After the incident with the dogs in El Acerbo I set off for Ponferrada. It was mainly downhill and the terrain was either scree-like or huge fissured boulders. Tough going. I spotted a woman ahead in the distance. She was moving very slowly, unsure of her footing. I could see that she was struggling from a mile away. Even from that distance I could also see that she could never be described as a small eater, adding to her problems. She had my sympathy, I had been a little overweight myself a few years ago. Mine had been a medical condition though. I suffered from an overactive knife and fork.
Although I was not moving very fast myself I soon caught her up. She looked scared and I could see why. If you’re going to turn an ankle on the Camino then this is probably where it will happen. I offered to take her pack for a little while but she said she was fine. About a hundred metres further on I passed a young fit guy who, it turned out, was her travelling companion. Rather than supporting her, he was in his own bubble, and looked a bit grumpy that the poor girl couldn’t keep up. Hmm not very camino-like.
I was tiring fast. I was not at my best that day. I had caught a hangover from some drunken German guys I had sat next to the night before. Highly contagious, hangovers can be. German ones are amongst the worse, They are the bird flu of hangovers.
Twelve days in and I have other aches and pains. My feet are tired, knees twinging and thighs tight. I have a little lower back pain and niggles in my shoulder. In fact everything is aching. Things I didn’t even know could ache are aching. Like my hair… and my aura.
Down, down, down, I walked. On poor terrain, downhill can be as bad, or worse, than uphill. Lots of people use poles but I like my hands free so I can drink water on the move, take pictures and pick my nose. It was very tiring. I could see Ponferrada in the distance, but as the path zig zagged a lot, what looked like 30 minutes turned into almost two more hours.
Finally I hit the level road and saw the town sign. Molinaseca it proclaimed. Not Ponferrada. Oh no. I thought I’d passed Molinaseca before the big downhill. No. Here I was with 12 km to go. A day late and a dollar short. I walked into town and what a lovely place, perhaps the nicest town I have come across so far. Still and all, I wanted to make Ponferrada because I knew Bob, Moraid and The Kid Reed were all heading there.
I walked through the lovely main street. Plenty of restaurants and bars. The last one had a picture of ‘The Worlds Biggest Burger’. Hmm, tempting. Resisting I plodded on over the bridge. Suddenly my energy banks were empty. Boom. Just like that. Nuttin’ left. I sat on a wall and spotted Clive from a day or two ago walking toward me. He told me he was in the next albergue about 200m further up the road. My internal GPS said “Re-calculating”. I gave in and made for said albergue.
Albergue Santa Marina is the best albergue I had seen since way back in Hontanas. I checked in and, for the first time, of an afternoon, forsook the bars and hit my mattress. After about 34 winks and a shower I hit the town as hungry as a fasting vegan. Guess where I headed. Yep the home of that burger. It had been tempting earlier and now was irresistible. In it’s 10 inch bun it was as big as the plate. I scoffed the lot.
Some of the heat had now gone out of the day and I took a walk around the pretty town. There were swimmers in the river and families populated the many cafes and bars. Very nice. I could have spent a couple of days here and I was glad I hadn’t made Ponferrada.
When I got back to the albergue I sat in the lounge/dining room where a dozen or so pilgrims were finishing the communal dinner. Alison and Paul, lovely Kiwis, invited me to join them. I could see, that like many pilgrims, this whole table were virtually teetotalers and they would need help with the three giant jugs of wine that sat almost unmolested on the table. Do you know those moments when the cry goes up ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ or, ‘Can anyone fly a plane?’ It was a bit like that. I didn’t hesitate. I got tucked in. Lucky I was passing.
To be continued…
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