Spain 2018, part 18 (Way of St James: Camponaraya – Trabadelo)

Again we chose an albergue that had a nice garden and a restaurant, so as soon as I got to Camponaraya and settled, after the shower and the laundry, I could sit in the garden and have a nice lunch. Still, I did not hang around for long, since I was incredibly tired, and while the legs, especially the ankles and the feet, kept pricking I sent a post with a new text to my friends:

Day 27: “Here we go again!”

Yesterday was rather unique on this Way in many aspects. First, I climbed a mountain, walked at more or less 1400 m above sea level and then I went down. That descend was brutal – a narrow path, with stones of all sizes and rocks. It was horrible and I decided to propose to my friends that we continue the following day along the road and not along the Way. As soon as I arrived in the hostel, the first thing Francesco told me was precisely this, so we cut the deal because Gabriel generally mostly agrees with everything.

In addition, having arrived in the hostel, I washed my things and put them out to dry. While I was hanging on the internet in the dormitory, it started to rain, first a little and then there was a downpour. My co-pilgrims already washed their clothes and also put them out to do dry. We realised there was not much we could do at that moment, so we left out things on the line during the seriously heavy rain. Afterwards we agreed with the hostess to do a short centrifuge in the washing machine and then to put our things into a drier, since they could certainly not dry naturally. We were joined in all of this by an American woman, so we ended up splitting the cost which was not high anyway.

I’m writing about this mostly because of all those who are full of enthusiasm because of my stories and would like to see a Way of this kind in our country. I don’t know if you have noticed that in the previous paragraph I used the words such as “internet,” “washing machine” and “drier.” The last time I did hiking in Serbia, the mountain hostels where one may spend the night almost had no electricity or water. In order to go walking for several days, it is almost indispensible to have at least some part of the modern world and life. For nothing can prepare you for the experience and there is always something new that comes up.

Here, for instance this... For 25 days, my right leg was very patiently observing what was happening and then it was as if it had said: “Hey, wait a minute, where am I in this whole story? How much longer do I have to listen to this favouring, left heel this, left big toe that, then left tendon... The riot started a couple of days ago with a small blister on the small toe of my right foot which I skilfully handled as soon as I got to the albergue. Regardless of that and all the resting, the right leg continued to “strike back” – two days ago, another blister appeared on the small toe and then it joined the previously existing one. I handled that as well (more or less). And then, having in mind the terrain I covered yesterday and today’s unpleasant descent through a series of narrow gulches with all those pebbles, stones and rocks, and then treading to the hostel, today I got a blister where no blister has ever been before (where a bunion may appear, which by the way I don’t have) and there was another small blister on the middle toe. Of course, all of this on my right foot. While I was walking, I unconsciously kept stepping in such a way that the tendon (certainly, on my right leg) also started to hurt. And so we came to the “Here we go again!,” but on the other side.

Still, it was not all bad today. We walked through a cutest village of Molinaseca with a Roman bridge that is still in function.

Also, we often passed by cherry trees that are just ripening here and when we went by one house, Francesco asked the owner if it would be ok that we pick some (admittedly, we did pick some along the way without asking) and she gave us a permission and so I was given a “bunch of cherries.” Still, I was very happy when we reached the hostel and after the daily ritual (taking of shower and washing of clothes), I lay down in bed. It was nice not to move.

In front of me: 208 km
Behind me: 659 km

I tried to take a nap that afternoon, but I couldn’t, so I killed the time by browsing on the internet. Still, I remember this albergue fondly as a place that had fantastic berths. First, they were very stable, i.e., they did not wobble with every move, and second, the upper berths were positioned high enough for me not to hit my head as I would settle in the bed or get up. In some other places, the berths were positioned so low that you had an impression you were squeezing into a hole.

On account of the pains I felt with every move, the pricking in my legs, and consequently the bad mood caused by the state of my body, I hardly left the dormitory, although the village seemed rather nice when I walked through it earlier with Francesco.

On the other hand, there were also some very nice pilgrims in the dormitory: there were two younger women from Romania and they were the first persons I met that actually came from a country more to the east then mine. Admittedly, I’m thinking only in terms of Europe here, since it was precisely at this albergue that there was a pilgrim from India! That was a proper rarity. And there was a very nice Spaniard who also had different pains, so we exchanged the experiences a little, as well as some medical drugs and products.

