I must have slept so soundly I heard nothing! Obviously I was very tired from lack of sleep and a very long day yesterday. The rain helps... everyone likes sleeping with the rain coming down. This morning, no rain. The girls are gone, the cyclists are getting ready, eating breakfast, which I skip. I never eat before I leave. Typically I walk until 10 or 11am and then I eat something light. Andrea left her hat at the albergue and called about it. One of the cyclists would carry it with him and give it to her when he spots her ahead. This kind of thing happens frequently. Many times cyclists will carry items left behind.... usually they're plugged-in electronics, ie phones, battery chargers, and drop them off at albergues ahead, or give them directly to the pilgrim that left it.
It was recommended I walk the road ("just 2 kilometers extra", he said) because everything is quite wet, not just with last night's rain but also with the morning dew... and I am wearing sandals. I opt for the trail... I can handle wet, and I do dislike road walking, right?
When I walk through the trail, which is only 8 inches wide, I do get wet, socks and lower pants legs, but I really do not mind. Although it is quite cold, and windy. The wind blows just right into my ears making that noise that sounds like a storm.... how annoying. I wrap my head with my sarong so that my ears are covered and I don't hear it as much. Oh Yeah, I can see it snowed last night!! WOW! The mountaintops are white.
Now walking on a dirt road, along pastures full of black bulls, I can hear singing. The wind carries the voices. I turn around and in the distance are the 2 cyclist brothers. They catch up to me and stop and we chat a bit. One of them wears an MP3, looks for a song, and as they drive off, they start singing "America", some Spanish song, and each time the word America was sung, their arms would fly up in the air. It was a special touch, lovely men. (smiles) So my first challenge of the day.... my guide says it's a dry river bed...well it's not dry at all. The water is moving swiftly and it is deep. Stones are placed for us to walk, but my legs cannot reach one of them, which happens to be very pointy and I know I will fall in if I try to jump onto it. So I take off my backpack and my sandals and socks. I throw the socks across first, fine, then the first sandal I throw hits a tree but makes it fine, but the second sandal taught me I am not a good thrower.... yeah, threw it right into the river, and there it goes! The water is taking it! Luckily some weeds on the side caught it, so I did not have to go far to retrieve it. The idea that I could lose my shoes,,,,, well, you see, they are the only ones I have. Phew!! After that wonderful throw I decided not to try to throw my backpack. I put it back on and with the help of my walking sticks, I walk over the stones and make it across. The water by the way was freezing! So glad I did not fall in!
What a crazy day. This is one of those, you had to be there moments, to understand why I would say, "No one would believe what I just did and went through". I was strolling along, just fine, when I came to an odd waymarker. What was odd was that there was one arrow pointing to the right, but it had been painted over, although you could still see clearly it was there, and there were 2 arrows pointing to the left. My guide said the trail went to the right. But I was sure it had something to do with the trail having changed.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
- Robert Frost (1874 - 1963), The Road Not Taken
Well, I do like an adventure or a challenge, so yeah, I went to the right. I could see footprints, so someone else must have gone this way. The road went between 2 stone walls, you know the kind.... they are all over....miles and miles of 3 to 4 feet high stacked stone walls? The trail was nice, with trees providing shade. You could tell it is not transited much, for the grass was a bit high. A puddle here and there, ohhhh, hmmm water. Well, maybe I could step right on the edges against the wall, holding onto branches, yeah, I can keep going. Oh boy, water is now to the edges. I can possibly stand on top of the wall on the left side, and hold onto the barbed wire fencing for stability and walk along it. Let me try. Oh shit! These stones are rocking, and I would really hate to fall and have these barbs stuck in me and I would be found weeks later all dried up hanging from the fence. Ewwww I climb back down, and now go to the right side. I could go back I guess, but I have come so far, and I can tell eventually the road goes up that hill, which means there will be no more water, so I'll just keep going. To the right side I go. I can see that over on the other side of the wall it is all grassy. The bulls are pretty far away, so I can just hop over and walk along the wall until the water is behind me. Yeah good idea. So I take off my backpack, put it on the wall, and I carefully go to the top of the wall, which is wobbling like hell, and jump onto the pasture, except that my feet have sunk to my ankles. It was so wet here, but I could not tell because of the overgrown grass, and here I am sunk into the grass. Well, at this point I am just going to go on. Ohhh, that's poop I just stepped onto!!! Shit!!Damn!! Plodding along, I occasionally peek back over the wall wondering when the water is going to end and I can go back on my trail, and get away from all this poop and those cows and bulls that are a bit too close now. Well, the wall now goes to the right and I have to keep going straight, which means I have to get back over the wall to the trail again. Of course I keep thinking that I know now why my arrow was painted over and there were not one but two arrows telling me to go left! (remembering of course that I like adventures) So the wall now is much much higher, as tall as me, and if I try to jump back over (and land in knee deep water which is brown) I could twist my ankle on who knows what, so I take off my backpack again and carefully climb back to the top and sit there, and now what! I am afraid to jump, I cannot place my feet onto any stones! Well, I pray for forgiveness to whomever built this magnificent wall and push two of the top stones into the water and use them to step onto while holding onto a couple of branches. So now I am knee deep in the water, and I cannot lift these rocks to place them back. Sorry. I pull my backpack down off the wall, put it on, and start walking through the water which is filled with high grass. It is very dense now, and my arms are scratched through my sleeves and bleeding from the thorns of the bushes. My hands have thorns stuck in them. My backpack and my sarong get snagged. I slosh through the water for over a half hour and I can see I am going uphill now, and yes, the water is more shallow and finally, dry. My socks are not muddy or shitty anymore (thinking of the bright side). I meander between the walls a little longer and finally open fields! I made it, and I can see my trail again. I walk through a field of beautiful yellow, blue, purple, orange and red flowers and I am almost giggling I was so happy. Happy, not because I knew I was in a safe place, or that I made it, but that I actually did it, I did not quit, I did not go back! That was the trail that pilgrims took once upon a time and I walked the same one as they. And I did not take one photo of this. I was just so busy trying to get through it.
