Being 200 km from Santiago, Villafranca del Bierzo is the closest point from which cyclists may begin the Camino to receive their “Compostela certificate ” in Santiago. (Those walking must walk at least 100 km to qualify.) This morning we watched group after group disappear down the road. We prefer being behind the cyclists as, although most do try to give some warning, it still startles and if the path is narrow walking pilgrims must move quickly off to the side. Today our walk was through the Valcarce Valley, very narrow with steep sides. The whole way we were crisscrossing the meandering Rio Valcarce and listening to it bubbling over weirs and special dam devices. “Valcarce” is so named because it’s steep walls are like enclosures or prison like. It is also an ideal spot for an ambush. Long ago pilgrims passing through the valley were frequently robbed by bandits or charged high fees by locals for safe passage. The Knights Templar were dedicated to keeping pilgrims safe wherever they travelled. As evident by their many castles, they became a welcome presence to pilgrims on the Camino whom they protected. Las Herrerias ( aka Las Ferrerias), “The Blacksmiths” was so named as iron was mined in the surrounding hills and smelted on the river bank in the Middle Ages. Apparently in the early 20 th century there was also a steel mill here. Note: To add to the confusion of travellers, there is another Las Herrerias just a few kilometres before this one……? Now the main industries are agriculture –cattle farming, growing chestnuts, and a little logging. The local sawmill we passed had one man working and many piles of unsold lumber– very weathered as though they had been there a long time. The Camino pilgrims are also a source of income for all the towns along the way, but this is very seasonal. We are seeing fewer pilgrims than we had expected on this part of the Camino for this time of year. Perhaps, the whole world financial situation has affected even pilgrimages.