The Road to Santiago.
Journal.

October 16, 2004
Saturday

Photo of Albergue Leces.
Albergue Leces

Leces (San Esteban) to La Isla

When I looked out my window, the weather was threatening, but no rain was coming down. My clothes had dried so I felt emboldened. How foolish of me!

Since there was no place to get coffee and breakfast, I decided to try and follow the guidebook to Vega where there are a couple of bars “open all year around.” I got lost twice and had to ask for directions.

Finally, I arrived at Vega and braved the wind and rain out to the playa (beach) where the bars were situated. But they were (you’ve guessed it) cerrado. The camino went along the beach and the coast for several kilometers, but the wind was so bad, I knew that I didn’t want to go that way all the way. Besides, there would be no places to eat and I was getting hungry. I flagged down a car and asked the driver where was the closest place with a bar or restaurant. He said Torres, 2 K away.

Photo of stormy beach.
Stormy beach
"".

Fortunately, the road out wasn’t too bad. There was a tunnel which passed through the Peña de Vega, which is a steep promontory (I’ve always wanted to use that word.) several hundred meters high.

Soon I came to the main road and doubled back a quarter kilometer to Torres. I ended up at the same bar that I had eaten in last night. So, even though I had walked about 5  K, I had only advanced 1.5K closer to my goal of La Isla. I was wet, cold, and hungry!

In the bar, I ordered a café con leche y alguno para comer (coffee with milk and something to eat). All she had was bread, cheese, various hams, salami, and chorizo (a type of sausage similar to kielbasa). Therefore, I had a bocadillo de chorizo (chorizo sandwich). To say that the sandwich was dry would be an understatement.

I asked about a bus to La Isla. There was one at 12:00 — it was now a quarter to 12:00. Wow! I wolfed down the sandwich, burned my tongue on the coffee, threw on the pack, and went out to wait on the other side of road.

I stood in the lee of a house but still got soaked in the rain. By 12:45, I figured the bus wasn’t coming so I sloshed back to the bar. When is the next bus? — 2:00.

So I took off my wet jacket and read a couple of regional newspapers. Did you know that four Asturian miners had a sit-in protest for four months? I noticed that an older man standing at the bar was wearing the type of wooden shoes that I had seen hanging on the wall in the bar earlier. Each shoe had four wooden pegs underneath which lifted the man off the floor. I asked him why the wooden shoes, and he said to keep his feet dry. I thought that he was just carrying out some old regional tradition and said to myself, “how quaint.”

This time the bus actually came. At last I felt safe. That is, until the bus started through the hairpin curves up and over the Peña de Vega. The bus’s seats were very high up and every time it went around a curve — which was every few minutes — I had to grab hold of the arm rests. When I looked down and saw how steep the mountain was, vertigo set in.

I got off at La Isla which, in spite of its name, isn’t really an island. I came to a cafeteria, but it didn’t look very inviting, so I walked past it to a grocery shop that was closed for siesta (rest period), from 2:00 to 4:30, that wouldn’t reopen ‘til 8:00.

As I was wandering around town, a window suddenly popped open and a women asked me if I was looking for the albergue. She said to ask at the casa (house) next door. I rang the doorbell. When the door opened, a man looked at me and immediately called for his wife. It was Angelita (I knew her name from the guidebook).

Angelita is a name that implies a young diminutive woman. But this woman was at least 75 and with the frame of a farm wife. She retrieved a small bag with the albergue seal and register book in it. Before she came out, she paused at the door and stepped into the same type of wooden shoes I had seen before. I followed as she clomped along a pebbled path and then onto the regular street while I sloshed in the mud and rain in my sneakers. Suddenly those pegged shoes made incredible sense in such a rainy region. [Editor’s notes: they may be called zuecos, which are wooden shoes. However, we’re still checking.]

At the albergue, she showed me the dormitory, showers, and kitchenette. As she left she locked the door and told me to slam the door shut tight when I left. I asked her how to get back in if I went out. She showed me the window. I was to leave it unlocked until I left in the morning. “Simply push open the window and hop in.” When I asked where I could get food, she said there was a grocery store (which I had passed coming in) but the only place para comer (to eat) was — you guessed it — at the cafeteria that I had rejected earlier.

By the time 3 o’clock came, I had changed my attitude and went to the cafeteria. While eating, I saw the weather forecast on the TV — tomorrow, more of the same. I decided that I, too, could be a TV meteorologist in Spain. Buenas tardes, señoras y señores. En el norte, lluvia, en el sur, sol. (Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, in the north, rain; in the south, sun.)

On the way back to the albergue, I stopped and bought some pan, queso, jamon y vino tinto (bread, cheese, ham, and red wine) for my late evening meal. The window sill was a little higher than I expected. It took me a couple of tries before I was able to “hop” up and through the window.

Later I had a pilgrim’s meal all by myself while I entered notes into my computer. It was an “amusing” little wine, certainly not a vintage, but for the price (1.80 euros), it was a bargain. (No, Phil, it didn’t have a screw top!)

I have been in Spain for one month now. I miss my family, my friends, and my cat. Depression is sneaking in and I’m beginning to doubt if the whole thing is worth it. It’s the weather, I know. Well, this is when the rubber meets the road. I’m quite sure that my attitude will improve — I hope!

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