Friday, May 13, 2016
Distance: 26.4 km
9:15 – I leave Villadangos for what could be a very long day. I hope to stay in Astorga tonight but I don’t have a reservation and word is that Astorga fills up fast. How can this be? Aren’t there the same number of people looking for a bed in every town? The answer is complicated: Some towns have more beds than others; not everyone is on the same schedule as me; and Astorga is a popular starting spot for those who only have two weeks. Furthermore, Friday is the night that most of those people arrive in Astorga so they can begin walking early on Saturday morning.
10:07 – The town of Santa Marina del Rey appears to be reasonably prosperous and there are actually a few people on the street. There’s also a large solar installation which is the first I’ve seen in a while. This part of Spain has many more wind turbines than solar panels and I can see why.
12:29 – I’ve been walking on the side of the road with headphones on for most of the morning. This sounds much more dangerous than it is. I walk on the left side so cars don’t sneak up behind me and if they’re so far off the road that they could hit me, they’re probably headed over a cliff or into a very, very deep ditch anyway. That type of accident doesn’t happen nearly as often as people sprain ankles on the muddy path that I’m avoiding by walking on pavement.
13:45 – I stopped at a roadside cafe for water and a piece of “homemade apple pie” which turned out to be custard topped with a slice of baked apple. It was pretty good – just not what I was expecting.
14:15 – The paved road ends just past Puente de Orbigo and the track takes us down a 5-7 km stretch of newly constructed road that isn’t yet open to traffic. It looks like a road that might run through a rural estate subdivision only there are no new houses and only a few farms. I have no idea who will eventually use this road as it doesn’t seem to connect anything!
15:30 – A well meaning but extremely eccentric gentleman has set up a little hut in the middle of nowhere and he was serving free pasta and watermelon. He pointed to the shed that he calls home and invited everyone who stopped to step inside and “witness something very special.” I had been walking for the last hour with three middle aged women who were too timid to enter the darkened shed but I decided to check it out. What could possibly go wrong with a dark shed and a hermit on Friday the 13th?
18:23 – I struck gold at the third hostel in Astorga. The two main dorms were full but they had several beds in the large attic and they were only charging 7€. It was a lot better than the alternative so I claimed an upper bunk, just below the ceiling, and headed out for dinner.
21:33 – Dinner at a nearly empty pub was substantial but totally forgettable. I got the impression the bartender wanted to close up for the night so I was back at the hostel at 9:33 or 87 minutes before curfew. Much to my surprise, the lights were out and over 180 pilgrims were snoring softly when I crept up the stairs to the attic … And tripped on a hiking pole. A good number of the 180 pilgrims are now awake and straining in the darkness to see who came back so late. It’s 9:40 and I’m in bed, writing these notes on my phone – under the covers of course.