Day 27, Villafranca to La Faba, Oct 25

We left Villafranca and soon ran into Dave and his new girlfriend who were walking very slowly. He seemed very happy to see us and I overheard him say he was going to walk with us to get some exercise. She soon called him back and adjusted her sweater which was hanging from his pack and then he caught up with us. ‘We tend to walk slow when she has to concentrate and translate into English.’ Dave’s natural pace was much faster and I think he enjoyed the pace of a few kilometres with us.

Strange blue trees along a section of highway.

We soon left the highway (and Dave) and followed a meandering river while all around us mountains mocked me as they knew I would eventually have to climb one of them. Up high were incredibly tall bridges crossing from one mountain to another. A high tech world way up there while we hiked on centuries old pilgrim trails. Many of the pilgrims we talked to had decided to stay at the bottom of a mountain but we decided to spread the elevation pain over two days, so we left the valley floor and started a 1,000 foot climb walking a narrow trail through beautiful forests of old chestnut trees. Chestnuts were every where, even falling around us. Halfway up a small tractor was parked just off the trail. On the back of the tractor was a basket of chestnuts. A little up the hill in the forest I saw two people harvesting the nuts.

Finally, I managed to make it to La Faba where a small old chapel was perched next to a German-run albergue.

The German volunteer showed us to our beds. There was about 30, but set into alcoves. Linda wanted a bed a bit further from Mats whom she said snored but gently and quietly. I slept through anything so it didn’t matter to me where I slept. The German woman pointed to an alcove with only one bunk bed ‘That’s the honeymoon suite’. We laughed and said we weren’t honeymooners and we’re given an alcove with two bunks (4 beds). ‘Use the left side as the right side is 20cms longer and if we get tall people, they will go here.’

It took me awhile to realize tall people meant big men. We had noticed a pattern since day 1 at Orison where all the large older single men had been put in a different dorm. This happened in a few places and we speculated that it was large older men who snored. The night before we started our walk, an Irish man had just finished his pilgrimage from central France to the Spanish border gave us advice . ‘If  I have one piece of advice, it is this. Take ear plugs. The last three days I had sleep deprivation. Too many loud snorers.’ So I was prepared for snoring but as I mentioned I can sleep through just about anything.

Linda has an amazing ability to make friends with many people. People I had never seen. I must walk in my own small world with blinders on. Anyway, at some point she had met Martin, a tall friendly Irish man with a deep Irish brogue.  We went over to his empty bunk where Linda dropped off a couple or Euros she had borrowed but in so doing she leaned over with her can of beer and drizzled it into his open pack and sleeping bag. ‘Oh, no!! I can’t believe I did that,.’ I went off to the kitchen to find Martin. His accent easily identified him ‘ummm, Martin, could we borrow you for a minute. It’s a matter of beer and a wet sleeping bag.’
‘Oh,’ he exclaimed on seeing Linda cleaning up the floor next to his gear, ‘don’t clean the bag, I can suck out the beer’. And he laughed. Martin was fun, easy going and very Irish.

The German woman told us about a new pub/restaurant which had opened and had a chef so off we went. The food was fantastic. Mats and  I broke down and had a hamburger in a home cooked bun with melted goat cheese and carmelized onions. Linda had pasta with fresh vegetables, peas, tomatos zucchini and fresh grated cheese followed by croquettes of potatoes, herbs and cheese. After dinner the chef rang a bell and poured a glass of homemade coffee liquor for everyone and we all toasted the chef and his new restaurant. He was toying with a metal drum about a foot left ng and eight inches in diameter  with holes in it. When asked what it was he said for roasting chestnuts for tomorrow’s breakfast. We all swore we would be there at 7:30.

Back at the albergue a tall Young Frenchman was eyeing the top tall bunk. I looked over and saw a pair of long loose blue shorts on the bottom bunk. Oh no! I recognized them as belonging to the Basque Blue Bull. We had seen him, off and on for a few days now. Large and a little strange. Someone I don’t want to get too friendly with. Someone who  plays loud music as he walks.  Someone whom I didn’t want to sleep across from. On one particular hard downhill stretch on a path full of boulders and rubble, I was slowly picking my way, when he came flying past. I noticed he had just dyed his hair blue to match his shorts and jacket.  Mats wondered where he came from as he spoke a strange dialect of Spanish with some French thrown in. Martin thought he was a gypsy. Hence I named him the Basque Blue Bull.

I climbed into my bunk and quickly fell asleep only to be awoken an hour later with three young women glaring at the Blue Bull’s back and Matz looking from the end of the bunk. The Blue Bull was still dressed with a blanket that didn’t cover him from head to toe, watching video on his cell phone without headphones. I fell back asleep.

Time on trail: 9 hours
Weather: perfect!

Distance travelled: 22k (gaining 300 metres)

Distance to go: 192k 
Food: café con leche, empanadas, hamburger, wine, Aquarius 
Lesson learned: I’m sure I learned something but what?
Feeling: tired. The hills don’t get any easier.
Aches and pains: sore feet!

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