I’ve never been one for breakfast, which generally suited me just fine in Spain, where breakfast, if it happens, happens mid-morning and consists of cafe con leche and a pastry.
So, while everyone else gathered in Villamayor’s bar which offered the rare early morning hot breakfast, I got a head start down that impressive mount I had climbed the day before, stopping occasionally for a fistful of almonds. It didn’t take long though for the 60 year old Dutch woman, Lise, with whom I had been tracking the past few days caught up and passed me. Throughout the journey we’d be walking comparable mileage, but she’d always arrive hours before me.
I usually found myself thinking at the beginning and end of each day, how glad I was to be walking this terrain today and not yesterday (or tomorrow). Such was true on the 12k to Los Arcos. Though relatively flat (after the initial descent from Villamayor) and verdant, it was a long and desolate trek to that next village where I might have tried to find an entrepreneurial soul to rent out their floor to me.
Upon arrival in Torres del Rio, I was of two minds whether to go on. Yvu was there, having walked through the night, so too was the Dutch woman who’d given me her floor in Villamayor, and the Swedish girl I’d met on the first day’s journey from St. Jean. I was concerned about arriving late in the day in Viana and once again finding no room in the inn, but I wasn’t tired and keen to get ahead of schedule, so I decided to stop for a tortilla and cerveza and then make a decision.
. . .
I would go on.
. . .
Once again, the afternoon walk was lonely. Whereas in the morning every vista is adulterated by a rucksack or trekking poles, in the afternoon, one might wonder whether all the pilgrims had been raptured and you’d been left behind.
It was another long, arduous, lonely 11k from Toros del Rio to Viana. I arrived mid afternoon and hoped that one recently remodeled ancient albergue would have an open bed. They did not. Two nights in a row. This was not sustainable.
The hospitalero recommended a hostel around the corner. I checked in with the bartender at the adjacent restaurant who took me to the back and up to four flights of stairs to a musty private room, with a saggy double bed covered in rumpled mauve velvet. Trente cinqo euros. My daily budget was 20 euros. Thirty five euros was exorbitant but to try to negotiate in Spanish, walk back down four flights of stairs, try to find some other place. . . I had not the energy, or frankly the desire. I turned over my money, took a shower, and unrolled my sleeping bag for a much needed siesta.
Viana is one of those traditional, ancient, walled cities that one generally thinks of when they think of rural Spain. Exploring was great fun. I sat in the plaza with a cafe and agua fria greeting fellow pilgrims. The old Spanish man I had walked with from Zubiri was just arriving. . . we could have split a room. . . Lise had been there for hours and overpaid but not as much as I . . . we made plans to meet for dinner at the parador.
Paradors are luxury, state-owned hotels that occupy old palaces, convents, forts, etc. Instead of letting these important structures fall into disrepair or turned into irrelevant museums, they’re now commercial enterprises and many offer a pilgrim’s menu in a back room. I also learned that this particular parador had a special for single rooms at 60 euros. .
Lise and I joined a South African couple living in Geneva for dinner. The wife was the director of some department at St. Louis-based Webster University’s Geneva campus. They had three boys about my age and had previously worked on a kibbutz (as had Lise it turned out).
I vowed the next day to find a bed and stay on budget.