I have to quote Loïc on this one: “the night was cold and full of shivers”. It was pretty bad. I had to get up in the middle of the night to fill one of my bottles with hot water to warm up, and even that was not enough. We woke up pretty early because of the cold and we were not really rested, so we started walking right away and hoped it would warm us up.
My knee was still hurting, though less than the day before. We reached Hecho in time for a coffee break, and we enjoyed Spain right away: pretty much everything food-related is significantly cheaper than in France. Our goal for the day was to reach Puente La Reina de Jaca by the end of the afternoon. To get there in time, we had to follow the road and not the camino: it was not a very enjoyable prospect, but my knee needed stable ground.
So I put on some music and we started walking and walking. We took our lunch break in the middle on a riverside, and reached PRJ around 16h, some 23Km after Hecho. We were beat, but we noticed that there was nothing in this town except a hotel, a gas station and a bar… So after a break, we went on again and walked to the next town, Arrés, which was maybe 5 or 6Km away. We were back on a mountain and therefore my knee reminded me that it was not ok with my doing this, but I pushed through.
And when we arrived in Arrés, things were awesome. I entered into what I thought was a pilgrim’s bar to realize it was a donativo albergue. The place was full of life and pilgrims and I was so overwhelmed for the first few minutes ! So many people… Well, about 10 or so. But it felt like a lot after the day we had.
The place was run by Dave and Rose from Minnesota, and among the pilgrims were Peter and Ann (Canada), Jens (Czech), Julio (Spain), Ilay (Israel) who had hurt his knee so we had a common ground, and Pascale and Maryvonne that we had met before. Those would become familiar faces for the coming days and weeks.
The place is donation based, but it is meant only money-wise: people can also donate time by helping with the cooking, setting up the plates, doing the dishes, etc. So once again, it felt like a family dinner, everybody helping for something, and sharing their stories and a drink. After the dinner, Dave showed us the church and the tower of the town, which had been restored a few years before. That “first” day in Spain is one of the highlight of my camino, and same as the night at Guy’s, will go down as one the best memories I’ll keep of the whole trip.
That morning, I woke up with a hangover. Jens kept filling my glass with red wine over and over! We took a breakfast with everyone and once again it was very friendly. Quite the change compared to our quick, biscuits-powered breakfasts of the earlier weeks.
We began walking with Ilay and Jens, but lost them after a while, our pace being a bit too exhausting for them, especially Ilay who was hurt. The first stop of the day was a bit far, maybe 20Km away from Arrés. The path was mostly tracks in-between fields and a few hills here and there. Way less grass than what we had in France.
We arrived in Artieda and took our lunch break there with Julio, who is a quite fast walker, wakes up early and do long days. We had a “bocadillo” (spanish for sandwich), and were amazed by how big and good it was. When we had to pay, I was surprised how cheap it was as well. I could see myself live in spain and spend my time eating…
The rest of the path was more fields and forests around the end. We saw a few old churches in ruins around Ruesta, our stop for the day. Pretty much the whole town is deserted and in ruins, in fact. We had beers with Peter & Ann, and while I kept drinking Loïc explored the surroundings and found us a place to sleep.
A few minutes outside of Ruesta, down the hill, there was a sort of ghost town with what looked like a school, a playground, a church… I remember the hospitalero of Ruesta telling us about why nobody is there anymore, but he spoke in spanish and I took no notes so it was lost on me.
All the same, we made camp under the porch, started a fire (for those following: we called it Dolorès) and had our dinner there. The place was not too spooky, but I wouldn’t have gone wandering around at night.
We had fell asleep around our campfire and we woke up around 3h freezing. Without the fire, the night was too cold to sleep outside. So we got up, fetched more wood and restarted the fire once again. We stayed up for an hour making sure it would last until morning, and we were almost right: we woke up once again around 6h.
We restarted it once again and took our breakfast there. This was the last time I slept outside of the whole trip: the nights were too cold for my taste and the spanish albergues promised to be between 5 and 10€ per night, something I could afford. The path started up by going up a hill. While I tend to like those portions, it was too much right after waking up and my knees started being painful.
Luckily, it became flatter an hour after starting. One of the dogs of the hospitalero at Ruesta was walking with us. He was playing in the forest and the fields, then came back on the road and it looked like he was making sure we were going the right direction. We kept wondering wether it was normal or not for the dog to be around here, since we were more than an hour away from Ruesta.
Then, the hospitalero came with its car, took the dog with him and the went to the next town, Undués de Lerda for a coffee, so I suppose this happens frequently. We took a long break there, and kept walking until Sangüesa.
We walked around town to visit and buy some food for dinner that night, and were one by one the pilgrims came at the albergue. Loïc and Ilay were the chefs for the night, cooking homemade tortillas. It took longer than expected but everybody agreed the result was worth the wait.
I woke up feeling low on energy that morning. Breakfast cheered me up and made me feel better, but something was still off, so I allowed myself one energy drink, hoping it would give me the boost I needed.
We had planned a short walk that day (less than 20k) and the path was easy to walk, even with all the… “traffic” (see below), so we arrived at Izco early in the afternoon. We grabbed a few beers with the other pilgrims at our albergue, but once I stopped being active I was tired again and had to take a nap.
When I woke up, I knew that I was falling sick… The night spent outside in Ruesta had taken its toll on me, it seemed. Even with a good meal and a few infusions I didn’t feel any better so after way too many lousy puns with Loïc and Ilay, it was time to get some rest and hope that I would feel better the next day.
The night didn’t magically cured me, I was sick for good. I decided to walk anyway, not wanting to feel behing or take a bus. The path to the first stop of the day was easy enough, but I could feel myself being weakened and not able to walk at my usual pace, so I spent most of the time alone, lost in my thoughts.
Between the illness, the grey weather and the lack of towns on the way, that day was pretty forgettable. I ended up in Tiebas before the end of the afternoon and spent the rest of it in my bed, watching a tv show while resting.