The hospitalero looked dubious when we said we had come from Pola de Lena today. He opened our credencials, which confirmed we had not simply forgotten which town we stayed in last night. He looked up, admiration in his eyes and he honored us by switching into English, “That’s thirty-five kilometres!”
Actually, according to the GPS, it was 37 – we did do a good wander through a supermercado en route and visited the cathedral in Oviedo before finding the albergue.
And you know what? It was an aniseedy-proudy-daddy-day. There was not one grizzle. Not when we had a somewhat monotonous (apart from the cars and busses that came screaming round tight corners) fourteen or fifteen kilometres trudging on asphalt with a train track on one side and a main highway just over the river on the other. Not when the hills which I had promised were just little ones turned out to be significant. Not even when food was requested and denied. Not when the sun came out fiercely – although observations were made about the heat and our sweaty backs. Not when we ran out of water.
“I feel like grizzling,” Ella-Rose commented at one stage. But she decided not to. This is quite some achievement for an eight-year-old.
After 21km she remarked, “It doesn’t really seem like we’ve walked that far.” She wouldn’t have said that three weeks ago – there is no denying that we have all got stronger. But we were surprised to discover we were walking uphill (that crazy hill out of Mieres for anyone who has done this walk) at more than 5km/hr. That used to be our “on the flat” speed. We’re all growing.
The growth is mental as well as physical. We were sitting in a spot of shade at the bottom of what was to be the steepest climb. As I dished out melting chocolate biscuits, I explained our predicament: we were about to embark on the steepest climb, we were hot, we had run out of water, I did not expect anyone to get excited about the Roman road we were about to walk on, we had already covered thirty kilometres and it was about to get tough. “What can we do to stay positive?” I enquired.
Ella-Rose proposed one answer and then wondered aloud, “What’s positive anyway?”
There were some good strategies:
Walk at your own pace.
Ask for a rest if you need one.
Play eye spy or “guess the person I’m thinking of”.
Tell yourself being grumpy doesn’t help (astute observation from an 8yo!)
Think of things to be thankful for.
This last trick worked wonders.
“I’m thankful for….,” began each statement.
being in Spain * shade * that our water bottles are empty because they’re light * that we can walk * mud * that we can help people * donkeys * the snake mum spotted this morning * the breeze * God answering my prayer to give us people to talk to about charity: water * the man who shouted at us to cross the bridge and not take the path * downhills * our Salvador camino family * chocolate croissants * the man in the bar*
Oh yes, let me tell you about this man.
We had got to the top of the biggest hill and We Were Hot. At the end of the hamlet we spied a cider bar which looked open judging by the old men sitting under an umbrella outside. As we approached they commented that the sun was shining. Ah – so it wasn’t just us feeling the heat then!
I zipped into the bar and peeked into the icecream freezer. Empty.
I walked up to the counter and asked for orange juice. I really wanted to buy something, because we wanted to use the toilet (and I have this thing about not using the loo without purchasing something) and I wanted to plug the phone into a socket in the wall for a few minutes to boost the charge enough to measure our journey to Oviedo).
But this is not the Camino Frances where there is freshly-squeezed orange juice in every bar, and there was none.
Water? Cold water?
Yes, the barman could oblige. He disappeared and then resurfaced holding a bottle of Coke. Believe it or not, I managed to put aside my aversion to the poison and gratefully agreed to buy some. But no! This barman was not taking any money! What’s more, he brought a plate of tuna tapas…..and even then, was not finished. While I used the bathroom, he brought two bowls of chips and nuts!! And still he would not accept one euro cent. Mucias gracias has never felt so inadequate!
Just after someone mentioned this man’s generosity, we met another angel. She was leaning out her second-storey window as we emerged from the forested path onto a narrow road. I whispered to Tessa that if she had been downstairs I would have asked her for water.
“Mum, slow down,” Tessa called. “She’s coming downstairs!” And so she was. But I never got to ask for agua potable because she led us to a fountain with clear cold water! We drank and drank. The kids filled their hats and tipped them on their heads. They splashed and drank some more! The angel looked as pleased as we were. Of course, our conversation turned to why we are walking, what it must be like to not have fresh water.
And before we knew it, we were standing in front of the cathedral, the San Salvador route completed in five days.
No pics. A certain Little Person was exhausted and I wanted to do all I could to ensure a positive ending. She had walked the whole route without a grizzle, every single day an aniseedy-proudy-daddy-day.
The only complaint came from Micaiah: I haven’t grizzled either, not in nearly 900km and no one tells me that’s great!
Ah but it is!
Cumulative Distance: 875km
125km to go to 1,000
Weather: oh so stinkin’ hot – official temperature 24 degrees
Dinner: meant to be pilgrim meal, but everything was closed- so spinach and tomatoes with microwaved tortilla de patatas and pizza
Cobra count: one squashed one