Well, today was a long and rocky road from Villar de Mazarife to Astorga and a hot and sunny day as well! We did 30,1km today, but some sadistic wise-guy decided to build a fancy, modern, long, never-ending footbridge over a railway line right before you enter Astorga and was it not for that and the peculiar twists and turns of the footpaths, we would probably have only done 29km. Yes, I took pics of the footbridge in question. It has apparently become quite famous or rather infamous with the pelegrinos due to the length of walking distance it adds at the end of a long day! It is the very last thing you want to see when you have been seeing your final destination for the past hour and half and you think you´re close to the end!
I actually felt quite good today and had a great walk with my knee not giving trouble (except for feeling it on every small downhill bit – yes, even on the footbridge!) and the blister´s healed well. We all have sore foot soles after today and lo and behold we get beds on the 2nd floor of the alberge!! NOT good having to climb stairs after a day like today. We may take 15 minutes extra just to get down there tomorrow. It is quite amazing though how strong you become and less stiff every day. You still feel tired and have odd pains here and there, but the worst of the daily stiffness is hopefully over. Although then again, lots of up and downhill to come. We´ve been lucky with fairly even terrain for the past week or so. It is true that they say you get fit on the Camino! You can train and try to prepare yourself beforehand, but the Camino itself is the great levelling out factor, the teacher and the coach!
Interesting thing about Astorga is that it is apparently very famous for its chocoloate and butter biscuits. It also happens to be the last day of their local Chocolate festival and as we dragged our tired pilgrim bodies through the town centre on the way to the alberge, we passed a huge tent with typically loud talking locals celebrating all things Chocolate!!! I really do love chocolate (especially the dark chocolate), but I kid you not – I had NO desire for even a crumb of it when passing by the festival. After we showered and settled we went out to find food and being shown away at three restaurants due to kitchens already closed (told you nothing happens between 2 and 5pm!), we eventually found a place willing to serve us a tostada and beer. This was at about 3.30pm already and we were hungry!!! You DO NOT want to mess with a hungry pilgrim! I think the waiter saw that we were kind of on the edge of a major breakdown right there and then on his shift. We tipped him well though. We did a brief pop into the Chocolate festival on our way back to the alberge and I bought a mini-slab of 75% dark Astorga chocolate which I now have absolutely NO desire to eat (shocking, yes I know). And NO I am not carrying the slab all the way to Santiago, Finnesterre and home for any of you kind folk back home. I am sure I will need the decadent dark blocks somewhere along the way.
It is actually sad in a way that we can´t do any gift shopping now as there is no way we will carry anything extra along. Road is in fact becoming tricker and more up and downhill from tomorrow onwards and the weight of the backpack really has an impact although you do get used to having it on your back. You don´t even notice it anymore, but weight has an impact on the feet and joints. Everyone had a really hectic, long day´s walk and looking a bit ´verlep´ tonight. Marieke had a slow start with her feet still giving trouble, but she felt better later in the day and still managed the full distance. Sybil and myself split off from her just outside Mazarife though and for most of the day we walked with Brigitta from Hungary and Louisa from Denmark. What lovely people we meet on the Camino! I already know that saying bye to them will be very difficult.
I am off to arrange my backpack for tomorrow´s early departure again – same routine every night! So wonderful to do these simple things on auto-pilot! No brain or management skills required. Simply consistency and repetition. Joys!!
Earlier today I was thinking about so many profound things to share on the blog today if I can get internet access, but now absolutely NOTHING comes to mind. Sorry, no great pearls of wisdom for those of you eagerly awaiting some! Basically I only marveled today at the parallel you can draw between your experiences on the Camino and life in general (mind you, maybe this is actually profound). We passed a slab of stone en-route today where someone had written: ¨A good speed is your speed.¨ It may sound silly and basic, but to a pelegrino it is PROFOUND! You can´t compare your progress and speed with others as your body, strength, endurance, weight you carry, etc are unique. Going too quickly or too long a distance per day will cause strain on joints and cause injuries. Going to slowly may frustrate you and make you miss certain crucial targets and you may not get a bed in an alberge in the price range you´ve budgeted for. Etc etc. Lots of things to consider.
However, in life it is the same. If you operate at a pace which is not healthy, life has a peculiar way of forcing you to slow down (whether by burn-out, injury, strain on relationships, etc). If you go at too slow a pace you will be impacted by the results of your apathy and lack of drive or focus. Camino is like life and we experience this every day in a very practical way… with lots of time to ponder its significance and with no interruptions or distractions. In my mind at least and where I´m at now – that sounds like a great holiday and an overall awesome experience!!
Buen Camino and adios to all amigos!
Oh my word