Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Camino Frances Day 6

I was really famished when I checked in the night before. There was a bar in the albergue although they had limited items on the menu. I settled for a serving of croquettas de jamon and 20 cL of Cocal Cola. The bill was expensive by peregrine standards though I didn't mind because of my hunger. The chef was having a siesta so I had to wait till 6 pm to order my meal.

There were only two other people in the dorm. I am pretty sure they were a couple for they shared the same bed and had sex a couple of times in the evening. As long as they didn't make too much noise it was no skin off my nose.

I stepped out the following day around 7 am and it was still dark. Almost every albergue has this one way door where pilgrims can exit the following morning upon checkout without the need to wake the receptionist. (Some albergues have only part time people manning. They come in around 1pm to issue the receipts and stamps and leave around 8pm)

The early morning chill was biting and it was drizzling a bit so I opened my umbrella. Except for the occasional whir of car tires passing by, it was just my footsteps that broke the morning silence. A haunting silence that would set my mood for deep contemplation.

Eventually the concrete turned into a country road signalling that I was leaving the town centre. Against a dark setting, my playful mind conjured scenes from old horror movies. One part seemed like a scene from Friday the 13th , I wouldn't be surprised if at any moment the eerie-masked maniac Jason would pop out, wielding a machete.

Dark clouds were swirling ominously up ahead and I was worried that the rest of my journey will be a rainy one. I took a shot of the background and I couldn't believe that I have been through those mountains the past few days.

I must admit that at this point my energy was sagging. I was beginning to question my stamina to make it through the endeavor.  When I started this Camino I purposely did not announce it in Facebook. I thought it would be embarrassing to do some explanation to my friends if in the unlikely possibility I would chicken out along the way. I did post occasional photos in Instragram though. At least in this platform I did not have much followers so the reputational damage would not be too hard should I indeed call everything off.

It was a good thing I actually stopped at Camponaraya because the next town with an albergue was about 6.7 kms. It would have taken past sundown had I trudged on the day before.

I was still about 2 kilometres away from Cacabelos town centre (the next major stop from Camponaraya) but decided to stop by a big waiting shed that greeted me on the town's boundary.  I removed the shoes off my feet to massage it. By now my socks were getting damp because of the wet ground. I had to remind myself of a pilgrim's warning not to get my feet wet as it would be a prelude to blisters. I pressed the soles of my feet on the cold stone floor of the shed. God, it felt so soothing.

There was nothing fancy about the waiting shed though I particularly remember this stop because I took a shot of this worm. Travelling mostly solo for the past few days made me more philosophical than usual. I was wondering at the pace that the creature was moving, how long would it take it to reach Santiago de Compostela. This creature had no idea whatsoever of the worms from the garden in my hometown. I sort of pity it in a way.

I thought that just like this worm we humans might not be aware of other intelligent creatures in the fringes of the galaxy and beyond. And that we could spend a lifetime searching but we wouldn't find them. That somehow made me sad.

I looked at the sign that was posted along the way, the names at that time were meaningless.

The town marker indicated that the next stop Pieros was about 3km, which at my current pace would be achievable in less than an hour.

I stopped at the next available bar to have my usual bocadillo de jamon and cafe con leche. After 6 days of travelling the bars had now become ordinary for me and  if I didn't take any interesting snapshot I would no longer remember which one it would be.

For a sleepy town that perhaps only has less than a thousand inhabitants, its churches were surprisingly ornate.

I might have passed by a couple of churches Cacabelos but sadly I couldn't recall much about it right now. I feel kind of guilty that I recall more vividly encountering a supermarket. The past two days (starting from Dia De los Muertos) were holidays so there was barely a market with an extensive selection that was open. So when I finally found one, I could not contain my joy. I bought a pack of chocolate biscuits-Filipinos !, some energy bars and a pack of Salami as my protein source.

There was a slight ascent on the way to Pieros. I met a pilgrim who was on his way back to St Jean Pied de Port. That meant he had been walking already for 900 kms. He was kind of reluctant when I asked if I could take a shot of him for posterity.

There was not much to see in Pieros but I was just contented that it had a water source, so I paused for a bit on a nearby bench and then I went on.

My spirit was somehow lifted when this magnificent view of a field full of colourful leaves welcomed me at the park of the ascent.  A trio of hikers from Hong Kong passed by so I requested them to take a shot of me with the plantation in the background.

The rest of the journey was a bit wet. It was drizzling now and then and I had to bring out my umbrella to ward off the rain drops.

I can't recall exactly now how I motivated myself to continue on but it was around half past 12 when I reached Villafranca del Bierzo. Judging from the number of establishments I knew that it was one of the major stops but because of my hunger and my tiredness, I was not able to explore much of the area. I decided to treat myself that day so I order a full set menu for lunch capped off with a glass of wine. 

I shudder at the thought that this was the stop of Robi the day before. Our gap was now almost 20km so I was already giving up on the idea that I would ever catch up with him. My main concern at that moment was to finish the camino.

Around 120 PM I stopped to massage both of my feet. Both my small toes are now starting to get sore, my leftmost  toenail turning purple already.

I continued on despite the mounting pain in my toes. I saw this monument of a pilgrim, St. James perhaps and my mind was brought again to the situation to continue with my journey.

After the town centre the path lead me to a side road that snaked around a mountain.

Yet again I encountered another tribute to a pair of fallen comrades.

Despite the somber mood I couldn't help but chuckle at the peregrine self-deprecating sense of humour as evidenced by this hastily scrawled graffiti.

The past few days were really cloudy and rainy so I was kind of happy to see my shadow in the late afternoon.

The next 8 kilometres or so were mostly along the road beside a mountain

By 4PM the path went to a country side where rows of thick-trunk trees lined the path. I was somehow curious to see some trees with the initial "JG" painted on it. These are my trees I joked to myself.

My shin splint was once again acting up. ( Looking back, I think the effect of the Ibuprofen has worn off). I decided to stop at Trafadelo for the night. 

For Day 6 I walked a total 23.3 km. I knew that there were interesting sights that day but by this time, the only thing that ran to my mind was just to reach Santiago safe and sound.

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