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Time walked – 7.5 hours with multiple rest stops

Total distance walked – 12 miles (184.25 miles total)

Weather – Cold, 38 degrees F to 53 degrees F

Terrain – steep uphill, muddy and rocky trail, some pavement

Ray and I couldn’t get out of Villafranca fast enough, except there was no space to move in our tiny room. Since we both had top bunks, we had to wait for the inhabitants of the bottom bunks to get out before we could pack up our things. The rain the day before just made it that much worse because everyone had strung their wet things all over the place.

As I sat on the bunk, I discovered that the large blister on the back of my right heel was getting better, but I had developed small blisters on the outside of each big toe and another small one on the back of my left heel. Walking in wet shoes and socks had been rough on my feet. I was thankful that Ray had made it without any blisters. Ray had some problems with his toes after climbing Volcán Barú in January, so I thought between the two of us, he would have more problems with his feet.

It was barely above freezing when we left the albergue. We turned right out of the door and started straight up. We climbed up for over an hour with few level spots for recovery.

Looking back in the direction from where we came, the morning view was spectacular. I had spent the day before looking down toward the ground in the rain, so I appreciated the view of the sun over the fields.

I was so pleased with the combination of clothing layers that I was wearing since this was the coldest day I had experienced in over a year. My clothes and jacket were keeping me warm enough, but I wasn’t getting sweaty. Ray and I laughed about seeing our breath when we exhaled. I would be fine if I never saw my breath in cold air again.

We tried to remember when we had climbed this high for this long, and we were sure that it had been the first and second days of our Camino. At a clearing where another dirt road joined the trail, we could see windmills just above our height.

One of the reasons so many people were staying in Villafranca before moving on was the great distance before the next village. After climbing the mountain, we leveled of for a while before descending slightly. The next village with food, water or a restroom was 7.5 miles. Someone had created an artistic rest stop at a level spot. A few pilgrims had stopped to eat the food they had carried with them. I wasn’t sure if there was any meaning or significance of the art and did not want to take the time to find out with o far to go before the next village.

When the landscape is more flat, you can see the next village for several kilometers ahead of you. Not only is walking the Camino a physical challenge, but it has proven to be a mental challenge as well. Sometimes it seems as though you will never reach the destination, or the distance seems overwhelmingly far. At this particular stop, I felt as though my legs were moving, but I wasn’t making any progress.

Thankfully, we reached the small village with a café before I lost my mind. There was a line of pilgrims waiting for the one water closet. I joined the line while Ray ordered coffees to warm us up. He also bought a package of cookies to dunk in the coffee, which was a nice reward for climbing over the mountain.

After our coffee, the trail led through a scenic forest, which was also a nice reward for the distance we had walked. The trail was rocky and rough and my feet were starting to hurt. My right foot was especially getting worn out since I was favoring the heel. Ray had said that I was limping, and I tried hard not to, but I was putting the majority of my weight on the ball of my foot and very little on my heel. I thanked God for my hiking poles as we walked the rocky trail, and prayed that my arms would not be too sore. I was deliberately using my poles to take as much weight off my legs as possible.

By the time we reached Agés, the pain had spread to my legs as well as my feet. Deep down I knew that we should have stopped for the night in Agés, but I had made reservations at the Albergue Peregrino in Atapuerca another 2.5 kilometers ahead. I couldn’t resist taking a quick break in a chair outside a bar restaurant in Agés. I sent Ray inside to buy something so that I wouldn’t feel guilty for taking up a chair.

The sky was gorgeous as we approached Atapuerca. Thankfully we walked on pavement between the two villages instead of rough rock, but even that wasn’t good enough for my tired feet. I tried to occupy my mind by remembering a conversation that I had with T.I. He was saying that he liked that all the distance here was in kilometers. Because we really aren’t familiar with how far a kilometer is, we can’t really obsess about how far we need to go each day. His observation made me laugh and then I thought that I really don’t know how far a mile is either, when I’m walking down an unfamiliar road.

The Brick’s, who told Ray and I about their experience of walking the Camino Frances, joked with us about the songs that you think of on the Camino. I had read others refer to songs popping into their heads and repeating over and over. Maybe because I’m not musical I have not had that happen yet. I am a numbers person though; a counter. For the second day on our Camino, the first being the day before, I started counting my steps.

Once I could see Atapuerca, I needed a distraction from the pain in my legs and feet. If I gave the pain any attention, my eyes started to water and I was afraid that I would cry. Instead of slowly watching as we inched closer to our albergue, I put my head down and started counting my steps. It’s like a game I play by myself. I pick a number to count to and decide that I can’t look up until I get there. Two hundred was the number of steps I chose before allowing myself a peek at the remaining distance. I counted to 200 once, then again, but only every other step, then again until we eventually reached the albergue.

Ray had done his best to talk to me, which has passed the time well in the past, but his right leg had stiffened up causing him to need his own distraction. He watched our gear as I got us checked in to the albergue. After the night before, Ray requested that I get us our own room, if possible. This albergue did have a few double rooms, and I was able to get us one. The room was small, but reminded us of an IKEA set-up, organized and spotless. I sat down on the bed and started our normal unpacking, showering and laundry routine. My strength was gone and my mind was blank. I had left everything I had out on the trail and all I could do was cry.

At first I shed a few tears and kept unpacking, but I had to stop and just bury my face in my hands for a couple of minutes.  I hadn’t wanted to cry and I thought that I was tougher than this day proved me to be. I felt beaten and weak, but realized I was upset about crying because of pride. That was a revelation I would have rather avoided, but one I obviously needed to learn. Thinking about my pride caused the crying to stop.

Ray walked in from checking the laundry situation, telling me that they had a washer and dryer. We agreed that we should wash a large load, and Ray said that he would take it to the laundry. I gave him all the warm clothes I had and prepared to take a shower. After my shower, I put on my cotton pajamas, but it was so cold they weren’t enough to keep me warm. I asked Ray how long before the clothes would be done, and he let me know that what he thought was a washer and dryer was really two washers, meaning all my warm clothes would have to dry on a clothesline. To keep warm, I got under the covers and ended up falling asleep. A nap seemed to be just what I needed.

While waiting for the clothes to dry, I decided to write a new post. The wifi had been too weak for a couple of days for me to post, so I was getting behind. I asked Ray if he had gotten the wifi code, and he told me there wasn’t any wifi. At first I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. Atapuerca had free wifi village-wide, but it was too weak to use. We were also so remote that we didn’t have good data signal either. This was a scheduled work day for us, but that was not going to go as planned.

While I was taking a nap, Ray discovered that the restaurant across the street had wifi, so we planned to eat dinner there. Like most of Spain, the restaurant didn’t open until 7:00 p.m. Ray and I were the first customers in the door. Not only did I like the name of the restaurant, Comosapiens, but it was very high-end. We ordered our dinners and set up our electronics to get some work done. The owner/chef was very accommodating and understanding of our using his wifi. We complimented his cooking as well as the entire restaurant package. While it had been a very rough couple of days, we had our happy ending.

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3 thoughts on “Day 15 – Villafranca Montes de Oca to Atapuerca – May 19, 2017

  1. Many, many people are thinking about you guys and praying for you. Kelly frequently asks about you, and I read whatever is your latest post to him.

  2. Hang in there guys! Sending love and many hugs. Every day is a little farther you’ve ever walked before,an awesome accomplishment. We are proud of you!

  3. I´ve gotten caught up with your blog so far to this date, incredible writing Wendy! Hang in there and take care of those feet! Proud of you both!

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