05/12/22 – 11/12/22 224 km
I spent the first twenty minutes of Week 15 taping my feet up. When I finished I was finally able to force them into my boots and escape the chill of the Albergue. It was still pitch black when I left, but fortunately the path was easy to follow without using my head torch. It ran parallel to an irrigation canal which reflected the moonlight thus lighting the way ahead. After an hour or so I crossed an enormous dam and then circled around the reservoir that had been created on the River Tera. It started to rain. It wouldn’t stop for days!
Eventually I arrived in Villar de Farfón where I sought refuge in an Albergue to extract my waterproof trousers from the bottom of my bag. I left after half an hour having received a lecture from the proprietor on the polarisation of Earth’s population. In summary you either agreed with him or didn’t. The more he spoke the more I didn’t…
For once I was grateful to be back out in the rain. I continued west to Rio Negro del Puente where I ate a quick lunch before proceeding to climb until Mombuey. I was soaking wet when I arrived, so I stopped for a coffee. After leaving I completed the final sixteen kilometres by dropping south of the motorway. I passed through three villages that looked like they had been abandoned for decades. The highlight of this section was another herd of deer grazing leisurely at the entrance to the first village.
After what seemed like an eternity I finally arrived in Asturianos. My left foot was killing me and the Albergue had no cooking facilities. This said, I was grateful for the electric heater after the previous night’s icebox.
The next morning I left at around 9am and spent the whole day walking along waterlogged paths. Although I was still in a lot of pain, the autumnal conditions had created a blanket of leaves on the path which cushioned each step. The only issue was that it was incredibly difficult to ascertain which parts were flooded. Finally, I was putting the boots to the test and after the agony of breaking them in I was grateful to have dry feet.
That evening I spent a few pleasant hours in one of the local bars watching Spain lose in the football before returning to the Albergue to cook yet another pasta dish. When I finish I will never eat pasta, tomato sauce, tuna and oregano again. Ever! I slept well that night as the woman who checked me in insisted on setting the heater at 24°c. It was luxurious.
The next morning I decided to grab breakfast in the village’s other bar as the previous night’s barman had become rather aggressive towards the end of the football. Guess who was in there! It was as if he hadn’t stopped talking, he was still telling them to ‘…get it out to the wings…’ and ‘…to bring Ansu Fati on…’. I couldn’t decide if he was comical or whether I should fear for my life. It’s always a fine line with people like that. I kept quiet.
Before leaving I grabbed a sandwich for the road as the shops had been hit and miss and I was lacking in calories. I eat to feed my motor now, taste and preference is a secondary concern. I had been advised to follow the road out of the village as all of the paths were flooded. After the previous day I knew they weren’t lying. So off I went, plodding on into the drizzle, which became rain and then torrential. Twenty kilometres walking on the road always feels like fifty in the wild. It’s so dull when you don’t need to navigate and there are discernable features.
That said, there were a couple of incidents that brought some entertainment to my morning. The first of which occurred when I heard a wild boar in the bushes beside me. I didn’t see it, but it sounded enormous. Having spent so long in the wild I trusted my judgement now…so I ran until I felt I had put enough distance between us. The second thing I remember was crossing an enormous bridge that seemed to disappear into the mist ahead. There was no hard shoulder on this section and I walked in constant fear of being mowed down. Fortunately for me there were no cars that early in the morning.
Eventually I arrived at a village where I took refuge in a restaurant next to a petrol station and ate a delightful piece of tortilla. Lookout Cristina, this one was mega! After the village I was back into the hills and the autumnal scenes of yesterday. The path was inundated and I picked my way through the stream whilst climbing to the collado (mountain pass) that marked the border with Galicia. The views were spectacular and I could really see the charm of this beautiful, if somewhat challenging Camino. Of course it was still raining!
That evening, I arrived in A Gudiña as the sun was setting. The Albergue was brand new and for €8 I could not complain. I had the place to myself. It even had under floor heating. That said I slept poorly, if anything it was too warm! I left around 8am and there wasn’t an open bar in sight. I was still low on supplies so I was forced to take a two kilometre detour in order to find food. I arrived at the same time as a bus load of tourists. The service was appalling and the behaviour of the customers worse. The less said about this experience the better…
An hour later, somewhat annoyed, I left and began a slow arduous climb back to the path. When I finally reached the top of the climb I found a swing overlooking a reservoir. Who on earth decided to build this swing. It was a bizarre scene, made worse by yet another recent wildfire, however I made the most of the amenities. You’re never too old for a swing. Well I’m not!
The rest of the day was spent ascending and descending through village after village as I battled with the rain. It was too wet to take the waterproofs off and too hot to have them on. I was a sweaty wreck when I arrived in Laza and my feet were killing me. The Albergue was brilliant, although I overshot the building where I needed to pick up the keys and ended up walking an additional 1.5km.
I had breakfast in a local bar the next day and chatted to the owner for a long time about life in Galicia. It was sad to listen to someone describe how he felt about the decline of his region’s language: Gallego. After leaving I embarked upon yet another brutal climb before arriving at A Albergueria where I stopped at the Albergue for a coffee. I had met the owner the previous day and he insisted that I stop there to add my name to the collection of shells that had been left by passing pilgrims over the years. There were thousands.
Fortunately it was all downhill from there. The path was covered in fallen leaves and it had finally stopped raining. I felt like Bilbo on his way back to the Shire. I stopped once on the way down to chat to an old man and his dog. We discussed the finer points of Spanish wines, amongst other culinary based topics. Neither of us could decide which region produced the best wine although we both had a soft spot for Yecla and Jumilla. He had worked there as a member of the Guardia Civil. I know the area extremely well as both Cristina and myself have done many a wine tour there.
I was alone again in the Albergue. Thankfully the woman in charge told me that I didn’t have to leave until 10am the next day. I don’t think she could be bothered to clean so early! Common sense prevailed and I would have a lie in at last! I was particularly grateful as it was my birthday. I made the most of the extra time in bed. When I finally woke up I spent an emotional moment opening a beautiful hand made card made by my nieces which I had been carrying since I last saw Cristina. After pulling myself together, I completed an easy twenty kilometres to Ourense and then took myself out for lunch. It was the first time I had eaten real food for weeks. I had pulpo a la Gallega (octopus), pimientos de padrón and a small beer. I was stuffed and a little tipsy – I genuinely fear for myself next time I go to a pub!
The only dampener was the game that night. You can’t have everything! A massive thank you to everyone who sang me happy birthday and sent messages. It really makes a difference.
Despite the result, I slept like a log and was out again at 8am. I only had to do twenty kilometres. It had also stopped raining so I switched to my trail runners. That small change combined with the shorter days had had a massive impact on my feet. It is remarkable to write that the cut has now healed and for the first time in what feels like weeks I was walking without pain.
It was a weird walk out if the city as unlike many of the others it was impossible to tell when the city stopped and the surrounding villages began. After about six kilometres I started a brutal climb, however knowing that I didn’t have to rush allowed me to stop twice on the way up. There is a massive difference between a 40km day and a 20km day, especially at this time of year when you are racing against the fading sun.
When I finally arrived at the top I stopped in a bar for a coffee before completing the final ten kilometres to the Albergue. It was early when I arrived, so after completing my admin tasks, I had a siesta. I’m tired now, I haven’t had a day off since Sevilla and it’s starting to catch up with me. I refuse to stop though, if I keep going I will be able to spend Christmas with Cristina. That is all the motivation I need.
In two days I will be in Santiago de Compostela. There, many people stop, but for me it marks the beginning of the final third of my journey. Bring on the north!