Day 18 - Villalcazar de Sirga to Ledigo

Trip Start Sep 03, 2012
Trip End Oct 07, 2012

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Where I stayed
Albergue La Paloma

Flag of Spain  , Castile-León,
Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Distance walked today: 22 kms
Distance walked in total: 411 kms
Distance to Santiago: 398 kms (although sign at Carillon has 401kms which would put me at around 380kms. Our dear guide book author must have counted a few mystical kilometres!)
Pains: even with a good long rest the left leg continues to hurt. I can walk but really looking forward to Leon to have a full rest in the hotel.
Blisters: none

Reflections: "There is no way of getting to grips with the volumes of people in the Camino. Do not assume anything." Yesterday I should have been one of the last walkers of the group as I started further back. I was expecting all the albergues to be packed. However I was the first one to arrive!

Woke up at 6.30am but only due to the alarm clock of the Danish lady. I now realise I have heard that alarm tone one of the previous mornings. It starts ringing and the lady takes about eight rings to find the mobile. How annoying!

As mentioned above my left leg continues to be painful. Its similar to walking with a stick tied to your lower leg - painful but nothing to stop me from walking. I'm hoping some muscle rub from the pharmacy and walking at slower pace will improve it. As long as it doesn't get worse then I will be fine.

Usual issue with no bars open at that time of the day so hopped along to the town of Carrion de los Condes. Its name gave me high expectations of a magnificent medieval town...sadly its just another pueblo with bars and small shops. No grandeur! Its no wonder I get excited thinking about my arrival at Leon in a few days.

I admit that the entrance to the tiny church of Santiago in the centre of the town has some marvellous carved statues of saints and others. I bet very few people can create such work nowadays.

There were a few open bars though, so I can't complain. I entered the first one, as probably did everyone else in the Camino and certainly everyone that slept in our albergue. It was packed. Funnily enough went I continued my walk, the village had at least another five bars open - all empty, how unfair for them. However, I bet that if I passed the first one all the rest would be closed, so one can't take the risk.

As my dinner the previous night was light, I indulged with a fresh orange juice, two churros, a cream napolitana and a large coffee (5 euros). Calories for the long track ahead.

There was a girl from Finland at the bar desperately trying to communicate with the waitress. She wanted to get a bus to Terradillos de los Templarios as her feet were hurting. She was wearing flip flops and basically there wasn't a single centimetre of skin that was visible - it was all elastoplast.
I helped out, and after obtaining information from the waitress, told her that no bus or train stopped in that town. She could take a taxi...she agreed with a sigh of relief.

Close to the church of Santiago a bar had put a sign up which had "Santiago 401 kms" on it. If that is right I should be over half way later today (if 790kms is the correct total distance). All downwards from now on!

Once out of Carrion I walked past the Monastery of San Zoilo, which now acts as a luxury hotel, and where the 2,000 year old Roman road starts (Via Aquitana).

Now, I knew Romans were good at building roads, and that they tended to make them as straight as possible, but this is a piss taker! Its 14 kilometres of straight line with slight up and downs so you never really know where anything starts or ends.

Its no surprise people see gnomes and enter trances along this section of the Camino:

- there is no distance sign so after a few minutes you loose track of how much you have walked;

- its all terribly boring, flat, repetitive;

- you see the walkers ahead and behind but don't get any closer;

- there is no water with exception of a terrace with a guy selling cans and sandwiches (and I'm not sure if he is always there);

- there is no sign of any house or village until you get to the end of it, and even then its hiding in a low point so its not visible until you crash against the albergue.

I can certainly say that the only good moment of the whole walk was when two pilgrims passed returning from Santiago with a donkey. It fits with the book I'm reading so it made me smile...for three seconds before returning to the absolute monotony.

I had to stop a couple of times to avoid murdering someone. The first time to let a French woman go by. She was walking with sticks and it was a constant "click, clack, click, clack". The second one was a portuguese older couple. She had her earphones on and was singing some sort of Fado song. Either that or she was killing a musical piece and making it sound like a suicidal note.

Conclusion: today's stage is comparable to Dante's Inferno but without all the details of descending several levels...this one is a bungalow hell - all in one level!

The only beneficial point about this endless day was that it gave me lots of time to listen to some musical classics. There are a couple of songs that reflected the mood of this Roman legacy.

The one that applied perfectly to this section was Deep Purple (Bananas album) with "Walk On":

"If you don't like what you see,
If you can do better than me,
You better walk on...

If the road before you winds,
Obscuring all the signs,
You better walk on..."

Or how about this one, which I dedicate to the German unemployed girl from "Casa Mice" and the Ukranian-Catalonian. From Talking Heads (Talking Heads album - "No Compassion"):

"In a World where people have problems,
In this World where decisions are a way of life,
Other people's problems they overwhelm my mind,
They say compassion is a virtue,
But I don't have the time.

So many people have their problems,
I'm not interested in their problems,
I guess I have experienced some problems,
But now I have made some decisions,

It takes a lot of time to push away the nonsense,
Take my compassion and push it as far as it goes,
There is no more stopping,
My interest level is dropping.
I've heard all I wanted to,
And I don't want to hear anymore,

Why are you in love with your problems?
I think you take them too far,
Not so cool to have so many problems,
Don't expect me to explain your indecision,

Talk to your analyst,
Isn't that what you pay for?"