On the trail now walking and I heard airplanes, not typical ones, but loud ones, fast ones. I looked up and there were what I assume were Spanish Air Force jets doing maneuvers. Zipping through the air. I looked down and my feet had what must have been a hundred little blue butterflies. I thought, "what contrast". Above and below...War and Peace. As I walked along, with each step, the butterflies were flying off the ground and I was accompanied by them for quite a while. Thousands of them! It was such a pleasant moment.
I took off my socks and pinned the wet dirty things to my backpack and went on. I walked into a small village and decided I better eat something, for who knows when I will eat again. As if I was starving!! Not! And there was Andrea, with her hat. We sat together and she told me it was nuts of me to have gone the way I did, but how was it? Ohh, you have no idea what you missed, Andrea. Her German guide also said the trail went to the right and she did at first, so it was her footprints I had seen. But come to think of it, at one point I saw none (before the water). She had turned back and what had taken me two hours took her half an hour. She left for she had been there a long time already, and I stayed there and ate alone. Feeling rested, I went on.
I had a cell phone so that I can talk to Salvador or be reached by family, and I had it in my hand waiting for 1:37pm to come. See, today is my son Leon's birthday and since I cannot call the States, I will video myself singing happy birthday to him at the exact time of his birth. It's a tradition of ours. I usually call them and tell them their birth story. I found a lovely spot, a large but flat stone where I can sit, take some sun, and wait for the moment. I spread my sarong on the rock, I got my camera ready, pointed it at myself, and when the phone said 1337 I sang happy birthday to him, then I did a 360 degree taping of the area so he can see where I was. Of course it would be a long time before he can see it. So I did and then, knowing no one could be walking behind me, I took my clothes off and laid on that rock. Sunned my belly for the first time since my (colon) cancer surgery. I honored my body. It had pushed little Leon out 20 years ago. I loved this moment I had there, somewhere in Spain, naked on a rock. hahahaha.
Then I heard footsteps! I wrapped my body with my (multi-purpose) sarong and looked around, saw no one, but now I heard more sounds and I see it, I mean I see them, cows, many cows, walking alone to a grassy area to eat. I layed back down. Then I was happy enough, errr, hot enough, and left.
I reach Fuenterobles de Salvatierra and head to the albergue. A young woman skips out the door, welcomes me and asks me if I want to eat with them. Since I had only had a snack a few hours ago, I said yes, walked into the dining area and around a large table were several people finishing their lunch. The girl, a German who was hospitalera for a month, brought me delicious food (first and only time I saw broccoli) and we all chatted awhile. A very handsome man across from me wanted to know a lot about me and where I was from etc. No ring on his finger, I noticed. (smiles, I mean laughs). A couple of hours later I find out the hot looking guy is a priest, Father Blas. Aha! OK. He shows me around, the albergue he has been slowly expanding, the donkey carts from his Romerias. This is a place with good energy. He is doing a pilgrimage this August along the Camino del Norte. Next year his big pilgrimage will be along the Road Francigena to Rome. He expects the pope will meet with them. Would I be interested? I had a very pleasant time there. My 3 German friends and I made plans to eat dinner at the bar. Then Arturo, whom I had met a couple of days earlier shows up and we all went together but had a lousy lousy dinner. The worst on my journey.
Clearly the bar owner convinced us that the menu with many many choices was not as good as what she was offering to make for us. Grrrr, and expensive, 10 euros. The garlic soup tasted like oil, with no hint of garlic, not even bread in it. The protein was 2 fried eggs. Fried potatoes. Wine we did not like to drink...it was a bit ummmmm..... rustic. Not happy pilgrims that night. I learned I should not be swayed like that again. But who knew?
Father Blas was doing a 35km walk through the full moon night and asked me if I wanted to go along. AHHHH, NO!! Like I want to walk 35 kilometers more, and not sleep. But it sounded like it would be a great time. I slept next to Arturo who cried loudly in his sleep for about 5 minutes, a very sad type of wailing, all of us wondering whether to wake him up or not. He finally stopped; I slept. What a day! We have a lovely full moon night.
Total 20.5 KILOMETERS (plus a little extra time being adventurous)