Tuesday, September 3rd

And out of the refugio as soon as possible, to avoid killing Antonio. He will just not shut up. Well into the night, the sound of his yapyapyapyap voice from the loungeroom area. Some places strictly enforce the curfew, other places don't. This place doesn't, and there's always someone who'll take advantage of that.
Then, woken to the sound of yapyapyapyap, just continual, and when his victims manage to escape, he's just there talking to himself. This morning he has three young victims. And just learned that he'll be at the same refugio that I'm intending to stay tonight. Well, aren't I just the lucky one.

San Martin del Camino
Yes, there are two bars here, like the guidebook says. A pity that they're both closed. I'm craving a coffee and pastry fix something chronic.

The landscape I'm walking through is a little uninteresting, just looking for the yellow arrows while I'm thinking about stuff. Father, middle-man, son stuff.

Passing Antonio, feeling sorry for his three victims. He has every souvenir pin imaginable on the brim of his cap, so it's kind of a pity that the cap itself is a souvenir from Greece, and I'm wondering why the pilgrims who walk in sandals always seem to be the ones with busted knees. Maybe they just can't see the connection. One of Antonio's knees is wrapped up, almost mummified.

Hospital de Orbigo
In the Bar Fonda, the woman behind the bar is still her pyjamas. But there's no pastries, maybe on the other side of the bridge. The bridge of myth and legend and lance duels fought between knights spurned by their ladies. Never did find out whether the spurned knight who took on all comers to impress the object of his affection ever did win her hand or not. Maybe she just thought he was a dickhead.

The woman here just asked me to sign the Peregrino Book. Did, willingly enough. Thinking that it's great to be able to add something to a tradition that's just so old. And reading these books is an experience in itself. Some of the messages left by earlier pilgrims are just so earnest they're cringeworthy, some are funny, best though, are the drawings some pilgrims leave in them. Some are brilliant. I'm sure there's been a Japanese pilgrim recently passing through who's left behind some truly inspired work.

But, as usual, the TV is on, with the sound turned down. Something called Primera Amor, which seems to be about schoolkids in love. I'm glad the sound's off, makes it easier to listen to the Carlos Nunez CD that's playing.

I've been for wanders, a long one in search of a supermercado. Walked the wrong way, ended up going around a huge block, back to the N120, passing a service station, then back eventually.
Then in the town square, the Plaza Major of Hospital, get "hello'd" rather than "ola'd" by Rita, who's just arrived.

At the albergue.
Waiting fore the hospitaleros to return, so I can book in and get the passport stamped. Just reading in the courtyard here. It's great.
Cobblestone floor, and a pile of earth that transforms, or blends, into a mural on the far wall, showing The Way.
The usual pilgrim questions, asked by Rita's mother, translated by Rita. Where did you start? LePuy, and again I have to explain where that is, and she's shocked. 1224kms so far. They started yesterday, and both have blisters.
I explain the blister and needle trick. Rita's willing enough to try it, but not her Mother.

The trick is to sterilize a needle, by burning it with a match, then holding it under cold water. Then thread it. Push the needle through one side of the blister and out the other, push the needle right through so only the thread remains. Cut the thread so you have dangling bits on each side of the blister. Leave it there for a while, an hour or so should do the trick. You might try some antiseptic cream as well, but don't pop the blister, as that'll just make it worse. Luckily, I've only had to do this once. Not that it hurt, as it doesn't, but because I've only had the one blister so far.

Anyway, showered, washed the stuff, hung it on the line. Maybe it's tempting fate as the thunder overhead is ominous. Hasn't rained yet, but it feels like it probably will soon.

The search for coffee begins. At one bar, the men play cards, and there's photographs of the bridge, complete with medieval knights on rearing horsies

back at the Fonda Bar, the woman has changed from her pyjamas, and I think must have remembered me from this morning, a she asked "grande ?" Well, yes.

A walk across the bridge, in the spitting rain, with the almost continuous thunder. I love this bridge, it just goes on and on, with two small pillars in the middle that probably explain the story. I don't know, as I can't read whatever is inscribed on them. I'm wondering if they tell what happened at the end, did he win his lady or not, or where all the challenges totally pointless. apparently the knight in question rid himself of the iron yoke of his own making, but does that mean he was no longer bound to her?

Walked up as far as the Cafe Lara, but couldn't quite bring myself to go in, didn't look at all inviting. Then back, the other direction, passing the church with the huge storks nests, passing the cat that slinked off the seat at my approach, passing the road that leads to the bridge, passing a few pilgrims, their backpacks covered with plastic.

Antonio's back. Damn. Saw him earlier here, and thought he'd decided to move on. At least his three victims did. They left for Astorga as soon as diplomatically possible. He's found new victims.

Rita has successfully done the blister trick, now it's mother's turn. She's grimacing, anticipating pain.

Town Square
There's a local guy riding through town on a pink girl's bike, has he no shame? Then two other locals on bikes, at least they're on men's bikes. Maybe they're after the pink girlie guy. However, all the young locals ride mountain bikes.

In the Santa Maria iglise. There's a Mass. So many churches only open for Mass, closed otherwise. But there's no-one up the front, and we're well into the service. Bejaysus, it's a tape. I feel conned. There's a tapedeck underneath the retablo. I find this a tad odd. The Pilgrimage Road describes this church as 'unremarkable' on the inside. True, I've seen better retablos, but a tape? First time I've seen that. It's as though somebody, somewhere, has decided that the Mass-going residents of this town aren't worthy of the real thing. It's not as though the church isn't packed, it is.
The call and response stuff. The tape plays the call, and the congregation respond. I'm wondering what would happen if the congregation where a little slow in their responses.

Tea. Rita just offered me a glass of wine, to go with my noodles. I must be radiating some kind of superpilgrim aura. At least her mother thinks I have. Not only that, but Rita's offered to do some translating for me tomorrow, in Astorga. Thanks, I'll definitely need it.

On the bridge, where the pillars are. For some reason this bridge pleases me, which, to Robert Pirsig, the author of 'Zen and the Art ...' means that it has an undefinable Quality, but which, to Phaedrus, means it is the Way. Odd, I'm on The Way.
The river flows, the sky is bright blue and pink, the thunderclouds have passed, there's a gentle breeze.
The poplars over there represent all the challengers in the duel, all defeated by our knight. In the end, he didn't win his lady's hand, but declared himself free from the prison of Romantic Love. Thus, the removal of the iron necklace.

Meson Perrone
A bar cafe, having the cafe solo. Again, it's nothing brilliant, just yer basic run o' the mill small Northern Spanish type bar. Nobody's playing cards, nobody's watching the TV, except me. There's something on about the upcoming anniversary of September 11th, which here is known as 11-S.

Met Michael, the Belgian pilgrim, the one with the home-made tattoos and broken teeth. He's walking the other way. He's been to Santiago, now on his way back to Belgium.