The German volunteer turned on the lights at 7, a not so subtle hint to get up. Five minutes later she was checking each bed to make sure people were awake. Another five minutes and she was examining the white walls alongside each bunk bed with a sticky piece of tape. I saw her press it to a wall and examine it. I thought she was exhibiting the German penchant for cleanliness until someone pointed out she was checking for bedbugs.
I noticed the Basque Blue Bull was ready to go but he kept hanging around, probably wanting to walk with someone. People seemed to match themselves with others. Mats’s ‘future wife ‘ seemed to be hanging out with the handsome Frenchman. Martin had blisters and was walking slowly and walked with Melissa who was wearing crocs to avoid rubbing on her heel blisters.
I don’t think I have mentioned Mats’s future wife before. He met her near the beginning. A slim fresh looking young Frenchwoman who was wearing 5-toed shoes. Each toe is encased like fingers in a glove and the sole has a sturdy vibrant sole. Mats has 5-toes socks and one look at her and he felt he had met the woman of his dreams. But she seemed smitten with the handsome Frenchman. ‘Oh well, my relationships with women have a habit of disintegrating.’ But along the way, he continued to look for ‘my future wife’. We had finally caught up with her just before La Faba and Mats would discuss foot placement and walking techniques in 5-toed shoes. Who knew that there was so much to know about feet and walking.
There were four of us lined up outside the restaurant by 8 am but there wasn’t any sign that the chef or anyone else was inside preparing breakfast. I was so looking forward to roasted chestnuts. We would have to march on for café con leche.
As we rejoined the trail in the pre-dawn two headlamps came up behind us. It was Byron and Melita from Winnipeg whom we had met back in the church albergue where we participated in the ceremony by candle light. They had already been hiking for an hour in the dark, up the mountain and through the chestnut forest.
We hiked with them, up and up and up, another 300 meters and were almost at the top when the sun came out.
We followed a narrow road with steep grassy cliffs and grassy pastures with cows apparently happily grazing, patches of forests, hill tops and more hill tops, along with stone farm buildings here and there. It reminded me of my favorite imaginary landscape from the children’s book Heidi. That was an important book for me, not for its content but for the revelation it brought. I read it in grade 4 while we lived in Germany and days before we were to fly back to Canada I was in a bookstore looking for a book to read for the trip home. A friend of my mother’s came into the store and said she would treat me to a book but I had no idea what book to get. She asked me what my favorite book was and when I told her ‘Heidi’ she said ‘well let’s find out if the author wrote another book’. Eureka! What a revelation for me. That authors might write a second or a third book. How wonderful! ….That was a bit of a side trip but one does that while hiking 800k. All the important, and not so important, memories come up; things I said but shouldn’t have, things I should have said but didn’t. You have a lot of time to think of these things.
At one point I heard a thud, interrupting me from my thoughts. I looked back and there was my sleeping bag, rolling along the road, coming to a stop inches from the cliff. If it had gone over it would have rolled and bounced and rolled right out of my life leaving me at the mercies of albergues, many of which don’t provide blankets.
We finally hit the summit at 1330 meters where a statue of a pilgrim stands walking purposely into the wind. I wanted to take a closeup of it but the Basque Blue Bull was there paving back and forthnear it and yelling into the phone. I stayed on the other side of the road and snapped a quick picture before hurrying on.
|Alto do San Roque with the Basque Blue Bull and the Monumento do Peregrino|
I came up to Melissa and walked with her for a couple of kilometres while she told me of her worrisome encounter with the Basque Blue Bull (BBBull) . He had asked Martin if she was his girlfriend and Martin had said no, just walking friends. Not knowing she was married (or maybe that wouldn’t have mattered to the BBBull as long as the husband was not here), The Basque Blue Bull interpreted this to mean open season on her and had grabbed her bum. The good looking Frenchman had seen the Basque Blue Bull with a long knife making stabbing and throat cutting gestures. I didn’t get all the details but she was understandably nervous and Martin, unaware of the new events was far up ahead. I walked with her until we could see that the BBBull was far, far behind and Linda was between. Knowing we were going to stop at the next café (we rarely pass one by) I went on ahead.
There were too many hills and not enough calories in me. Melissa passed me by. With less than a kilometre to go, I had to stop and eat some nuts and popped a glucose tablet before struggling up that last 200 ft to the café. But the thought of the BBBull coming upon me got me up and going. I passed The Goood Looking Frenchman sitting in a patch of green with Mats’s Future Wife next to him and slowly, step-by-step made progress up the last hill. I had taken so long Mats had come looking. He peered down from the top of the path cheering me on, as were Byron, Melita, Judith and Isabelle who were all sitting sipping coffee in the sun outside the café.. He later told me ‘I saw Liz, it was her T-shirt but not her legs.’
Mats, Melissa and Martin were attempting to hide inside the café, hoping the BBBull would pass on by. It didn’t work. The Basque Blue Bull liked his beer and came into the bar. . He didn’t speak much English but understood it better. Somewhere in the conversation Martin mentioned Melissa’s husband and soon the BBBull was on his way.
Another 4K we found another cafe and the walkers who had strung out along the path slowly gathered together again: Mats arriving first, me next, Martin who was now walking with Melissa again and finally Linda and a quiet sweet young Frenchman who was camping along the way to save money. We spent a fun laugh-filled hour there, giving the BBBull more time to get ahead before pressing on to Triacastela.
We had planned to stay at the albergue by the river where we could see tents set up in the field next to it but as we approached the Hungarian twins greeted us. No one knows their names but everyone knows them as ‘The Hungarian Twins’. They are in their mid-twenties, always with smiles on their faces looking like they just showered. They were eager to share their albergue find with us ‘It es new’ The other one continued ‘Et even have reception like hotel AND elevator!’
Mats and I booked in and had the receptionist save a bed for Linda. When Linda arrived she told me she had given €50 to the quiet young French camper. Apparently he only had a total of €50 eoros to last another week on the Camino. He was so thrilled!
Time on trail: 8hrs