Ok, this is my last week before leaving for France and I am feeling extremely trepidatious – equal measures of excitement and anxiety.
Monday is spent in and around the house, with much pulling of weeds, until David dragged me away for a quick drink in the village – he didn’t meet much resistance I have to admit.
On Tuesday I am tackling my longest and last walk before leaving for the start of my journey in St Jean Pied de Port in France. Here is a map of the route I will take to Santiago de Compostela and possibly on to Finisterre.
I definitely need to develop some speed in getting ready and away on my treks, we will be making very early morning starts, whilst it is still dark, and I won’t have time for “faffing about”, as I know Ella would describe my preparations. Oh well, I have already had plenty of practise in not worrying about what I look like, and I doubt I shall have the opportunity to look in many mirrors en-route. Some people even sleep in the clothes they are going to walk in the next day and just put their boots on and go. I am sure I will get my leaving procedure off to a fine art within a couple of days and Ella will just have to be patient with me until I do!
Eventually I set off at just after 08:30 and walk to the village to pick up Lyn and we leave Canillas at Santa Ana church at just after 09:00. First we have to take the very steep descent into the valley to the mill house, over the Roman stone bridge and up the equally steep incline on the other side, and continue up, and up, and up for the next hour until we reach the natural park at Fogarate and then the fork that leads to Salares or towards and beyond the fabrica.
I stop here to put on the new walking sandals I have purchased. They are much heavier than I was lead to believe on the website and I need to know that they will be comfortable in order to justify carrying the weight. They are ok to wear in water so when we come to a shallow stream I stop in the middle to cool off and wriggle my toes. I keep them on for about 5 km and although the straps and very comfy, the soles are ridged and they begin to make the underside of my toes a bit sore.
We hear the enchanting mellow sound of the goat bells and around the next bend walks the goat man with his heard of goats, a few sheep and a couple of dogs to keep them in order.
They look to be a well kept herd, off for the day to find some tasty grass on the banks either side of the track. I expect they are enjoying the greenery whilst they can because there won’t be much after a month of non-stop sunshine and their pickings will be much leaner during the summer months. Roly is a bit unsure to be at such close quarters to so many bouncy, baa-ing animals, but he is very well behaved and doesn’t chase even the baby one that got left behind.
We come to a deep pool where we encourage Roly to jump in after a stick to have a swim. He seems happy with this exercise, but when I try to get him to jump back in so that I can take a photo, he does not cooperate, and rather than jump in after the stick he just stretches out as far as he possibly can without actually plunging in again.
I knew that this walk was going to be a really hard slog for the first hour, but I was convinced that once we got onto the top track it would level out and be on the flat for the next 14 or 15 km until the track surface changed from dirt to stone and began its descent. However what had always seemed to me to be level when walking in the opposite direction was actually various degrees of downhill, so today we had a steady and continuous climb on the top track for about four or five hours, and although I continued to believe that around each blind bend the track would level out and become easier, it never proved to be the case. It was a hard trek with the added weight of my 7.5 kilo pack, but good practise for the first two difficult days of the Camino.
Once again we have seen lots of caterpillar processions and many, many trails through the dust where they have crossed the track. They always seem to be crossing in an uphill direction. I carried out an experiment and, using my walking pole, pushed a caterpiller from the centre of the procession out of line, away from the others, to see how quickly they would close the gap. It was fairly instant, but then I felt mean that I had left the lonely caterpillar an outcast from his chums so pushed it back towards the line, and they immediately opened a gap to let it back in and off they wriggled, nose to tail across the track.
At a point on this track, about 20 km from Canillas in one direction and 12 km from Canillas in the other is a boulder with the words “El Castaño” applied in tiles, indicating a very rough drive winding precariously down to a property below the track. The last time I passed this I was intrigued and googled it when I got home. It is apparently a holiday let, for up to eleven people, with no electricity, just a generator and gas cooker.
The description stated 25 minutes to the beach. What are they talking about. It would take the best part of an hour to drive very carefully along the track to the first sign of a road and then at least another 30 minutes to the coast. Just imagine arriving on a late flight and trying to find this place in the dark. It would faze even the hardiest of travellers.
Soon after this at about 20 km we finally reached the point at which we could stop climbing and commence walking downhill for the rest of the journey, but it was still hard work as the track turned to the very rough white stone which is difficult to walk on.
The long haul uphill had taken its toll on me and I was feeling very tired as we neared the end of our trek. By the time we got back to Lyn’s house in Canillas we had covered 32.7 km and we had been out for nine hours, only resting for about 30 minutes during that time. Jens-Kristian kindly handed me a large gin and tonic which served to revive me sufficiently to allow me to continue to the village bar where David was waiting after his spanish class.
Only a few more days and I shall have to walk distances similar to this every day. They say you get stronger day by day – I sincerely hope they’re right!