In the morning we returned to Café Victoria for breakfast. The girl serving was from Romania and her Spanish and English put us to shame. She served us with a smile despite having to be there from 6 am. With fresh coffee a pastry and a smile she made our start seem easier.
Ricardo had warned us about this. Now we had to climb 600metres in 6k a stiff climb when you are already tired and carrying 10kilos. We headed out of town on what we thought was the right road, but there were no arrows or shells. After about 400yards we passed a filling station. The guy inside was not the most talkative but he did point us straight up the road.
We left the road and followed a dirt track, it was not the climb that bothered me most to start, but the spider silks. Light and invisible they were plaguing me at one point I carried my pole in front of me like a processional cross. We passed a picnic area but it was too early to stop, some fast walkers passed us at this point, but then decided to stop here. We were out early but it was not long before younger legs from the alburgue caught us up and overtook us.
I was relieved now, as someone else was breaking the spiders webs for me. After about 3k we took a break in the woods. No sign of another break area, we just put our seat pads down, ate an apple and watched them all go by.
The average one in ten of this first 6k is misleading, as we break out of the woods the gentle climb stops and the real climbing begins. We scramble over rocks as the path ascends at an angle to the hairpin road. After 4k of hard climbing and another one of more gentle climb we reach the top Puerto del Palo, don’t make the mistake of thinking that there is anything here though, it is just a mountain top. Fortunately one enterprising soul has a van here, complete with generator, fridge and coffee machine.
The two tables were full of Germans, but this being the Camino they made room for us and we exchanged stories of out travels to this point and beyond. As we sat there the Long and The short passed us (remember? eastern European gorgeous girl an tall guy). They went straight passed without stopping and did not see them again that day. Although when we set off we were gaining on them we lost sight after we diverted.
After we crested the hill we had a steep downhill to a Road. The arrow pointed to the left and we blindly followed it, missing the almost immediate turn off down the next hill. What we found however was a building, without roof or floor with a huge picture window. It gave a fantastic view and I posted it on my facebook page the same day.
Now we had to backtrack, a hateful thing for walkers to do, and rejoin the camino. Another 1.5 k of mainly downhill gorse covered hillside and we pass Montefurado. I say pass, we could see the sign on the road but there was no sign of any habitation. Another 4k and we pass Lago, you are supposed to be able to see the lake here where they stored water for mineral extraction. We saw nothing but scarred hillside, but there was a bar on leaving. We had a sandwich and drinks, the place was full of pilgrims mainly German but The Long and The Short were there as well. (Must find out their names, we have crossed paths all the way from Irun). This was the first time we had come across a place that realized they had exclusivity and they priced accordingly. Still we were refreshed and we had our water filled, ready to go on.
Berducedo was the next place on our list, another one horse town but it did have a Pension and a bar with San Miguel Selecta. I wanted to stop here we had only done 15 or 16K but it was all hard going and it would be a long walk to the next available lodgings. I don’t think Viv believed me when I said 15k so we carried on. We would regret that decision.
We followed about 4k and came into a wooded area as we emerged we passed the alburgue of La Mesa, another with the hospilalero waiting outside to grab weary pilgrims. There is no food here and nowhere to buy provisions, our meager stock would not be enough. On the exit of La Mesa was another alburgue this one locked, you need to phone for the key. There was a picnic area outside so we rested and ate what we had. There was no tap or anywhere to restock our water the worrying prospect of running out faced us, but not yet a while.
This was not just 10k, it was 10k of steep downhill on loose shale for the most part. When we passed through pine woods I set the GPS to give us some idea of how far we had to travel. Embalse de Salime was not on the map but Salime was. This was a big error on my part.
We were now extremely tired and the water had run out, at this point my judgment must have also been impaired. It looked like Salime was behind us, we had come too far on this track. 600meters back and we could not find the track. I expanded the map to find Salime was an abandoned village flooded by the dam. We had to double back again. I think this was our lowest point of the Camino. If we could have given up right here we would have, but there was no escape. We simply had to keep walking or lay down and die.
After we reached where we had turned around we carried on downhill, then the track hair pinned on and on down. Eventually we reached the road. Again the book was out, it said 1.5k from here. We followed the road through a scarred landscape, unlike Porto Marin this place had been built with no thoughts of tourism or beauty. Across the dam and we could see the hotel, but it was still tantalizingly far off and uphill.
Hotel Las Grandes was not just a hotel but alburgue also. Right now I did not care, it had beer. My throat was so dry I was unable to speak, so I pointed at the pump and put up two fingers. “Grande? ” he asked. I just nodded enthusiastically. Viv, who had fallen behind joined me then as a woman tourist walked out. She waved her hand in front of her face in the universal gesture that said “you stink” Fortunately I did not see or I would have responded “at least we still have manners”
We got a comfortable room overlooking the lake. It certainly looked better from here.
The food was good too and most welcome. A few of the people we had seen were here as well but mostly in the alburgue. The German who had shadowed us was still doing it, but now I just wanted more beer followed by sleep.