Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 46: The End of the Meseta

Dscn3194bSeptember 26: Since breakfast was included with the cost of the hotel, I wandered downstairs to eat where I met a woman from Australia who was also walking the trail. She had taken the bus from Logrono, though, a town I had walked through probably two weeks earlier. I tried remembering the town, and I really couldn’t remember anything about it. I remembered the name, and I had no doubt that I remembered the city as well, but it was so far in my past, my mental connections between the names of a town and my experiences in them had grown foggy. A short while later, we were joined by another pilgrim, a man from Vermont who had taken the bus with her from Logrono. Clearly, not people excited about walking for long distances since they essentially skipped half of the trail they originally intended to walk!

The most interesting thing that they reported, however, was that even now, the alburgues were all full and that people were racing each day to get the available beds. When I went through, this was the case, but I figured as the month wore on, the number of pilgrims would go down and beds wouldn’t be such a problem anymore. It was now late September and hostels were still filling up to capacity? Most of these pilgrims wouldn’t reach Santiago until late October!

I decided to push on for a particularly long day. The unusually short walks each of the last several days were wearing on me, and I wanted to push myself hard. The weather didn’t look favorable, but I didn’t care anymore. I wanted to WALK! So I committed myself to a 37.2 kilometer walk to Hospital de Orbigo even going so far as to reserve a room online at a hotel there. I was committed now! =) And at least I wouldn’t drag my tired self into town and find all of the accommodations in town already full. Especially considering that I didn’t leave Leon until 10:00 in the morning, I’d be getting into Hospital de Orbigo rather late—especially by pilgrim standards.

I left Leon with my usual lightweight, short-sleeved shirt knowing it was a bit chilly outside, but once I started walking, I’d warm up to a comfortable temperature. After about ten minutes of this, however, I never seemed to get warm enough and finally put on my fleece jacket which I ended up wearing for the rest of the day. It was the first time the temperature had been cold enough for me to hike all day in my fleece jacket. As if I needed more evidence that summer was coming to an end and old man winter was just around the corner.

The walk out of Leon was another miserable road walk, but several kilometers out of town I reached a junction with an alternative path and took it. Almost immediately, I left all the busy roads behind for a pleasant walk the rest of the day. Much of it was on a paved road, but even those sections, I only saw a couple of cars, and the walking was pleasant. =)

My biggest worry at that point was the rain, with ugly clouds threatening it the entire day. Late in the day, I even saw rain falling in the distance that I was sure would catch up with me, but miraculously, it always seemed to stay away from me.

Dscn3199bAlso late in the day, I was looking ahead on the trail, and something felt “different.” I couldn’t figure out what that was at first—like a sixth sense that I should be noticing something, but I couldn’t figure out what. Above five minutes later, I finally figured it out—mountains! I could see mountains dead ahead! The flat Meseta was finally coming to an end. I felt torn at the thought. I rather liked the Meseta, despite all of the disparaging remarks so many pilgrims had for it. And the mountains probably meant more cold, more rain, and less pleasant walking. Ah, well, I knew the Meseta would come to an end eventually.

I saw very few pilgrims on the alternate path and essentially had the whole day to myself. After about 30 kilometers or so, I was starting to get tired of walking and started regretting my ambitious desire to walk all the way to Hospital de Orbigo. But onward I pushed.

I reached the town at about 5:30 in the afternoon—quite remarkable when you consider that I didn’t leave Leon until 10:00 in the morning. A whopping 37.2 kilometers in just 7 1/2 hours. I veered off the main path, crossing over the River Orbigo on the first bridge I could. The main trail goes over the next bridge, and I knew that, but I also knew my hotel was closer to that first bridge. So I took it and checked in.

I stayed only long enough to drop off my pack—I wanted to get a walk-through of the town before it got too dark for sightseeing and taking photos. =) Then I backtracked over the bridge back to the main path and followed it the “official” way into town, crossing over an incredible medieval bridge that spanned a remarkably long distance. It was absolutely breathtaking, and I had no idea it was even there. A pleasant surprise, to say the least!

I wondered around town for about an hour and didn’t really see any other pilgrims wandering about, which I thought was odd. Where did all the pilgrims go?

