Sunday, 3 April 2016

Camino Frances Day 5

The albergue did not have many pilgrims. In fact there were only the four of us in the dorm - perhaps an indicator that it is not a popular stop. Per my Camino app it isn't indeed, based on the available albergues and establishments in the area.  But for someone who had just walked for 7 kilometres without any good refuge or food source (not to mention on a limping leg)  the stop at Acebo was heaven sent.

I have been calling the pain on my right leg as just "pain" but finally I got the proper term for it, thanks to the German guy ( I presumed he was German based on his thick English accent) who told me its medical term- "Shin splint". Knowing its name doesn't alleviate the pain a bit but at least I could google it and look for ways to ease the pain. The German guy was kind enough to give me ibuprofen. He assured me that it would help alleviate the pain though I must not take it on an empty stomach.

I never knew the guy's name nor got really a good glimpse of him which I truly regret. He had the aura of a good uncle. From then on every story of generosity along the walk would always remind me   of him.

In hindsight I think my walk for day 5 was unbelievably easy because of the pain reliever he gave.

I had my laundry done in the albergue for 7 euros. ( 3 euros for washing and 4 euros for drying). Before the Camnio I drafted a rule of having laundry every days. The extra clothes I had made me extend it one day longer. I think having 3 sets of clothes would be a good number for the walk. Not too inconvenient but not too heavy either.

I recall reading in a forum somewhere that 2 is the optimal. But I thought of always erring on the side of caution. Something unexpected could happen on day 2 which could make you recycle the clothes. I think it is not uncommon for some backpackers to repeat their clothes, but I don't think I would want to go down that path.

In the morning when I woke up, I had a hard time figuring how to get out because the entrance door leading to the bar was locked. Fortunately the Korean girl has shown me a self locking door just beside the laundry area that lead to the exit.

It was surprisingly bright when I stepped out to continue my trek for the day. The breeze was chilly, I was reminded again that my stop was still on top of the mountains. The path led me to a pavement with tall grasses on both side. Once I had to retrace my steps because a glove fell off.

Unlike the day before, the path now was relatively easy because it was descending.  I saw a landmark that fell over and a pair of worn outs shoes was placed on top it as if a cadaver laid to rest, a tribute perhaps to weary companion that finally decided to stop. Pilgrims are a tad philosophical. I guess the walk makes one get in touch with a more philosophical version of oneself.

I continued. A war is raging between vega and carnivores and a particular sign reflected this.

There is also a war raging inside me. The part of me that wants to stop and forget about the whole thing. And the other part that egged me to go on.

Occasionally I would see a yellow sign paired with a blue sign that went the other way. I suddenly missed Chico, one of my companions in the Camino Portugues. It was from him that I learned what the blue sign meant-  the path to Fatima. I wonder if someday I will follow the path of the blue arrow. I thought about my expiring visa and how I failed to extend my stay in Spain. That somehow saddened me a bit. I would have wanted to stay longer but fate it seemed had other plans.

The walk was now surprisingly bearable and at that time I did not give credit to the ibuprofen doing its work which in hindsight I should have. There was something soothing about the wind that I took a selfie.

Further on I met a couple of pilgrims who who were taking a break underneath a tree. They were munching on a citrus fruit and offered a slice to me. I gladly accepted.

The next 30 minutes I was walking through a path leading down the mountain. I had an idea of publishing a book someday of this journey. I somehow regret not getting a photo along this part because the foliage was more on the yellow side than green. Finally I hit upon level ground - Molinaseca. A group of tourists - British I reckoned from their accent- parked alongside the road and viewed the surroundings. They asked how long I have been walking. They impressed to know that I have walked a 100 kilometres already.

If circumstances had been different I might have lingered a bit in the area. But I was determined to narrow my distance with Robi. So after a quick souvenir shot of the church and a stopover at a store to buy bananas and biscuits I continued on.

The path was now level although it was on a concrete road so it still gave a bit of stress to my legs.
I saw Ponferrada from a distance and couldn't believe how far Robi's stopover from my place was. Surely I could not have made it that far to this place had I continued on.

There was nothing spectacular about this shot here but I had to take it. It was during this part that got lost and took a wrong turn. I knew I made a big mistake when I ended up on a big sign that said no entry. Rather than walk all the way back I had climb up a gully by grasping on the exposed roots of undergrowth and brambles.

Finally I reached Ponferrada. It had an imposing castle that greeted the pilgrims in the city's entrance. I would have wanted to stay a bit but I had to remind myself that this was just a stopover and I had to catch up with Robi.

I went inside one of the churches in the town centre and took a photo of the pieta.

I made a mental note that the next I walked this path I would spend more time in Ponferrada. Further on I passed by a highway that led into a covered avenue with maple trees lining up on each side. It provided a refreshing canopy of yellow leaves. What was weird about this path was that for the first it led straight into a building. The dreary white halls reminded me sanitariums in horror movies. I wouldn't be surprised if arms of deranged patients would swing out of the iron grills. But the deadening silence reminded me that i was just alone. And that I needed to be more meditative than morbid.

The church right front of the courtyard  seem comforting, I wish it were open. I took a brief moment of respite and let the surrounding silence comfort me.

But I had to keep going. I knew that I would not be able to catch Robi (with about a 20 km headstart already) but I wanted to narrow the distance.

The villages in this part of the route are marked by signs of a shell, an arrow and a hand clasping an iron bar.

Once or twice, a cyclist would zoom by followed by a car. I presumed these are rich pilgrims who could afford to have a bodyguard follow them (and have back up plan of getting back to the car and calling everything off if they get too tired). Sadly I did not have that "chicken" button. I knew I had to continue.

It was already past 4 PM when I reached Camponaraya. To my horror , the albergue which I originally planned to stay was closed and the next town was 4 kilometers ahead. Fortunately a local informed me that another private albergue (which somehow was not registered in the Camino app) was available right ahead. I recall it cost about 8 euros but I didn't mind because I badly needed to rest.

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