After the drama-full morning, walking began to slowly get better. The terrain was gorgeous, with the river behind me, the gently forested slope in front of me, clear views from the top, and easy paths later on. The craziness of the morning felt like it had happened to another person, in another lifetime.
Something I learned as the day wore on is that the sun actually gets hotter at 4:00pm than it is at Noon. So, my late starts and slowpoke ways aren’t always so innocuous! It was time for a break. I wound up stopping in Faramontanos de Tábara — an extremely cute, more modern-looking but still tiny pueblo probably about 7.5K from Tábara, where the albergue ultimately was located.
A pretty, 20- or 30-something with a glass in her hand – the only person I’d seen in the town — pointed me in the direction of 2 bars. The closer one, naturally, was closed. (Everything in Spain is closed in the middle of the day!) I trudged back up and through the bright square into the darkness of the thankfully open 2nd bar. I had another of what soon would be a million bocadillos over the course of the summer and a coffee. (A bocadillo is basically, a sandwich made from a baguette – this one with a not-that-spicy chorizo.) I wasn’t all that comfortable sitting in the nearly-empty bar, so I headed back out through the annoying rubber-fringe door curtain and started back across the square.
As I was walking, I noticed an old, old, old – I mean, like, really old – lady sitting in slippers on a bench under the shadow made by a porch balcony from the town hall that lined one side of the deserted square. She was hunched over, and nearly bald, a tiny woman with a long, long, hooked nose. She saw me, and called out for me to come to her.
“It’s too hot for you to be walking,” she said in Spanish. “You should sit here with me.”
OK, I thought. Who was I to say no to the world’s oldest grandmother? I sat with her for about an hour, right outside that building there with the flags, where we had the same conversation over and over and over again.
“Es tu primera vez aqui?” “Oh, yes, it’s my first time here.”
“Que bueno!!! Vas solica?” “Yes, I’m walking alone!”
“Que valiente!!! Donde comenziste?” “I started in Salamanca.”
“Que marveilloso!…… Es tu primera vez aqui?” “Oh, yes, it’s my first time here…”
And so-on. It was actually OK—I got to have a conversation in Spanish where I actually understood the questions and knew how to say the answers! And, this little old lady reminded me of my beloved Aunt Bibbie, who, in her mid 90’s, has a tendency toward this same conversational trick. It just made me feel good to give someone some much-needed company, and filled me with feelings of love toward my Aunt. (And, yes, it was nice to have an excuse not to walk out in the heat!)
Eventually, a not-as-old man sat down, who I actually understood a little better, and then a not-as-old-as-the-old-lady-but-older-than-the-man joined us. She had fewer teeth than either of them, a hairier chin than both, and I understood not a word. Eventually, they all got up together without much ado or even farewells when a car came by – it appears they were waiting for the Welfare Man, or someone similar, who came by to give them some money—and I decided to head out again.
This may not have been the best idea – it’s hard to say if the sun actually gets any cooler the later it gets, or just hotter – but, well… a) I should have peed again (everything is worse when one has to pee) and b) I should’ve learned my lesson about what happens when one is too embarrassed to go back and ask.
So what happened was… The route just kind of… disappeared. And my book made NO sense. There was an arrow on the stop sign that pointed… kind of straight, and kind of left. I didn’t know. The book implied go straight, so straight I went. For a while.
But I could tell the town I was heading for was off behind me and to the left, and it just felt like I was going clearly the WRONG WAY. I sat under a tree checking out the ants and reminiscing about how just a few lifetimes earlier that day, I was sitting in the woods by a river freaking out and checking out a scorpion. (Yes, a SCORPION! A tiny, fucking scorpion! I’d never seen one before, and almost didn’t believe it was really a scorpion, but they’re kind of unique. Boy, am I lucky!)
Anyway, I was wavering between feeling lucky and unlucky and somewhat like the luckiest unlucky person there is. I had been walking along these worn, dust roads that went through scrubby fields with little shade. I peed (finally!) and began to feel a little braver. At this point, I was still doubting the wisdom of stopping any passing cars for help, and wound up walking all the way back to the stop sign to check out the arrow again.
It had not changed since I’d been there last. I absolutely could not figure out where the hell I was supposed to go, so I just decided to follow the paved road directly toward the town and figure it out from there. I was fairly sure the road would bring me there eventually, but I did still have to work somewhat to keep the “fairly unsure” thoughts at bay.
I took a lot of rests – it was HOT – and eventually started to count my steps out loud to pass the time, a bit like a lunatic. (It turns out there are about 1025 travelingdina footsteps in a kilometer.) I finally made it to the town I’d seen in the distance.
A nice, friendly, slightly older-than-middle-aged woman was heading the opposite way from me, and, when I asked where the albergue was, turned around and started walking with me in the right direction! I think she even asked if I wanted to come in and sit down, and I regret not taking her up on it. I’m never sure when someone is being honest and someone is just being polite.
I left her at the house, and continued on into the town. Again, I had some trouble finding the albergue. Why in the world the guide doesn’t have small maps of the towns or give turn-by-turn directions on how to get to the albergues, instead of just a street address (streets aren’t really numbered or labeled in Spain) is beyond me.
Eventually, however, I found my way there, and Hugo and Maartin were there, making pasta, with ham and veggies, including a nice big portion for me! They were worried when I hadn’t shown up till so late, and thought maybe I’d decided to stay elsewhere, but, knowing there weren’t that many other choices (and that I was a Camino newbie), had expected I’d just pull in late.
It was wonderful to have a delicious dinner with my new friends. Although Hugo got a little drunk, and I got my feelings a little hurt when it became clear he was only interested in his own stories and not mine, it was still a fun and good night. There was a lot of me teasing him and him calling me a “cheeky sod,” with Maartin chortling along Dutchly.
This third phase was a perfect end to a decidedly long, long day!