Day #17 El Camino
Friday 29th September
Calzada del Coto > PuentaVilla
Distance walked: 37km approximately
Back on the road at sparrows fart, I was for once nicely packed the night before and ready to leave the doors around 6am. A guy I’d crossed paths with over some days was sat ready to go also, I asked him where he was off to and he said he was just waiting for one or two others to go ahead of him so that he could see. I said I’d show him the way. He wasn’t vision impaired, eldery or disabled, I wasn’t about to be a hero and lead a blind man across Spain in some act of charity, he just didn’t have a flashlight and he played the victim card well. The problem with this was that a few things had to happen, I was going to have to engage in a forced by situation conversation and if it was awkward or we had nothing to say, we’d be walking in silence but within a few steps of each other, or he’d be a faster walker than me and push me to my limits, or (and this is what actually happened) he’d be much slower. What I didn’t expect was that he didn’t have any interest in chatting at all. It’s like we were in a bad marriage. I mean I was doing him a favour and he opted not to talk. He even suggested we go the longer route to see more towns, even though it’d be in the dark. I was walking an extra 1km out of my way and he was giving me the silent treatment. If I was in a car dropping a friend off, 1km isn’t far out of your way, but when you’re walking 800km across a country and carrying 10kg backpack, choosing to add an extra 1km on the journey for no sensible reason is a bit silly. He actually said, “you go ahead, I’ll just walk back here”. I was now conscious of having to walk at a slower pace so that he wouldn’t disappear behind me. It was so dark that my light barely lit my path. He was now walking 30metres behind me, maybe more. I was now feeling responsible for his wellbeing, but he wasn’t helping himself either. The reason I get up early, besides people waking me up, is so that in this horrible desert terrain I can cover some good distance before the sun comes up. Now I was walking at snail pace in the valuable dark hours and I was being treated like a taxi driver. Now I’m not racist… BUT… I will point out that Peter, aged mid 50’s is from South Africa. He’s white. There, I said it. I’ll let you type cast him. He has the accent and look that says he hunts for fun. Without mentioning if its game or humans. If you were making a TV show that needed a prison warden for Robben Island, he could get the part. Was I being lured into a trap? I didn’t know which part of South Africa he was from, but I was beginning to question his motives. Should I really be helping a white supremacist who was happier before Apartheid? I of course was over-exaggerating but this is what goes through your head at 6.15am when you’re being asked to walk metres in front in the dark. It’s like those movies where the mafia take the victim to the woods and make the victim dig their own grave just before making them step inside and shoot them. Was I a fool and HELPING my killer? But if I got to know him, and he opened up a little, maybe I’d get a case of Stockholm syndrome and warm to him and sympathise with why he needs to murder me. And then I’d dig the best grave I’ve ever dug just to make him happy!
Spoiler alert: I didn’t die, but I did walk off on him once the sun started showing and tried to make up time. I had a quick breakfast at the 10km mark, I was fading away. The path was pretty boring today.
The highlight today was Bar Elvis. Apparently the owner is famous for being crazy. There is writing all over the walls of this dive bar, he’s an old hippy who carves up fresh meat on his bar, slicing a pig or some kind of animal offering samples to customers while he sings and goes delirious. A scattering of posters, flags and signatures from peregrinos from all over the world are written in sharpie pen inside and outside the bar. If you pass through Religious ever, stop in for a cold beer and some atmosphere. A van pulled up tooting its horn. It was a lady selling bread. Crazy man came out and bought 4 baguettes, cigarette dropping out of his mouth. The hygiene wasn’t at the standard of most restaurants but nobody cares in small towns like this. I should have called it quits at a nice town around 2pm but then I ran into my nemesis, the Swiss guy. He said it was too early in the day for him to stop walking and something in that tone came as a challenge. I did also want to go further anyway, but he spurred me on. The 4km was brutal It was beside a highway and just painful. The heat grew hotter, the traffic louder and the pain in my legs worse. I hobbled into a ghost town after 37km walking today. I bypassed a place with a pool that looked like it was unsafe to swim in and found a much nicer Albergue tucked away thanks to a leaflet I’d found while walking. This place seemed more like a lodge. It was beautiful. The showers were great, the garden spacious and being just 11km from Leon, it wasn’t a major stopover for many, so it was quiet enough to relax in. I found some tiendas open, the choices were pan, bread or bread/pan/dough in most shops. After dipping my toes in the local river to sooth, I had a lovely lay down on the grass before bed, I got my rest, knowing full well that tomorrow, although a much easier walk, will be hectic back in another big city and many people around.