Day 12: Villafranca Montes de Oca (27km)

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The day began cold and wet and we walked along an uninspiring muddy white path right next to a motorway. The scenery was unremarkable and drab. The day had all the hallmarks of being a tedious and boring day and we plodded on, uninspired.

We had decided to walk to Tosantos and Jennifer had sent her bag on to the albergue in the town. All the cafes along the way were closed up and we had to walk all the way to Belorado to get something to eat and drink. We camped out in a restaurant situated on the Camino and enjoyed pinchos and multiple cups of coffee while our feet dried and we became progressively more sleepy. While sitting there, avoiding the rain and monotony, a German came running in.

‘Have you seen a guy. He’s tall and German.’ He described this man some more, but we sat dazed and unsure. We said that we had not seen this man, as we had not noticed any other people, let alone any other Germans and the disheveled man ran out again. Jennifer and I looked at each other, astonished and bemused. Little did I know that that disheveled German would later become my friend and welcome me on my arrival to Santiago many days ahead. I just felt perplexed by the encounter.

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Eventually, we dragged ourselves from our chairs and arrived an hour later at Trosantes still feeling fresh. While walking to Belorado, the rain had soaked us. The route had followed a dull road and the views were limited while trucks whizzed passed us, spraying us with dirty road water. But after Belorado, the scenery changed. We found ourselves walking through spectacular fields full of sunflowers and rain darkened wheat. We arrived in Trosantes, looked at the albergue and sat in its bar to consult. Here, we found a middle aged couple that we had been walking with off and on since Navarette. We drank coffee and decided to continue to Villafranca Montes de Oca as we felt more energised from the beautiful scenery. The views were worth walking the extra kilometres.

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On arriving in Villafranca Montes de Oca and an albergue on a hill, we were shown to a private room where we were able to shower, wash some of our clothes and dry them on a small heater. The hotel/albergue stood high above the village and the view from the window was breathtaking. At 7pm, we went to the restaurant where the waitress moved our table to join another one full of pilgrims, some we already knew. Wine flowed, food was consumed and politics expounded. Tempers frayed a little when Brexit was mentioned but, on the whole, the English, American, Italian, Spaniard and Germans played nice and we all paid our bills and wished each other a bon camino and left on good terms. A Mexican pilgrim was cycling the camino and a couple of Germans planned to walk the remaining 40km to Burgos the next day. We wished them well but were not in a hurry to reach Burgos as Jennifer would be leaving me there and continuing home. I felt sad at the prospect of losing my lovely friend and walking companion and I didn’t want to think about it too long.

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This was a day that made me feel strong and exactly where I was meant to be. I felt that those days are the ones to crystallise and hold onto when I feel horrible, tired and down in spirits. Not all days are going to feel this good. But one must keep the good in mind to know that the bad days are fleeting and will not always be bad. I felt so happy to be where I was: in that room with my friend, full with the day, food and companionship along the road.

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