I stink. I thought I smelt pretty bad at Valcarlos on day 2 but that level of whiff was like a mild Wensleydale comparing to the ripe Stilton of today. The ingrained stench of stale sweat has now permeated all my clothes and no matter how hard my clothes are washed (ahem) it seems all four t-shirts will have to be burnt on the beach at Finisterre for the good of mankind. I smell so bad, Clarisa has taken to calling me by a pet name ‘Pepe’, sometimes with ‘Le Pew’ sometimes without. I think this is needlessly cruel, surely we all smell bad?!
Anyway, the stink is getting worse thanks to rising temperatures (which have caused many fires we have seen over the past few days and today there has been a fire in the hills outside Santiago) and the strain of taking my body and bag up the mountains! Today I broke a face sweat! Usually the sweating is isolated to specific areas but today, on the vine covered hills of Bierzo, I really really had to work. What a lovely blog post this is! Let’s talk about something else!
Yesterday’s walk from Acebo to Ponferrada was a gentle 22k that took in some amazing views (above) and allowed us to spend the night in Ponferrada – a stunning city full of Templar legend and now, even more so than Leon, my favourite Camino city. The castle is amazing but the whole town enjoys a really friendly and relaxed atmosphere and the people here are the most generous so far along the camino – we’ve had free bottles of cider, free patatas bravas and even a free Quartz gem! Sparkly! I am a sucker for free swag!
Today’s walk from Ponferrada to Villafranca took in some picturesque towns and we spent most of our time in-between the Mencia, I sampled a few of the grapes along the way and they were fine for eating even in early August – just the occasional berry mind, not a bunch! Yet.
Tomorrow is the largest climb of the whole camino outside of the Pyrenees. I’d love to push it to the top tomorrow to O Cebreiro but it’s 30k plus adjusted for climb and we’re not allowed to leave the Ave Fenix (today’s albergue until 6.30) – so likely we’ll quit somewhere in the middle of the mountain. After tomorrow the most difficult part of the camino comes to a close, there’s no real major landmark now until Santiago, the only challenge will be the increased number of pilgrims from Sarria and the daily fight for beds between serious seasoned pilgrims, like me, and fair weather pilgrims, like them! If the fitness fails me and I can’t outpace them I can always just stuff their heads into my armpit and leave a line of concussed fair weather pilgrims in my wake.