Day 9: Navarrete (22km)

20190802_2116566174805788534779525.jpgThe Spanish sure know how to throw a party. Viana’s festival thumped through the plaza and the live bands sang their hearts out right into the early hours of the morning. I shoved earplugs in, but the night’s heat made me stick to the plastic foam mattress and the bass pounded through the ear plugs, making my heart feel as though it was fluttering to its steady rhythm. At 3am, I realised that I had lost the battle and was fully awake. Instead of continuing to struggle, I took my phone into the bathroom, shut the door so as to not disturb the sleepers with the light and watched videos until it was 4.30 and time to wake Jennifer.

We packed up quickly, had coffee from the vending machine in the kitchen and took our bags to the nearby hotel where the bag transfer company would collect them. But the door of the hotel was locked and there was no way to get inside. Frustrated, we returned to our albergue, but the door had locked behind us. We were now left stranded on the streets of Viana with both our main bags and slack-packs. Standing there, fuzzy with lack of sleep, Jennifer gave me an exasperated look. Slowly, we realised that we would have to carry our full packs that day. Sighing heavily, we put the bags on the ground and repacked before slinging the full packs onto our backs and walked to Legrono in the dark.

The sun rose behind us and painted the horizon with an amazing red brilliance. Our entry into Legrono began with a vegetable allotment cooperative. We avoided the chained barking dogs and walked down the hill into the outskirts of the town. Walking down the path, we heared the rustle of a large animal in the bushes to the right of us, but thought it was a stray dog. In fact, it was a wild pig. It at first turned and ran from us and we froze. I had never seen a wild pig before and had heard stories of how unpredictable they can be. This one did not have tusks but I was not sure if it would be aggressive. After running off a short distance, it then turned and started coming towards us again and we walked backwards concerned. Maybe it was just curious about us, but we shoo’ed at it loudly and it backed away while we quickly made our escape. It may have been an over reaction on out part, but I had heard that wild pigs could be dangerous and should be avoided. Dangerous animals are not really something we have to worry about in the UK. I’m more concerned about cows than of foxes. As we quickly walked away, laughing nervously, something rustled next to me in the bush. I squealed and jumped away only to see that it was a cat rolling in the dust, asking for me to pay attention to him. He followed and purred, while rubbing himself against our legs, making me feel very foolish.

20190802_2117091133221319930304954.jpgIn Legrono, we walked down a different street that lies parallel to the Camino. Sherry from the Pilgrim’s Oasis cafe had suggested that we take this small detour to find a cafe in which to have breakfast. We found a place that invited us with its clean interior and pastries temptingly displayed and decided between having an omelette or a sandwich. We chose omelettes and these came as an omelette sandwich. They were delicious and we chased them up with another coffee and a pain aux chocolate split in half. By the time we left, two hours had past and many if the pilgrims that we had left sleeping had now walked overtaken us.

I was so tired and was really struggling. I lagged behind as the sun rose and the day heated up. The heat was so intense. It swelled and beat down on us until we were drenched and our focus was limited to putting one foot in front of the other. The air thickened and it was like pushing through heavy molasses.

20190802_2117556601293515185805881.jpgWe stopped in a lovely cafe by the lake in Alto de la Grajera and drank cold orange juice before crossing a bridge over a lake. Looking down, we could see huge fish sliding over each other on one side of the bridge, begging us for food. They slithered, mouths opening and closing, grotesquely sucking in the desired titbits A swan stood on the heaving mass of fish. On the other side if the bridge was stillness. All was calm, but for another swan that was enjoying the carcass of a cat. The cat’s companion lay draped and blackened on the lower bars of the bridge. The flies lay thick and buzzed in the heat. We walked on, amazement having quickly turned to revulsion. Someone must have discarded the dead cats there.

Flies bit and the cement and tar was hot and hurt our feet. But finally we topped a hill and saw the church steeple of the town. The figure of a bull stood on the hill that we crested. The church never seemed to get closer and cold shivers of heat-exhaustion were passing through me. I wanted to sit and weep from the pure unrelenting heaviness of the day’s heat.

20190802_211813867308642696454941.jpgFinally entering the town via a flight of steps, we walked, looking for a private room. I could not handle the huddled energy and restlessness of an albergue today and asked Jennifer if we could pay a bit more for a room. The hostel closest had a twin room and we put our bags down and lay in the beds, so happy to be here. The fan swung around and the balcony door was open. What is more, there was silence.

Getting ready for a shower, I inspected my insect bites in the mirror, worried that they were in fact bedbug bites. We had spoken with other pilgrims who had been bitten by them. They had been a fear of mine when embarking on this journey and here on my arms and legs I found bites running up and down in rows. Jennifer began to find similar lines of bites and we stood in front of bathroom mirror, revolted and nauseated. Unable to deal with the fact that we may have bedbugs, we found a cafe with air conditioning and enjoyed wine and pinchos. Bottle empty and heads spinning, we had to return to our room, wash our clothes and have a siesta while our washing dried on a line strung up on the balcony.

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