Linda and I climbed the hill into the ramparts of the walled city in the early morning light and stopped to look at the view across the wide valley and over to the ridge that we suspected we would be climbing then we entered the old city and followed the scallop shells in the cobblestones marking the way.
At some point, we ran into Mats and Wayne. Wayne has knee issues, so he walks slowly. Linda walked with him while Mats and I carried on ahead. Four kilometres on we reach a village with a store. Mats and I pop in. I buy a Camino kerchief which I attached to my pack which I can use to wipe the sweat off my face. Mats purchases were more interesting: a bottle of local red wine and a baguette. He stuffed them into his two side pockets of his backpack, wine on one side, the baguette on the other.
It was a day of protest. The first protest marched towards us coming the opposite way. About 50 marchers most in their 50 or 60s, waving banners and t-shirts saying something about pensions and dignity. A little further up the trail, my feet protested, and blister #4 started to appear forcing me to switch to sandals.
Today was hard mainly because it was long and it had a 300-metre hill in the middle with a steep ascent and a steeper descent. But on the top, at Alto del Perdón, an incredible view both ways, over rolling hills of fields and villages tucked between the folds. The hill ridge we were on held a long line of giant windmills. The site is known as the place ‘where the route of the winds crosses that of the stars‘ and is marked by a spectacular sculpture of pilgrims under the stars making headway into the wind.
Linda and Lisa met up with us. Wayne was still behind. We sat on the top of the hill where Mats broke out the wine bottle and baguette, and I remembered some cheese that had been in my pack a few days, and we toasted our journey so far.
The downward path was treacherous in sandals forcing my blistered, protesting feet back into my hikers. Once down the hill, I changed back to my sandals.
At one point Linda, with her umbrella up to shade her, felt the wind blowing it out of her hands. The distraction caused her to fall, but Lisa was right there to help her up and dust off the scratches.
We reached Puente la Reina feeling exhausted. Lisa had reserved a hotel room on the outskirts and we left her there envious of the idea of a bath and clean sheets. Mats, Linda and I continued on. A freshly showered Matt (from New Jersey) greeted us at the albergue when we finally arrived after 5. Matt who had difficulty walking had, in his slow but persistent plodding managed to arrive before us. He was famished and joined us for a Peregríno dinner.
Roger from Catalina and Stacey from Minneapolis joined us as did a loud banging noise from another protest, this one in the square just outside. I whispered to Roger asking if he tried to hide from the locals, the fact that he was from Catalonia. No, he loudly responded ‘they support us. That is what the protest outside is all about’.
Meanwhile, Spain is bracing for a Declaration of Independence.
Stacey, a communications officer for a medical devices company, was doing the Camino while she considered what to do for the rest of her life. She had quit her job after seven years and had gone to a commune in Hawaii, where weird, power tripping, free-sex, self-centred, lost souls had taught her hippie life was not for her. She told me what she really wanted was ‘to be in love’. Right now, though, her blistered feet anchored her in Puente la Reina for a few more days.
Time on trail: 10 hrs
Weather: Sunny! Not too hot and a good breeze.
Distance travelled: 24 km our longest day so far.
Distance to go: 684 km
Food: white toast, jam, coffee, baguette, a slice of dry ham, cheese found in my pack from St Jean, trail mix from Costco back home, two apples, almonds, a much needed 4pm Gatorade-style drink, a pilgrim meal of pasta, stewed chicken and vanilla ice cream.
Lesson learned: buy shoes when you can before they’re really needed.
Feeling: surprisingly ok.
Aches and pains: feet sore. A new blister.