Dscn3200bI headed back to the hotel to get online and realized that I didn’t have the passkey to log into their wifi signal. Normally, when I’ve had this problem, I’d go down to the front desk and ask them to write it down for me. Talking on the phone with the front desk in Spanish is not easy—it’s a heck of a lot easier to talk to them in person where I can wave my hands around frantically and get them to write the passwords on a piece of paper, but I already already taken off my shoes and socks and didn’t really feel like walking down the two flights of stairs for this task. No, I decided, I’d try calling the front desk. And actually have a conversation completely in Spanish. I knew they didn’t know English down there from when I checked in. This was going to be interesting….

I called the front desk, and they answered the phone, and I mumbled on about “claves” and “contrase├▒as” and the desk clerk figured out what I was getting at, and started to read out the password to me one letter and number at a time. I typed it into my laptop, but the password failed, and I had her repeat it again. “Beh?” I said. “No, peh!” Ah, a P, not a B like I typed in. It’s not even that my Spanish was bad—it was just that the letters sounded so much alike. Like when I tell people my name is Ryan, then they start calling me Brian. “No, Ryan, with an R!” B’s and P’s in Spanish sound almost identical as well. =) Anyhow, I changed that letter of the password and it was accepted. “Perfecto! Gracias!” I said, hanging up. And awfully proud of having my first conversation 100% in Spanish over the phone. =)

Then I started surfing the web. Or rather, I tried to. It wasn’t working. ARGH! The problem, best as I could figure, was with their wi-fi connection. Maybe they needed to reset their routers or something, but whatever the problem was, it wasn’t something I could fix. And this sort of technical problem was something I’d have a lot more trouble explaining over the phone. So I put on my shoes and socks and headed downstairs with my laptop so I could show them the problem instead.

The woman at the counter said that yeah, their wi-fi connection wasn’t working at the moment. Maybe in the morning, though. I wanted to ask why she even bothered to give me the password to connect in that case? But she handed me an ethernet cable and said I could plug into that to get online for the time being. It wasn’t one of those cables I could just carry up to my room and plug into the wall either. Nope, she meant that I could plug in right there at the front desk. Seriously?

So, with no other better options available, I connected it to my laptop and stood at the front desk for the next hour or so checking email and such. I felt ridiculous standing there as other hotel guests checked in or asked questions, but they largely ignored me for which I was grateful. =) I finished up replies to my email as quickly as possible, disconnected, and went back to my room for the night where I washed my clothes and read my Kindle for the rest of the night.

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The road walking out of Leon.

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The Camino travels over that pedestrian
bridge in the background. I always liked whenever
the trail goes up and over a bridge like that—the
views are often great! And even if they
aren’t great, they’re still better than the views at ground level. =)

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Here the trail passes by some sort of industrial stuff.
I have absolutely no idea what any of this is actually used for, though.

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This was a vending machine that served hot foods—including
stuff like hamburgers and hot dogs. It sounded absolutely
disgusting, but I couldn’t help but be fascinated
by the vending machine that served hamburgers. I’d
never heard of such a thing before! (No, I didn’t
buy one, although I was tempted to out of a morbid
sense of curiosity.)

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I’m pretty sure this is the name of the suburb—not a sign
describing a resident of the town. =) The other thing to note:
There’s absolutely NO shoulder to walk on here! Miserable road walk….

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Creepy little decorations on this building! But
they were all in the shadows at this time of day, so the
photo didn’t really turn out very clear. Sorry about that!

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Pilgrim art, I suppose?

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This my self-portrait for the day! =)

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I’m not entirely sure what this stick and CD swinging
in the wind are all about, but I’ve heard that farmers have used
CDs swinging in the wind to scare off birds—a poor man’s
scarecrow, I suppose. Maybe that’s what happening? I think
that “Friday” song was on it—if that doesn’t scare off some
birds, nothing would! =)

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This small town apparently had an alien spacecraft
crash land in it.

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The cross crosses a busy highway on this overpass.

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Normally, we follow yellow arrows to mark that mark the Camino.
In this case, the arrows are particularly LARGE! And there
is some confusion (for me, at least) as to which of the two
arrows I should actually follow…. I followed the left one, though.

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This bridge is absolutely fantastic to see in person! Just on the edge
of Hospital de Orbigo. Definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in the area!

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An alburgue in Hospital de Orbigo. I didn’t stay here,
but I thought the giant yellow arrows pointing into
it were kind of amusing (and overkill). =)

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Curious what kind of bird would have a next that large perched atop the pole!!!

Wendy

Ryan said...

I'm pretty sure it's a stork's nest. =) They're EVERYWHERE out here!

-- Ryan

Anonymous said...

Ryan, we saw panIni machines in Geneva, Switzerland at the convention center. We did not buy one, but took a photo of the machine!