28.05.2011 - 28.05.2011
I leave Uterga surrounded by fields of long teal grasses that blow in the wind like the fur of a giant green cat being brushed one way and then the other. Roses grow insanely well here, clambering up farmhouses and buildings. There are so many types of flowers; the paths so far have been leafy and green with foliage arching over the Camino making a cool shady tunnel. It's surprisingly cold, especially in the mornings, and my hands turn a deep blue colour – warm on the inside from walking but cold on the outside. They start to swell up; and it feels like I'm wearing a pair of thick ski gloves because I can't move them properly or hold anything. After leaving Iceland with all of my fingers I didn't expect to get symptoms of frostbite in Spain.
Today I'm walking with a German chick I met in Uterga. I'm expanding my German vocabulary (instead of my Spanish). One of the coolest things Germans say is ear worm, an ear worm is a song that gets stuck in your head. I think I’ll try to start using this term. We stop before a tunnel near Villatuerta for a rest and find a row of trees overflowing with cherries. An old Spanish woman is collecting them and she waves at me to come over an join her. I run up to her and she thrusts a bunch of cherries into my hands, reaching up to get more and more like a meerkat bobbing up and down. I end up with so many cherries I can barely climb down the hill and I nearly fall over. They taste amazing.
We decide to stop for the night in Villatuerta, Estella is a little too far away and it's now hot in the afternoon sun. We find a great private albergue with hammocks and beautiful small rooms. I take my pack off and the albergue hostess says “you will never make it to Santiago with that bag, it's far too heavy for you.” Excuse me?! How dare she. Of course I can make it to Santiago with my bag. It's twelve kilos, which if you follow the guidelines is too heavy, but whatever. For those of you who want to know, the guidelines are; carry a bag that is one tenth of your body weight to a maximum of ten kilos. The weight is OK for me, my back isn't sore and I have everything I want: a textbook, a couple of novels, two pairs of shoes... Call me a nerd but I'm not throwing any books away, and I will make it to Santiago.
I clunk down the stairs slightly disgruntled and spot two super-cut bikers checking in. I throw them my very best “Hola” and try to look as elegant as possible descending the stairs with extremely painful calf muscles... Pretty soon we are all sitting in the courtyard drinking 79 Eurocent cerveza and listening to the boys sing and play guitar.
Tonight is the F.A. Cup Final! Woo! Barcelona V Man United what a game to watch in a local bar in Spain! This will be fun. It's a Saturday night, and Saturdays always seem to be the most fun anywhere. The bar is full and we are, of course, not there – but slowly getting plastered in the hostel on cheap wine and cheaper cerveza. It's ridiculous that beer is cheaper than soft drink here. I'm eating a steak tartar prepared by a French cook we happened to meet and everything is good. It's always nice to find out there's somebody French or Italian staying in your hostel because you know the chances of having an excellent meal cooked for you are very high. I have offered to cook for French and Italians before but they generally give me a look that plainly states it's sacrilegious for an Australian to cook for anyone from Western or Southern Europe. (I wont tell you what happened when I made pasta with an Italian sitting next to me).
We sit around singing songs and then the French chef surprises everyone by saying “so, I have some Mexican magic mushrooms if you want?” There is a momentary pause before everybody laughs and says “uh – yes!?”
“But you will not be able to do anything for six hours.”
“Yeah, OK” we chorus, “you've got the right group of people.”
“I know” says the Frenchman, “I had to make sure you were alright before I asked you.”
We dive into a plate of Nachos topped with mushrooms and continue to drink the vino tinto (possibly a bad plan.) Pretty soon we're sitting in the hammocks and being told off by the hospitaleros for breaking the 10pm curfew. (This you should know: all albergues have a curfew of 10pm). I ask the boys how they started travelling together and they launch into an excited tale “Well, well, none of this would have happened if a packet of biscuits hadn't fallen off the back of his bike... Yes, a packet of biscuits fell off his bike and I ran out into the road and picked them up. We started talking and now we... Now I can't get rid of him.”
As it turns out the mushies have no effect, which is annoying but still amusing. We sit in the hammocks and polish off our last two litres of beer, smoking cigarettes and counting the stars.