TREKKING — DAY 23

HOSPITAL del ORBIGO to MURIAS de RECHIVALDO — 14 Miles    THE DAY FROM HELL!

When I was awakened at 5:30 this morning with a case of “Mexican Tourista,” I thought this would be the worst part of the day. Boy was I ever wrong. For the first couple of hours I wasn’t sure I’d be able to walk because of my need to be close to a bathroom. And my foot still hurt. But by the time we went to breakfast at 8am, things had settled down. Lots of people I’d met had been talking about “Camino Candy” (Ibuprofen) so I decided to take a little this morning.

I was looking forward to another easy day of just 10 miles but when we met Lesley for coffee she proposed the idea of walking a longer day today so that we could shave some time off tomorrow’s walk. That sounded OK to me — it was only going to be 4 more miles than we had originally planned. She also said she didn’t want to walk along the highway but would prefer the more rustic “original” Camino route.

It had been raining for the last 24 hours and although I didn’t like the highway and the noise of all the cars if I’d been by myself I would have chosen that route.  On our way out of town we met Carol, the 75 year old lady from Australia and she and the guy she was with were both going to go the highway route. I could kick myself for not following them because that’s when our troubles began. They turned left at a fork in the road and we turned right. We walked and walked, on muddy paths, through fields of barley and then realized we hadn’t seen a Camino marker for a long time. Just then we saw a guy and we asked for directions to the Camino. He quickly rattled off something in Spanish and pointed in the opposite direction than we were going.  So we started walking back the other way, but still weren’t seeing any Camino signs.  I did see a church steeple off in the distance and told Leslie that the Camino path usually went by the church in each little village.  So we started walking toward the church, which was way off in the distance.  As we got closer we saw a little old lady standing in a doorway and I asked her where the Camino was. She said, “Camino? Do you want to have some breakfast?” And I started laughing. Then we found a man who pointed us in the right direction. By that time we had gone a mile out of our way.

The path went up a big mountain and if we thought we were in mud before, we were in worse mud now.

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The going wasn’t easy and there were hardly any markers and I was never sure we were going the right way. We were in some industrial farming area.

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The mud and the steep hills continued, and in fact got a whole lot worse. There were only two other Trekkers that we could see and they were ahead of us by about a quarter of a mile. This was the worst walk ever! The road continued to get muddier and muddier and it was the only place anybody could walk.

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I was sinking deeper and deeper into it. Leslie got about 2 blocks ahead of me because with every step I couldn’t seem to get my feet out of the mud.  Every time I would put my foot down, it would sink 4 inches down into the muddy clay and I couldn’t pull it back out.  And when I did pull it out the clay clung to it in huge clumps.  At one point while trying to pull my foot up it actually came out of my shoe while the shoe stayed deep in the mud.  I almost fell over when I bent down to wedge my foot back into the tied shoe.  After a few more slow steps it was murder to keep my feet in my shoes.  So I carefully bent down and re-tied each shoe and then the mud got all over my hands and under my fingernails. I kept talking to myself and cussing under my breathe and wanting to just sit down and cry. But I couldn’t do that in this mud!  It continued on like this for the next 5 miles.

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I finally got to where the mud was only a couple inches deep but there were big pools of water in the path. And as if the mud weren’t  bad enough, those steep uphill climbs were killing me.

Then we came to this cute scarecrow or whatever it was and a little shrine to the Camino and that lifted our spirits.

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We trudged on for another 2 miles and when we reached the top of the mountain we could see the town of Astorga about 2 miles off in the distance. We were elated!

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When we were almost there we passed this statue of a pilgrim  with a water bottle.

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I can’t believe we look so happy in this photo!

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Appreciating the beauty of the walk into Astorga.

The clay on our feet was beginning to dry and every so often we would stop and try to kick it off.  When we got to the outskirts of Astorga we had to walk on winding streets up extremely steep hills before we reached the central plaza of town.

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This was an upscale town.  Hotel rooms were running about $160.00 a night.  So I  was kind of embarrassed when we walked into a little Bar with our mud caked feet.  But we were desperate for a break and this little Bar was crowded with patrons so I don’t think anyone noticed how muddy we were.  We had Cafe con Leche and Churros and they helped to revive us.  As we walked out of the Bar I noticed we had left clumps of clay all over the floor.

Astorga was a really cute and rather large town and its cathedrals were astoundingly beautiful and done by Gaudi.  We didn’t know this until we walked a little farther through the town and saw them.

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Then we passed what looked like a very ultra-modern church with a commeration to Pilgrims walking the Camino.

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By this point we should have been exhausted and ready to drop but unexpected beautiful surprises like these just took our breath away.

Our Camino Concierge, Dick, had driven ahead this morning and texted that he had booked us into private rooms at the Albergue Aguedas.  As we continued walking and got closer to it he texted that it was really “rustic.” I asked him what that meant and he said, “It is in the eyes of the beholder.” Uh oh. This place might be a real dump.

Dick met us at the beginning of Murias de Rechivaldo, this two block long village and he seemed to know everybody there as he walked us to our Albergue. After all, he’d been socializing with them all day. It was an absolutely darling place and we knew we’d have to take off our shoes and socks before we went in.

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You can see how high the mud went up Leslies trekking poles.

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Back view of mud high up our pants.

We got to our room and it was the cutest thing ever.  Dick had turned the radiator heat up really high so the room was nice and warm.

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I got out of my clothes and using the bathroom sink tried to rinse the mud off of everything, especially my shoes. What a mess!  There was mud all over the counters and dripping onto the floor.  When everything was rinsed out I asked Dick to take the pile of wet stuff to be washed and dried in a machine. He stuffed my shoes with newspapers, which soaked up a lot of water and then we put them on the radiator to dry.

Once he’d gone I stepped into the shower, turned on the water and stood there for 5 minutes waiting for it to get hot. Well, it didn’t. Dick had to go get the manager who came in while I stood there with a towel wrapped around myself. He turned the shower on for another 5 minutes and came out and said “The water’s cold.” No kidding! Then a lady came and told me I could use the shared bathroom upstairs so I gathered my stuff and with the towel still wrapped around me, I walked through the common sitting area and up the stairs to the other bathroom.

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I stood under the hot water for ages and tried to wash the clay off my discolored feet.  It felt so good to be clean and the greatest part was that there was a blow dryer under the sink.  I joined Dick and Leslie out on the patio for a late lunch.  Dick and I shared a cheese, tomato and chorizo sandwich and each had a glass of wine.

My foot was hurting (same foot that hurt last year) and on my other foot there was a blood blister underneath my big toe and another huge water and blood filled blister on the side of my big toe.  And my intestinal problem continued full force.  I just needed to go to bed.  So I snuggled down into the most comfortable bed I had ever been in.  I fell asleep at 4pm and the next thing I knew, Dick was waking me up telling me it was 7 and that I’d better get up.  I actually thought it was 7 the next morning.  But it was dinner time and Dick was going to go join Leslie for a vegetarian meal.  But when I got up to go I felt horrible, foot hurt like crazy along with awful stomach cramps so I just went back to bed and fell sound asleep.  I loved that bed and this place and wanted to stay forever.  The only drawback was that I couldn’t get on the Internet!

It was easy to go back to sleep and sleep well through the night despite frequent trips to the bathroom.   And every time I thought about walking tomorrow I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do it.