Day #24 El Camino
Friday 6th October
Villafranca del Bierzo > La Faba
Distance walked: 22km
We had breakfast provided again today so I snapped up some eggs and crappy coffee as soon as the doors opened. I was ready and raring to go and didn’t want to waste too much time. Raring perhaps not the right word. My leg injury (left shin possible tendinitis) meant I was going to take a lot longer to walk so wanted ample hours in the day to get some distance covered. The giant dog was having a good time trying to sneak in for breakfast too. Speaking of sneaking in, 3 girls in my room were talking this morning of an intruder in the albergue. Apparently in the middle of the night, some guy was walking around our beds with a flashlight. He was not staying there and so it gave 3 girls a fright who were woken by him. Not a single male who was sleeping in the room woke up. Me included. There was at least a dozen of us. That’s pretty strange, maybe we were all given some kind of sleeping gas? No one was hurt or robbed but it must have been a tad creepy. My bags beside my bed were all unlocked and I have valuables. Good to know nothing was taken.
I approached the first downhill with caution and it killed me. I was not in a good way again. As I followed the signs I remembered there were two options today, a harder route up a mountain or the easy way via the highway. I’d bought a guide book on the first day but never really used it, finally it had come in handy. Just paid for itself! Now I haven’t been a big fan of the highway on this Camino but I know my legs weren’t up for climbing or descending today. I took what I thought was the easy option until I totally missed where I was meant to go and found myself walking through a tunnel just for traffic. If it had been peak hour I’d have been in strife. Luckily at 7am not many were driving. I backtracked through the tunnel of fun and danger and found the giant arrow across the highway I’d missed in the dark, probably a good idea to leave in daylight hours in future I thought. After a small stretch alongside an old highway the scenery turned much nicer and the second half of the walk today was amidst forest, villages and was overall much greener and the thing that’d been missing the last weeks called ‘shade’ started to appear in the hot afternoons. I even came across an abandoned shack in the middle of a path with the title ‘Bar Markus’ so I figured I should return one day to open shop if my other career choices fall flat. I’d been given another tip from a previous pilgrim to stop for food in a town on the route today and with my tiring legs going up-hill I decided just to call it quits for the day and stop in the same town – La Faba. It sounded like a nice name, so, much like choosing which horse to put money on in the Melbourne Cup, I chose to sleep here.
After a delicious vegetarian crepe and fancy overpriced juice normally foud in a hipster café in Melbourne, I checked into the municipal Albergue run by 2 lovely Germans. Illona and Roland. They are quite the characters and greet you with iced tea and biscuits on arrival. It was a beautiful old building of course attached to a church. The best part of this place was the pegs. They provide pegs so you can hang your washing out. I’ve been carrying safety pins (another pilgrim tip) and they’re just annoying. It’s the little things I tell ya! I managed to find a nice spot in the sunshine and waste away my afternoon with my legs getting iced and elevated and powered through the book I so desperately want to finish. With my injured leg hoisted, I was taken pity on and invited to a home cooked pasta dinner. Invited by a German, cooked by an Italian.
Unfortunately for me, I had some doubters as to whether or not I should continue walking the next day. The German suggested I stop and rest for a day because she herself had tendinitis and had to do the same. She said that you can’t plan these things and sometimes you just have to suck it up. I hated that maybe she was right. But then I thought, maybe because she’s German, this is all part of some government initiative they have where all citizens are not to encourage anyone going on long walks. A part of the “clean up the stereotypes and reputation of Germany” around the world. Too soon? I am stubborn and haven’t planned on any more rest days. I was advised to go see a doctor which would deviate from the Camino, yet everyone had said that a doctor will just tell me to take a day or two off and rest. Another option would be to have my pack sent forward to the next destination, taking the pressure off my legs for a day. While using another generous Pilgrims TENS™ machine, sending electrodes through my legs, I weighed up the options. I wasn’t happy at all with having to take a day off yet I knew if I didn’t do something, I could risk further injury and being up shit creek. I’d kinda made up my mind what I’d do, but decided to sleep on it and my crippled legs and re-evaluate in the morning if my mind changed. It often does.