Time walked – 6 hours with 1 coffee break
Total distance walked – 12.8 miles (107.75 miles total)
Weather – Sunny but cool in the morning, 58 degrees F, sunny and pleasant, high in the low 70’s
Terrain – wide dirt and pebble path, some pavement and a few stone streets
The Albergue Villamayor de Monjardin was hard to leave. Our room wasn’t very big, but so nice and clean, and I wanted to cherish every last minute of privacy. The albergue staff work long hours checking people in, often attending to laundry as well. Ray and I have caught on to the fact that they put breakfast out before leaving in the evening and then do not have to be back to the albergue until after everyone has checked out. Coffee is made the night before and left hot in a carafe. Ray packed his bag first and went to the kitchen for coffee. I finished up my latest post and then started packing up all my belongings. When Ray returned to the room with the coffee, he remarked that it smelled bad. Our clothes were clean and I had been monitoring our backpacks out of concern, but decided the odor must be from the volume of pilgrams using the small room.The coffee had cooled considerably over night so neither one of us cared to drink it. I looked out the window and Ray was waiting for me outside. We had both slept well and I was not in a hurry to leave.
I joined Ray outside and we both remarked about how pleasant our stay here had been. Ray thought we were the last ones to leave town because he hadn’t seen anyone for quite awhile. We walked to the edge of town, which wasn’t very far, but realized that we hadn’t seen any trail markers. We were at a dead-end street and could not find a trail, so obviously we had missed something. Once again, the view was incredible so I snapped a photo, and we turned around.
A man had blindly followed us the wrong way, trusting that we knew what we were doing. Together the three of us found our way out of the tiny town and soon he disappeared from our sight. For awhile, we were alone on the trail. I do enjoy meeting other peregrinos from around the world, but I enjoy the tranquility of an empty trail as well.
I did not start the morning with my coat on, even though the temperature was in the high 50’s. In Panamá I think I’m freezing if it gets below 65. We warm up very quickly once we start walking, and I didn’t want to take the time to stop to take off my jacket. I had layered a short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirt like Ray has been doing the last few days. We spend the first few minutes of our walk evaluating how our bodies feel. We start with our feet, discussing our toes, our heels, our bones, our shoes and insoles. From there we talk about the muscles in our legs. Ray says that he is surprised how tight his calf muscles are, and I tell him that I’ve got a twinge going on in my left knee. I tell Ray that my left hip is giving me some grief as well, and he tells me that he is sore where the waist belt is resting on his hip bones. By the time I got around to telling him that my right elbow is feeling funny, the kink in my knee was already worked out. We have both noticed that the aches and pains seem to move around and come and go. Mostly, however, it passes the time by giving us something to talk about.
While Ray and I were eating our dinner in the albergue the previous evening, a pilgram arrived only to be told that all the beds were taken. The other two albergues were full as well. It was the first time I had seen someone turned away, making me very sad for him. Just outside of Villamayor, we passed an ancient building that Ray thought was part of the water system from hundreds of years ago. There was also an old mattress causing us to wonder if pilgrams had taken refuge here.
The trail turned due west, creating terrific shadows in the morning sun. I dug my phone out of my pocket to get picture of our shadows while Ray gave me instructions on how to get the best shot. We each had a few different ideas and tried a few of them. I wanted one last scenery photo showing how beautifully blue the sky was before us. I wasn’t necessarily trying to get our shadows in the picture, but when Ray lifted his hand to wave, I cracked up laughing. If you’ve ever seen our Facebook page, you know that we have photos of Ray waving from different locations around the world, most of them in Wal-Mart parking lots. He wasn’t trying to be funny, but the fun we had doing these photos will be one of my favorite memories.
After leaving the albergue, our first town was more than 12 kilometers, or 7.5 miles away. Happily, a mobile food station appeared in a field right next to the trail. There were several pilgrams enjoying the food and rest stop, which is greatly appreciated during long stretches of the trail. Before ordering café con leche, I asked the proprietor in Spanish where the next bathroom would be. His answer was Los Arcos, six kilometers further. I decided that it would be worth the trouble and had Ray order a coffee for me, too. We sat for a few minutes drinking our coffee and eating bananas that we had purchased the day before.
Rejoining the path, we noticed a single abandoned boot on top of a trail marker. We’ve seen a few abandon boots, but none preserved quite like this one. One of the biggest decisions Ray had to make was whether or not to bring his hiking boots. He has practically lived in his boots for the last few years in the United States and has worked and hiked in them in Panamá, but he left them behind. I’m wearing a pair of light weight trail runners, and Ray is wearing a pair of light weight hiking shoes. All of my research pointed out that there were very few spots on the Camino Frances that justified heavy hiking boots. We joked about how much Ray’s boots are a part of who he is, but he remarked how glad he was that he didn’t have the extra weight.
