Distance: 24.2km, Steps: 34,455, Time total: 7 hrs
The morning started off great. The owners of the Pension had set up the dining room real nice with our breakfast spread out ready to eat. We joined the other guest that had stayed the night. He was Ron from New Mexico & he had just finished the last section he had not walked of the Camino Frances. An interesting nice bloke with a slow drawl. He told us his stories of his Camino walking; “Well I’ve just finished a section from Pamplona which is a bit complicated….. I started in 2012, thought I wouldn’t be back. Came back in 2014 & did so n so section. Thought I wouldn’t be back. Came back in 2016 that was complicated you see I got real sick with a virus & ended up in hospital for a week in Pamplona. Tried to continue but the virus came back. So came back this time to start where I got sick. Now I’m catching a bus to Barcelona & flying home. But I won’t say I won’t be back again this time!”
We said goodbye to the nice male owner of the Pension that made us feel so welcomed. Then we left the cute town of Belorado behind, back into another freezing cold morning, a little later then usual due to our enjoyable breakfast feast. I had Mr D’s snow gloves on & still the cold came through numbing my thumbs then my fingers.
At the first town we came too, I needed the restroom. But here there is no public toilets in towns, & if you use the cafe / bar toilet you must buy something as they consider it rude to use the toilet & then walk out. They also put up signs of no public toileting in the gardens but provide no toilets to use! There was neither options so I had to improvise. I thought Mr D would wait but when I came out he had disappeared. So I continued on taking photos & could see him way ahead of me. At the next town he had disappeared again & I did not know where he had gone. When I finally caught up as he finally waited outside of town, I was most annoyed at his lack of communication, then he complained his knee was sore from having to turn back to see where I was all the time.
This time I marched on ahead. The sun finally came out but it was still cold around 15 degrees. Mr D popped open his umbrella & he looked ridiculous! I briefly ended up talking to a man from England that I caught up to. He asked the usual questions & I said I was first time to Camino & Europe. He asked my age & appeared quite surprised that I had travelled very little. He was under the assumption that Australian’s are big travellers & we also have a reputation on the Camino for doing long distances in a day. Not the case with us!
We arrived at Villafranca at 11am. Here you stop at only 12kms of walking or continue the next hard uphill stage to San Juan & do 24kms. It is again very small town if you would call it that, right on the busy noisy highway. We stopped in to buy lunch & continue on. Here the young German lady came up to us with sandals on her feet. She had been experiencing some pain in her foot & while she wanted to continue that day, knew she wasn’t up for it & decided to stay in Villafranca. The older German man had gone on ahead to do a 27km day. Then Laura came through as well, the last we saw her was in Santo Domingo. She is from Latvia, a country only 26 years old. She normally is bright & bubbly but not today. Mr D asked “hey! Where you off to today?” She snarled back a short “I’m JUST walking!” reply. Mr D was like “yeah, where you walking to today?” ” I’m WALKING!” Mr D took the hint the second time & said no more as she marched by with sports strapping tape up her leg. Her knee must of been giving her hassles.
Even through the Camino continues on the right side of the road, Mr D decided we cross the crazy highway 4 times unnecessarily. I had to race in front of oncoming trucks that came roaring around the bend at me. My nerves were shattered! Then we started the long hill climb waving goodbye to the young German lady on the way out. The sun had got hotter & it was a sweatfest over the next 12kms.
Mr D met John – 61 years old from Albany, WA running his own small tour group with his wife doing some of the Camino. Then I got chatting with John, a nice talkative fellow working while walking the Camino. Now that’s what I call a good job! Doing something you enjoy doing & being paid for it. John & his group carry daypacks & have their luggage transported. He said he couldn’t do the Bibbulmun track as it is too hard for him! And he wasn’t happy with his tour group that were bickering & one didn’t want to walk so has caught a bus to the next spot. His wife came as well but her fitness wasn’t up to par.
The going was tough & I was regretting not staying at Villafranca but the traffic was so noisy there. We came across the Camino Oasis – a stand set up with cold drinks & food on the track with seats & hammocks & all decorated nice. Mr D wanted a coke, the lady pulled out a 2litre bottle to pour into small plastic cups. Mr D said “no a can?”. So we got a can each of Cola Zero. Mr D was not impressed “I wanted Coke! What good is Cola Zero?! There’s no sugar in it! Bleh!” I meanwhile layed in a hammock resting under the shade of trees. It was good! A real lifesaver.
On we marched in the blistering hot sun the views pretty average. One young German man 6 foot something that towered over Mr D decided to chat to him. He was a uni student & Mr D really didn’t want to engage in conversation so he had to walk faster so eventfully the young man gave up & returned to another group.
Meanwhile I was suffering big time. My ugly red blotchy rash had spread to behind my other knee as well. The big right leg side rash had become inflamed & painful. I could feel the sun burning it constantly. I sped up to get into San Juan quickly as I couldn’t cope anymore with it.
San Juan is a town of 20 people. In fact it would take 5 minutes to see the whole town! I’m sure the Camino is the only reason it is still there. There was one Albergue only – bunk rooms with 20 beds in each all squished together. We paid for our beds, paid for our dinner but I asked Mr D if he wanted the Albergue meal & the Albergue worker smirked. That’s because there is no where to eat but there! I showered & put the cream on my rash which was so painful I had to grit my teeth. Then I hobbled around as it became so painful to walk & bend the knee.
We went next door & paid for 2 tiny glasses of beer. Mr D was not satisfied & brought 2 more beers for himself. Anna & Martin from Melbourne were also staying in San Juan but were at the one hostal there. Martin was remarking loudly about the Albergue’s as he was so anti staying in them & there were people seating outside in earshot that were staying in the Albergue. Anna said, “Marty Marty! Keep your voice down!” They were to have dinner close by & Martin said “I know what you are getting! Garlic soup! You know what the bunkrooms will be like later! Especially the people on the top bunks! Haha!”
Yes it is traditional that the Pilgrims receive bread & garlic soup at dinner after mass. It was like a cafeteria as we took a tray, plates & utensils & queued up to be served a bowl of the soup. Pasta in tomato on one plate, ham slices, salad & chips on the other. Mr D is not impressed by Spains chips, they are always soggy not crunchy how he likes them. I was hungry it didn’t matter I ate them all. Mr D had to buy a bottle of red wine to go with our meal. There was no way we were having a meal with just a glass of water! Mr D tried to strike up a conversation with a man sitting nearby that was from Brazil. He did not speak much English & the conversation seem too hard but at least Mr D tried. I was too tired to socialise myself.
The dinner area was a parade of the walking wounded. It seemed many people had knee problems, some had foot problems & one guy had blackened toenails & was limping quite badly. So I fitted in well. Mr D has been very fortunate so far, however after the 24kms he was getting knee pain & sore hot feet. He had reached his limit & prefers 22kms or under a day.
I was so tired & exhausted after dinner from dealing with my rashes & feeling miserable. There was like no phone service at all & I couldn’t get any internet connection to put the icing on the cake so to speak. I crawled into bed done with the day at 8pm & so did Mr D.