I wake up to the now familiar sound of rain against the window in my room. It is dark, so I have to check my Fitbit to see what time it is, and luckily it is still early – too early to start, when I have the room to myself. So I turn over and fall asleep again.
When I wake up again, the rain is still there, but a lot lighter. Maybe it’s time to get back in the boots. When I checked the guidebook last night, I decided that if it was raining, I would hit the straight and boring senda and just crunch my way towards Burgo Ranero, and if it was sunny I would take the more scenic Trajana route towards Calzada del Coto. Either way there will be long sections with no services at some point, so it comes down to kms and the state of the path.
Senda it is then. I grab a quick coffee and croissant downstairs, thanking them yet again for the lovely room and warm welcome, and then I join the trickle of raingear pilgrims out of town towards Bercianos and the fork in the road. As I approach it I am tempted to go for the scenic route and the facilities at Calzada de Coto, but there is still a light rain and no end in sight, so on I trudge. There are few pilgrims about, I guess they all had an early start.
No sooner has my Fitbit buzzed for 10 km, than I arrive in Bercianos. Lunch time! A bar passed is an opportunity wasted on this route, as they are few and far between. I get an Aquarius and a tosta mixta and ask if I can sit down next to a young man reading the same guidebook as I’ve got. We decide we are both heading to Burgo Ranero, and since the conversation flows very easily we decide to set off together. We stash the rain gear; the sun is breaking through the cloud cover and it looks like it could get hot again this afternoon. My new German friend speaks excellent English, and I won’t lie: It feels great to be able to speak without constantly editing sentences down to make myself understood. Less than 8 kms to Burgo Ranero; this is a good plan, and an easy walk.
It’s amazing how quickly time and trail flies in good company. We crunch the kms at a good pace, and before we know it we are in Burgo Ranero. I have told him about the concept of the anchor beer, so we end up outside a bar, in blissfully cool shade, surrounded by pilgrims who are moving on, watching others drift towards the albergue. Three young women from Australia and Ireland are getting ready to leave just as we are finishing our drinks. Their energy and expectation is contagious and they swing their colourful packs on with such ease. I look at my new walking companion, he looks at me … and then we fill our water bottles and continue on. It’s only 13 km of flat and easy crunch to Reliegos. Should be there in three hours, no problem. Maybe less.
And for the first hour, all is going well. Then the sun hots up, the legs start feeling it, blister hotspots start niggling. We come across the Oz/Irish trio of energizer bunnies sitting in the shade of a small tree having a refreshing drink, and join them for a rest, take off our shoes and socks and free the camino ten.
The second hour is spent chasing the colourful packs in front of us, and conversation seems to have dried up, so we carry on in companionable silence. He’s got chocolate, I have peanuts, we chomp down the extra energy and dab cold water on our foreheads and necks. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Same, same, same.
The third hour has nothing much going for it apart from the fact that we are now nearer than we were before, and finally catch up with the girls in front of us. This sparks new conversations and new energy, and so it is that we roll into town in a chatty and giggly group of five, heading straight for the Blue Bar for a cold drink. Or two. I make a very short stop at albergue Vive tu Camino en route to bag a bed, leave my pack there and join the group outside the bar.
There is nothing quite like the Elvis bar, aka Blue bar, aka Bar Torre, in Reliegos. It definitely looks different, inside and out, and the owner is also quite a character. The film The Way is playing on a constant loop on an old chunky TV in the corner, the Eagles are blasting out, and our beers are accompanied by a plate of deliciously salty jamón. We stay there for a while; the girls have booked a room for three, my German friend is going to the municipal, and I have my bed just down the road. Other pilgrims come and go and it’s tempting to stay out and go straight for dinner, but I force myself to go and have a restorative shower and rinse the dust and salt out of my walking clothes. So I do, and sit in the garden for a bit just chilling.
Later most pilgrims drift towards restaurant Gil, filling the tables with food. One of my favourites is on the pilgrim menu this evening, a delicious boozy bird (pollo a la cerveza) – definitely one to make when I get home. Over dinner I regale my fellow diners with the story of the time I stayed in one of their rooms, thinking I had keys to the side door and could come in as late as I liked, only to find – after a late and fun night at the Blue Bar – that I didn’t, and was discovered trying to break in with the wrong keys. Discovered by the lady of the house, as it turned out, walking her dog, and luckily she remembered me and let me in. So far, so good – until I woke up and discovered that my boots, which I had left outside to dry, were now in effect locked in! So I had to wait for the cleaner to arrive before I could get my boots and carry on … annoying then, a good story now.
Not taking the chance on another lock-out, I bid the others farewell and drag myself sore-footed towards my albergue, but get roped into a nightcap at the Blue Bar as I go past. And as I go to fetch my clothes off the line, I end up chatting to some people in the garden and get talked into a nightcap there too. Will I ever get to bed? When at last this loooong day comes to an end, I hit my pillow half asleep.