Thursday, August 29th

El Burgo Ranero
Breakfast. Two small tubs of cold banana yoghurt. Sensational.

Briefly saw Bearnt and Peter again, as they rode passed. 'Ola!', bells tinkling, waving.
There's a town over to my left, called Villamarco, 1km off the Way. In the flatlands it can be seen in it's entirety.
And, on the other side there's the railway line. Train! woohoo! Freight. Honk!! (don't worry, it's a bloke thing), it's heading towards Sahagun. I'm heading the other way, towards Mansilla de la Mulas.

Mountains in the distance, low and blue, set against a reddish violet morning sunrise, and the mountains becoming clearer as it rises. The trees, always on the left, planted along the path every 10 metres or so, all the way from Calzada del Coto a few days ago. They're like friends now, yes, they say, this is The Way.

At the Bar Gil, just had the passport stamped. And a pastry like nothing I've ever eaten before, not what sure what it is yet. Cafe solo grande, and it really is a grande, might be going for some time with this one.

"Quattro!" the bar woman yells, to whoever is delivering the bread, and four baguettes are brought in. I don't suppose this place does that much business.

Thinking about the mentality that lends itself to the defacement of every monument, Camino or otherwise, by some politically motivated dickhead with a spray can, who badly wants independence for Leon, and one place I stopped for a few minutes at earlier even had the Scallop Shell symbol on a directional marker crossed out, and replaced with an anarchy symbol.

I'm wondering what Leon wants independence from, and if someone really thinks that painting anarchy symbols will suddenly cause sudden conversions to anarchism by passing pilgrims. I think not.

Three other pilgrims have just arrived. Including fatbastard. He was still sleeping when I left this morning. I'm leaving.

By the overpass, then over the canal, and into town.

Mansilla de las Mulas
Arrived, found the albergue easily enough, just follow the yellow flesches, and this town not only has the yellow arrows, it's got bronze scallop shells embedded into the pedestrianised roads as well. Albergue doesn't open 'til 12:30. So, around to the Tourist Office, get menaced by a little yappy dog, ask the whereabouts of the Internet - I know it's around someplace here - get a map, and the most bored looking young man I've ever seen in my life draws where it is.

So, over to the El Cafe de Ita. Second cuppa today, doesn't seem to have helped. Everything in close focus is kind of blurry, and on the way earlier, a split second of blackness, a moment of melting, then it was over. Still, it was a good walk. Even though through what seems like just more of the same, wheat fields, the trees on the left, the stony path. Tunes going through my head; Red Football, I'm not no animal in the zoo; and Haunted, I wanna be haunted by the ghost of your precious love.
The bar has dry-brushed yellow walls, although it's blue behind the bar, and has two beers on tap, San Miguel, and something else called Nostrum.

Just after 12:30
Booked in.

O Frabjous Joy! My right boot is now at a shoe repairers, I hope being restitched to perfection. I think 'shoe repairer', in Spanish, is a Zapateria. Whatever, I collect my boot at 5 this afternoon. Couldn't believe it. I'd been led to believe it was irrepairable, but should've realized I'd been told that by the shoe repairer in Logrono. Evil bastard town.
But the Internet is only available at the 'Albergueria del Camino', and only after 5, and there's only one connection.

I've walked around the Roman walls of the town, well, as much as what remains of them anyway, and climbed it's only climbable lookout tower, most of them are ruined although some sections of the wall have been restored, and I was really impressed at how some sections of the wall have been incorporated into the back walls of some the houses. I've looked inside it's iglise, got menaced by an alsation with golden eyes, perused the shop windows, including the hardware shop, had a cafe solo, now I'm having this beer, from the second bar, just up the road a tad from the first. Bejaysus, there's at least an inch of froth here. A euro, I'm feeling ripped off.

It's a nice enough town. I guess if you only saw the most picturesque aspects of it you'd be thinking "there's a place I could spend a while", and maybe you could if you were in tourist mode. But I'm not, I'm in pilgrim mode. I'm meant to be walking, thinking, grokking the inner meaning of it all, trying to make sense of stuff. Maybe in the larger towns I can lapse into tourist mode, but not small ones. Small ones are just meant to be passed through. Just as the medieval's did. Overnight. That's it, move on, keep walking.

But despite not knowing how to pour a beer, the bar assistant here is living proof that in Spain, chicks are either sensationally beautiful or complete dogs. This one's sensationally beautiful.

Back at the refugio. And fatbastard's turned up. I'm escaping to the courtyard out the back. An older guy is playing with his mobile phone; while another has just poured himself a beer, and does a better job of it than the bar assistant chick, and a third guy is reading "The ABC of Buddhism". In the laundry, a woman is doing her washing.
Two bikie pilgrims rolled into the refugio. They have huge amounts of stuff, personal stuff, spare spokes taped to the crossbars of their bikes. I'm surprised they don't have support teams with replacement bikes. And over there, there's a French woman complaining about the showers being cold. Well, it wasn't when I had mine, it was nice'n'hot'wonderful, I guess I must have used up all the hot water. Jeez, I'm soooo sorry.

