Day 29 (to Laguna de Castilla): … ain’t no mountain high enough …

Departing through, by now typical …

2014-05-02 06.55.16
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… sleepy town. A couple of traces from the yesterday’s fiesta can be seen along the road.
The Way passes along a few wineries … then slightly uphill. Next village ahead has a great traffic sign I haven’t seen before … I guess it stands for “watch out, pilgrims on the road”.

Another valley leads to a mountain town that reminds me of Switzerland. The streets are slightly crowded by people getting ready for work. As the path leaves the town I took a wrong turn … yet again … and was saved by the Germans … yet again.
This is a place where Camino branches out in two routes … one heads for the hills and another goes over level ground, but along the main road. I dislike walking along the road but going uphill is significantly less appealing option.

The road option turns out not to be too bad. It follows the river and the road until the path enters the forest … another Caution, pilgrims! sign … with a small village ahead. Perfect place for a taking a break (in fact any place for a break is a perfect one) as I chat with a German couple … they are doing the Camino in stages, one week per year.

The road winds along to the next village where I stopped for a brunch. As I was getting ready to leave, in came Joe from Alaska and August from Wisconsin. August is a college student and Joe is a retired lawyer, quite well traveled (he has been to Dubrovnik in the 70’s).
At this point I have a confession to make … I find US politics quite interesting … at least from sociological and marketing standpoint, since I don’t have any skin in the game (not directly anyway, alas this globalized ball rotating around the Sun is increasingly interconnected ).
So I was delighted to learn that Joe is a libertarian since I haven’t met any so far. After a lengthy discussion on perceived strength of Obama’s leadership in light of Crimean crisis, quality of life in Europe and in the US we had little time left for the merits of Paul Ryan’s proposed budgets. Joe is another American who thinks I should visit the US, and he especially recommends San Francisco … no need to bring flowers in your hair … nowadays. I also discovered that Joe was my rescuer last night. He was sharing a room with Italian gent … the one with nocturnal music habits. He poked him with his cane and made him sleep turned at the side so the “music” was much less frequent.
Right on cue … the Italian gent walks down the road … I immediately asked him where he plans to stay for today … just idle curiosity on my part.

The Way continues … through small towns and villages spaced very closely to each other.  I am soon joined by August who is quite interested in a variety of topics … and since I have no objection on vaxing philosophically on a variety of subjects … we got along just fine.

The last village before the last mountain on the Camino (and thank God for that) is Las Hererios. My instinct is giving me hints (and boy it sure was right) so I decide to park here for today. Alas it was not meant to be … the albergue is being renovated and is closed for today. Nearby sign says you can rent horses here to go over the mountain. The two horses in the coral have a kind of ... please put us out of our misery look … completely exhausted.

Right, since the only way is up, onwards we go. We pass another pair of Americans, father a daughter from Rhode Island who decided to stay at the local boarding house.
Side note: those are available throughout the Camino and are more expensive than a typical albergue, this one was 35€)

The path continues uphill … mucho steeply uphill. The path is littered by poop which I’m guessing to have been left by those poor horses.
After x liters of sweat, we hit the asphalt road … then a church steeple breaks the cover of the trees … finally … La Faba. We shuffle along to the German-run albergue next to the church … where the answer to classical question “are there free beds” is the dreaded “completo” (fully occupied) … noooooo.
But wait, there is also a private albergue … yes, a spark of hope.
Alas … quickly extinguished by Elisabeth and Martina coming our way … the private one is also fully occupied and they were told the next village is 12km further.
Wait, wait, wait … that can’t be right … I check my albergue list and confirm that the next village is 2.7 km, and the one after that further 3 km distant.
However the nearest village only has one small albergue with 20 beds. Lets call ahead and check … ringing … ringing … answering machine. Right … the only option seems to be moving forward.
But wait … my phone rings … its the albergue I just called.
“Are there 4 free beds” … “yes” … “Can I reserve, we’ll be there soon” … “sure” … yeeeessss.
I report the joyful news to others who literally jump with joy.

OK … all that remains is a tiny detail of actually going through the last 2.7 km. August is interested in discussing alternative physiological mindset if we didn’t receive a confirmation. Sorry dude … at this point my remaining mental reserves are focused on zen-like walking state. So much so that I soon leave all three of them behind me.

The path continues uphill … naturally.
One foot … pole … other foot … other pole. There it is … I see it … more uphill … in fact the enttire village appears to be on a uphill slope.
Finally reached the albergue/bar at Laguna de Castillo around 18:30.

Jan the Australian is sitting outside having a beer. Her first question is along the lines of … “are you alive”…  to which  I manage to croak out an affirmative answer. I head inside and the hospitalera immediate figures out that I called recently.  Do I want a beer first or to settle in … well, lets start with a beer until I manage to regain my bearings. Jan asks where did I start from today … and then proceeds to inform me that today’s route was 36 km and corrected for altitude (equivalent of walking on level ground) … it was 46 km.
Fortunately I got a cerveza grande so I can drown my shock in beer.

Albergue is pretty nice on its own. For dinner we are joined by the entire Aussie family, Jan, Andrew and Matt as well as Keith. I help translate the menu for the German ladies. Although I took care to learn Spanish words for different kinds of meat, I can’t remember the German word for veal. So I tried with … kleine (little) muuuu … they managed to figure it out.

Due to late arrival I treated myself to washing machine and a dryer, so the fresh laundry waited on me back in the room.
I fell asleep almost immediately upon hitting the sack.

That was day no. 29.

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