Friday, August 9th

Puenta la Reina
Should've known that sleeping in a room full of Spaniards meant that the alarm went off at five. And, hey, let the great race begin. Stuff it. Stayed in bed 'til 6:00 anyway. Refuse to be part of their competition.

leaving Puenta
To leave, you walk down the Calle Major, then over the medieval bridge. This morning, six 'pilgrims' walked that far, to the cars that were waiting for them, ready to bring them here.

For some reason, the German walkers have a thing for bread.
"Do you want to buy breads. Follow me."

But, no, I didn't follow them, as they were walking the wrong way. But the offer of an invitation to breakfast was appreciated, even if I declined that too.

Onwards. Through other towns. One charming, another with the sound of barking dogs.

Don't normally read the messages left in the Pilgrims Books in the eglises, but I did here. Luckily, as there was a note for me. From Philippe and company. I'm thrilled and touched.




The backpack is in the steadily growing queue.
Mine's the one with the light blue bedroll. The 20th in the queue.

It's a bigger town than I expected. Met Guy, who's having leg problems again, it's bandaged this time.

There's someone practicing what sounds like an oboe somewhere, but behind the door I'm resting against, no.43, there's classical music.

The Scorpio Bar.
Cafe con leche, which I'm developing a taste for, and the barman turns out to be English, from Kent, but his parents live in Brisbane, having moved from Sydney.
Been for wanders around the town. The clothes market in one plaza, food in another. The Scorpio Bar faces the food one.
One stall, though, has hundreds and hundreds of photographs, taken at some Fiesta. Everybody in red and white. Families, faces, people.
There's a TV in here, with the sound off. Images of people dancing; some sports star having a scan of one of his legs; rabbits humping; the streets of some town being cleaned. but I don't really get any of it.
Weather report, and they're still threatening me with rain, although they did yesterday as well, but the only rain today would make Dublin's soft rain feel embarrassed, so light, so sparse, good walking rain.
Walked solo today. Met Mariana again, then Sharon and David. But it's great to be able to walk with or without somebody else. To be able to determine your own pace, and not to feel like a tagalong. To be able to stop whenever I want, for however long I want, it's my choice. Fast, slow, whatever, my choice.
The faces becoming familiar. many have dropped off, and probably more that began with great intentions will also drop out. Michelle, one of the Australian women, had to stay a second night here, as her feet are so badly blistered. The "I am a Brazilian Citizen" guy I met earlier, who only wears sandals, will be crippled soon too.

Next bar. The Bar El Che.
A beer, cervezo, this time. Outside table, the river to me left, I forget what it's called, but it's good anyway. A soft breeze, slightly overcast. At the next table, the "Brazilian Citizen", and the pilgrim with the braided hair dyed crimson.
The myriad of languages on The Way. You never really know what you're going to hear. German, Portuguese, Spanish, English accents, American accents, French, others I don't recognize.
Apparently the Germans are the most organized. They pack the night before, so all they have to do to in the morning is pack the sleeping bag. I don't know how they manage to do this, but they do. And the last thing they do at night is use their ear pumps. True. They pump their ears full of stuff to block out the night noises of others

The Spanish are the runners. Up at five, breakfast, out, as quickly as possible to the next refugio. The Pilgrimage as Sporting Event. Although it's good to be at the refugio early-ish, to assure yourself a place. No wonder the Frenchies can't cope. If you take the obligatory two-hour lunch break then you don't get a place. Too bad.






This house is actually at a T-intersection. If you turn left, walk about 30 meters, you're at the refugio.

Florida Bar.
Cafe Solo Double. The TV is showing the European Games. Get to watch the women's hammer throw events. Riveting. Don't know who's winning.

On the way, walked up to the Basilica del Puy, but it's being renovated, walked down again, music shops, bars aplenty, alimentation shops, buying bread and fruit and peanuts (yum), and another small bottle of water, which I intend to fill with wine from Irache tomorrow.

Back at the Refugio
The beds here are really cramped in. I'm on a bottom bunk, but you have to kind of slide in, and the ones that aren't against a wall, like mine, are pushed together which almost make for a double-bed. It's cômplet. Pilgrims are still arriving and being turned away. Saw Jeff, the guy with the dog, obviously looking for somewhere else.

Made tea, the usual noodle extravaganza with tuna and veggies, a peach for dessert. Have discovered the joys of lemon-flavoured iced tea. In Spain, they have machines everywhere. Drink machines, snack machines, coffee machines, even water machines. Just insert your euro, press the button. I pressed something called 'Nestea sin gag', and got lemon-flavoured iced tea.

It's still slightly drizzling outside, hope it stops tomorrow. Some of the stitching on my right boot has come apart, could be diabolical. But, I've walked 850kms so far. Still a long way to go, but well past the half-way mark.

The 1000km mark, though, is roughly in some tiny town. I'll give a little whoop there. It's still too crowded, too many people here. There's no room to sit, so I'm having this coffee in the street at the front of the refugio. It's a nice street. The road is small cobblestones, and just up to the left is a brilliant antique shop. Chairs, furniture, mirrors. Beautiful stuff. The houses, like apartments but older, are brick but with stone slab corners, some have coats of arms above the doors, kind of a signature feature of this part of Spain. The first floors of all these houses have balconies, with black wrought-iron. There's street lamps attached to the walls that glow whitish-yellow.

Now that was a damn fine coffee, now I'm having another. And holy bejaysus, there's backpackers still arriving. When did they start? Two in the afternoon? But if it weren't raining and cold, I'd be going for more wanders. There's two Net cafes in town, there's a map on the wall inside showing where they are, along with other Camino related stuff. How far the next refugio is from here, then the next, and how many beds each refugio has, and apparently there's a new one just past Astorga, but before Ponferrada.

The Spaniards are having their meal, spaghetti with wine, and it's kind of riotous. The Germans have finished their's, they were quieter, and they've probably all gone to bed, carefully prepacking their backpacks and earpumping like crazy. Haven't even used the earplugs I brought yet, haven't really needed to. They're still in the 'medicine box', which, by the way, I thought was huge until I saw the medicines, cremes, lotions and whatever else carried by some other pilgrims. One guy in particular is almost like a walking pharmacy, huge amounts of everything. Some pilgrims religiously lather their legs with cremes at every place they stop walking for the day. Cremes for calves, cremes for shins, another for their feet, yet another for toes. One women, a few days ago, even had her feet in a bucket of water. I don't know why. To keep them soft? I haven't seen her on the road recently.

And walking sticks. Staffs, I guess. Lots have the kind of ski-pole, like I have. Others have sticks of wood, some light, some heavy, some massive, some decorated, some with a kind pf gourd attached, a la Saint Jacques.

a little later
Two of the three Australian women have just appeared. Michelle's feet, I think, have been officially declared buggered. Blistered to hell, and she'll be losing a toenail in Los Arcos tomorrow.

The Spanish are having their group photograph taken. Instead of saying "cheese", it's something like "Bare Been-Oh".

really late
I have to tell you about Textwoman. Textwoman, who's in the bed next to mine, waits until she thinks everybody is asleep, then begins texting messages. The sound of someone texting is incredibly similar to someone grinding their teeth. Maybe she was pressing the buttons too hard, or maybe she was grinding her teeth at the same time.