Today is a short, unmemorable day. It is characterized first by a proliferation of flies, second by heat, and third by a burgeoning blister that stops me early.
I say “early” but we stop at 2pm, which is our usual goal, and after 21.7 km, which isn’t far off our planned pace. It’s also consistent with the goals we’d set forth a few days ago, when we’d planned to end in Sahagun – we end instead at the next town, 4km on, after we’d decided to press a little further than planned the day before.
We get sort of a late start, and eat breakfast at our hostel, rather than walking the 3km ahead to the next town as usual. We meet up with Alice again in the morning, and walk with her for a while until we catch up with her mom, who, today, is moving quite slowly. We talk about the baked apple we had for dessert the night before, and Alice says that her mom has often made it, sometimes with walnut and honey in the core. Dorcinda asks the mom whether she treats the apple in any way when not removing the core, or just sticks it in the oven. I always remove the core and put nuts and honey in, she says, contradicting Alice’s earlier statement. Alice rolls her eyes. As we leave town, they stop to adjust something and we leave them behind.
We make it to Sahagun and almost immediately, the hard pavement starts to hurt my feet. It’s funny, I’ve done almost all my life’s walking on pavement, but I dread it on this trip. We buy some tea tree oil at a pharmacy, which the woman at the counter recommends for repelling bed bugs. She says it also works for blisters and itches, so I’m eager to try it despite the unpleasant smell. We decide for a larger lunch in Sahagun, but the place only offers a menu, so we eat TOO much. Worse, we’re beset by flies and bees, and the experience is really unpleasant. I thought we’d be used to flies by now but they are just relentless here. Dorcinda leaves half her chicken uneaten. I now hate this town, and have no interest in visintg the tourist stuff of old nunneries and templar buildings.
We pass Alice and her mom again on the way out of town, and they’re unsure how far they’ll go, because her mom’s feet are hurting. We say we’re going at least to the next town, but my feet won’t cooperate either, and that’s as far as we go. I think its 4km. Just before the turn off, we stop to drink water and a pilgrim from the group ahead comes back a few paces to speak with us. Where are you going? He asks, in broken english, despite his red hair and pale skin (I’d assumed he was Irish or American). We say we’re not sure, and he warns us earnestly against taking the fork to the right up ahead. “There is a town there, but that is not The Way.” We smile and thank him and ignore his advice, stopping at the town 800m away rather than trying to press on 8km along the traditional route.
The hostel is one of those one big room types, so we pray for few snorers and pick our bunks. After showers and laundry, we head to the bar to write. And we share a menu. But the flies are thick here as well, both inside and out, and it’s incredibly distracting. I finish the wine from the menu and keep writing while Dorcinda tries to Skype Luke.
As I finish writing, I catch a glimpse of the news, where they discuss record temperatures across Spain for September, and say that tomorrow will be hotter than today, which was 94 degrees. They speak rapidly, but two of the interviewees use the word “fatal” and one says “mortal” when describing the heat. Oh joy.