To Astorga

I really debated what to write tonight. I’m going to be very honest with all of you back home: I am getting really burned out. I’m ready for this to be over and to go home, but I still have about 13 days of walking left. I think I’m just tired… despite the fact that this is only day two after a rest day (Leon). No worries: I am definitely not quitting. I just need to get my head back in the game. I hope tomorrow is better. It should be, because the terrain is changing again and I’m back to hills, woods, and a different region.

I definitely do not want to sound like a complainer. No one is forcing me to do this. Again, just trying to give myself a pep talk. Why even write about this tonight? I’m trying to keep these posts honest and truthful so that everyone back home is really with me on the trail, and so I do not mislead anyone who is considering walking the Camino themselves. There are days that suck ––– it’s not the rain, it’s not the sun, I think it’s just the getting worn down.

The morning started great. The weather was a beautiful upper 40s and sunny with no rain in sight. Perfect weather! Unfortunately, I happened to miss an important arrow just leaving Hospital. It’s not really that I missed an arrow, it’s that there were arrows pointing into different directions at the edge of the village. I chose the path I walked because I could see one of the squarish pillars that is a standard marker further down the trail. I figured that definitely is the Camino and the other arrows must be pointing to an albergue.

So off I went! I knew from studying my app that I was 30 minutes from the next village where I would get coffee and hopefully find a store open to buy some fruit.

I walked. And I walked. And I reached the highway and it kept going and I kept walking. There were yellow arrows telling me I was on the right path, there were signed markers as I’d seen in the previous 500 kilometers. The only two things that eventually clued me in that I may not be where I thought I was: the fact that I walked for 90 minutes and never reached a village, and I never saw another pilgrim. Where the heck is everyone?

Pulled out my phone and the app wouldn’t even place me on the map. I thought that it was malfunctioning.

Eventually a young man passed me, so I thought all was well. I see arrows and I see another pilgrim. When I reached a highway junction, I saw him sitting at the bus stop. Oh great, OK.

But yet there were still markers all along the path. I clearly was walking on what must have been the old highway, because it was parallel with the current highway and still had lane dividers painted on it. It was pleasant and I was not panicking, but I was confused as heck.

The TrailSmart app still didn’t quite want to locate me on the map. When it did, it was putting me in a blue stream that must’ve been a river. I could see that the highway goes into Astorga though, so worse case scenario is I climb over the guard rail and walk along the highway into town (DEFINITELY the worse case scenario).

I blame Death Cab for Cutie for this. I was listening to them yesterday when bitter wind was blowing through my three layers of tops, and I was listening to them again today. They are bad luck. Sorry Ben, no more sad depressed Seattleite music on the Camino. Bad juju.

I eventually came across a gas station of all things.

I finally got a potty break and a chance to sit down for a few minutes. It was very clean gas station too. I knocked back a Poweraid since the coffee looked questionable, and studied the map of the highway again. I really should just ask one of the guys working here to call me a taxi. Why take a chance anymore?

And then I finally saw them: a group of about 7 pilgrims following the same marked path I had been on. My goodness it’s real. I quickly threw my pack back on ran back across the highway to join them.

I am impressed that this woman is walking the Camino with a full umbrella. I pretended I was taking pics of the mountains.

Here are the actual mountains:

Eventually, the trail I had been on met up with the real trail. Everyone was talking about how much they enjoyed it, so I think I really missed out. That’s OK.

I had some lovely chats with people at this cross and in the village down below: a wonderful man who was tending to the garden around the Cross (who also happens to be a priest), plus I saw Paul from Wales with his two sisters who had joined him in the little village.

Check out this modern pilgrim torture device on the edge of Astorga. This footbridge is simply to go over the rail crossing. Was it really necessary to make it so high with so many ramps?

I could not go to the hotel until 2 o’clock, and I assumed everything would close at 2 o’clock for siesta, so I went straight to the tourist office to get a map and then find some breakfast/lunch. The town square around the cathedral was packed because today is a national holiday, I learned. Lunch was potatoes and a slice of bread with ham on it. No salads available.

Once I got into my room, that’s when I started to feel worn out. I took a shower, but instead of going back out into the city to explore I had to do laundry. I pretty much have to do laundry every night. I really wish I had brought a third change of clothes. The problem is you finish walking, you immediately jump in the shower, you put on clean clothes, but now if you don’t wash the clothes you had just been wearing you will have nothing to change into after tomorrow’s walk.

The hotel did not have laundry service so to the laundromat I went. I’ve never seen this before; the machines added the soap automatically for you. That’s pretty cool!

It’s a holiday and I am a few blocks from the Cathedral Square. That means no stores are open, no grocers, and most of the restaurants. I did find one little hole in the wall cafeteria that was open. The beer was disgusting, but it was fun sitting and watching all of these men play cards. At one point they became very animated.

Once the laundry was done washing, I then had to drag it back to the hotel to hang dry. It was already 5:00 by the time I was free to explore — and my legs and feet started to cramp up. My whole body just became sore tonight, and it’s been pretty frustrating. I took ibuprofen tonight despite the suspected “spider bite” problem.

I did try to walk around a bit, and I bumped into the Australian crew: Chantel, Anthony, and Jan. I really am sad that I didn’t stay with them to have dinner and wine tonight, but I’m just feeling burned out. I just couldn’t do it tonight. I’m so sorry, friends.

I decided not to go inside the cathedral either. Am I mad?

But I did pop into this tent to sample a bunch of Spanish cheeses. They were all delicious.

I’m tired of everything always being closed. I’m tired of feeling like I’m crouched over with a broken body as if I’ve been hit by a truck every evening. I’m tired of having to wash clothes every single night. I’m tired of not having any type of vegetable, fruit, or dairy (thank goodness for that cheese tent tonight!). I’m tired of all of the bread and refined wheat. It is embarrassing how many times I have made a meal out of Doritos because the other choices were worse. I’m tired of knowing that I’m burning more calories every day now than I ever have as an adult, perhaps since my high school swim team days, yet I’m either fueling my body with utter crap or I’m starving it.

OK, it just occurred to me: this may be a nutrition problem. I’m so glad I brought vitamins with me on the trip (as recommended by a friend who walked this before) but I’m wondering if it’s enough. With the four day holiday, I have not seen a grocer open since Friday morning. If I see one tomorrow, I am going to try to buy some produce and prepare the best I can with the pocket knife I have. I had been avoiding buying carrots, celery, fruit, etc at the grocers because everyone I talk to and everything I read said to never eat produce here unless you can wash it extremely well. This is why I had only been eating bananas and tangerines — they can be peeled. Now it’s been four days since I’ve even seen those two fruits. Nothing has been open!

Strange post for me tonight, I know. Just let me work through this. A friend on FB asked how many miles I’ve walked thus far. Answer: 326 (525 km). That’s insane.

Tomorrow is another 25 km day!

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