Another perfect day for walking. Had an extremely lazy morning. Barely downstairs by 8 for a yummy breakfast of hot toast, honey, tea, oj, banana, cereal – and the rules were we couldn’t wash the dishes. Miguel, the hosteliero, let us take our time to leave, so it was after 9 before Veera & I walked out into the cool, bright morning. Almost immediately we again found ourselves having a choice of paths, and again we choose the longer route not hugging the highway. Today the whole landscape is different as we head for the mountains. We are walking through shrubby oak forests, and for the first time in quite a while significant amounts of shade. The path which has been wide and absolutely straight for miles on end now twists and turns and is often only a hiking trail wide. While I still can’t figure out where on earth all of the pilgrims who left León have gone to, a few more cross our path. Our first oj/coffee/toilet break is at Santibanez de Valdeiglesia where we run into Yvonne (just leaving) and Reinhart, one of the Germans I met at San Bol. Had a nice lazy talk with him (he has fond memories of his trip to Finland), until Hannelore & Helmut arrived. We had passed them breakfasting on the crest of a hill with a fantastic view back over the valley.
Back on the path through a low pass we found ourselves marching in step to a whistled tune. The whistler was Juanito, who then began to sing the tune, a Spanish walking song. (I recorded him whistling & singing.)
Then Manuelo from Seville caught up with us. He had a miserable day yesterday taking the “easy” route along the main road where he was buffetted by truck-wind, and he was not about to make the same mistake again, so is now on our “alternative” route.
We passed a temporary stand outside a barn, a pay by donation table laden with dried figs, fresh fruit, fruit juice, coffee, cookies and sweet breads. I picked up some figs and another banana and sat on a bench in the shade. In addition to the young woman running the stand there was a man and a very young child who was playing in the path. The woman picked up a tray of darkish cake slices and came over and offered us a slice saying it was homemade, she made it daily. In addition to the layer of apples on top it included walnuts. It was moist, delicious and not too sweet.
By the time we got to Astorga (only 15k from our start), it was 2 pm, so everything was closed. This is a historically Roman city, near important gold mines, and built on a defensible hill. So we wound up steep roads and then through the city past the Gaudi museo and the cathedral.
3 pm found us at a tiny bar next to a tiny church with the prerequisite huge stork’s nest in the tiny town of Murais de Rechivaldo. We ordered soup (they thought we were nuts) & (ice cold!) oj and dragged a table to the shade in the plaza by the church and proceeded to eat, prop up our feet and nap for an hour or so. It was very peaceful and relaxing.
It was nearly 5 when we hoisted up our packs – grabbed an ice cream bar and headed off. We had intended to stay at Santa Catalina de Somoza, but it was still so pleasant and ONLY 3.5 k to the next town, El Ganso.
One unexpected benefit was walking into the sun later in the afternoon than I have done before. Walking this route is I have the sensation that I am walking through a dried flower garden, because unlike Washington where things get soggy and fall over here they just dry in place, flowers and all. Beautiful gold, beige and brown, and seed fluff. Today, because it was so much later in the afternoon, all of the dried flowers and grasses were backlit by the sun and it was beautiful in a whole new way.
We were very lucky when we arrived at El Ganso to get the last two beds in the an other wise uninspiring albergue.
I took a hot shower and was sitting down to a cup of tea with Sophie and Jody, bicyclists from Australia when Beate came downstairs! Looking great and much more relaxed than when I last saw her with a headache hitchhiking outside Belarado as I was en route to Tosantos. I was very happy to see her. She has been walking on and off with Brian, an Australian, so the 3 Australians, Beate, Veera and I went for dinner (salad and yummy lentils) at the crazy “Cowboy Cafe”. Very satisfying day.
Have to reread Asterix’s adventures in Spain when I get home.
14 Oct 2009