Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 35: Off the Beaten Path with Tigernuts

Dscn2209bSeptember 15: I took my time checking out of my hotel in the morning—no rush! But it put me behind the bulk of most hikers who stayed in the hostels and left before dark. A couple of hours into the day, I caught up with Karolina doing some stretches along the trail and half joked, “So where are we camping tonight?” I wasn’t sure if she really wanted to camp or not again, but she was still gung-ho about camping so I stalked her for the rest of the day. I didn’t want to lose my camping buddy by letting her get too far away! =)


We stopped for a short snack break in Viloria de la Rioja where we swung on some swings. I flipped through my copy of Miam Miam Dodo—a French guidebook with simple maps and lists of lodging along the route. I became familiar with these guidebooks from my time on the French section of the trail and liked it so much, I picked up a version that covered the Spanish route I now followed. Nobody else on the trail had this book, though. Well, I bet anyone from France probably had them, but no other English-speaking people carried this French guidebook. Just me. =)


And while I was looking at the path ahead, I noticed it included an alternate route going out of town that was available but not listed in any other guidebooks, and I found it very appealing. The main path followed alongside a busy, noisy road and would have been crowded with large quantities of pilgrims. This alternate path stayed well away from busy roads and since it wasn’t even shown in the guidebooks everyone else carried, the chances of even seeing another pilgrim along the route were practically zero. In terms of distance, they looked about the same. The one catch—if you can call it that—was that the guidebook said that the route was unmarked. It’s a lot easier to get yourself lost along an unmarked route than a marked one. =) But that was a minor point—I had little doubt that even if I did get lost that I could find my bearings again. I really, really wanted to take this alternate route.


So I showed my guidebook to Karolina and asked her what she thought. Did she want to try the unmarked but probably much more pleasant route, or would she prefer to stick to the main path? She too immediately found the alternate path an attractive option and we decided to go for it. I was glad she wanted to do it, not just because I wanted to do the alternate path, but because I felt like I was actually providing a useful service to her and not just annoying her all day long. I really didn’t want to lose the one other person on the trail who actually wanted to camp out overnight. =)


So we took the alternate path as we headed out of town. If any other pilgrims noticed our unexpected turn, they didn’t say anything or ask if we knew what we were doing. We followed a road towards San Pedro del Monte, and Karolina was ready to turn right just before the town, but I felt like it was too soon. Since the path was unmarked and we only had a very crude map to follow, it wasn’t clear exactly where the correct turnoff was located. But I had followed these maps for hundreds of miles and—to me, at least—I felt like the turnoff would be practically in town rather than just before it (despite that the map actually did show the turn before the town). I was familiar enough with these style of maps to “understand” what it was trying to tell me. Karolina followed my lead, slightly worried that I was now leading her astray.


Dscn2218bEventually we got into the town and there was another turnoff to the right which I thought might be the correct one, but looking ahead, I saw a dirt road far to the right of the town and I felt absolutely certain that that was the correct path. Except this intersection we now stood at didn’t seem to go to that road in the distance. I was torn. Continue straight, or turn? I told Karolina that if she wanted to wait, I’d scout ahead and see if there was another likely intersection further up the road, admitting that I wasn’t certain if we should turn here or not. She said no, though, her feet were doing well and she’d stick with me whichever direction I took. Alrighty, then….


I decided to plow ahead and scout for whatever intersection would take us to that dirt road I saw in the distance. As we got deeper into the town, I got a sinking feeling that maybe that last turnoff was the correct one, but we finally got to what appeared to be the main town square where we hit another intersection. I was certain this turn would take us to that dirt road I had seen earlier—the road to Fresnena if my hunch was correct—but the intersection was in the direct center of town and my map didn’t show the intersection there at all. I was still torn about which of the two intersections was the correct one. The previous one better matched the location on my map, but this one seemed to have the road that led off in the correct direction. In my gut, I felt like this one was the right one, but admitted to Karolina that I wasn’t 100% certain.


We decided to ask for directions. We saw a woman coming out of a house and I was in charge of asking directions because I knew a lot more Spanish than Karolina did. “Fresnena?” I asked, pointing up the road. (You don’t really need to know much Spanish to ask directions. It’s understanding the reply where knowing Spanish comes in handy!)


