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A Spanish Pilgrimage 2010. Week 4

Wed May 12. Carcaboso to Aldeanueva del Camino. Todays distance 39km. Total distance 421km complete/579km to go.

Grey skies brightened only by my favourite Senora at 07:00. We went to the bar for a coffee/breakfast and I got a reminder speech about the way out of town. I grabbed a quick photo with the Senora and then she went for the cheek kiss, I always find it awkward and this time was no different, I almost got more than I bargained for but managed to avoid a smacker on the lips (Odette was laughing all the time, no help at all).

During the hike we were joined by a guy called Bruno from Belgium and our two German friends. The rain was off and on, as was my footwear. I have continued to hike in sandals when possible so my achilles gets a rest, the trouble is when it rains your feet get wet so I then have to swap over, in total I think I swapped four times today. We hiked through some meadows with cows, sheep, and hares which were boxing and jumping over walls as we approached. We passed an archealogical dig at Caparra, the Roman arch where we sat and ate some snacks.

On the approach to Aldeanueva del Camino I took Odettes backpack to give her shoulder a rest and wore it on my front, you could probably trip me and roll me into town with both packs on. As usual the Spanish distances are completely wrong and the Albergue is about a kilometre down the road not the stated 200m. The albergue was run by another Senora who shared the same principles as the previous one and started to boss me around, our 5 Euro donation was handed over as she stood waiting for it, I am sure if we had not paid the voluntary donation we would be out on the street. She instructed me to clean the floor after showers as the water leaks under the door, the other instructions were lost in translation but I am sure somewhere in the Spanish was an instruction for me to clean the toilet with my toothbrush. As she continued to show me to my bed I got it in the neck for putting my backpack on the bed, before it had even landed and settled on the sagging springs. Next she moved onto the two other pilgrims who had unwittingly left the gas tap on which is used to heat the hot water. During all of this Odette hid under her bed sheets.

The only other thing that happened was me looking to buy a new towel, I dont know where I left mine. I found that it is almost impossible to buy a towel in a Spanish town so I had to borrow Odettes replacement towel (she lost her towel too).

 

Thu May 13. Aldeanueva del Camino to Fuenterroble de Salvatierra. Todays distance 43km. Total distance 464km complete/536km to go.

The plan was to take it easy and give Odette a break, this kind of happened in the morning but it was a different story in the afternoon. The first part of our hike took us to Banos de Montemayor, a village with some old Roman baths. We both staggered through the door of the baths with our backpacks scraping on the sides of the door, we smelt, we were dirty and probably not the sort of clientele they want to attract. From the Spanish conversation the receptionist and assistant thought it was pretty strange and had a good laugh about it.

Once we entered the baths the elderly Senoras thought they had died and gone to heaven, they all started aqua aerobics routines and winked at me, it was pretty scary. Then Odette decided she wanted to go in the Vaporiser and I had to go too. I squeezed in between two Senoras who, as usual, started a conversation with me in Spanish, they were very giggly. After five or ten minutes (it seemed like an hour) we left the vaporiser and feeling clean and relaxed we changed back into our smelly pilgrim clothes.

The next village we entered called Calzada de Bejar was grey and cold, another one shop, one bar town with no one to be seen anywhere. It didn’t take long to persuade Odette to carry on another few kilometres, it turned into 20km’s. The village where we were told there was accommodation didn’t have any, but the 80 year old toothless man was very charming. He took a shining to Odette and would have given us a room if only Odette could conjure up a closed eye, “think of England” kiss with tongues :-). So on we travelled another 7.5km to the next Refugio run by a village Priest. When you hike a Catholic pilgrimage, you don’t believe in God and you don’t know why the f… you started the pilgrimage in the first place, it is very hard to answer his question
“So, why have you come on this pilgrimage?”
All I could muster, in a squeak “I came with my Mum.”
It worked, I got off easy. When asked the question Odette crumbled and mumbled something about spirituality and going to Church every Sunday, I almost fell over laughing.

After a quick trip to the bar for a drink and some food we went back to the Refugio, by the way the only shop in the village was closed, how do these people survive in these villages? In the dormitory it appeared the mice had got to my bed before me, I brushed the mouse droppings off the bed, laid out my sleeping bag and crawled into it, no way am I walking anywhere else today. Then I almost had a shock, I knew Odette was on the bottom bunk and all I saw was a Spanish man walking over, arms open and about to hop into bed with Odette. I thought he had jumped in! Luckily for me, and Odette, he just tucked the blankets around her, then he carried on talking as he had for the past hour. If I wasnt there, who knows what he might have tried.