The Roman road experience lasted about three hours, thankfully blessed with a medium strong wind which both refreshed and pushed me in the right direction (from behind). If not it could have been a totally different story.

The Romans stopped there and out of nowhere appeared Calzadilla de la Cueza...only 7 kilometres more to go!

I saw a water fountain and a bench under a tree. Before anyone else could steal my rest position I threw myself on it as if I was Jonny Wilkinson scoring a try worth the World Cup. I was thirsty, hungry and exhausted. Luck was on my side as taking out my camel water pack I saw there was only a few drops left. I must have been drinking a lot on the way, including a can of orange in the "Merendero Facundio" half way along the day.

I took out the magical supplies: "calamares en salsa americana", queso manchego and bread. Isn't life all about moments like this one. I wouldn't have changed it for anything else. It probably explains why I growled at a pilgrim that tried to sit down on the bench.

As they say in Spain "me puse las botas" (literally "I put my boots on", or I stuffed myself).

The saying of "the last mile is the hardest mile" applied perfectly, but with 7 kilometres instead. The wind stopped, it was bloody hot, my leg was screaming for rest, and there wasn't a village in sight.

I saw town in the distance. It was a horrible moment as it must have been at least one more hour away. I was supposed to have arrived already at Ledigo where I wanted to sleep.

Then, walking around a hill there it was! Right in my face - hidden from everywhere.

I walked into the village, and its so small I nearly walked out again. Retracing my steps I arrived at the albergue El Palomar. Owned by a Spaniard and managed with two young gypsy girls who talk their own dialect, its the only albergue, cafe, shop and restaurant in the town.

Only 7 euros for a bed with no sheets. However, in this place being late is better as you get a bed upstairs. At the top the beds are single (not bunks) and spread well. Its fresh and dark once you close the blinds. For the early beds, it meant twenty pilgrims squashed into a tiny room and into bunkbeds.

The upstairs floors are thin wood and you can actually see the people downstairs through the cracks. This includes both toilets, where any water spilt falls on the people below (all types of liquids!).

It also means that if you make a noise its heard perfectly in the dormitory downstairs. I made an effort to cough and sing "La Marseillese" while I used the toilet. The latter was just in case anyone heard any of my noises, and would obviously direct them toward the French contingent - genius!

As if the walk hadn't been tough enough, the only bar / restaurant was at the albergue. They only had drinks and crisps - no fruit, cans, sandwiches or anything else to bite into. They did offer a dinner, which was what we all went for as the only alternative unless a walk of three kilometres was undertaken.

There is no pharmacy so my leg will have to take it one more night and day without chemical assistance.

The problem was that they didn't serve it until 8pm. I was starving by 5! I ate a cereal bar, had some crisps and kept drinking water to delay death by hunger. However, the rest of the group seemed to have undertaken a "drink yourself silly-athon" from 1pm. Beers and wine bottles flowed without limit.

By 7pm the central patio consisted of about thirty legless pilgrims, mostly French and German pensioners. Shouting, giggling, laughing, singing and generally breaking any desire of rest and silence.

This continued until 8pm and followed during the dinner with more free wine, and after dinner with "orujo" shots.

The worst point was when a very annoying German lady in her late sixties decided to get up after dinner, clink her glass with a spoon and proceed to say in five languages "I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for being here and enjoying the Camino. Thank You God!" All the drunks then clapped and cheered.

I think an Englishman sitting next to me any myself were the only ones to look at her in disbelief and positively not clap (by holding our arms firmly clenched in disapproval). What an idiot I thought, who the hell does she think she is to be so patronising.

I decided not to tell her to bugger off, basing my silence on the fact I seemed to be the only one, in a group of about forty having dinner, that hadn't drunk a drop. I'm convinced it could have started a big "kerfuffle".

Anyway, the food was quite good and plentiful. Seven euros got us: pasta soup (I had three bowls), lomo and a small steak with potatoes, ice cream, bread, wine and water.

My table had the above mentioned English pensioner who had lived in Wapping for sixty years and was now in Kent. He asked me about certain restaurants and shops which he used to go to, and funnily enough I knew most of them.

We also had a Japanese girl who was very talkative, but the problem being no one could understand her English. And, finally an English fifty year old on a life changing trip - the typical one that asks "do you mind me asking a personal question?" and without waiting for a reply adds "why are you doing the Camino?".

Luckily she didn't listen much so she was talking about her reasons without anyone else having spoken. She was in a mind opening trip to "liberate the little spirit which we all have inside".

As we listened to her believes - involuntarily on my part as I refused to leave without my ice cream - she suddenly made an analysis of the Wapping Boy and myself. The cheek of it! She said she had detected that both of us were not letting our "little spirit" release itself, and that we were holding back in life.

Without asking for a solution for our imprisoned spirit, she then recommended that we should try blind tantric dancing. She described this as joining a group where our eyes would be covered and we would dance to different types of music. All of us in a room, waving our arms around as butterflies and shaking our spirit out!

The Horror! The thought of her bouncing around made me laugh with disgust. I could only think of a polite reply: "Thanks for sharing that information. We would all be like you if we did it. Now I have something to work for in life."

She did catch the sarcastic side, but obviously her spirit decided this battle was not worth fighting.

I went straight to bed, and next to my bedside companion (a German called Sven) quickly fell asleep and dreamt of little spirits.
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