Every step of the 35km I walked yesterday became worthwhile when I stepped foot in the Albergue in Guemes at 7pm, which unbeknownst to me is legendary on this particular trail. The history behind this place is quite remarkable, and from what I understood, Ernesto, who is the grandfather of this home, conceived the idea of Albergues for pilgrims along the El Camino. In comparison to the last two places I stayed, I feel like I’ve died and gone to heaven.
Last night all my great intentions of an early night were destroyed by the impromptu rehearsal of a brass band in the next room. Initially I thought it was someone practising the trumpet, but a cacophony of instruments begun and continued for at least an hour.
The rain hit today about 30 minutes after leaving Colindres. The first few hours of the trail was on roads, some of them quite large with very little space to walk on the shoulders, which did not make for pleasant hiking next to speeding cars in the rain.
The trail did eventually go through some very sweet little villages, some with incredibly old churches which towered above the rest of the town. But my only company were the cows in the meadows and the horses and donkeys who were also displeased about the persistent rain. I even saw a couple of sheep with two little lambs in tow, hurrying to find shelter in a small little barn. They looked at me wondering why I was not doing the same.
I had the most incredible tortilla de patatas with bacon and cheese in a little bar in Gama, and while I was inside, the thunder and lighting hit so hard the lights went out. I went outside again once it had died down a little, but ended up stopping again a few hundred meters up the road to double check if I was on the right track. The woman inside didn’t speak English, so she got on a computer and translated every word she wanted to say using Google translate. Although quite a painstaking experience, as the simple conversation took almost 20 minutes, she gave me valuable information which came in handy when I found myself confused again later up the trail.
After my comical meltdown the road turned into trail and led me up a steep cliff alongside the ocean. It was spectacular! I was so overcome with joy at the views and the chance to walk on the sand that all of the turmoil of the previous hours disappeared. The track to Noja is certainly one not to miss!
I stopped about 1km from Noja in a little bar to warm up, then messaged Ali (who was waiting for me in Guemes) that I would try my hardest to get there. From this point I concentrated on walking. I was determined to follow the arrows and continue putting one foot in front of the other until I made it there. I stopped for a quick snack in a restaurant along the way and asked how far Castillo was. He told me I was already there which meant I only had between 10 – 12km to go. It was drizzling but not raining hard, and I felt alright until about 3km from town when my feet started hurting so much I changed to sandals and bare feet to make it the last little stretch.
When I reached the huge looking house I opened the door and was greeted by about five other hikers all sitting around an open fire warming up. Ali appeared and gave me a huge hug, then I was offered warm tea, wine, and a seat by the fire. I was completely overwhelmed. I had been in such solitude I’d forgotten how to communicate, and was blown away that there were so many others on the trail I’d never bumped into. At least five others appeared after I had my shower and sat at the dining table for a feast of soup, fish, egg and potatoes in a broth and then apple strudel!
At the end of the meal Ernesto told us the history of the Albergue and how the concept was developed. Last year he hosted over 7,000 pilgrims from 70 different countries, and relies solely on donations to keep the place running. There is a hermitage, a museum and a library here, all containing photos, painting and objects related either to the Camino or Ernesto’s travels from the past 30 years. I was so tired when I got to bed I had to go straight to sleep without writing, but I had one of the best sleeps on the trail so far.