On the Way, EVERYBODY exchanges medical drugs and pharmaceutical products. I get a gel for muscle relaxation, use it for a while and then pass it on to Francesco. He gets a cream from some Brazilians, then while he still needs it buys additional supplies at a pharmacy, and then passes it on to me. The Spaniard gave me some anti-inflammatory ointment and I gave him anti-septic spray to apply on a small tear in his skin, etc. A true, although a rare example of good and sincere international cooperation with no hidden motives.

Since I knew that in two days we would have a stage that is somehow considered the most difficult one in terms of the greatest altitude difference that needs to be covered, I decided to make another break in my walking the following day in order to get really well and regain as much strength as possible. The plan, however, did not mean that I would stay where I was, but rather I would take a coach to move to the next destination where the three of us wanted to spend the night. So, I looked up the schedule of the local transportation for the day after and found several options. I was content.

In the morning when I woke up, almost everybody else was gone. Since I had a lot of time at my disposal, I did everything at leisure and soon I got down to the bar-restaurant in order to have breakfast. There I started to realise that the information I had was wrong and that there were not as many coaches as the internet showed. Moreover, there was actually only one, significantly later, almost in the evening. Thus I decided to move to Trabadelo by taxi. I was supposed to cover less than 25 km.

Fortune favours the bold (Audaces fortuna iuvat), which has, by the way, been my favourite Latin proverb since the high school, and it was indeed what occurred to me on this day. By sheer coincidence, there was a very kind man at the bar who knew the bartender (otherwise I would have not accepted the offer) who proposed to take me to Trabadelo, since he was going in that direction anyway. We chatted nicely during the short trip and when he brought me to the albergue of my choice, I invited him for coffee and that was also an opportunity to complete the stories we have started during the journey.

While I was waiting for Francesco and Gabriel, I wrote a text on the events of the previous afternoon and that morning, and I posted it so that my followers could read it.

Day 28: “A very interesting phenomenon”

The new problems with blisters, tendon and pains linked to the use of a leg, and the use of a leg is one of the preconditions for walking, yesterday had not only that physical aspect, but a significantly conspicuous psychological one as well. Namely, even while I was lying down in the comfortable bed trying to rest, full of magnesium, vitamins, special Chinese medical fungi in capsules, painkiller, with legs covered with muscle-relaxing gel, camphor ointment in two versions and the body felt relatively calm, it was my psyche that kept creating havoc by shouting in my head: “How much more?!!!”

It was completely pointless that I was trying to calm it down, comforting it that we had only nine more days to endure jointly before we reach Santiago, it simply would not hear of any of that or calm down for a couple of hours, instead jumping up and down around my head and body, and admittedly also outside of it. It was a chaos!

Still, at some point Djokovic beat Nadal (Wimbledon 2018 semi-finals) and this psyche of mine got a minor quantity of some happiness hormones and eventually quietened. Or perhaps it just got too tired of jumping around so much.

Be as it may, while I was still in the desperation phase, I said to my pals that I would not walk the following day and that I would take a coach. I was even thinking of doing two stages at once and then wait for them, but it was precisely the day after tomorrow that we were supposed to walk through the most beautiful, albeit the most difficult section. As this psyche of mine eventually calmed down, I realised I would really feel sorry if I missed that.

So, today, almost everybody had left the hostel by the time I got up and went down to the bar to have breakfast. My leg felt significantly better, almost pain-free, and since it was forecasted it would rain today, I even thought that perhaps the “higher instances” arranged this precisely because I should make a break, thus sending me the blisters. Then I told myself not to get carried away and that God had much more important things than my blisters to deal with, but certain suspicion remained for He certainly must have assistants to whom he delegates different less important tasks.

Anyway, I said to the bartender I should get a coach and he looked at me doubtfully. It was Sunday after all and on Sundays almost nothing works here. I told him that I had seen it on the internet and then it dawned on me that there was a Spanish site that provided completely erroneous information about public transportation (there, the orangey US president is right after all, the world is full of fake news), so I did the search again and realised that this was the second time they fooled me (the first time was back in Sangüesa). The bartender then made a phone call and said there was one coach, but not before 6 pm. Well, here I decided to be a spendthrift for a day and told the bartender I would get a taxi, but first I would go for a walk and when I come back I would ask him to call me one.

