Day 12: Back to walking the Camino – this time along the Hobbit House Walk
Yay! Back to walking we go, hi ho, hi ho, hi ho. Hi ho, hi ho it’s off to walk we go, with stick and a shuffle, hi ho, hi ho, hi ho. As you can see I have little people on the mind. There is a reason for this, which I’ll get to in a minute. Firstly though, we’re back to walking the Camino initially to test Cheeky’s still aching, but potentially walkable, knees.
The stretch beyond Leon leading to the little chocolate town of Astorga is perhaps not, except for the bit around Hospital de Orbigo, the prettiest of walks but it is pretty flat and at only 45 km from Leon to Astorga a good test of walking ability. The plan was to break that 45km into 4 easy stretches over 4 days. If Cheeky’s knees do ok here then we will move onto Sarria, which at about 114km is the final, most important stretch, that is recognised by the Catholic church as fulfilling the requirements for the pilgrimage to Santiago. Cheeky really wants to do this section. I know from last time that it’s a beautiful, albeit relatively crowded walk, but it does contain a few ups and downs that will test Cheeky’s knees and her resolve.
So today we started with the intention to walk about 10km. The walk out of Leon is slightly dull but flat. So we walked and walked expecting to find many a coffee shop open. This was Leon we reckoned, a major town, not a sleepy rural village where nothing ever seemed open. Hah! At 8am nothing stirred, at 9am nothing stirred, at 10am one coffee shop stirred but I suspect the owner was breaking an unwritten rule. The one that forbids people doing business. I love Spain, and I especially love that it has a work/life balance the only thing is it often seems this country has forgotten the idea of ‘balance’ in favour of life. Not a bad proposition personally but perhaps not so sound economically. Shops don’t deign to open before 10am and even then don’t seem to care to much about matching the opening time on theirs doors. Post siesta they open again for a few hours but in reality shops seems open for very few hours a day. On the Camino a couple of hundred thirsty, hungry peregrinos pass a day. In Vietnam there’d be a thousand businesses taking advantage of the money walking by. Here in Spain you’re sometimes hard pressed to find a place to sell you coffee. I imagine big cities like Madrid and Barcelona are not like this but walking through rural Spain I’m not overly surprised by Spain’s current economic malaise.
However Spain’s economic malaise is not on my thoughts for long. What I do think about is that the Hobbit House Walk’s hobbit houses have been spruced up a bit since I last walked by. It actually looks like they’re lived in now – perhaps Bilbo’s back in town. In any case I enjoy the little cluster of hobbit houses as they break up the dull suburbia through which we walk.
A few hours walking and we find ourselves in Villa Virgen del Camino – one of our potential first night stops. It’s taken just less than 2 hours to get here. Our pace is good and so we stop for a fantastically large coffee, thankfully I remember the Spanish word for large, thanks to Starbucks we all know it, it’s grande.
At our coffee stop Cheeky declares she feels good so we decide to press on for another 4km’s or do to the next town and Albergue. We’re both feeling good and walking well. I’m especially revelling in the sun shining on my back and doing some excercise with a pack on my back. We finally arrive at the next town to find no one in the Albergue. We think about a hostal or pension but Cheeky says she’s ok to walk on. The next town is 9km on and would make our day a 22km day. An easy enough day on the Camino but double the test we wanted to put Cheeky’s knees to.
We put on some tunes, sunlotioned up, cocked our hats at the appropriate angle (slightly jaunty angle, facing down if you must ask) and strode off toward Villadango del Paramos. The walk was sort of along the roadside si relatively flat. It wasn’t completely unappealing as we managed to purloin some more plums and apples along the way. The plum trees especially seem to grow wild here. And then it happened … Cheeky began to grimace. Then she stopped, rubbed the knee and hobbled on. She stopped again, bit her lip, rubbed the knee and hobbled on. Stop, bite, hobble, you get the idea, this went on for a few km’s and then Cheeky just put the pain aside and walked. And so we arrived in this full little Albergue with it’s very loud American (from the USA so as not to diss all the other North and South Americans out there) peregrino’s. Cheeky says she’s ok. The knees ache but after a little snooze she’s feeling ok. Tomorrow we plan to walk to the picturesque town of Hospital de Orbigo. 12km’s of flat walking. That should be ok for the knee’s – let’s see.
As for me in terms of body – i’m ok, a few muscles aches and a sore’ish right knee but nothing major. I kinda like feeling a bit sore, it makes me realise i’m doing something not overly easy. So far we’ve walked close to 150km I I have no blisters (touch wood). I think that’s due in part to the budding but also because my huge blisters last time caused me to spend sometime researching. Moisture it seems is the key problem. So I used light shoes with ventilation (Geox), light runner’s socks not made of cotton and tons of Vaseline each morning before the walk. It works a wonder – the feet are dry at the end of the day and, so far, blister free.