Today was a 40km slog that was enjoyable right up until the last five or so kilometres, when I really did feel a bit zonked. But by doing a day and a half of walking I'm hoping that I've broken sync with the masses (200+) who started out on the same day as me and are following the ubiquitous - and excellent - Camino guidebook by John Brierley. So tonight I'm staying at the delightful old convent in Arre, where the dormitory dates back to 1250 - or thereabouts. The bell at the front door even sounds like a proper convent - a long, deep ringing, and just like in The Sound Of Music.
We walked seven kilometres before stopping for breakfast. This was at 'Cafe Juan' - one of the shittiest eateries I've ever seen, complete with vile smelling loo, a surly Spanish woman behind the bar (vigorous 'no' wagging of her finger when I asked for more warm milk for my coffee) and feral cats circling us mewling for bits of meat - they certainly didn't want the crusts the slightly clueless Australian woman kept trying to interest them in. I resisted their charms until I realised that I'd be happy to give them the fatty parts of the homemade sausage I'd been chewing, and then decided to feed a rather lovely looking cat who had a mangled eye. Dear reader, if you find the idea of my feeding masticated meat to mutilated moggies a bit much, do remember that the overall breakfast experience left a lot to be desired from my perspective too.
I spent most of the day walking with Ron and Kib (the Canadians from yesterday) who were a bit faster than me - Ron is 66 and admitted he'd never walked 40km in a day, only to confess under cross-examination that he'd run the distance a few times. He's a seriously fit man. I don't feel too bad actually - just a tiny blister on the back if my right heel that I'll deal with tomorrow.
The walk was broken up after 22km at Zubiri where we sat at a lovely cafe (marble bathroom even - luxury!) and drank beer with local bread and cheese. We then went to the riverbank and slept through the heat of the day before knocking off the remaining 18km. I had my feet above my head on the sloped bank to give them a rest, and thought I'd just close my eyes for a bit. I woke up 30 minutes later, having the wonderful sort of rest where you can hear yourself snoring.
We had supper at a very simple-looking place where understandably enough the proprietor didn't speak a word of English. Lots of guesswork went into the ordering: we stuck to the pilgrims' menu which was €8.50 with three courses and a couple of decent glasses of local wine. He was very impressed with me as I polished off all my food with gusto. Ron and Kib were less enthusiastic, but the coffee was excellent and following the proprietor's invitation we'll stop off there tomorrow for our pre-breakfast on the walk into Pamplona. At the end I realised I had Google's 'Translate' app and managed to tell him that he'd been very patient and we were very grateful! I'd love to speak Spanish to the extent that I speak French...but I don't. And the proprietor was very amused, which is the main thing really.
The convent dormitory is about two-thirds full, although only a handful of people made it through from Roncesvalles, including Dominic, the rangy Frenchman who really looks the part, with stylish goatee, ponytailed hair, walking poles and a wonderful air of nonchalance wafting along the Camino with him. Estelle is a Frenchwoman who also started at Roncesvalles today. She speaks perfect English, and as we're both flying out of Santiago on the same date we might walk together tomorrow. Might see if I can manage a comfortable 7am start...