A very short update tonight. The pilgrim menu at my hotel in Puebla de Sanabria did not agree with me. It was far too oily and my stomach couldn’t take it…
In the cold albergue at Mombuey, I had a breakfast of pastries and bread that i bought at the panaderia on Sunday evening. Thank goodness for panaderias that open on Sundays! I put on my boots, and felt my left lace tear. The outer layer of the lace had worn through, leaving the thin core, which I was able to use to tie the boot. Clearly, though, I needed to buy a replacement before I walked out of town. A villager pointed out a shoe shop to me (closed until 10) and advised me to ring the bell of the owner who lives next door. Local knowledge makes a huge difference! Shortly after 9am, I was enjoying a cafe con leche at the bar, with a new pair of laces in my backpack. Who should walk into the cafe at this moment but Uwe, my German walking companion from Saturday! He and Michael had walked from Santa Marta to Rionegro del Puente on Sunday, but Michael’s knee was now very painful, so they agreed that Uwe would walk to Puebla de Sanabria (over 40km) and Michael would find other transportation to meet him there. So now I had a walking companion again.
During the day, the scenery around us alternated between heathlands and pretty, sunken lanes with old, drystone walls and tall oaks with rusty coloured foliage on either side. On the way, we passed through many tiny hamlets with barely any activity. The more remote of these settlements were often in disrepair, while those closer to the main roads appeared more prosperous.
At the centre was always a church, and occasionally, we spotted curious features – arrows made of pebbles and sticks to mark the Camino, timbered balconies on houses around Entrepeñas, raised front doors with external stone steps, and occasional “shelves” sticking out of the stone walls in villages that we passed through at the end of the day. At first, I thought that these shelves might be accidental but they appeared with such regularity that I think they must be deliberate features. With what purpose, I don’t know.
It was good to walk with a chatty companion. Our conversation was mainly in English, and Uwe walked at a good pace, despite his heavy rucksack and the long distance that he had to cover.
About 17km after Mombuey (the halfway point of my walk), we reached the village of Asturianos, which has an albergue and a bar/restaurant. Here, Uwe spotted a Camino friend, Giorgio, sitting on a bench by his bicycle. Giorgio started the Via de la Plata on foot in Seville. When his heart problems threatened to prevent him from completing the pilgrimage, he bought a bicycle. Since Salamanca, he has been tackling the same daily distances by bicycle that Uwe and Michael have been walking. We chatted briefly. Giorgio didn’t feel like joining us for lunch but we agreed to meet in Puebla de Sanabria at the end of the day.
Over a lunch of salad and cold meats, Uwe caught up with Michael, who had spent a luckless morning, trying to hitch-hike out of Rionegro (with only fifteen cars passing in three hours). I had a surprise call from my friends from the group Amis Camino Mozarabe Via de la Plata just to say hello and test the Skype connection for the conference call that we will hold tomorrow for the foundation of this new group that will promote and inform people about the Mozarabic routes to Santiago.
Fortified by lunch, we continued our walk through the glorious autumn landscape. The last village before Puebla de Sanabria (Otero Triufe?) offered us a carrot and a stick to motivate our feet to keep moving. The carrot came in the form of a painted message on the wall of a Casa Rural – I need nothing more: The sky over my head and the Camino under my feet. The stick was in the form of a depiction of lazy pilgrims in an infernal conflagration over a door at the church.
As we arrived in Puebla de Sanabria, Michael and Giorgio were on the road to welcome us. We are all staying at the stylish Carlos Quinto hotel. Notwithstanding the greasy dinner, it’s very comfortable – beautifully decorated and welcoming. The funny thing about posh hotels, though, is that they don’t have some of the features that pilgrims really need – like proper laundry sinks and washing lines. Never mind. I came up with a Jugaad, express-dry, solution. I’m sure it breaks all health and safety rules. Don’t put hairdryers or other hot equipment near to flammable materials. Don’t leave hairdryers running unsupervised. Actually, just don’t try this at all. Okay?
Michael has decided that his knees will need a long rest so he will fly back to Germany on Wednesday. Tomorrow morning, I’ll join him and Uwe for some sightseeing in Puebla de Sanabria. In the afternoon, I’ll do the 13km walk to Requejo so that I can join the inaugural meeting of the Amis Camino Mozárabe group.