Camino - Day 9
Fabulous day today! 22K and I could have kept walking. Cutting out the front of my left hiking shoe has made all the difference in the world and for the first time since I started walking however many days ago, I could actually just walk with a natural step and simply enjoy the day, the walk, the countryside. Unimaginably good; I had forgotten what a normal gait felt like and I think I hit a walker's high.
We were off at 7:30 in the dark and very cold morning. Sun finally came over the horizon at about 9 but we had already put 7.5K behind us and were glad to feel a little of the chill begin to slide out of the day. Another beautiful, sparkling, sun-filled day, not a great deal of warmth in the sun but a beautiful light over the countryside. For the first couple of hours of the walk I could feel a number of muscles pull and twinge with some aches and pains but I have have been walking for the last week to protect my left foot and my lopsided gait has put pressure on muscles in my back and upper legs that aren't normally called on to be used this way. With a more normal step everything was trying to realign; I knew it was just a matter of walking it off and muscles and tendons would settled back into their normal, routine, painless gait, which of course is what happened and my aches and pains fled with the last of the night.
To continue with my thoughts of yesterday exploring the differences between Portugal and Spain, the one that was most immediately apparent to us was felt when we left well before sunrise. In Portugal the yellow arrows marking the trail are clear and painted in locations that are easily seen and they are very frequent, whereas in Spain they are far less numerous, not so noticeable and just feel much more hastily and thoughtlessly placed. We were really stumped in the dark this morning trying to find our way and walked up the exit ramp of a major expressway because of the ambiguous placement of an arrow before we realized how wrong we were and how dangerous our position was. At other points of the day we were like hunting dogs casting around for a scent of our quarry while we tried to find a sign.
Having cast aspersions on the organization and maintenance of the Spanish camino, one huge thing in Spain's favour is the use of asphalt as a road-building material. As I have talked about a number of times, the cobblestones of which every single Portuguese road is made are uncomfortable and treacherous in the extreme, especially when wet. In Spain they are rarely if ever seen and all the roads and lanes that we have encountered are paved with asphalt. Particularly on climbs and descents, and we had two sets of hills to climb up and descend from in the course of today's walk, asphalt, while not necessarily comfortable to walk on is still infinitely preferable to cobblestones.
An additional and puzzling difference between the two countries, or at least the two region's that we have crossed is the number in Portugal and the absolute scarcity in Spain of orange and lemon trees. It seemed as if every house in Portugal with enough room in their yard had an orange and/or a lemon tree growing and simply covered with ripe fruit. In fact it was sad to see so many fruit lying on the ground and rotting under the trees. In Spain so far at least, the number of trees of either fruit that we have seen in the last two days could be counted on the fingers of two hands. The climate is the same, the topography is the same and yet masses of fruit in Portugal and virtually none in Spain. I'd love to know why.