The woman said yes, that was the correct direction, then mumbled something about the path to Fresnena being “confusing.” That didn’t bode well…. She called inside the house and a young girl, perhaps 8 to 10 years old, came out seconds later, and her mom told her to guide us to Fresnena! We certainly didn’t expect a guide! And I was more than a little surprised that her mom would send her off with a couple of complete strangers that didn’t even speak Spanish very well. Foreigners, no less! I felt a little guilty about the fuss she was making over us. I just wanted to confirm that that road was the road to Fresnena, and she already told us it was. Why did we need a guide?


We waved goodbye to the mother and Karolina, the young girl, and I headed down the trail. I tried asking the kid what her name was, and it sounded like the longest most complicated name I had every heard. I turned to Karolina, “Yeah, there’s no way I’ll ever remember that name!”


At one point, the road spit into three different paths, and I asked Karolina which route she’d have chosen if we didn’t have a guide to tell us the way. She picked a path, which I agreed with, and when we got closer, our guide led us in the same direction that we had guessed. “See that,” I told Karolina, “I don’t think we really needed a guide. Although I will say, I’d have been nervous about taking the wrong direction at that point if we didn’t have the guide.”


Dscn2231bAt another intersection, the girl turned us to the left on a much smaller and much less used road, partly overgrown. I turned to Karolina again, “Yeah, it’s a good thing we have this guide. I’d have totally taken us in the wrong direction at that intersection!” She nodded in agreement.


We saw a yellow arrow painted on a rock on the ground a little further on. I thought the route was unmarked, but look! A yellow arrow! Karolina and I theorized why there was a yellow arrow out here in the middle of nowhere. Maybe the Camino used to follow this route but was rerouted years ago to the current path alongside the highway? This arrow was just an old one that had never been removed (or repainted) for years and years.


Our guide then pointed off, saying that that was the direction to keep going. I guess she wasn’t taking us all the way to Fresnena, but that was okay by me. She must have been sent with us to make sure we got past that one intersection that both Karolina and I had to admit we’d have gone astray. Once we were past that, we figured, it must be easy to navigate the rest of the way.


We waved goodbye to our guide and thanked her, and she turned back to go home. The rest of the route to Fresnera was fairly obvious and we didn’t get ourselves lost. From a distance, we were able to see Fresnera then just had to keep walking in that general direction. Before we reached town, though, we stopped for a break on the side of the road with a wonderful view and an ever so slight breeze. It was quite warm out, uncomfortably so, and no shade was available, but I liked the stop anyhow. It was so quiet and mellow compared to the hustle and bustle of the main path filled with other hikers.


Karolina pulled out an apple to eat, and before she could take a bite, I told her to try tearing it in half with her bare hands. =) I still do that sometimes since my time on the PCT, and told Karolina the story of Charmin ripping an apple in half with her bear hands, so I challenged Karolina to try it. She struggled with the apple, not making any progress, then unexpectedly stopped and pretended to chop the apple in half with her hand—an action so unexpected but ridiculous, I let out a belly laugh that was probably heard a mile away. I think I might have startled Karolina with my laugh, and that ended up becoming somewhat of an inside joke between us. If I had an apple, I’d joke about wanting her to cut it in half with her bare hand. Not tear it in half, but cut it in half.


Dscn2234bEventually, though, our break was over and we continued on into the town of Fresnera. My guidebook said there was a water fountain available, which was good because we were nearly out of water, and were majorly disappointed when we found a water fountain that we couldn’t figure out how to trigger to get water. No water…. The next town, several kilometers away, also had water (allegedly), so we weren’t in any imminent danger of dying of thirst, but it could be a very thirsty trek to the next town. I saw a woman at the edge of the plaza and asked her how to get water out of the fountain. She said something that I did not understand at all, then she said that she’d fill up our bottles with water. Awesome! I gladly gave her my bottle, but Karolina didn’t want to impose and said she’d just get water in the next town. I thought it was more prudent to get it now, but I figured if she was getting dangerously dehydrated, we could both survive on the water in my bottle until the next town well enough. Not a big deal, really.


