Camino - Days 10 & 11
Great dinner on Friday night, Day 9, the best I’ve had since we entered Spain. Since the parador in Tui our hotels seem to be moving downmarket every night. We were in a 3 star after the parador and on Friday we were in a 2 star and on Saturday and Sunday nights we are in 1 stars. Nothing particularly negative about any of them, more about the size of the room and the quality of the food than anything else. However, our Friday hotel did not have a restaurant and had made arrangements with a local restaurant a couple of hundred metres away to feed us, since dinner is included in the room.
Jut to refresh memories, on Friday our hotel was in a small town at the top of a long tidal bay, some 10 or 12K from the sea. Seafood was obviously the order of the day and we indicated to our waiter that we would not take the fixed hotel meal but order what we wanted and pay the difference. Like a couple of my fellow walkers I started with a dozen oysters, 10 euros a dozen, try and find that at home. They were freshly taken from the bay that we overlooked at dinner and were beyond good, sweet, briny and fat with none of the brassy undertones that you sometimes get with fat west coast oysters.
I went on to an even more enjoyable and rare dish, certainly in our part of the world, a freshly-caught and pan-fried in butter, sole. Our little waiter, so cute that Elaine is planning to take him home, deboned it for me and it really was ambrosia. Very simply done, no other seasonings than the butter it had cooked in, with bits of crispy skin. The flesh of really fresh sole has a stickiness that fades quickly when it is kept around or stored and this sole was sweet and with a very nice sticky bite. A couple of bottles of very good rioja and as a great end to a great day, the restaurant brought us spanish brandy, on the house, to finish our meal. One of the more memorable evenings.
Saturday morning, Day 10, as we started on our walk, only 12K, all of the previous 2 days sun and light were gone. We should have knocked it off without breathing hard, but maybe the effects of the previous night or the cumulative impact of many days walking or simply the lowering skies and flat gray light, but Saturday felt very hard. There were some pretty stiff climbs but not severe enough to explain everyone’s awareness of all their aches and pains. Yesterday’s 22K felt much easier than today’s 12.
I have had an earworm from the time we started and I just can’t get rid of it. At the start it made some kind of rational sense, my subconscious must have reached out and pulled it into my inner ear, so that in the back of my mind, as I walk, all I can hear is Karen Carpenter singing the refrain from “It’s Only Just Begun”. This was helpful I suppose, at the beginning of the Casmino, it does help keep things in perspective, but at the end of a 22K walk with only a couple of days to go? Really?….or am I missing something. This will definitely keep me up tonight.
Arrived at Saturday’s hotel just as the skies opened. Forecasted to keep up for another couple of days but I think when we arrive in Santiago on Tuesday the weather is supposed to be much better. A very good tapas lunch with my fellow walkers and a long dreary afternoon in a very small and damp room. Everyone else apparently slept the afternoon away but I’ve never been able to get into that habit..think I need to learn.
Dinner, in the hotel restaurant, was pretty grim and whose only noticeable feature was the very loud background noise of the television from the bar downstairs punctuated periodically by groans and screams as things happened. A local regional team was playing a rival and the whole town was caught up. So caught in fact, that the whole night was periodically enlivened by groups of very drunk young men and women leaving their bars and singing and yelling at the tops of their lungs, on their way home through the streets and under our windows. We had 24K to cover today and as we set out for an early start at 7:30 another madly drunk and noisy group passed us as we left.
On Sunday morning, as we left, we were met by two occurances, the aforementioned revelers and the skies opening up. Clearly it had not rained during the night, I don’t think even the energy of the early hours balladeers would have survived that, but it waited until we left the doors of the hotel. And rain it did, but fortunately most of today’s route was relatively rolling with no long climbs. I have now figured out my walking style, if that’s the right word, the way my body works best on the walks. I’m tail-end Charlie for the first hour or so and the rest of the group can easily get 4 or 500 metres ahead. It really does take me an hour to walk through the pulls and pains and get my rhythm easy and comfortable. We can generally find a cafe at the hour/hour and a half mark for a 10 minute break for a coffee and a rest and whenwe resume I’m feeling very relaxed and easy. For the next two hours or so, after covering 14 or 15K it really is a pleasure to walk. At about the 4 hour mark I really begin to get a dead feeling in my legs and for the last hour or two I really have to dig down, particularly for the last 4 or 5K. My gang usually stops about 5, 6, or 7K from the end, depending on cafe locations, but I do not. I know that at that point if I stop it will be hard to get back in gear and I’d rather just keep pushing. So today, I’m thrilled to say, I arrived at our hotel at 12:30, exactly 5 hours after we started and covered 24K. I know I couldn’t have done that a week ago.
About halfway through our walk, we hit with a sudden intense hailstorm and pellets poured from the sky, no shelter available so just kept walking. After the hail, the clouds blew away and the last half of the walk was in beautiful spring sunshine. Hope it lasts.