Oh, thank goodness, I was able to get a decent amount of sleep the night before. Since there were only 4 of us, the room was much quieter. Although I still woke up every few hours, the sleep in between that time was good. Our little room seemed to be the first up at 5:30, so we had the bathroom all to ourselves. (We shared it with two other rooms, which also held about 4 people each.)
The Swiss woman and the Canadian siblings were up, dressed, packed, and ready to go at a speed that would impress any Indy 500 pit crew. I reassure myself that I was a Camino newbie, and would soon be able to pack and be ready to go just as quickly.(ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! Oh how young and naive I was.)
I snacked on a muffin and a banana before heading out, and was on the road by about 6:40 am.
It was a beautiful morning! The sun was just starting to rise, the moon was still high in the sky, and the birds were singing their morning songs.
This day was a long day. 19.4 miles. All I was concerned about (at this stage of the day) was getting to Astorga in time to get a bed. (By the end of the day, this will change to being able to walk in to the city, and not crawl in on my hands and knees.)
According to my guidebook, there were no cafe’s in the first 9.6 kilometers of this part of the walk, but it was saying that there was a small cafe in the town of Villavante.
This was a terrible lie.(Or maybe I just missed it? Nah.)
Upon reaching the town of Villavante, the first conundrum of directionality was faced. According to the book, and some confusing yellow arrows that were drawn and then x’d out, I was supposed to wind my way through the town where I would come across said cafe.
Or I could go straight, on the same dirt path I had been walking on.
There were other pilgrims who were walking on the dirt path, and they seemed to be going the right way. But what if this path only looked like it was part of the Camino? Would I be taking some fantastical detour that would lead me far off path?(No, I would do that later on another day. Story to be told then.)
I stood there for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do, when a mother and son came up, and found themselves in the same position.
I heard them talk to each other (in English) about what to do, and since I could communicate intelligently with them, I offered my thoughts.
We all decided to follow the book and walk through the town, with the hopes of finding the cafe to have a coffee.
As we made our way through the town we talked and got to know each other a bit. Their names were Thayer and Jono. They were from New York, and they too started their Camino in León. Jono, was a senior at Louisiana State, studying History. Thayer worked as an administrator for her church. She had known about the Camino for years and had always wanted to do it, so she invited her son along, and here they were.
(These two would become what I call my “constants”. We kept a similar pace and followed the same schedule. Although we didn’t walk together very much, we would see each other at cafe stops, and stay in the same towns all along the Camino. We would always stop to chat when we saw each other, occasionally sharing a meal or coffee. The few times where we didn’t see each other for a few days, when we did encounter each other, it was a joyous reunion. It was a small comfort whenever I saw them. My constants.)(And now they know. Dear Thayer and Jono – I hope this isn’t horribly creepy.)
As we wound our way through Villavante, we did NOT find our cafe. I silently questioned whether or not anyone even lived in this town. It was quiet, and no one was around except for the group of Missouri kids I met in Mazarife. Eventually we rejoined the dirt path we were on before.
It was only 4.5 kilometers to the next town of Hospital de Órbigo, which seemed to have plenty of cafe’s (according to the book anyway), so Jono and I sadly held out a little longer for our morning coffee.
The time passed quickly as I talked and walked with my new friends, and before we knew it we arrived at Hospital de Órbigo. We stopped at the first cafe, and ran in to the Canadian brother, Steve, whom Thayer and Jono also knew. As we were enjoying our coffee and pastries, Chris, Hanna, and Cody (the Missouri kids) arrived, and joined us in our morning break. Chris came over and asked if I could help him find a bus for Becca, one of their teammates, who was suffering horribly from a hurt foot and couldn’t walk.
Thrilled to help and practice some Spanish, I went over to the cafe owner and asked if there were any buses that went to Astorga. The owner replied that since it was Sunday, there were no buses, but we could call a taxi.