The night was fairly quiet apart from the flatulance from the Spanish guy (I think) and the pitter patter of the mice running back and forth across the wooden floor. One may have got into Odettes sleeping bag, as all night she would fidget and shake the bed.

 

Fri May 14. Fuenterroble de Salvatierra to San Pedro de Rozados. Todays distance 29km. Total distance 493km complete/507km to go.

For the past couple of days I have been finding this hike very challenging, not physically but mentally. Today was just adding insult to injury.

We had to hike up to highest point on this trail between Sevilla and Astorga, the start was nice and easy, I took my usual position up front. I grumbled about the crosses and why any religion would make their followers go through this painful exercise and punishment….why would anyone want to do this for fun?

At the top I sat down and just wanted to shout as loud as possible and smash something, anything. These are not the thoughts I should be having on this fun trip. As we headed down into the next town the wind blew into our faces and the rain came down, the trail was a long, never ending, tiresome, labourious, futile, man made road, it was straight and there was no building in sight. The plan was to go to Morille but unsure of the distance we diverted to San Pedro as soon as we saw the white buildings. The Refugio was full but this turned into some good luck, it seems to be when you are at your lowest something happens to pull you up again. What solace you cannot find from hiking, you can find at the bottom of a wine bottle 😉

We got a room at the Casa Rural (Hotel), discussed options as far as seperate routes or waiting for the others, as we could not agree on anything we went to the bar to have a glass of wine. In the bar were a few other pilgrims, from Holland, Germany, France, and Italy. We joined them for drinks, then for more drinks, and some more. We all had dinner together, then some more drinks. We discussed Germany and England based on the location of soccer teams, we discussed Borussia Munchen Lat Bar (or something like that), the best team in Germany! We even got into a discussion about the name of soccer, or football, most of them agreed that American football sucked. Even though I don’t have a Canadian accent the intonation is different so most thought of them thought I was American until we explained that I was English then moved to Canada.

More beers, more wine, you get the picture. Then a good long sleep for a few hours, probably about four hours.

Continue reading after the photo gallery.


Sat May 15. San Pedro de Rozados to Salamanca. Todays distance 25km. Total distance 518km complete/492km to go.

Last night was one of the best nights of the trip, I still have not changed my mind though….I want this to be over as quickly as possible. I rolled out of bed on time at 06:00 and woke Odette, its time to leave. We packed, went through to the bar to get our laundry and make a quick exit. Odette tried the key in the door, I tried and then we both tried again, the time was approaching 07:00 and I was getting frustrated, how can we be locked into this complex. I decided to look around and found an exit at the back of the hotel that was open. Isidore was sleeping on the couch in the back as there was too much snoring in his room.

I thought yesterday was tough, I just cannot get out of my head. I mull over everything that has gone sideways for me in the last few months, even thoughts of 10 years ago. The death of my Dad will be 10 years ago on May 28. These thoughts make todays hike arduous, I continue in front of Odette with my head down. When we get to Salamanca and book into the Albergue I just had to find some space. A couple of hours later I came back and met a couple of new pilgrims and bumped into two of our favourites, Thomas and Martin from Germany. We also had a decent meal, Odette cooked potato, peas and sweetcorn in the microwave with salad on the side. I spent a long time talking with Peter, also German, all of the Germans I have spoken to have been great, I think I may like to live there one day.

Not much else to report, unless you all want to know why I feel so much pity for myself today. Part of this hike was supposed to get me to reflect on everything and figure out my future, maybe today has it out of my system. I wish I could write something different, more entertaining but even when I reviewed this after a couple of days it pretty much sums it up. It would be boring if everything was hunky dory all the time 🙂

Sun May 16. Salamanca to El Cubo de la Tierra del Vino. Todays distance 36km. Total distance 554km complete/507km to go.

Up at 06:00 and out of the Albergue, we done a poor job of getting out of Salamanca, walking down the wrong streets and having to traverse another couple of streets to get back on track. People were still leaving bars, this is probably a good place to party.

After yesterday I hiked with Odette and we talked about various subjects, after a couple of hours we end up on the highway with no way off, we had pilgrims in front and behind and today was about to become a long hike on the highway. At the end of the day we talk it over with some other pilgrims and most agree with me…I can hike along highways in any country and they are all essentially the same. Some of the pilgrims got taxis or a bus once they realised it was a highway hike.

