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Published: October 11th 2016
I am resting in Astorga.
Feeling blistered and tired as I arrived here yesterday, (written Mon 10 Oct) I had already decided to have an easy day today and as you can only stay one night at an albergue have a leisurely breakfast and do a short 5 km to Murias de Rechivaldi, stopping there to rest and recover. It turned out slightly differently which I will tell you about later.
Going back to Saturday 8th October, coming out of Leon was a trudge. The edges of the city seemed to go on forever and you have to be extra vigilant in looking for signs. I was glad to walk with Ishmael, I had shouted him back as he'd gone the wrong way so between us we navigated our way out of the city. He also taught me how to ask for butter. Here you get plain toast or croissant as the custom is to use olive oil on bread. I am pleased to say I can now successfully get mantakeyer (phonetic! Butter) and marmalade (jam).
I was fascinated not for the first time to see very crude, old rustic, slightly dilapidated buildings in the ground with grass
rooves. Curious, I believe, after reading the guidebook, they are wine cellars.
On arriving at Villar Mazarife I got a bed at Tio Pepe. It had been recommended by a couple of Canadian ladies I shared a table and some lunch with.
From the supermercado I bought French stick, cheese, bananas, a kumquat and sat and ate it on a bench in the sun under the centuries old bell tower opposite our window.
Shira from South Africa who I shared a room with that night later helped me adjust my rucksack so no sponges are needed (incidentally I bought a luxury pack. 2 sponges for 0.75 euro and covered in thin towelling!) and sent me a beautiful picture of the sunset and bell tower from our window.
The next morning, again, there were pilgrims spreading into the distance, this time with no sticks slowly today, heads down rhythmically troopng on. This time it was like something out of a zombie movie.
Shira stayed in Hospital de Orbigo to rest. It is a very pretty, sociable, sunny and well maintained little town. One of my favourite little towns so far.
I had originally intended
to stay there to rest and give my blister chance to heal but it seemed too early - we arrived about 11 ish despite a late start. Perhaps I should have done. Each town I got to, it didn't seem much farther to the next so I ended up in Astorga. A slightly bigger and more cosmopolitan town than most. The climb up to it felt exhausting so I decided to take it easy for a few days.
On the way into Leon a few days ago I met Penelope from Sheffield, formerly Chesterfield and as she rested I carried on, as is the way.
This morning I breakfasted on pain au chocolate, zumo naranja and te negre con pico frio leche. As the Farmacia didn't open till 9.30 am I came back to the hostel to see if I could wait. Penelope was sitting there. She'd been to the health centre the day before and was going back today. So began our little saga.
I decided to go to the health centre for proper care, and make sure there's no infection. On the way we met a little Spanish lady who had fallen before and was going back presumably for redressing. She spoke in Spanish and we spoke in English. As she was so sprightly Penelope and I weren't unduly concerned when she led us over some waste ground. I did query the judiciousness of it but to be honest more for me and Penelope being at risk of infection, wearing flip flops. Just as we were about to get back on the pavement the sweet, bubbly little lady went a cropper. She was wailing and praying. None of us had a clue what the other was saying.
Running, well lolloping lob sidedly at speed must have been quite a site to see. It was like when you play cowboys and Indians as a kid and you're pretending to be a horse. Full walking gear, back pack, straw sun hat and flip flops looking pretty wild, as Penelope stopped to comfort the lady. I've never had such a long journey. We could see the health centre and it was spitting distance but I didn't realise the entrance was off another street, across the car park round the corner and then the entrance I needed across an inner court yard. It must have been obvious there was an urgent need or I was a mad woman as immediately I passed a Spanish man he pointed where to go.
Launching myself into reception I found no one spoke English and my Spanish doesn't quite meet the needs of the situation (cafe leche, mantakeya, poor fa vor, ha ha ha) so I had to mime. Dodder, bend, pretend stick.Fall. Point outside. Puzzled looks and rapid discussion between the 3 receptionists. Full audience of waiting Spaniards. Mime again. More thanks to their ingenious I interpretation than my artistic flair they seemed to grasp the situation. One took me down a corridor, I thought to find an English speaker but it was better than that: to get a wheelchair.
As I led the way the receptionist obviously thinks its a long way too as now and then she stops, looks at me as if I've escaped from somewhere secure and says something in an incredulous and angry way which I take to mean 'where on earth are you taking me, we can't go any further.' I thought she was going to go back at one point and nearly panicked. Luckily she kept going and picked the old lady up in to the chair, poor old lass still wailing and praying. I think the fright was worse than the damage and i hope she's OK, she was very distressed.
So then Penelope and I need to be seen to. By now Penelope has gone past her 9 am appointment. I don't have my EHIC on me. Luckily Penelope has data so was able to get a quick google translate of our medical concerns before entering the centre and losing reception, so they knew about our blisters. I had researched how to get your EHIC emailed across whilst we had coffee in the bar earlier (WiFi gratis). You have to phone an 0191 number but I could only get reception upstairs. No more google translate either. So every time there was a query, and there were a few, I had to hop/hobble upstairs, phone, cone back down with answer, up again etc. Eventually we are seen to and go back down.
As we go into reception for the umpteenth time there is a fellow peregrino that Penelope greets like an old friend. She walked for a bit with him the day before yesterday. He's in a wheelchair. Damage to previous cartilage injury, got to fly back home after initial medical care. We help him as much as we can and then leave. They must think we are a two woman limping disaster magnet.
Once we are outside Penelope admits it was a case of mistaken identity. The man just looks a bit like the one she walked with!
I have to say that, once again, the Spanish have shown what a kind and hospitable people they are. They were all fantastic at the hospital. Mind you, I'm still not sure what I'm supposed to be doing. The only thing I'm sure about is not to walk for 2 days.
I had intended to take it easy for a bit but its turned out to be a not more than expected. Still, if one has to rest, Astorga is as good a place as any. At the albergue there is a sun terrace looking across the town below and panorama of the countryside. Next-door there is a garden sympathetically planted with rose arbour, bright exotic flowers, variety of trees, pampas grass so beautifully kept it looks artificial.
Yesterday and today I have washed, showered, left albergue for 8, breakfasted in bar, walked streets till 11am (well, health centre yesterday) come back, done washing, put to dry in sun, sat on sun terrace and feasted on fresh baked bread, cheese, pate, melon, bananas and in the evening mixed salad. Ive been in the cathedral and later will visit the Gaudi museum.
The good news about arriving in Astorga was that Reinhold was here and spotted me in a cafe. So I have met the lovely Julia and we are in text contact and email contact with Rob and Felicity too. Rob thinks he spotted Robert in Hospital de O but didn't get chance to speak so we are still not far away from each other.
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