Today is off to a very good start. Of course, I have nothing to do, but even relative to a zero day, this one has an unusually beneficent feel.
I was seriously considering a 30 kilometer creep up to Estella, a large town with a grocery store, shoe stores, a Decathlon; a town about 25 times larger than this charming little village. But I love villages. As is in accordance with my particular brand of fortune, today is Sunday, meaning that instead of the usual possibility that any store, on any given day, will be closed between noon and seven o’clock, it is guarunteed that nothing will be open at all. You see, my fortune is ever a mixed bag: on the one hand, the day I need something is inevitably a holiday or just so happens to be the one day a shop is closed, like the Tuesday evening last week Jaime and myself were unable to gratify our intense desire for large pizzas. On the other hand, my achilles are quite sore, I could feel them throbbing as I rested, though I have been consciously trying to focus my being-force on them to expedite the healing process, of which the throbbing is also to be expected.
Thus the world intends me to spend another day here, lounging like a fat cat in the sun. This is against my nature, for I was on schedule again, miraculously, and was wont to stay on track so long as it coincided with my inclination. My body soon determined otherwise, of course. Also, the hostel in Estella is four euros cheaper, with a kitchen, in a town with a grocery store. There is a trade-off, however.
Pilgrim hostels are nice and cheap, but also very… structured. They lock the doors on you between 9 and 11 at night, depending, usually declaring a bedtime as well. Almost ubiquitously one must be up and out by eight o’clock. Austere places, you know. Here I can come and go to my heart’s content. As long as I leave by noon, no one bats an eye. Today is also tapas day, food with every drink! So I shall save money while drinking aplenty to fill my belly and, of course, to facilitate the healing process, as is common knowledge…
These incidentals are not particularly interesting or important, however. Three wonderful things have happened today: The first is that I was able to pry my can of proofide open. My leather saddle has endured much rain, and needs a new coating of this protective salve. It is very small, and I have tried multiple times to get it open. With a knife I managed this, at long last!
The second is that I have become fast friends with Paco, the barkeep, it seems. Yesterday he gave me a free coffee with purchase of a bed, which I made light of. Today, I saw a sign for a “pilgrim’s breakfast” for 3.50 euro and decided it was worthwhile. I got a coffee, an orange juice, and a fat slab of toast with butter and jam. Not bad, not great. I finished up and went to the counter to order another coffee. Well, Paco was occupied with toasting another piece of bread for me! How kind. I take my coffee and second large slab of bread and proceed to become an expert on achilles tendon injuries for cycling and running, both chronic and onset, with a thorough knowledge of rehab stretches and exercises. (I believe I can fix this problem by dropping my seat a tad and buying some insoles… fingers crossed). Well, I decide after much debate to take a rest day here, and I ask Paco what my total is, for the extra night and breakfast. 10 euro. And breakfast? Paco shakes his head and waves me off. Of course, he was trying to be discreet and I say loudly, “desayuno?”, putting my good fortune at risk in my signature aloof style, but it goes off well, and Paco has saved me a good 5 euro! What a gem. Truly a fortuitous day- This is the fourth free meal I have had in twenty-five days. I am told that in much of Central Asia, for all the danger I have been warned against, it is almost impossible to get through without free meals and lodging. Antony said one month he only paid for two night’s stay because of all the hospitality! Well, time will tell, but so far I have experienced generosity aplenty in Europe, and my faith in humanity is greatly bolstered!
The third, and perhaps most exciting, is that MY CAMERA IS WORKING! On the second day of my trip it got a good drowning and stopped working entirely, as these things go. I tried it every few day for a while, but there was no good chance to dry it out, so I essentially forgot about it. Well, for kicks I tried it this morning. Nothing. Well, maybe the battery is drained (I had tried this before, to no avail, and assumed perhaps the battery was shot). I plug it in and voila, the light turns on! I let it charge and fiddle with it. Like an eye unused for a few weeks, the shutter takes a few tries to loosen up. It took some additional tinkering to get the bluetooth recalibrated, but we are back in business! No more low light, grainy photos. It was a pain to pull out my large tablet for photos I couldn’t pass up, and perhaps I can get better shots of the mountains now. I have a mess of photos from day one that I must now drop on you, all from Lisboa, Portugal:
(The goats were a bit outside the city). So, today is off to a good start. Let us pray that my achilles feel better tomorrow, and all will be well!