The woman returned with my water bottle, filled to the brim with that wonderful liquid known as water. Just a bunch of hydrogen and oxygen molecules, but so how important those molecules were! A man followed the woman out shortly afterwards—her husband, perhaps?—who knew a little English and explained that the water fountain was currently broken which is why we couldn’t get any water out of it. This was somewhat of a relief to me. For awhile, I thought I was just too stupid to figure out how the darned fountain worked. =)


We continued through town along the trail where a few minutes later, we found another water fountain—this time it was working. I didn’t have to impose on that woman at all—I just had to hike further into town! Oh, well. I drank all I could from my water bottle and topped it off at the new fountain, and Karolina fill up her own bottles at the fountain.


Onward, out of town, we passed more haystacks, and I tried to take some photos of her holding the haystacks up—more in line with what I was thinking when I tried it the day before.


Onward and onward we walked, eventually hooking up with the main trail alongside the busy highway and packed with pilgrims. Actually, with our leisurely walk and long break, the bulk of the pilgrim pack was well ahead of us, but we had a few stragglers who must have been surprised when they saw us merging with the main trail at such an unexpected location.


At the edge of Belorado, we stopped at an alburgue for a few hours to rest and relax and chat with some other pilgrims, including the three who had camped out at the reservoir a few days earlier. They weren’t interested in camping out tonight—mostly because they had already paid to stay at the alburgue we were at—but Karolina and I tried to talk them into camping out the next night. They didn’t seem very motivated to camp out, though. If they did, I suspect, it was more likely to save a few euros than because they wanted to spend a night outdoors.


Dscn2238bWe killed a few hours at the alburgue, drinking cold sodas and chatting with friends, waiting until closer to sunset to head out of town and set up camp. At around 6:00, we were ready to leave.


We stopped in the main plaza, where there was a tourist office to get our credentials stamped. We also asked for directions to the grocery store while we were there. A large group of South Koreans were sitting in the plaza, and when I walked passed, they all smiled and greeted me with “On-yahn a-say-oh”—and I greeted them in return. It must have seemed like a strange sight to Karolina, but I had told her about the Koreans who always seemed so excited to meet me even though that was the only phrase we had in common. But then, that was probably why they always seemed so excited to see me. =) It’s nice to be loved!


We stopped at a grocery store. Backpacks weren’t allowed in it, so I waited outside with Karolina’s pack while she went shopping, then she waited outside with mine as I went shopping. It was really convenient having Karolina around at times! Then we sat outside eating snacks we had picked up. Karolina started reading the small print on one of the drinks she purchased, then turned to me and said that one of the ingredients were tiger nuts.


“Tiger nuts?” I asked, in disbelief. “You must be translating that wrong….”


“No, it’s in English!” she told me. The ingredients list was in several different languages, but she showed me the English translation and it did indeed say “tiger nuts".


“Yeah, well….” I was still convinced there was something wrong with the translation. Tiger nuts? Ha! That is funny, though…. Then, of course, I had to tell Karolina about my time in Central America when I ate “bull eggs.” I also took photos of the label, just so I’d have proof that it really did say that. (In case you’re wondering, I did later search online for the term, and apparently they’re similar to peanuts and are popular in places like Spain and Mexico.)


Karolina and I then headed out of town to find a place to camp. The trail followed a busy road for many kilometers out of the town, so we veered left on a dirt road away from the busy highway, hiking off trail a good 15 minutes to get away from the highway noise, climbing up a steep embankment, before finally finding a nice little place to camp. We could still hear the highway traffic far off in the distance, but it was no longer so loud as to disturb our sleep.




I’ve always been a kid at heart. =)


Our guide through a tricky, unmarked alternative path….


Karolina holds up the massive haystack!


Karolina is very cooperative when I have suggested
poses with crazy stuff along the trail. =)


I loved all the flags lining the entryway to this alburgue in Belorado.


I spar with a mural in Belorado.


I was horrified to see this geocaching display in the visitor’s center
in Belorado. Where’s the letterboxing display? There is none!
(But they did have a stamp for my credential.)


Makes you think twice about drinking this, eh? =)


The bridge out of Belorado.


Karolina eats dinner in camp.


Papercrafts by Cindyellen said...

the tiger nuts aren't nearly as alarming as the "aromas". . .

Anonymous said...

.....and here I was thinking that "Tigernuts" was going to be someones "trail name" ......and that there was going to be a rather interesting story to go with it.

.....but then again...your stories are all pretty interesting.

Yak~King blues

HickoryHusker said...

No kidding! If it was a trail name, I'd love to see their sig stamp !!!