Wednesday, September 4th

Hospital de Orbigo
Damn, I think I've lost my walking stick. I've bloody searched everywhere. Under the bed, even in the backpack even though I know it couldn't possibly fit in there. Trying to think of the last time I saw it. Can't remember. Damn, it's gone. I'm cursing the sleeping pilgrims for stealing it.

a little later
I'd like to forgive all the sleeping pilgrims for all the evil thoughts I had about you stealing my walking stick. I've found it. It was where I left it. Next to the hospitalero's check-in desk in the courtyard. Please forgive me, I don't know how I could have been so stupid..

Villares de Orbigo
Glad I chose ths way, the 'alternative country route' rather than the 'road route'. Feeling good, really good. Must've been the two yoghurts for breakfast.

Santibañez de Valdeiglesias
And there's an old woman, who's lifted the metal manhole cover in the middle of the road, with the 'agua' pipes beneath, she's trying to fix something down there. Over ther's the albergue, makes me glad I stayed in Hospital.

And way over there, in the distance, is Astorga, it's still kind of blurry, or maybe that's just me.
Been singing. Doo Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Doo.

San Justo de la Vega
Another five word placename. And, in the bar here was welcomed with a handshake for being a peregrino, then, as I was given the change, a "gracias, peregrino".
The day has been perfect, so far. The walk was great. Totally solo, apart from two bikie pilgrims, but they still don't really count. A few dogs that got the hint, the towns all moody and atmospheric, the birds, the sounds, the wind, the farms, the Camino sometimes stoney, sometimes smooth, undulating is I think the right word, across the plateau's, descending the valleys, through the countryside, seeing the mountains and then climbing slowly over them.

Stopping for a while at the Crucero de Santo Toribio, the cross, and leaving a prayer stone there, thanking whoever for this day. Two other pilgrims walk passed.

The Raju book is perfect. Yes, there's the line of trees she mentions, and yes, there's the view of Astorga, yes, here's San Justo, and yes, here's the bar, and I'm welcome here, I've just been told that.

There's Gaudi's palace, and there's the Cathedral, but where the hell is the albergue? The old one has closed, with directions to follow the yellow arrows to the new one, but which disappear. I'll just sit here a little, and remain calm.
Tourist Office, just there. I'll ask.

Yes, found it. Booked in, first again, actually. Winning all the time is becoming a little tedious. Had a chat with the hospitalero, including giving me directions to the bus station.

Finding the bus station seems an odd way to begin seeing the city. Walking down a street, and the best possible view of the Astorga Cathedral. Around to the right, and there's the Gaudi Palace again. Around the back of the Cathedral, and down some steps through the Roman walls, and the remains of an archaeological dig. Across the park, and there's the bus station.


Found it, waited at the "Information" desk, but the Information guy turning his back on me, as I suspect he does to all non-Spanish speakers. Maybe he's got something in particular against English-speakers. I don't know yet. Still, I discovered that there's a direct bus, from here to Madrid. Doesn't matter about the bastard "Information" guy, as Rita's offered to translate for me anyway. Could've waited until she arrived before coming down here, but I had this thing about wanting to do things for myself, by myself, first.

Finally have the magic bus ticket. leaves on Friday at 10:30, and I have to be at the bus station five minutes before the bus leaves. No fear, I'll be there with hours to spare. Rita sorted out the InformationNazi so easily, she's brilliant.
Sat in the Cafe Gaudi, talking about the Camino, with Rita. A brief mention of Antonio, who she's had dealings with. A bit of a creep apparently, who walks the Camino looking for a wife. Seems a strange way of attempting a pickup. Seems to me that pilgrims who've decided to walk hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometres have more on their minds than just having a good time. Also, mentioning that the Cathedral was closed, but apparently some stuff has been stolen from there recently, so the authorities are playing it extremely carefully. Damn pilgrims.

Then wanders. Buying new black t-shirt, so I guess I'm totally Knulp now, and finding the other iglises and monuments, and if I ever want to buy a ferret, then I know where the ferreteria is. Found the Internet cafe, so all is right with the world now.
Dumped the orange t-shirt unceremoniously into a bin. Good and faithful friend. Just been washed and wrung out that one too many times, and worn almost constantly since I left Australia. But now, I'm totally in black, feeling new again.

At the refugio
There's a Welsh woman in the next bed, and her two daughters who seem to complain a lot, sleeping on the top beds. She's lost her best friend's valuable walking stick, one of the skipole type, like mine, and she's a tad frantic about it. I understand this totally. Then talking to the hospitalero here, the one who was practising his English on me earlier. I explain that I'm in Astorga for two days, then going to Madrid to meet my wife on Friday, then eventually coming back here to resume the pilgrimage.
Not a problem. This guy is a legend. Yes, I can stay a second night, but not with the pilgrims. Upstairs, in some other place. Then, when we get back, that's not a problem either. If I wasn't a bloke, I'd kiss this guy.

a little later
And so to this bar. A cervezza, or however a beer is spelt in Spain.

Outside the Cathedral, on the stone seat out the front. It's quite different from anything else I've seen. Massive stories telling a single story, rather than episodic story telling.

Cafe Bar, the one closest to the Cathedral, the TV's on, as usual, and Tim Allen and the rest of the 'Tool Time' cast are also speaking fluent Spanish. Bastards.