I walked the whole 100 metres and even saw a taxi, so it occurred to me to ask how much it would charge, but through some creative negotiations with myself, I said to myself not to be hysterical, but rather to relax and the bartender would arrange it for me.

I got back to the bar and saw a couple of more new clients, so I told them all “Good morning!” and they said it back. I waited for the bartender to finish what he was doing and then I told him that now I needed a taxi to Trabadelo. Having heard me, a guy who was drinking his coffee there and who knew the bartender said he was going in that direction and could take me with him. Really? Yeah. Great! I offered to pay for his coffee, but it was already paid, so I waited for him to finish it at ease.

We went out to the yard and there it was – a black Mercedes-Benz! And so I was taken in style right to the albergue at which I had agreed to meet with Gabriel and Francesco. When I got there I could see tired pilgrims, who had walked who knows how many kilometres, sitting at the tables in front of the hostel and for a split second I felt embarrassed because not only I was driven to that point, but also I was driven to that point in a very nice car from which I duly took out my big backpack, hiking poles and the small backpack. However, that feeling of embarrassment went away quickly and then I really found the whole scene extremely funny. After all, that’s life and the life, as my dear friend Maja says, is an interesting phenomenon.

In front of me: 185 km
Behind me: 682 km

After I had posted the text and I kept sitting in the bar-restaurant of the albergue we had agreed to stay at that day, I suddenly heard Francesco’s voice (luckily he speaks almost incessantly). I rushed out and saw the two of them marching by. Ma dove andate? (Where are you going?), I shouted after them and it turned out they just got carried away.

That day, I had one obligation less and that was washing of my laundry, since I did not produce a single drop of sweat and also I avoided all the dust of the Way. So, I went to a nearby shop to buy some provisions, since we agreed we would make our own dinner that night. Again, the menu included a mixed salad and certainly the unavoidable pasta and pesto from a small jar.

A rare photo from Trabadelo

In the meantime, Francesco got properly hooked on Sudoku. Following the afternoon nap, I would often hear him whisper immersed into the solving of a puzzle: “Five, aha, here I have five... two... two... wait a minute, it can go here... nine is there...” He bought a small Sudoku booklet back in León and now he spent every afternoon solving the puzzles. In order to make it easier to work on the puzzles, along the way he said he needed a pencil. Where are we supposed to find a pencil in the middle of a small village? Still, as he said, if you don’t ask you will not get the answer. Thus, he asked a bartender where he could get a pencil and then she gave him her own. Namely, he needed the pencil in order to be able to erase a number if he made a mistake. But, the pencil was just a part of this combination. In order to remove any possible error, he had to have an eraser. So, following the same pattern, he asked along the way and thus he got as many as two erasers. Then he said he needed a pencil sharpener. I told him then that he was an absolute genius if he managed to find a sharpener in the middle of nowhere. But actually I thought I would not be surprised at all if he somehow did so.

While he was solving a Sudoku in the dormitory that afternoon, I could see from my bed a young man from France who was lying across Francesco as he was getting nervous because the latter bothered him and he could not sleep. I could fully understand that, but in the meantime I grew so fond of Francesco that I was personally ready to forgive him anything, especially the innocent whispering of numbers. Then the French guy started to talk to Francesco, first in French, then in English. Of course, Francesco did not understand a word and I jumped in saying that whatever he had to say he should say it to me since I was the “personal interpreter” of the gentleman in question. Francesco was offended by this guy complaining, but he went out without a word and moved to the dining room.

Later, when we had our dinner, we had some pasta left, just enough for a nice proper portion. We offered it to a young Korean girl who shared the albergue with us, but she had already had her meal and could eat no more. I proposed that we offered the remaining food to the young Frenchman, since there was no one else anyway. Francesco was not delighted with the idea at first, he was still hurt, but eventually we agreed about it. The young French guy was later truly delighted and full of appreciation for our gesture. After the dinner I spoke with him a little and he was in fact quite a dear person, but I guess he must have been a little tired and nervous, and thus a little less tolerant.

Verica Ristic

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