Breakfast was black tea, yoghurt with apricot jam and a banana. I was packed and outside by 8 and it was dark and raining. I followed the road for a bit with a few going by and eventually I had to stop and remove my woollen singlet as I was generating too much heat. Not long afterwards the arrows pointed off to the bush path. It was steep slippery and wet and went on ad Infinitum.
By and by I passed through pueblo Vega and then back to steep dark slippery overgrown rocky gully. By 10, I was out in the open on the brow of the mountain and the path let to a slippery farm track and then a little village with a bar so I stopped for tortilla, coffee americane and screaming 2yo. I was drenched.
Back outside I adjusted the rain cover probably in vain and then proceeded by roadway on up the mountain till I finally made it to O’Cebriero.
Another bar, a beer, a bowl of soup and a can of coke and I’ve successfully reduced my state from drenched to merely damp.
I call mum because Ali is still in the air and won’t be in Paris till tonight.
Well it’s back on with the damp gear and out into the freezing rain.
The path leads upwards again to the high point and I stop for a pic. The scenery is on a grand scale, green, lush and shrouded in mist and always the gentle rain falls lightly.
I’m freezing but after a while things start warming up. The trick is to not push too hard because that generates heat which leads to sweat which will turn very cold when you stop for any reason.
The path starts heading down and meets a farm road which goes right and I eventually come to Lińares but keep going, crossing the main road and diverting to a forest trail. Two gentlemen have come out of the bar and are a little behind me and I think I saw them last in Villafranca but not to talk to.
The path starts climbing rather steeply and eventually one of them catches me. He says “hi” and I reply with “gidday”. He says ” pardon me if I get this wrong but that sounds like an Australian accent.” On confirmation he asks if there’s anyone left back in Australia as he seems to have met us all over here.
He is Bill from Connecticut and he’s walking with his brother Jim from Tennessee. After a bit Jim catches us and we stop for introductions.
On shaking his hand I say to him that he has a doppelgänger in Australia in my cousin Michael and the resemblance is uncanny, which really threw me when he walked past my table in Villafranca.
We walk together through some pretty rugged and steep paths and I’m really getting tired. I stop for a photo and they get ahead and then there’s a really steep section and I lose them. At the top I come out at the the small village of Santa Maria do Polo.
Sid from California sets me straight on this not being my target and I set off for the remaining 3.5 k.
It’s a hard slog in the muddy path dodging puddles and lots of walkers go past me. After 40 minutes I hear a “Hey John”!
It’s George and Iris from last night and we walk the last k into Fontana together. I book in and find a bottom bunk and they grab the two next to me. I’m cold, wet, shivering and aching all over. What a little bastard of a day that I thought would be fairly easy but was in reality up there with the long distance days.
The shower was good but my fresh trousers are slightly damp and I have to jump into my sleeping bag with extra blanket as the day-end shivers arrive. It’s 4.30 and I’m still shivering at 6.
George is happily cutting down Sherwood Forest two bunks over.
I go to the dinner which is held in a beautiful stone roundhouse down the hill but I’m late.
Company is initially germanickly frosty but at desert Sylvia engages me in conversation and is surprised I’m Aussie. We chat about the Camino and as she is a veteran of many, and assures me that Sarria to Santiago isn’t even close to the difficulty of the last day. Sylvia and friend are vegan and get a special meal prepared.
After dinner I skip through the rain and get my washing on. I might have to line up for the dryer though. It’s nearly 9 and Ali should be in the hotel soon so I must call.
More rain tomorrow but Sylvia assures me via her friend that it won’t come till later in the day.
After dinner I head to the laundry to wash and go back to bed journaling. When it’s finished I head back with my three coins to join the queue for drying. There’s a Spanish gent waiting for his stuff to dry and we have a sort of conversation. There is a bucket of washed clothes and eventually owner Israeli Gady turns up so we chat in English. He’s the CFO of a small private agriculture company and we talk accounting stuff and he talks a little about like in Israel because I ask. We agree to go halves in the drying and chat at length while our clothes dry. We are in the laundry and there is a door that must lead to the hospitaliero quarters because they all traips past during our long conversation, creating the mystery of what’s behind the door.
Well today turned out a lot tougher than I expected but I’ve been well fed including a double helping of Santiago Tart and I’m ready for my walk to Samos tomorrow and then a short hop to meet up with Ali in Sarria.
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