I woke up at 4am with a start and sat bolt upright in bed. Something wasn’t right and it wasn’t that the Golden Girls had come off auto play on Amazon Prime (it comforts me to sleep!). Something wasn’t right in my gut and I needed to right it very quickly! Can you believe it? After waxing lyrical about the Parador I managed to get food poisoning at dinner!
After a fun hour or so I managed to get back to sleep and when the alarm went off at 8am I was surprised to see just one of four lights blinking at me from the power bank. I am a victim of Apple’s cruel battery fixin’ scandal and so I need to be either plugged into the mains or a power bank to use my IPhone at all times. This was not good news, the power bank was broken and I could no longer use my phone.
Although I feel safe on camino, the Via de la Plata has long sections between towns and I was concerned that if I needed direction, or indeed help, I’d be in trouble without my phone. So I got dressed, had breakfast and waited for the shops to open in Zafra – at 10am! When you’ve only 8 hours of daylight anyway using 2 of them milling around waiting for the Movistar shop to open is frustrating! I managed to buy the only power bank they had which was a lousy 2000 mAh version which keeps my phone charged for 1 hour comparing to the 2 days of my broken power bank! Well, it was something and time was ticking on!
With all the fannying about over I began my walk to Villafranca de los Barros. The walk up to Los Santos de Maimona was a continual uphill section into a forest with a reception mast atop and then a steep descent into the town. The road was lined with small independent casas each guarded by a ferocious dog or two. I continued with my strategy of smiling inanely at the dogs and waving in the hope this would calm whatever blood lust they may have. Arriving into Los Santos the heavens opened and the rain came down with gusto, I ran into a cafe, plugged my phone in and charged my charger (they loved me with my 1€ coffee) and checked the weather. It was going to rain all day and so it did. It’s still raining now 8 hours later!
With these de-roofed blisters and no gore-tex shoes it would be suicidal (toe suicide) to walk across muddy fields in the rain for another 15kms. I had to make a sensible choice (like bringing waterproof shoes for example!) and get out of the rain and to the next albergue. In the end, with the blisters as they are and not being certain of accommodation in Villafranca I took the 101 bus to Merida. This was a massive (two day) bus forward which means I’ve missed a large chunk of the walk. It’s not illegal to do this of course, you only need to walk the last 100kms to get a compostella and there was no way I was getting to Santiago this year because of time restrictions but it doesn’t sit right with me.
I no longer feel like I’m on pilgrimage and to carry on walking from here just feels like cheating. I’m not sure what I’ll do right now as I sit here overlooking Plaza España in Merida’s town centre. I’ve enjoyed the walking so far, I’ve needed it. My head was so full of toxic thoughts from the end of my last job and a build up of negativity and complaining that can happen if I don’t take the time to meditate but I’ve been able to work through it all on this trip! I feel ready and even excited to start my new job, which before I left I was questioning if I could even face again! I’ve gained perspective – at the risk of losing a toe.
I’m now in the Merida Palace Hotel with some great views of the central square (above). I’m here for two days to slow me back down for the exit to Caceres IF I continue to walk. Tomorrow I’ll try to rest the blisters more but will visit the colosseum and Roman history museum. Merida has the best kept roman remains of any Spanish city so tomorrow will be a fun day – even if I’m still not walking!