And yes, the boot is fixed. It's beautiful.


Twenty minutes on the Internet behind the reception desk of the Albergueria del Camino, where I think rich pilgrims must stay. Hotmails. Describing this town to Chris, the feeling to this town that's kind of ugly.


Describing the walk down to the zapateria's, the fairly ugly knot of locals, the old ladies sitting in their doorways, the kids banging on the walls with sticks in time to a radio blaring from some car. Not pretty, not fun to walk through.
Three other pilgrims have turned up, also wanted the 'net. Well, sorry peregrino's, I've just gone into Mansilla mode, an' you can all jes' feck off.

La Molinos, which I'm sure translated into The Windmills. cafe solo, the usual. near the front, in a padded chair no less. Just killing time.

U2 plays on the system here, but I can't place the song, it does, however, have the lyric "compromise, nothing new to you". Thinking about the songs that go through me when I'm walking, What If God Was One Of Us, the Everly Brothers, the one with 'God speed your love to me' in the lyrics, Born in the USA (although I wasn't) 'Man, if it were up to me', and wondering if those words appear for any particular reason.

Town Square, the Plaza del Pozo. Pigging out on potato chips and a coke. Over there, a policeman chats with a local, they're standing in front of a shop that sells bits of everything, which is next to a row of shops that've been closed down for a while, one of which used to be a 'televisor - lavadores -frigerifico' place, so I guess the locals go elsewhere for all their stuff now. On my right is an old man with a walking stick, not a pilgrim walking stick, but a handicapped type. Diagonally right, down the street, is the albergue, but down Calle de los Concepcion, is the boot repairer's, God bless him. Behind me is the Santander Central Hispano, a bank I think, and I may as well complete the circuit with the La Estrella Cafeteria, the Caja Espagna bank, the Alonso Pasteleria and Cafe Bar, which is next to the the Peliqueria, Down from there, though, is the butcher shop, run by Jesus himself.

Back in the Ita Bar
Not only does the bar assistant here wipe clean the bottles from behind the bar, she also knows how to pour a beer, not like the one up the road.
Meanwhile the Spanish equivalent of Video Hits is on the TV, and it all looks much the same. Either all moody or all quivering. This one's quivering, but all this quivering action is taking place inside a wooden box. People drinking in a box, partying in a box, dancing in a box, drinking milk in a box, playing with a rabbit in a box, chasing a chicken in a box, quivering mightily in a box. Production costs, nil.
Next. It's a band playing behind a metal grille, while the quiverers quiver their things at the band. Bums, tongues, fannies; there's a close-up bum quiver, a head quiver, more quivering tits, more bums, and uhoh, even a lesbian quiver. Again, production values, nil. I think maybe they just get a bunch of people in a room, and tell 'em "quiver!"

Pissed, again. The glass of wine being topped up during tea, by the French couple. Haven't enjoyed a tortured Anglo-Franco conversation for some time. But from what I could gather, she's been on the Way longer than I have. Began in the Breton Finisterre, walked to LePuy, and is now on the way to Finisterre, Spain. Yes, there are two ends of the earth.
A brief conversation with Stephen, from London. Yes, he's using the Raju book too. And yes, it has it's faults, like if you miss one mark, particularly in France, you're basically stuffed. Whatever, I don't care, Raju is my spirit guide, and in Spain, you just follow the yellow arrows anyway.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I actually chose to get off the path, but the consequences are enough to keep me on it. My spirit isn't great enough to just say "stuff the consequences", I'm still bound by the rules.
Frenchwoman is pissed too. She's laughing and slappin' her legs and calling herself the 'Superwoman of the Camino'. We're all supposed to be impressed by the distance she's walked, but I've played that game too. Don't really care anymore if the others started at Saint Jean, or Roncevalles or wherever, it's their journey, not mine.
I'm more impressed by the fact that I've just managed to get my boots fixed; that I met Alison Raju, that I saw the violinists in Conque, that I met Ana and Anthony and Clementine and Philippe and Louise, and that the walk over the Pyrenees was easy, that I saw Spanish dancing in Burgos, that I can cook for myself, that I'm on the Camino, that I'm basically coping, that I've done 1170kms of my journey, and that I've realized what it's all about, finally.

Talked with Magdelena, an older German woman. Saw her arrive at the albergue, earlier, and looking more than a little distressed. But now, she was looking a little depressed. Had to have a chat with her. She's walking, despite being told by her husband, her mother, and her children that it, and she, are "crazy". Yesterday's walk, for her, was along one. But, despite finding it difficult, she's been amazed by the kindnesses of people along the Way. One bikie carrying her too heavy bag on his bike, leaving it at the next refugio. Kindnesses abound on the Camino.

much later
Frenchwoman is on the top bunk. Bejaysus, for two hours I thought it was a grunting, drunken pig snoring.