenery, it does have a number of wonderful hospitaleros: Adolfo, Isabel, Rafi, Chuchi, Miguel - these folks were important to me as a solo walker, and I was very appreciative. I am so glad I started in Bilbao.

Day 9. Aguilar de Campoo to Cervera de Pisuerga. 28 km. Hotel Pineda. 40 E. which included breakfast. 979 870 390.

Day 10. Cervera de Pisuerga to Santibanez de la Pena. 28 km. in one of the four rooms above Bar Mylo. 30 E. which included a self-service breakfast (single serving coffees - the kind you can buy in grocery stores, fruit and packaged pastries).
979 860 294. It is probably not a good idea to accept the proprietor’s offer to cook you dinner, unless you are very hungry and there are no other options. This stage was a good option for me as I did not want a longer stage.

Day 11. Santibanez de la Pena to Guardo. 15 km. Hotel Don Edmundo. 30 E.
979 861 010. This residential hotel is conveniently near the entrance into town. There is a nice bar roughly opposite with good meats and tortilla con patatas open in the afternoon and not open early the next morning. There is a bar that opens early in the plaza opposite the ayuntamiento, which is close to the camino route through town, for the following morning.

Day 12. Guardo to Puente Almuhey. 16 km. Albergue Municipal. 10E. 606 240 480 (Sonia). This was another day of walking in clouds or just below clouds. I think there might have been fine mountain views if it weren’t cloudy, rainy and windy. Finally an albergue! With 10 beds in 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen and dining area, and heat. This is just a lovely albergue, and Sonia is a great hospitalero who is happy to show off her town, and visit. And this is finally where I met another pilgrim for the evening, a Spanish cyclist, quite disgruntled about the lack of albergues on this camino. Sonia recommended Bar Restaurante La Mezquita for a late lunch, which was delicious. The tienda was closed for a week, but the tobacco store had some staples so I could stock up on food for the next few days.

Day 13. Puente Almuhey to Cistierna. 22 km Finally the clouds lifted a bit and I loved this day. I visited the church with the 2 carved mermaids, and had a picnic at the sanctuary before climbing up to the pass with a shepherd, his 5 dogs, and sheep. I could actually see the dramatic cliff faces, rather than imagine mountains in the mist. I loved the old oak forest followed by paths in the pine forest on the far side of the path, and enjoyed the descent into Cistierna where I stayed at Hostal Restaurante Moderno, 25 E. 987 700 170. The second floor restaurant was superb.

Day 14. Cistierna to Bonar. 28 km. There was a bar open in La Ercina for a morning coffee, just at the entrance of town on the right, and a second in the village of La Losilla, I think, where I met up with an elderly Belgian woman who married a Spaniard and settled in Spain 50 years ago. She was eager to speak English, and had interesting things to say about how Spanish village life had been transformed in her lifetime. In Bonar I stayed at Hostal Nisi. 20 E. 987 735 210 run by two elderly ladies who I suspect provide social services to the town. At any rate, I was an unregistered guest.

Day 15. Bonar to La Robla. 33 km. I stayed at Pension Mundo 20 E as the albergue is still closed. 987 570 733. The Pension serves breakfast early. In the morning I don’t remember how many people tried to tell me I was not taking the right path out of town, thinking that I was walking the Camino Salvador.

Continued below (I hope)
Is there a way to break up the stage from Bonar to La Robla? The distance is too far for me in 1 day.
 
If you look at what I call the orange guide/app (www.caminoolvidado.com), there are 4 villages between Bonar to La Robla that list accommodations: La Vecilla, Aviados, Robles de la Valcueva and Brugus de Fenar). I have no personal experience with any of them, but you could call or whatsapp them and see if any are open and in your price range. If so, you could break up the 33 km stage from Bonar to La Robla, which is 13A on the orange app.
But if the weather looks good, maybe you would want to take the alternative mountainous route, listed on that app as 13B, 14B and 15B. which bypasses La Robla. I so much wish I had had good enough weather to walk the mountainous route.
 

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