Day 26 (to Santa Catalina de Somoza): Winnetou

This morning I hit the road around 7:10 with …

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Ray and Joana, as the sun slowly rises above the hills. After a while … in the middle of nowhere … we came across David’s place or “La Casa de los Dios”.  In his little corner of the Camino David has setup a field way-station with free food and drinks for pilgrims … those that want, can leave a donation. Judging by variety of drinks and food offered I’d say people are generous. There is no running water or electricity but Ray commented how the coffee was one of the best he ever had (they have this whole recipe for it). David isn’t here today, Andrey from Romania holds the fort. As we were getting ready to head one he showed me how to adjust my backpack so that it fit properly over my upper back …. WOW … it feels at least 30% lighter. Not only that but it helps you keep a correct posture while walking.

Next ahead is a large stone cross on top of the hill above Astorga. A bit of nice downhill walk than a while through the approaches to the city until we hit a city itself which is on top of the hill … fortunately a small one (I shudder to think I might have actually gotten used to climbing ) At the entrance to the old town we are greeted by gent who appears to have taken the role of a local “welcome guide”. He explains the direction of the Camino route and local sights. When I said “gracias senor” he replied with “no, not senor, there is only one senor (Lord)” pointing to the heavens above.

Among other things Astorga is famous for its chocolate and on every corner there are specialized candy stores …the chocolate is not bad … not bad at all (I always did find British understatement to be a charming custom). There appears to be a huge outdoor marketplace today but without any electronics. Ray wants to replace his stolen phone with a tablet. The guy in local tourist office is very helpful and pointed three stores on the city map that might have one.

I bid (temporary) goodbye to Ray who goes shopping and hit the main square where I bump into Gaudi again … or more precisely a building he designed … they all have a kind of fairly tale appearance. I also bump into Sandy the Canadian waiting on her sister, as well as Ally and Sandy the Californians, who met with friends on their way from Santiago.

I head onwards from Astorga as the path passes through a village called “the valley of the old ladies”, going straight and then slightly uphill. After I while I decide another break is in order. In a small village there is some kind of organic food cafe,the owner has a dog named Neo (after the character from Matrix movies). I had a juice mixed with a variety of natural ingredients that is supposed be be extra healthy. Hmmmm … it sure tastes like it.

About 4km more to my designated parking place for today, as I pass another set of verses and quotes left by Phillipe along the Way.
Right before the village I ran across an older gent, who tries to persuade me to go to albergue St. Blasius. But since that one is as much as … 200m! … further along then the first one … I decided on the closer one. And so I arrived at Santa Catalina de Somoza around 13:40 and found myself the first one at the albergue. In the room there are three books left by the window. The one on top is in Croatian, further demolishing my notion I’m the first Croatian on the Camino this year (I later found out 7 Croatians arrived to Santiago before me this year).

I hear Ray’s voice talking to the hospitalero. He manged to find a nice tablet for 80€ and shares a story how he became an instant celebrity (by association) . He came across of group of French pilgrims who were taking pictures of Phillipe’s verses, and he told them how he met him before … in person. “Oh wow…. how does he look like … what color is his backpack ” … they bombarded him with questions.

Later on I must have been hit by accumulated wave of tiredness. As I stretched on the bed I felt asleep immediately and woke up just in time for dinner. Inside the dining room there is a large TV with a Winnetou movie “Old Surehand” right about to start. Another reminder of home, since Winnetou movies were filmed in Croatia, in parts that bear some resemblance to Wild West scenery.
Side note: Winnetou is a Indian chief, a character from Karl May novels. A German writer, he wrote a series of novels set in the Wild West and the Orient, even though he hasn’t’ visited any of those places before he wrote his books.

Great food and pleasant company as I meet two German ladies, Elisabeth and Martina.
Back at the room Ray and I are joined by an Italian gent who had a neighboring bunk at Leon. He has a unique talent … falls asleep in 30 seconds flat and starts snoring immediately … quite loudly and in varying rhythm.
Lets hope my earplugs will be up to the task.

That was day no. 26.