The owner’s wife happily volunteered to call the taxi service for us, and with a short 15 – 20 minute wait, Becca would be on her way.
Thayer, Jono, and Steve all went on their way, and I chose to stick around until Becca left. Just to be sure nothing else was needed. I enjoyed hanging out and talking with the Missouri kids. The guys were perfect gentlemen, and the girls were innocent and sweet. Their youthful company was fun to be around.
When the taxi came for Becca and Cody (he was a Nursing major and wanted to stick close to help her out), nothing else was needed from me, so I went on my way, crossing the well preserved medieval bridge, Puente de Órbigo.
The trail from here to Astorga was a mix of road and dirt. I walked through small towns, cow farms, and open countryside. The weather was warm and sunny and glorious. It had rained A LOT the last few months in Santiago, and I was loving the warm sunshine.
For about 6.6 kilometers there was nothing but countryside, farmland, rocks, and The Cantina.
The Cantina is a random, middle of nowhere stop, run by an Italian(?) gentleman who lives on this small patch of land and provides simple food and beverage for the pilgrims who walk by. This is his call in life. He seems to live off of the donations and the land, and loved meeting every pilgrim. I do not know how long this guy has been there, but the food and beverage he provided was a wonderful break.
Physically, I was feeling good until I hit the long stretch that started at Santibanez de Valdeiglesia. From there on out, my body and feet reminded me (quite clearly and loudly) just how old and out of shape I was.
The good news was that nothing was crippling, but my sore feet and calf muscle pains were enough to make the rest of the journey not so fun. By the time I was just outside Astorga, I was literally hobbling, chanting, and praying, “Just a little farther, you can make it, one foot in front of the other. God…please help me get there. Just get me there.”
When I arrived in Astorga, I wound my way through the city to my albergue, San Javier. I also happily discovered that the Missouri kids, Thayer, and Jono were staying here too. I was placed in a medium sized all female room, promptly took my shower, and washed my clothes before heading out to find something to eat.
Of course, it was Sunday and around siesta time, so there weren’t many restaurants open, and the cafe’s were only serving beverages. I grabbed a coffee and delicious pastry and sat in the square until it was time for the restaurants to open.
Then the rains came. You could see each droplet as it fell on the stone plaza. I felt sorry for any pilgrim who might still have been out there.
I found a place to eat dinner and then went back to the albergue to hang out and warm up. The main floor had a cool, pit-like seating area, with a wood stove. A small group of us were lounging on the mattresses and talking, getting to know each other, and enjoying the warmth of the wood stove.
Here I met Alison and Marishka. Alison is a 30-something from L.A. who started her Camino in St. Jean. She had been working on different television shows and was in-between jobs. She really wanted to try and find a job at a company that had more of a “purpose”, and was using her time on the Camino to figure out what she wanted to do next.
I liked Alison right away. She was hilarious, had a wonderful sense of humor, and laughed at everything. She was contemplating moving to Toronto, which is how she and Marishka bonded.
Marishka was from Toronto, and (I think) she started from St. Jean too. Unfortunately, I can’t remember everything else we talked about, and this was the only time I saw her on the Camino. She chose to change up her walking schedule, i.e. not follow the John Brierly book, and we fell out of synch.
I did, however, and to my utter delight, see Alison again, but much later.
We all talked until one by one, everyone turned in for the night. For whatever reason, I was not tired and stayed up reading until about 10 pm, which is VERY late for most pilgrims. I also used this time to charge my Kindle Fire while I was reading. The charger I brought had a connector for both my Kindle and ipod ports.
As I was charging, a Spanish fellow came over and motioned if he could use my ipod port to charge his iphone. I nodded my agreement and he left his phone with me while I sat and read. He did not go far, he was in the same room, but I found it interesting that this guy would trust me, a complete stranger, with his iphone.
The next day was a “shorter” day of 13 miles, and the beginning of the climb in to the Montes de León. I hope my feet will be able to manage.