Toast and marmalade for tea
Sailing ships upon the sea
The albergue at Coca was basic but comfortable, and managed by a lovely old lady from whom we obtained the key. We were so tired after our marathon effort the day before that we didn’t really do the town justice. We paid a quick visit to the church, and ate at a bar set in the remaining 200 metres of a medieval wall, but there was a castle to see as well.
We resolved to set out early this morning to beat the heat and to arrive with enough time left in the day to rest up.
Rachel and I differed over which way to walk around the church to find the yellow arrow that would lead us out of town.
After a dip into a ravine we were back in the pine forest, but the trees were more scattered now. Down to the right was the valley where once raged a mighty river, but now flowed a modest stream. Green fields stretched up the slope above a long stretch of poplars.
Absolute silence was interrupted only by the occasional note from a bird. This was a no avian concert, no coloratura sopranos, but I could make out a few distinct calls. There was a chirp, and a trill, and a seesaw sound, rather like someone rapidly using a handsaw, and a high pitched call like someone scratching glass with a piece of steel. But these occasional calls only emphasized the absolue silence. Such peace and tranquillity. Good for the soul.
Lost in this revelry I took a tumble and ended up with a mouth full of sand. As I hauled myself up I heard a distant echo from the past: Perhaps that’ll knock some sense into you.
We left the forest and entered a broad plain. Stretched out long and low before us was the little town of Villeguillo. According to the guide, there was a bar here that offered a warm welcome to pilgrims, but it was closed on Mondays. Today was Monday.
However, pleasant surprise, it was open and we had a very pleasant hobbit’s second breakfast: toast and marmalade, orange juice, coffee and fruit.
We sat out in the sun, the shade pre-emptied by a group of locals belching forth cigarette smoke and shouting at each other in staccato bursts.
It was a much better breakfast than our first: a croissant in a cellophane wrapper, made at a factory in Ponferrada several months ago. We had brought one with us in case we could find no provisions along the way, but even the town stray turned up his nose at it.
He was a forlorn little fellow, brown and white, a typical Spanish perro, as far from a designer dog as you can imagine. He wanted desperately to be friends, but he was afraid, and backed away as we approached. Some of the men who passed him gave him a stern glance, and he cringed away.
We left town, overtook the Austrian couple, ventured out into the field and then into the pine forest again.The guide had maintained that this was an easy but monotonous day. Too right!
We have met two delightful Spanish lads. Both spoke English well. One was at the hostel last night, and was hoping to reach Sahagun on his bicycle today. The other was walking with his dog, a husky, and we passed the two of them sitting in the shade of a tree. He told me that his dog had wanted to rest. Indeed, the dog was more flaked out then he. They were walking to Sahagun, and then on to Santiago.
They represent the new Europe: educated, sensitive, tolerant inclusive. The future flies in their hands. But it won’t be easy. Dark forces are on the rise, over the channel, across the Atlantic, and even today in Spain’s election results.
We arrived at the highway, followed it to the right for a while, crossed an old bridge, and then took off to the north past a field of buttercups with a solitary poppy. We climbed out of the river valley again and back into the forest. It was a difficult climb at this time of day.
Finally we left the woods and headed across an open field, the railway line off to the left and a range of hills to the right. On the horizon was a church, its medieval pre-eminence dwarfed by a modern cell phone tower twice its height. Eventually, we arrived at Alcazaren and found the key to the albergue at the Bar Real.