A Long Day
June 15, 2012
It’s more downhill at 6:20am. The sun is coming up over the hills, but we’re in the valley so we won’t see the sunrise. On the way down, I bump into Lyn and Kathy, who stayed in the town ahead. I wish I could post a picture of them, since it had been a few days since I saw them, but aaarrrgh, my camera is broken. It’s more steep walking, but in the morning it is much more manageable. We have breakfast together with Amedeo, who is also walking early, and continue down to the city of Ponferrada.
Ponferrada boasts a castle and some fine churches in the old town on the hill, with a modern, thriving city in the valley below. (Sorry, again, no picture.) After a nice coffee (I’m having coffee now at least twice a day) Amedeo decides to visit the sights and I am going camera shopping. We decide to meet at noon in the main square. I find out there’s a camera store in the old town, so I’m thinking this will be a quick errand.
Unfortunately, my camera is not repairable (I actually figured this out last night via Google) and the closest camera store only sells Nikon cameras. The salesman directs me to another camera store down the hill into the main city. I walk about 40 minutes to get there. Unfortunately, they only sell Fuji and Olympus cameras. However, the saleswoman directs me back toward town, about a 15 minute walk, to another camera store. I follow her directions and can’t find a camera store, but there’s a photo developing store and I figure they might know where I can find a Canon camera. I’m hoping, by the way, to find a camera that uses the same battery and charger. It’s just a simple point-and-shoot, not too expensive, and I’m thinking that this should not be so hard to find. I text Amedeo that I am not coming back to town and will meet him in the next town, 17km away.
This salesperson directs me to the Centro Commercial, known to Americans as The Mall, which has a Best Buy sort of store (why did someone not send me there in the first place?) I find my Canon and leave everything except for the camera, since I already had a charger and didn’t need any of the other cords or instructions. At first, the salesguy thought I was crazy, but when he saw my backpack, he understood. I also need new sunglasses, and there’s a sports store on the way out. Shopping success!
Now I just have to find the Camino. Fortunately, I get good directions from a nice woman in the parking lot and I head out, hoping she’s right. Sure enough, after about 15 minutes, I see backpacks. However, it’s 1pm and I’m beat. I look at my guidebook and determine that there’s a hotel about 10 minutes walk from here. I really need to walk that 15km (more than 3 hours) to keep on my schedule, but a quiet room of my own sounds delicious. I make a deal with Santiago. If I don’t see anyone I know to walk with me (and keep me going) before I reach the hotel, I will stay there. I couldn’t imagine walking that far and being so tired by myself, so it seemed like a fair deal.
However, who shows up but Amedeo and he’s game to go the distance. After walking for a bit, we stop for lunch and I have a tuna/tomato salad. We talk, share stories, compare notes on God and politics and food and relationships. He tells stories in Italian and I just listen. There are fellow pilgrims parked at the cafes in the little towns we pass, but none of these towns have an albergue for us to stop at. I know if I stop for a glass of wine or a beer, I’m never going to get up, so I press on, past the suburban houses, the small village homes with their balconies hanging over the street, and the vineyards. His shoulders are aching and I can’t feel my legs. Finally, we reach the church at Cacabelos, find our beds, and crash. It’s 4:30pm and if I was tired at 1pm, I’m dead tired now. I can’t imagine ever getting up again, but I do, to shower only, the laundry will wait. Fortunately I have two walking shirts and one after-walking shirt; I’ll just have to clean 2 shirts tomorrow.
Somehow after the shower I drag myself out of the albergue, ask some local old guys hanging around (each town has a group of old guys hanging around) for the best local restaurant (comida casera) and they direct us to the local pulperia, where the football match is going on and the pulpo and mussels in sauce are fantastic.
I’m sure I walked more than 30km today with all of the shopping – my longest day yet, and I’m still alive, but just barely. The good news is that my blisters, which had been plaguing me for the last two weeks, have disappeared a couple of days ago, and that’s one less thing to worry about. My swollen knee is fine, too. I must be getting stronger. Now if I could only lose some weight…