I will separate this day into two blogs, because I have spent a good deal of time posting the last two days blogs and have to get to bed. So today you will hear about the start of the day and good bye to friends and later you will hear about what a tough day it was and why we arrived in Benavente at 6 p.m.!
The Via de la Plata route goes north from Seville and at the top end there are two options. The first option is to veer west at Granja de Moreruela (this is called the Camino Sanabres) and the second option is to continue north and connect with the Frances route at Astoraga and do the last 235 km of what is the main Camino route.
The Sanabres route is more rural and (as we were told), more tranquil. It is also much less crowded as it is only a subset of the people doing the VLDP route who would be on the trail. We had lots of advice from everyone about which route would be nicer because everyone except us had done Caminoes before and just about all had been on the Frances route themselves.
The Frances route, which has "feeder routes" all over Europe, actually starts in St. Jean Pied de Port (in France)! is 775 km long and runs east-west acoss the top of Spain. It is very well used, (i.e. crowded) but it also has many more Albergues and is very well serviced. To give you a point of comparison, the VDLP from Seville to Granja, where the route splits, has 26 Albergues over the 705 km, while the Camino Frances has 290 Albergues over its 775 km distance. The distances between Albergues are very short and so you can kind of choose how far you will go in a day based on the distance you would like to walk, rather than having to stop because the next Albergue is 15 or 20 km distant. I also looked forward to going through more villages and being able to stop for coffee and a bathroom rather than sitting by the side of the road and using the bushes.
All our friends were choosing the Sanabres route, so we had to say goodbye to then at the point the trail split. It was a difficult decision, and I know that both Barb and Ian would have rather continued with our friends, however I had my heart set on seeing the Frances route and so we headed north. I was grateful that they were gracious and let me decide the direction we would take.