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Today was our longest hike of the whole trip, 36 km. The trail was lined with fields of all kinds of crops and the farmers were out harvesting the entire day. What made the hike particularly hard was the distance, the heat, and how straight and flat the trail was. At one point, we left a town and walked on the trail for nearly 2 hours and we could still see the town behind us, making it feel like we hadn’t gone very far at all.
Sally stayed with us for a while on the trail, but had to cut her day short and stay in Mazariffe to give her legs a rest and to visit the physic (physical therapist). She’d had several problems along the trail with her knees and feet. It wasn’t because of her heavy pack, she was just logging too many miles each day and wasn’t giving her body enough time to rest. Later on that day, we came to a town that had a physio who was also a host of an albergue; I believe it was Vilar de Mazarife. She decided to stay there for the night and get some rest.
I bring this up to point out 3 things. 1, you should always hike at a pace which is comfortable for you, especially in the beginning. At the beginning of my trip I thought I would hike with Dom, Caroline, and Mel for the first week at a slower pace to get used to hiking every day and to sort of “break my legs in.” I figured later on that I would just say so long and go at a faster pace. I realized later that going a little bit slower is probably what kept me nearly injury/blister free for the entire trip, with the exception of a few sore knees here and there after some steep ascending and descending climbs. 2, in several of the towns we went through, physical therapists were advertised specifically for pilgrims. These ‘physios’ were trained to help people with problems associated with pilgrims walking on the trail. 3, if your legs and back are tired from the trail but you want to carry on without taking a day off, there are services that will drive your pack to the next town you’re traveling to that day so you don’t have to deal with the pack weight. If you ask your albergue host/hostess, they should have the information available to do so. Mel, and Sally used these services a few times and worked wonders to not have to carry that extra weight for a day. If I can remember, the service was only 5-6 euros.
After saying so long to Sally, we decided to get a head start on the next days hike and go a couple of towns further than we had planned. It was a really good idea on paper, but towards the end of the day, my feet were the most sore they had been the entire trip. We limped into town and settled into the San Miguel albergue. We saw some friends leaving that albergue and they highly recomended it, so we took their word for it and checked in. While we were getting our passports stamped, I was so tired that I didn’t realize that Caroline had called out to my a half dozen times to take off my boots. I was just sitting there from exhaustion.
Once we were squared away with the hospitalero, we walked up the stairs to our rooms and I was so happy. The bunk beds looked practically new and you could sit on the bottom bunk without even coming close to banging your head! The only weird thing about this place was the bathroom situation. Toilets, showers, and sinks were open…as in there were no doors going into or out of the bathroom. Weird, but at this point all most people notice is that there is hot water, and clean showers; the essentials. Also, hanging up all over the walls from floor to ceiling were paintings that past pilgrims had painted and given to the hospitalero to display. Downstairs was an easel and paint for anyone to use to paint anything that inspired them from the trip. Some of the paintings looked amazing while others had a lot of…character (to put it nicely).
Out in the back, there was a small courtyard with a vending machine and washing machine. I settled there for a bit with my journal and a beer I’d gotten from the vending machine. That’s right, beer is in vending machines over there. In some albergues I’d been to, some of them would have chips, beer, band aids, moleskin for blisters, and other random supplies. Way to diversify.
After relaxing for a bit, we went to dinner with a pilgrim that was beginning her journey the next day from Hospital de Orbigo. It was kinda fun giving advice and telling her stories from the past few weeks we’d been walking on the Camino. Pretty much like what I’m doing here on this blog. I was excited for her to begin her Camino.
When we’d returned to the albergue, I saw one of my pilgrim friends using the paint supplies and painting a picture of some Camino graffiti he’d seen on the trail that day. I stayed up for a bit and wrote and watched him paint for a bit, then called it quits for the night. I was completely exhausted and was ready to just crash into my comfy bunk.
Destination: Hospital de Orbigo
Distance: 36 km
Accommodation: San Miguel Albergue- read above for a detailed description. Hot water, good showers, laundry service, and a good breakfast served in the morning. Stay here, no questions asked, it’s awesome!