25 kilometres today felt like about 25 miles in the 25 degree heat. It was unusually hot, which made the steep uphill climbs a little tougher. I’m told the temperature will drop by about 10 degrees over the next few days and the rain could start up again. With the amount of mud on the trail today I hope it doesn’t rain too much, otherwise there’s going to be some ugly sections along the way.
I was tired this morning and slept through Ali getting up, showering and making breakfast. I finally stirred, threw on my 5 day old t-shirt and had a very satisfying breakfast of cereal, banana, yoghurt, tea, and a baguette with cheese, avocado and tomato. Ali left while I was still packing my things, but we were sure we would either bump into one another at the monastery a few kilometres up the trail or at the hostel this evening.
I ended up stopping in the next town for a coffee, and even had the courage to tell the girl who served me ‘bueno caffe gracias’, then asked how much it cost in Spanish. She giggled, and I think the two older men sitting at the bar were also amused. When I hit the trail again I reached a junction with no yellow arrows. I looked at the ground as a habit from the PCT and someone had actually created an arrow from sticks. The simple pleasures of trail life.
There’s so many little occurrences that remind me of my former trail life. Having to tuck my hiking poles under my armpits like I’m skiing to go through narrow sections, tip toeing on rocks and logs over flooded or muddy parts of the trail, navigating over or under fallen trees, and hearing the sound of running water from a mile away.
There was no lack of farm animals along the trail today. Some friendly donkeys, some curious cows and goats that seem to be chained up in the most obscure places to eat away the overgrown vegetation. There was one part of the trail where there were arrows and crosses in the direction the sign told me to go, so I headed that direction anyway only to be run at by a growling dog and stopped by a herd of cattle who didn’t seem to want me to pass.
I took a quick break at the monastery and bought a postcard from a lovely man who either said he’d been to Sydney or possibly lived there. We had a five minute conversation in two different languages, and in the end we both laughed realising neither of us had understood a single word. Ali wasn’t there, and I figured she was way ahead after my unscheduled coffee stop. Unfortunately our paths didn’t cross the entire rest of the day nor this evening.
My legs were ready to call it a day at about 4pm, and I was devastate when I saw a sign that said I still had 7.9km to go. Luckily most of these last kilometres went through some beautiful scenery and well cut trail, but the last 2km were along the road which was a painful end to a tiring day.
When I finally reached town and found the Albergue was closed I laid down on a bench with my pack still attached and groaned. I called two hotels I had numbers for but both were over my 20 euro limit, which left me out of options. I willed myself back to standing to venture into town to find a tourist info centre and on the way passed a bar which had a sign that said ‘Peregrinos / Pilgrims’, then some other words and 5 euros. I ventured inside and the bar man who spoke English told me where to find the cheap hotels and said he’d cook me dinner for 5 euros anytime before 9:30pm.
I found a 15 euro room and went back to the bar for a two course meal, glass of wine and a special liquor the bar tender Raol gave me for being the first Pilgrim of the season, all for 6.50 euros. Not bad at all. Over dinner I debated how to tackle the next two stages as tomorrow is 30km into the big city of Bilbao, then the next day is only 19km. The question is where to stay in between. In some respects the PCT was easier at the end of the day as you could stop almost anywhere right on trail, you wouldn’t have to search for a place to eat and you wouldn’t have to worry about finding a place to stay in a language you can’t speak or understand.