Haven't posted since the lovely small city of Astorga, so here are some diary details. We left at 8 in the morning, sunrise is 8.36. Very quiet everywhere, with just the occasional ghostly pilgrim in the distance. Our peace was disturbed by an early morning troop of running club enthusiasts and four noisy late middle aged men in identical shiny smart track suits out for what I presume was a regular morning promenade. We generally decide to delay breakfast and get a few km's out of the way before tucking in. I really like Spanish coffee and most bars do properly squeezed orange juice, using one of a variety of complex juicing machines. I would love to have one at home with a giant sack of oranges. Drinks are accompanied by a pan chocolate or tortilla sandwich.
Since leaving Leon and especially Astorga the camino has become much more busy again. Lots of new people just doing the last few sections and I think quite a few people who skipped the Meseta and used wheels. Consequently compared to the mean and lean lot entering Leon, five days down the track there are a lot of hobbles again. Some really don't look in a good way. I am currently looking over my beer at a giant German with an equally large ice pack strapped to his ankle. Not a happy looking German. I'm keeping quiet.
Ellen has had her little battles. Her feet really don't stand up that well to pounding. Yesterday a manky looking little toe, escaped to affect the rest of her foot, which swelled up complete with a red line of infection going to her ankle. Medically this is not great so I fired off a quick text to Jeremy the base camp doctor, requesting pharmaceutical advice. Ellen did some nursing care on herself and this morning we spoke to a pharmacist. She was very helpful and a few minutes later we came away with dressings, loads of ibuprofen and the erythromycin recommended by Jeremy without prescription. I must admit I though the EEC had its rules, but maybe not in Spain. Ellen is now lounging in a bath soaking the sore toe and generally chilling out. She has been pretty brave, as the toe / foot thing looked pretty inflamed and tender.
Yesterday was a really lovely walk mostly through mountains, still getting used to the larger number of pilgrims. We got up to over 1400m, so it was a bit chilly but the weather held out and the views were great despite the wind farm paraphernalia of turbines, pylons and scarring paths littering the landscape. We passed an ancient small cross on top of a tall wooden pole surrounded by the built up stony offerings of pilgrims through the centuries, it was quite moving. Four vigorous Dutch cyclists shared the moment and took our picture. After a little high country meandering the descent started. I must admit I'm protective about my feet these days so descended gingerly. Passed what looked like a Tibetan refuge run by a self proclaimed reincarnation of a Templar Knight. The first village stop was an obvious lunch venue. Quite literally everybody we had seen for the last week was there.
We stopped at the next village down having lost nearly 900m. It was much warmer and such a pretty village. This area is just about everything the Meseta wasn't. It is pretty, green, hilly, full of birds and water. The villages are well kept and thriving, altogether great. We generally dive into the first good looking hostel now. A double room for 40 euros is just worth it. I started hanging out with the cooler youth crowd for my first beer, but I was impressed that they still had further to go. Then an Australian lass called Jessie started busking on the euchalele, we got chatting and an impromptue session of chatting, listening to her singing and occasionally joining in, started. Ellen was absorbed in conversation with a lovely young Swedish girl who was contemplating a career change to teaching. She was another one of those awesome milagers, so I don't think we will see her again, she only started two and a half weeks ago!
That was our day and we are now in Cacabelos, an old roman gold rush joint, after 23 km, quite a lot of which was crossing Ponferrada our last big town. Note the use of the word last. We still have quite a way to go, but not as far as there once was. Maybe we will finish this thing, who knows.