My plan was to walk very far today. Something like 40km to Santo Domingo de la Calzada where the albergue was in a medieval tower and there was something about an ancient rooster. It was a going to be a long day.
Another day through the vineyards and into the rather desolate city/village of Ventosa. Tall, crumbling concrete buildings. children running about. A man cutting grass in front of city hall with scissors.
The kiwis had spent the night there and were just getting going. . . I was getting ahead.
As usual navigating the cities was significantly harder than the wilderness. At a large roundabout, I had to ask several people “Donde esta Camino?”
Eventually found my way out of Ventosa and into the lovely riverside village of Najera where I stopped for a beverage at a large plaza beside the rushing water.
An extremely and steep and craggy ascent out of town. Where was Sue and her sticks?
Finally. . . Azofra. I had heard the albergue here was not very nice, but it was afternoon, 15km to Santo Domingo, and Lise and Frank were making convincing arguments for another round of cervezas.
This time, though, I would go on. In part, because there was another village 6km ahead at which I could stop if Santo Domingo proved to be too much.
And as the afternoon wore on and the path wound steeper and steeper round the side of the mountain, I came to realize that I would not be sleeping in the medieval tower with the renowned cock this evening. The psychological demands of climbing a mountain became as great as the physical when just “around the bend” the ascent continues to another bend.
Stumbling into the mountaintop resort village of Ciruena I was greeted by a modern country club, a foursome of babyboomers (what do they call that generation in Spain?) just coming in for the day, streets of unoccupied luxury condos. . . add some palm trees, Starbucks, and much more traffic and I could be back in Naples. Who needs a tower and cock? On to the Refugio de Virgen de Gaudalupe.
All the way through to the other end of town I stumbled, following road graffiti, around the corner, up the hill, a small house.
I poked my head in to the small lobby. There was a lot of banging and clanging going on upstairs. To the side, in the dank front room with a dirt floor sat some South Africans I’d met in Viana who gave a knowing look.
Pedro was loco, but he’d be right back down, he was assembling more beds. There would be plenty of room in the inn.
It took a while to corral Pedro and confirm that one of the beds he was assembling would be free for me. Longer still for him to actually assemble the beds. I napped in the sun on the grassy hill outside.
Finally, I was assigned a bed, had unpacked my bag and was just getting ready to head to the showers when loco Pedro rushes in – “Tengo Problem!”
One of those recently assembled beds was not free, it had been reserved by an American bicycling couple. I’d have to spend the night on the floor (gracefully not dirt) in the room of the four Sicilians who told me before anything else that they were not in the mafia.
Later that night, Pedro tied on his apron and cooked up a watery vat of lentejos complemented by slimy fig jam. I had flashbacks to the times when as a young boy I thought sandwiches gross and could not touch let alone eat one unless it was served deconstructed.
I’ve since learned to accept hospitality. Even that of a crazy Spanish man I paid for the privilege of sitting at his table.