If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, this will make more sense if you start there.
The sign is for the park! I don’t see the entrance yet, but there is hope.
There are two yellow arrows pointing to the right! Just by the four kilometre mark. Very exciting.
I collapse under a tree in the park to eat lunch. There are a lot of trees. It’s pretty, but very cultivated-feeling for a nature reserve. This is probably a European thing.
It feels ridiculously good to get my boots off. Weirdly, I have had some energy since the chocolate but my feet are extremely unhappy.
Everything is beautiful. The birds, the trees, the wind rushing through. It was worth the pain and angst to be here now.
A cyclist comes by, stops, and says something I don’t understand in Spanish. We exchange buen Caminos and he takes off.
A chainsaw starts up nearby. Oh, well.
I walk along thinking about how on a day like today you could eat all the chocolate you wanted and still lose weight. This segues into a thought about how Camino organizations could promote themselves: “Come for the life-changing experience; stay for the chocolate.”
I start to worry that if I think these sort of thoughts I’ll never have a life-changing experience. Not that I actually expect one, but I wouldn’t turn it down.
I feel much better. My feet have miraculously stopped hurting, and the trees are providing intermittent bits of shade that make life bearable.
What’s 13 more kilometres, really?
I pass a guy (day hiker?) who wishes me buen camino. He is followed by a young guy wearing only swim trunks who is talking on his cell phone. The whole thing is a bit surreal.
I stop for a break. My feet are unhappy again. I’m very ready to be done.
My feet are better, but I have no energy. I have just tried walking with my eyes closed. The path is straight, so it was surprisingly effective—for a few seconds at a time, anyway.
I spoke too soon about the feet—the pain is back with a vengeance.
I just walked up a hill and I thought that was it, but it keeps on going. It’s really not fair to give me hope like that, only to snatch it away again.
I think about blog post where I’d written about being utterly exhausted. So this is how it feels, I think.
For some reason this seems seriously funny. I laugh and feel a surge of energy.
I apply more sunscreen. I can’t seem to move. My chocolate is very soft and I’m worried it’ll melt and get all over everything in my pack. I eat a piece very fast so it doesn’t melt all over my hands since my water is too precious to use for clean-up. I feel much better.
I’ve been keeping an eye out for a walking stick all day. Now there are huge piles of cut wood along the path. I stagger up a pile, and eventually find a stick that’s straight enough, but it has a crack running through it. I decide it’ll work temporarily.
But then I decide to climb one last stack, and emerge with a pretty, straight-ish piece of crack-less wood.
I feel rather odd from the heat, but yay stick!
I decide that I am not going to take any more breaks. I just need to get there as soon as possible. Did I mention it’s hot?
There are tiny tiny wisps of cloud in the sky, which is good in theory, but they show no sign of covering the sun.
But life is better with the stick and the breeze, even if I am on the verge of collapse.
I stop briefly because I’m worried about chocolate getting everywhere. Better to just eat it. But I am so hot I can’t even finish all my chocolate, so I leave the rest in an outer pocket of my pack.
There is no shade. Judging by the sun, I seem to be walking south, which seems counterproductive since Santiago is a long ways to the north. It is hot, hot, hot.
There’s an intersection, with a yellow X by the route that looks the most promising. In this case X does not mark the spot, so I look for further Camino signs. There’s a gate leading to a cow pasture, and a path going up a seriously steep hill. I think I see an arrow on a sign up the hill and start walking.
When I get to the sign, I realize that what I thought was an arrow in fact wasn’t. In a lucid moment, I remember walking through cow fields on the Chemin du Puy. So I backtrack. Sure enough, there’s an arrow indicating the closed gate and the cows.
Paranoia, I decide, can be a wonderful thing.
Cows, cows, and more cows.
I am hoping to soon reach the viewpoint that my guidebook tells me is 1.5 kilometres before Almedén de la Plata, where I’m headed for the night. I’m sure I should’ve reached it by now.
I have alarmingly little water, and stop intermittently in patches of shade to lean on my stick for brief moments before continuing.
On the plus side, while my feet and legs are a bit sore they’re not nearly as bad as I though they’d be at this point. Wherever this point is. But my head feels … weird. Not entirely in control.
Mostly, though, I’m just determined to get to Almadén. I’m sure absolutely everyone else is there already.
I rest in some shade. This seems smart despite the dire water situation because the heat is killing me. I have got to be close.
I think about medieval armies marching across this country in the heat and decide they were all insane.
There is a blister on both my thumbs from my stick (but I adore the stick).
I hear voices!
Ip and Anni, a Danish couple I’ve met before, appear. It turns out they’d gone all the way up that hill that I’d started to climb—the Himalayas, as Ip calls it. This is their first Camino, and it hadn’t occurred to them to walk through the cow pasture.
I am very very happy to see people. It’s good to have company, and if I collapse they can trickle water in my mouth and revive me.
Anni says the path running up the seriously steep slope ahead is on our route. I say it can’t be; surely our route will branch off and go around the horrible hill. After all, my guidebook says there are no serious climbs between Sevilla and Astorga.
As it turns out, my guidebook is wrong. Our route doesn’t branch off. The steep path is covered in bits of rock, perfect for sliding out from under your feet. Brilliant.
At least I have my stick.
I climb the hill surprisingly quickly—I’m in better shape than I thought—but I’m not nearly as fast as Ip, who’s way ahead.
We stop at the lookout on the top. I show Ip my blister and he lends me a glove to cover it.
The descent is steep and rocky, but being able to see the town just ahead lends me strength.
The Danes take off for their room above a bar, and I’m left on my own, looking for the albergue. I ask a passing man for directions and he escorts me part of the way there.
I run into the same young German guy. He looks ridiculously rested and directs me the rest of the way to the albergue.
I meet up with two other German pilgrims. One got in at two this afternoon. He suggests I use the exercise equipment on the corner by the albergue if I need a bit more of a workout.
“I think I’ve had enough,” I say. I even manage to laugh.
After I reach the big albergue and check in, I don’t let myself collapse. If I do, I’m reasonably certain I’ll never move again. Instead I go through the usual routine—shower, wash some clothes, buy some groceries, and go out to a bar with friends—a Frenchwoman, an Austrian, and the young German guy—for dinner.
“If pilgrims are happy, I am happy!” proclaims the bar owner, who brings us special tapas.
Back at the albergue a little later, I collapse into bed. As much as I can think at all, I think I am content.