Details of Day 18
Trajectory: Hospital de Órbigo à Santa Catalina Distance: 16 miles, or 25.6 kilometers
The first 11 miles of the day, from Hospital de Órbigo to Astorga, were finally off the highway! I entered into farmlands, and started to ascend for the first time in forever.
Men Are Bad All Over
I walked this section with a super annoying middle-aged Spanish man who I have actively disliked since Pamplona. I’ve told him on multiple occasions that I prefer to walk alone, that I want to listen to music. I’ve even gone so far as to take unnecessary breaks in order to avoid his company. On a trail that goes in one direction, though, sometimes seeing someone is inevitable, and there have been times that we’ve walked together. He is tragic, a mansplainer to the n-th degree, the type of asshole who talks at you rather than to you, and about boring fucking shit like buying cars online. Also, he’s basically a Republican.
When I skipped ahead to Leon, I thought I’d ditched him for good, so imagine my dismay when, at 8 pm in Hospital de Órbigo, this guy crawled into the albergue. Apparently he did the 55 kilometers from Sahagún to León on the day that I took the train, and then did, as I did, León to H de O. When I saw this individual roll up, I was horrified.
I purposely waited half an hour to leave the albergue in the morning. Imagine the lividness, then, when he happened to be returning from taking some pictures in town at the exact same moment as I was leaving to walk. There was no way to avoid it – I was in for 11 miles of torture.
I tried desperately to enjoy the morning, but was rather preoccupied with finding a way to ditch the awful hombre. The only benefit to walking with this individual was that I have a picture of myself.
I look like I’m laughing, but I’m really hysterical with confusion over how the FUCK this guy managed to walk so far and WHY.
Maybe they’re right: The trail provides. As luck would have it, six miles into the day, another pilgrim popped up: Two became three, and I became the happiest hiker around. We had a pleasant stroll into Astorga, me walking a bit behind listening to this awful man mansplain to another man.
Astorga, for the récord, is gorgeous.
It was barely one in the afternoon, so we decided to keep walking. As we walked through the city, admiring the buildings, discussing where to walk next, I decided I didn’t want to deal with it anymore. I called an albergue in a town 10-ish kilometers away to see if they were open, found out they were, and said, in a belligerent way, that I – I – was going to Santa Catalina.
All of the sudden, our antagonist had an intense desire to stay in Astorga. The other gentleman, a perfectly normal and nice Spaniard in his 30s, said that it was pretty obvious that I didn’t want to walk with anyone, but would I mind if he continued because it was very early. He was not an aggressive mansplainer, and so I acquiesced, explaining the situation with the pain-in-my-ass who had just left my orbit. And so we walked.
On the map, Santa Catalina seemed minuscule, and it was. But we arrived, sunburned and thirsty, to a narrow street with red plastic chairs and white tables beckoning us to sit and a hostel with a bar.
There were mountains in the distance, and both the company and the Camino itself had improved.
Details of Day 19
Trajectory: Santa Catalina al Acebo
Distance: 17.5 miles, or 28 kilometers
Sometimes, Everything is Perfect
If someone asks me if the glass is half full or half empty, my response is most likely that it seems like there’s a decent amount of water, depending on who’s drinking it, but that there are smudges on the rim that whoever polished the glass should have gotten off. That said, assuming we’re still all on the same page, I have no such commentary for today.
The weather was 63 degrees with wispy clouds and bright blue skies. There was a light breeze, there were epic views, there were bushes to hide behind while peeing. Today was the first “big” ascent of the walk, up to Cruz De Ferro from Santa Catalina, I continued walking with the non-awful guy. We were immediately on a dirt path with mountain views that are still present outside my window. Today was one of those days where you stop every kilometer or so, do a 360 degree turn, and just say “holy shit,” so vast is the view and so tiny are you.
We trotted the seven miles to Rabanal, where, in yet another seemingly abandoned Pueblo, there was a miniature store where we were able to get fresh sandwiches and water. The ascent to Cruz de Ferro was slightly challenging due to mud and sun, but nothing worth crying about. If anything, it was a welcome change to be in the mountains, hiking uphill, after nearly a week of walking parallel to the highway with zero elevation gain or loss.
The actual cross at the top of the hill did it provoke a religious experience for me, but maybe I was a little too dehydrated. Perhaps my epiphany will come at another time.
The remained of the day was equally as striking, and we continued briskly to La Acebo. There had been conflicting reports as to whether or not there was an albergue in town, and we walked the length of the zombie apocalypse village with low expectations, fully believing that we’d have to bang out another 9.4 kilometers to Molinaseca. At the very edge of town, as if a mirage, there was a hostel, and a shiny new one at that. We rolled in and discovered a mini-paradise, with bar, restaurant, dorm rooms with balconies, scalding hot water, and heating that they don’t turn off at 9:30 pm.And here I find myself, in a movie screen sunset in the middle of the mountains, with a week left of walking and nothing bad to say.