Awful End to a Perfect Day

Well I’m behind in my notes as I haven’t had a strong enough internet connection for a couple of days. Can’t really be bothered writing much right now, but I’m sure that will change as I start looking back at my photos. I’m tired. I didn’t sleep much last night – more on that in a minute…

So we are now wearing fleeces, rain covers and hats. It’s cold. It rained heavily the night before but had cleared in time for our walk to Fuenterrable de Santierra. It seems so weird to think that only days ago we were sweltering in the heat! The rain stopped and we headed off into the dark again and enjoyed walking on the gravel and dirt, softened by the overnight deluge. Heaven under our feet! 

The path took us up a lane and along a country road. This is obviously cow country. It is absolutely beautiful and we really enjoyed the day. We shuffled through autumn leaves, talked to the cows and horses and marvelled at all the Roman markers that just appear as part of the fences and gateways. Autumn is very evident up here in the mountains. We have done a lot of climbing and it almost feels English at times as we cross tree lined streams and amble along the laneways. Feathery green and white moss drapes over the limbs of trees,  as if trying to cammouflage them, and I could easily imagine fairies and elves living in the cracks and holes in the stone fences. The stones and rocks are so perfectly placed and my mind was transported to a time when the Romans and the traders would have been walking these paths and actually making them! Back breaking work! The Roman stuff along this route is everywhere and I have to check myself when I think ‘there’s another one’! I’m walking in history and it’s easy to be nonchalant about it. 

We had another treat of finding ourselves in a village after 9kms. We stopped and warmed ourselves by the fire in a bar, walked around a bit and laughed at the washing hanging in the street for all to see. We passed some really old houses with verandahs held up by carefully placed huge  granite stones, and saw a manger outside another old house. 

Life is so different and simple here. Everything is cracked and broken, bathroom tiles are held on the wall with sticky tape, branches are used to patch fences, and gates are held together with string. It’ll do!  

We walked on and stopped to talk to a beautiful mule whose ears were as big as his head. Our main entertainment for the day was watching a huge hog mount a somewhat uninterested sow. He took ages to do the deed and she kept walking off, so he was having troubled staying ‘engaged’. ​

​At one point, he had to just hang on and rest. He looked exhausted, but carried on for a bit more. ​

​I saw the same thing with a couple of donkeys on my first day of the Frances Camino! Guess I’m just lucky!

I love just witnessing how other people live. The Spanish men gather in bars, the women collect in little groups and chat in the streets. Card games in the bars become quite heated moments with the men seeming very passionate about it all. Siesta time is strictly adhered to and the towns just close down for several hours each day. Shops don’t open until 10 and church bells ring every half an hour. Dogs and cats roam the streets and people drive their cars blindly whilst taking on their mobiles. Everyone moves slowly and life complies with this. They will always finish a conversation on the phone or otherwise before serving you. Sometimes you have to wait 5 minutes. Everything gets done in its own time.

A typical card game
This barman was engrossed in watching ‘Interview With a Vampire’ on TV

Anyway, we finally reached our destination after another beautiful walk. However, Colleen suddenly became green around the gills and had to rest as soon as we got to the albergue. It was a beautiful old building, quite drafty though up in the attic where we were. 

Hilda, our Dutch doctor fellow pilgrim was also asleep in the dorm well before dinner time. When she woke, she told me she had been quite unwell, tried to walk that day, but had to turn back. I began to feel uneasy, as I looked at Colleen asleep in the corner. Sure enough, as the night went on, poor Colleen was chundering her guts out, and laying on the bathroom floor like a rung out rag. She was so sick! Not an ideal situation when you are in a large dorm with only one toilet. 

I lay there most of the night wondering if I would be next, worrying about Colleen, and feeling so helpless. It was raining outside, I was freezing cold and was so uncomfortable on a sagging mattress. The albergue was a municipal one which means you donate what you can for a bed and a simple meal. There is nothing flash about these places but they are usually full of character and interesting people. 

I enjoyed the meal with the other pilgrims. We actually had vegetables!!! Carrots, a beef stew with potatoes, bread and water. Dessert was grapes and plums. 

In the morning, Colleen and Hilda surfaced and it was decided that there would be no walking today. The priest drove us to a bus station about 5 kms away and we just caught a bus straight to Salamanca,  where we are in a hotel with a comfy bed and proper bathroom. We found a Decathlon store on arrival and purchased so warmer clothes for the upcoming winter weather. Colleen is having an afternoon nap and is now on the mend.  We bumped into some others that we have been travelling with and found that gastro has hit the pilgrim crowd with a vengeance. Annamieke looks positively gaunt and has been sick for days. We think we have traced it back to Hostal Asturias a few days ago. 

One Reply to “Awful End to a Perfect Day”

  1. Gastro an occupational hazard in pilgrim Spain. I have seen some (Germans) return home, unable or unwilling to go on to Santiago. Many seasons in one day? Just like Melbourne. Courage! as the French say. Again, sublime photography; perceptive writing, all under duress. Keep on.


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