Posting 9: 18/05/2006, Jaca. (1883 km's to go)
Ah what luxury! Here I am in a very good hotel in Jaca - the Hotel La Paz which very much lives up to its name. It is only 31 euro per night single but for that I have a lovely room big enough for 3 single beds and small side-board sized writing table (with TV on top) and armchair and plentiful wardrobe space and roomy bathroom with bidet! (In the past I have found bidets brilliant for bathing the tired hot feet in cool soothing water.) In addition there is a 'salon' (which is where I am writing this) with TV, several sets of tables and chairs, a lounge suite with coffee table, 2 arcade-type racing games and a pool table.
Fortunately there is only me here at the moment otherwise the atmosphere might be the opposite to 'Paz'!
Have been walking now non-stop since I left Burgos on 29th April. Was supposed to have stopped for a rest day at Puenta La Reina but decided to walk on through as I mentioned in my last posting. Decided that I would stop at Jaca despite now being 7 days behind schedule. Am trying to mentally 'tear up' the schedule as I realise that I am unable to walk the odd 30+ km's I set myself. I probably will be able occasionally to do so but it so much depends on the weather and the quality of sleep I have had the night before.
The decrease in pilgrim numbers has been dramatic as has the increase in temperature. Whereas on the Camino Frances I was meeting 20 - 30 or more pilgrims an hour, now I am meeting 10 - 15 a day. Actually that is still more than I expected. The refugios are correspondingly much smaller.
In terms of weather it is slightly unpredictable. For the past several days the temperature has been pretty high probably into the 30s by the afternoon and if there is no breeze the walking is very very difficult. The backpack seems to double in weight and yesterday I started contemplating getting rid of sleeping bag, mat and tent. Certainly I will start having to be on the road by 6:30 at the latest. In general there does not seem to be much shade on the Camino. And yet yesterday evening there was a thunderstorm and lots of rain so this afternoon the temperature is just reaching 20 degrees. In fact it is great walking weather and here I am lazing about in a hotel!
During the past few days I have been passing through very different landscape. Some of the walks have been absolutely beautiful. They have been across a dried-up bed of a former inland sea (I would not have known this except for the notes in the CSJ Guide - thank you to the authors) and has strange gray lunar-type small hillocks. Much of the walking has been fairly flat with a few ups and downs but I made such good progress the other day that I accidentally walked past my destination (don't ask)! On that day too I met a flock of sheep I presume being walked to another grazing area. I decided the best thing to do was pull in to a gap. I had visions of the sheep all scattering and running off down the track in the opposite direction. Right enough they regarded me with some apprehension and one or two looked as though they might bolt. Anyway the Camino silver lining was that I walked 25 km's that day instead of 17 and was able to reach Jaca the following day otherwise I would be 8 days behind! Jaca is only 30 km's from the French border but of course there is the small matter of the Pyrenees to contend with!
I know I will look back fondly to Jaca because at long last I have been able to find here proper lining socks! My original pair gave up the ghost by Burgos and I wasted a lot of time there trying to find a replacement. Apparently the Spanish do not use these. (I must explain here that my preference is to wear two pairs of socks - an outer thick pair and an inner lining pair with Cool Max technology. One washes the lining pair daily cause they dry quickly so there is always a clean pair next to the skin. Also the Cool Max ensure the feet stay dry. The outer pair are washed every two days 'cause they can take a few days to dry.) Anyway could I find proper lining socks? No, not even in a big city like Burgos. I even visited an out of town big shopping centre which did yield the right socks - they are sold for cyclists. Unfortunately these only lasted a week or so. Then in Estrella I found other light socks that seemed to fit the bill but they did not keep my feet dry. Luckily I had not yet thrown both pairs of cycling socks away so I still had an emergency pair! Anyway at long last I found what I was looking for here in Jaca so I am now equipped again with the right socks - this may seem trivial to you dear readers but I can assure you sock technology is paramount on a journey such as this!
On a completely different note, I have just found an Irish bar but it does not open ' til 18:00 so I hope to add to my Guinness gallery. (Barrie, expect an MMS)
And I nearly forgot, on another slightly different note, there are two other pilgrims out there, James and Tom. They are walking to Jerusalem for Peace. James has already walked part of the way that I will travel (He walked from London to Rome and beyond). They have a web site, www.walkingtojerusalem.org which makes very interesting reading. I think I have problems when I get lost or cannot find an open shop at a convenient time. These two guys only have maps dated in the 30's and sometimes have to live on bread and cheese for days at a time!
So take care all.