We are in the woods almost immediately on leaving Salas on an ever upward climb. This is an area rich in spring water and there are channels trickling alongside the path most of the time, and now and then fuentes. We pop out of the woods for a short stint on the road and pass under the towering legs of a raised motorway, before being directed back onto a track.
I walk through the large town of La Espina at around 8 km where there are possibilities for refreshment, but I continue until I find a well placed bench by the side of a tiny chapel where I take a break to eat a snack.
My knee pain is a little reduced but still making itself very evident. I have managed to raise my pace from yesterday’s 3.6 to 4.2 kmph, still drastically slower than I would normally walk.
It is a lot cooler today with a blanket of high cloud and no sign of the sun. It does eventually put in an appearance, but it’s quite brief. I’m not complaining – I was still walking in a sleeveless T-shirt and shorts (as always) and it’s easier in cooler weather.
The outlook over the valleys is very very green and beautiful. Last time I came this way I saw a painted sign which said “how green is my valley” which was very apt. It wasn’t in evidence six years later.
At the village of El Pedregal at around 12 km I have a short walk on the very busy AS216. The village church provides a stamp for my credencial. Once I turn off onto a quiet country lane I see a guy up ahead, just standing on a bend in the road and looking towards me. He made me feel rather uncomfortable, but in fact he was the owner of an albergue in Tineo, my destination town and was catching pilgrims as they went by to tell them about it. He could see I was struggling and seemed very sympathetic.
There are lots of new mojones (camino marker bollards) along the way. I have to say ‘top marks’ for the tenacity of the people who have placed them often in quite difficult to reach situations. Thank you caminos friends.
I found these chopped logs just as I was looking for somewhere to take my second break – they made perfect perching stools
I finally limp into my destination town and reach the Albergue La Plaza. The same guy greets me sympathetically and leads me to the first room that is almost full, although there remain a couple of lower bunks. He asks if I would prefer a different room and takes me to a smaller empty dormitory with just four bunks. That will do me! The beds are excellent quality. The whole place is very clean there is a full kitchen and washing machine and dryer, a really good bathroom for each dorm – mine consisting of two loos, two handbasins and two excellent showers. And there is a terrace overlooking yet another valley. Very impressive. €10. I end up with two room mates.
I’ve been juggling ideas about how, or whether, to continue this camino. It’s no fun walking with my injured knee and there is heavy rain forecast for exactly when we most won’t want it – when walking over the high mountain pass on Sunday. There are in fact two options for the mountain stage -1 walking over the top of the mountain on the Hospitales route which I walked before, or 2 walking round the mountain which still involves a climb in order to meet up with the other route. Paul came up with the suggestion of taking option 2 over three short stages, hopefully missing the worst of the rain. I’ll give it a go and see how I feel at the end of each stage. If I’m not enjoying it, I’ll have no qualms about going home.
Maybe if I’d invested in a decent set of orthotics I wouldn’t have had knee trouble!