Once we get into El Cubo we go to the Albergue and drop our gear before we went back to the shop, apparently El Cubo is shutdown, the shop is shut and there is a fiesta. The bars are full, but the barmen are being arses, they don’t want to serve us in the first bar so I leave swearing. At the second bar Odette goes to get some chairs outside and the barman rushes out and drags them inside, when we ask for them back he says no. Now we have no food or drink. Is this another low point?

Back at the Albergue we bump into our Dutch friends, they have food and are kind enough to share, bread, sardines, anchovies, cheese, peppers, just the way I like it. We have a few bottles of wine and laugh about our sore feet. I end up doing the washing up as its all I can offer in return, Odette gives a couple of foot massages. Odette decides to get the bus tomorrow and we get a timetable from the Hospitalero, I will have a day hiking on my own.

Only other thing to report is that Odette has another admirer, a very nice gentleman from Germany called Frederick who gave her his cream for sore joints. One more thing, my new approach shoes seem good so far, lets see how long before I get another blister!

 

Mon May 17. El Cubo de la Tierra del Vino to Zamora. Todays distance 32km. Total distance 586km complete/414 to go.

Today I will be hiking on my own, Odette is ready and waiting to catch the bus. In front of me I have a young pilgrim from Estonia and I follow for a couple of hours. When you are walking it takes a lot of effort and time to catch someone who started five or ten minutes before you. I also want some time alone to clear my head and get back on track.

After a little while I catch up and we start to chat about anything and everything. She was very genuine, intelligent and really appreciates the opportunity she has to travel and learn. This kind of interaction is what I have been looking for, no pressure to be someone you are not and just a good, fun conversation. It was a good walk into Zamora and I wish her well in her future endeavours. One sentance that stood out for me….”Since leaving Estonia I feel like a bird who has been released from a cage.”. Our only mishap was missing an arrow, luckily we figured it out quickly and back tracked to our friendly French colleague who directed us the right way, with a chuckle.

Zamora is one of the nicer cities I have seen so far on this trip. Odette and I are hungry so have a decent meal at about 14:00, we have both lost a bit of weight. For dinner we bumped into Thomas and Martin and Odette invited them over and she would cook, then she bumped into our Dutch friends and they are both coming too. When they all arrived the rice was a little sticky and Odette was worried as it was going to be bland, it was good clean food and went down pretty well. We had four or five large bottles of beer with four or five bottles of wine. Avoiding my allergens is not going so well at the moment although I have not noticed too many side effects.

Tonight was great, unfortunately in the next few days everyone is going in different directions, home, another route or staying in Zamora.

 

Tues May 18. Zamora to Riego del Camino. Todays distance 31km. Total distance 617km complete/383 to go.

On the road to Riego del Camino I met a 21 year old girl from the UK, what a contrast from yesterday. Mummy and Daddy are paying for the trip and apparently she thinks being an IT Consultant is boring and being a Dentist is fun (I don’t deny that IT can be dull but its a little disingenious to suggest that my job is boring when you have no idea what it entails), she admitted she has eight years of training to go through before she can start but she is driven by the potential 250K+ salary. She heard there was some civil unrest in Thailand but when questioned had no idea what was really going on, just that she was going there soon. It takes all personalities to make the world so I have no problem with this girl, if I had to choose a friend or employ one of the girls I have met in the last two days then yesterday would win hands down.

If I say too much about the hike everyone will think I am whining, more of the highway, poor directions and needless km’s looping around private land.

Riego del Camino is a small farming village, the hostal is at the bar but it is already full. We follow a few Spanish guys around as they have a tip on a refugio. We go up and down side streets, talk to a couple of people and eventually find a welcoming couple who show us where the refugio is. Everyone grabs a bed, the Spanish guys saving beds for their friends and me being ready to hike on if I cannot get a bed. In the end there are plenty. Odette and I go off to find the shop, it has no sign but there is a map in the refugio. There is a house in one of the streets with a small piece of paper stuck on the wall saying “Tiende Alimentacion”. We go in and there is little in the way of fresh food, so we grab some bread, fish and canned peppers, it all tastes pretty good.

Late in the day Isidore shows up, he is 69 and carrying a 10kg backpack, I let him have my lower bunk and sleep above Odette. We have a discussion about options for the hike and I will go via Astorga and Odette will go with Noel and a few others via Camino Sanabres. The split happens tomorrow.

Footnote….that didn’t take long, I have a new blister or two. Part of the issue has been changing footwear too much and each pair of shoes/sandals/boots has different pressure points. Now I have hard skin with blisters underneath, good job I am not scared of a bit of pain.

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