(I hope the number is right.)
Last evening the pain in my legs and ankles was really great, and I don´t mean I enjoyed it! After the evening meal it was all I could do to get back to the hotel and up the few stairs to the lift. I had a bath in the smallest bath it is possible to imagine and that must have done some good, along with Voltaren. This morning they were sore but bearable and so I started walking. 7:45 and it was already 18 degrees without the sun up. Naturally, it got hotter and hotter but I arrived in good order and condition at Villafranca del Bierzo soon after 12. At 4:30 the electric sign said the temp was 41 (and then 39 a minute later!) Whatever, it´s HOT! Last time the temp gradually increased until we had the heatwave conditions of 26 in Compostela. Today is very humid as well, which doesn´t help, and there is practically no breeze. I´ve now "lost" 5 or 6 days so it was a great surprise to meet today, two NZers and an Irish woman who left SJPP only the day after me. It´s not only I who have problems. It will be good to chat with them over dinner as I have been my own not too cheerful companion the last two evenings.
There are two Albergues (Al BAIR gay) here. The older is a private concern best described as quaint, or an experience. Well, having had the experience last time, I am in great hurry to repeat it. The newer municipal albergue seems really nice with plenty of room, a kitchen and very large dining room. And it has plenty of hot water for showers.
Last time, Claude saw me coming up the hill and said that I should go to the Jato´s place as it was closer to the real Camino experience. Being highly suggestible I went with him, booked in, then looked for him and his friend. NOT THERE: They´d turned tail and run to the MA. That, my firends, is the only time I was cross with Claude! not that he knew.
There is a 12th century church here with a Door of Pardon. If a pilgrim really could go no further (and remember, you had to walk home anyway) you could make confession, take part in the mass, receive your Compostela, and go home. The Door is very famous and fancy with carvings that are getting very worn. I took photos last time and studied them hard to find that the stones were not all in the right places! Some earlier "crasftsman" obviously had very little experience with keeping good notes, or solving puzzles. Anyway, the good news is that the whole doorway is being restored. I sincerely hope they don´t stick the stones back in the order they are currently!
Soon after Pamplona there was a monastery called Alto del Perdun (not sure of spelling) where sick pilgrims could call it a day. It is just before a rocky and steepish descent which still claims many a tendon.
Villafranca seems much more prosperous than in 2000. There is hardly an empty shop, much construction/restoration work is taking place, and (this is the clincher) they are developing their central town gardens with mown grass (rare in north Spain), gentle paths, hedges, and new plane trees. I feel that the level of a community´s pride in itself is often shown in its parks and gardens, and the sorry state of Camberwell´s, especially Fordham Gardens near our place, tells me a lot.
Tomorrow will will really know we´re alive with the start of the steeper bits. It is here the road plunges through its first mountain. I´m not sure yet whether I will take 1 or 2 days to get to O Cebreiro, the second highest and steepest part of the camino.
Whatever, here´s John signing off in good spirits!
God bless you all