Well despite sharing a room with 3 people other than Val (Mr and Mrs France and young Mr Poland), I slept well. Val had told me that the French have a terrible reputation for getting up before the crack of dawn and making lots of noise rustling plastic bags. I heard someone’s alarm go off and who knows what time and waited for the accompanying rustle. It didn’t happen as it was obviously too late in the night. Instead I stayed awake listening to gentle snoring. Thank goodness it wasn’t chainsaw snoring. Movement started for real In the albergue at around 6am with the noise of everyone getting up, packing bags and preparing feet and footwear for the day’s journey.
Ever wondered what an albergue is like. They are pilgrim’s hostels and you can only stay in one if you have a Camino passport which has been stamped along the way. Basically the albergue are no different to the youth hostels that I have during my travels in my younger years. The only difference is the maturity of those seeking a bed at night. And everyone is knackered so want to sleep rather than party into the night (or do other things despite who else may be sharing the room). We are stacked in bunks and it depends on the size and shape of the room as to how closey we are warehoused. Bottom bunks are in hot demand. Herr Clack Clack will leave if he cannot get a bottom bunk. Tonight in Vilas de Barros, Val and I are the only two in a room of 5 double bunks. Mr and Mrs France (a couple probably in the late 60s whoe were in our room last night) and another two French people are in another room. Herr Clack Clack is not here and we were expecting him. But I get ahead of myself.
We started the day leaving town and walking for just a short distance to the only bar open on the way out. Val told everyone else where it was as they wanted coffee and pan (fresh bread). We were the first to arrive closely followed by Herr Clack Clack. We didn’t linger as we didn’t want to risk having CLACK CLACK and chat chat accompany us. It worked as we were first to leave.
The early morning was very fresh and there were mists coming off the paddocks. We passed a glade of trees and the morning light was just delightful as it was filtered by the trees.
Quite soon after leaving we came across a tiny little village. I will say quaint, but I warn you, this description may well be used often through out this journey if what I have seen so far is anything to go by. So sorry about that, you will just have to get used to it. This little old village really was just like all the rest – old farm buildings mixed with some ‘newer’ ones. In the centre of the village by the stream, was the old church looking just like it belonged in Midsomer (although I do hope that murders don’t occur as frequently).
Death does occur even if not by murder though. In each of these small villages death notices are stapled to prominent places. Val tells me that is old fellow died at the age of 101 and was the widower of Josepha. Obviously from the number of staples by this notice, death is not an uncommon occurrence.
And so on to the next cute little village. More of the same really. Lovely old buildings, dry stone wall and flowers in just the right places, and the usual moss lined stairs leading into houses.
After a couple of hours of walking we began the ascent. We ended up climbing a total of 7km rising some 800m. Parts of it easy and others could be said to be character building. Yes I made sure my training for this walk involved hills but the hills of Copacabana don’t compare with this one. It was covered in shale and small pieces of beautiful white quartz. “Probably not a good time to start a rock collection” I said to myself. The vegetation changed for nice green pastures to pine, broom in full bloom and heather.
Now I have to explain to you what it is like going up hills. I hate hills. I realised today why I used to love swimming so much – there are no hills involved! I hate going up hills on a bike and dislike them just a little less on foot. I’m not walking Europe style with two poles like Val and it is on the hills you really notice the difference. The only thing that is going to get you up that damned hill is your quads and your gluts. As if that wasn’t enough, I have to follow Val. Val has this amazing knack of just keeping ongoing. She never seems to be tired, never seems to puff (she assures me this is not the case though). I, on the other hand am puffing like an old cow and am totally red in the face. I’ve never understood how she does it. However the penny dropped today when, once again, I was eating her dust.
There are some people in this world that wear hats made of tin foil. They believe in doing this they will be protected from harmful electromagnetic radiation and aliens will not be able to read their brainwaves. Val has a secret version of hat. She always wears a floppy OR sun hat. It’s a sunhat alright. What it has is some secret apparatus that harnesses solar energy supplying it to her bionic circuitry. She switches this circuit on at the slightest detection of any incline using a hidden switch in her walking pole. But her bionic system has weaknesses. It is only effective when going uphills. When going down an sloping gradient it causes her to lose control of her legs resulting in her falling over regularly. I was thinking how I could steal that hat of hers, but on remembering its weakness, maybe not. I think I’ve had to much sun today!!Edit
The most surprising thing about going up that 7km long hill was I looked up at one point and who should be up ahead of Val but Herr Clack Clack. How the hell did her get ahead of us? We left him behind at the bar at Laza and he had not knowingly overtaken us. Perhaps he has roller skates hidden in the soles of his boots (yes definitely had too much sun today ). Yes I knew it was him – CLACK CLACK on the shale and rocks. He reached the top of that part first and was sitting down drinking Liptons Lemon Tea to replenish his dwindling energy reserves. As Val was at that point before me, she had had time for a brief rest, and asked me if I wanted to stop. “No, no, let’s keep going.” She understood the reasoning behind my reply. Onward like a good little Christian soldier I went.
The next town of Alburgueria had something to really recommend it and made it worth stopping for – cute little bar. This one was obviously for all those parched throats and weary legs needing a rest. The symbol of the Camino is a scallop shell. Some pilgrims hang them from their packs. This place took the scallop shell to a whole new level as it was full of signed shells hanging from the roof and walls.
We were just sitting there enjoying a coke when a familiar sound filled the air -CLACK CLACK. Time to go. Val was ushered out of the town by an old woman who yelled out to her and went pssh, pssh and waved the right direction. I wonder if that is her purpose in life – putting pilgrims on the right path.
So how do we know where we are going (other than Gaia GPS of course). The Way is signposted with either yellow arrows or a scallop shell pointing the way at the times where it is needed. No two are the same.
Eventually after a long 5km of downhills (Val’s bionic gadgetry behaved itself today – see too much sun, I told you), walking passed some interesting farm gates, we arrived into the village.
Having arrived, showered and washed the necessities, we were ready for lunch. We were told to go to Blanca Casa (the White House) at number 17. Yes, you would have picked as a restaurante too wouldn’t you.
Here I go again with the word quaint, but it was. Obviously a family run restaurante where Mamma was the cook and daughter assisted. Very interesting furnishing but seemingly good as a number of locals were in there eating. Always a good sign. The food was as salty as water from the beach (which is common here) but there was something about this place that made it enjoyable. Mamma loved talking to Val and finding out where we were from. She also loved it that we told her that her food was nice. I’ve never enjoyed salty shoe leather before and am not about to start today. Still very enjoyable though.
So another day done and another 23 hard km worn of the soles of my shoes. Was the hill character building? Nah, not really. It wasn’t easy and even Val agrees with that. The difference compared with Loch Ness of years gone by is I have 25 or so years of resilience. I now also know that very thing comes from the mind – I can choose to chuck hissy for just keep going. Either way I still have to do it.
I haven’t heard Herr Clack Clack yet. Maybe he has walked 16km to the next town. In this fierce sun? He must have too much sun too!