For the most part the trail was smooth and relatively flat with no places to stop and explore or grab a snack. There was also very little shade or cloud cover leaving the trail wide open. Ray asked about my elbow pain and suggested I stow my hiking poles. I wasn’t sure if the soreness was because I had slept on my arm funny or from using my poles, so I thought it was a good idea. Our backpacks come with a strap at the back and one at the shoulder to secure the poles under your arm. We each collapsed a pole and Ray stuck them through the back strap. When he reached around to place the handles under the strap in the front, I got a whiff of what had made our room stink! The smell from the sweat in the cork handles was intense. Hopefully I can take care of that later with some shampoo.
We encountered another impressively large stack of hay bales. Ray got excited about getting a photo to show the scale of the stack and also the size of each individual bale. My goal was to get to Los Arcos for a quick stop, so I obliged him with one photo and moved on.
According to my pre-planned spreadsheet, we were supposed to stop in Los Arcos for the night, but with our new shoe inserts, we decided to continue on. There were two hamlets just one kilometer appart past Los Arcos. From the guide book I had chosen what sounded like a good albergue, more from the name than anything else because there was not much information.
The trail was rather monotonous and we were not seeing very many fellow pilgrams. We wondered if all those we started with had gone on ahead of us now that we’ve slowed done twice for working days. We were seeing more small plots of grape trees; well established plants that were just starting to get green leaves for the season, certainly not yet vines. Ocassionally we were passing trees that were not familiar to us, but had a fresh, pleasant smell. We saw more of these trees, and the ones closest to the road had more pale green leaves where the ones in the fields were deeper green. We stopped a couple of times to see if we could figure out what they were. Finally Ray found a small, green, fuzzy fruit on one of the trees. It looked like an olive to us. We decided they must be olive trees. About a mile later Ray looked and me and asked, “Do you think this is where Spanish olives come from?” I had to laugh.
Arriving in Los Arcos about lunch time was perfect since we hadn’t really had much to eat all day. We wound through the stone streets of the village until we spotted the usual grouping of outdoor tables and chairs. I could see a mix of locals and pilgrams, easily recognizable by their attire and backpacks. As we got closer to the tables, Ray got excited asking me if I could see who was ahead of us. I was looking for the nearest bathroom, so could not figure out what he was trying to tell me. But then I heard a shout and saw Yung Mi throw her hands up in the air.
Yung Mi and I had exchanged emails and the last one I received from her said that she had decided to slow her pace and was quite a bit behind us. I couldn’t believe that now I was seeing her in front of us! We hugged and I ran to the restroom while she and Ray caught up. We got coffee and ordered fried calamari sandwiches and got filled in on what Yung Mi’s journey. She had caught up to us after our work day and had stayed in the other albergue in Villamayor de Monjardin as well. Obviously she had left earlier than we had and didn’t have a problem getting out of town. When our sandwiches were delivered, Yung Mi was ready to move on. We made a plan to stay in the second village and eat dinner together to get caught up.
After lunch, the trail developed a few more ups and downs, but nothing challenging. We arrived in Sansol, but nothing appeared to be open. The Camino was a short journey through this tiny hamlet so I was glad we had decided to meet up with Yung Mi in Torres del Rio. We could see our stopping point, but had to navigate a steep downhill first. Even though this was a short hiking day, my feet were tired and starting to ache.
We passed the first albergue and saw Yung Mi standing outside the second. She had just checked in and purchased dinner for the evening. I asked her about the beds, but she had not been to see them yet. After the fantastic night we had the night before, I had my heart set on a private room thatvthe next albergue had advertised. It was just up the hill and around the corner. We walked through the courtyard and into the bar where two locals were having drinks. I asked the bartender if they had any private rooms and how much they were. He did have availability at €50, which was quite a bit more than €11 per bed, so I opted for a bunk in the albergue. He directed us to the top floor where there were several sets of bunk beds and let us chose the one we wanted. There were only three other people there, so I was hopeful that we would have a restful night.
Again, we showered, washed our clothes by hand and re-dressed for the evening. I wanted to see if we could buy dinners with Yung Mi, so headed back to her albergue. On the way there, Ray received a message from his brother that his step-father had passed away. While not a complete surprise, it was sad news. Ray had a great deal of respect for Jim Gleeson, who had been ill for quite some time. The few encounters I had had with him, he was very kind to me. So while I made plans with Yung Mi, Ray called his brother and his mother and sent a message to Jim’s son, Mike. Although he wasn’t there, we were thankful that technology made it possible for Ray to call and write, offering his sympathy.
The bunk room in the albergue was getting more full. With little supervision, most of the pilgrams had put there shoes under their bunk rather than leaving them on the shelves at the entrance. The stench was bearable but highly unpleasant. We left to have dinner with Yung Mi and our meal was equally dissapointing. For €12 each, they had to have known that we didn’t have much of a choice. The amount of food was ample, but it did not compare to the meals we had so far on this incredible journey.