Last night before bed, I decided to get some advice from “Paco” the “Hospitilero”, regarding the route tomorrow. My plan was to leave at 4 am, taking the road, instead of the pilgrim path to “Benavente”. I did not want to get lost in the darkness !!!
“Paco” took one look at the tourist map in my hands, and gave me a leaflet of his “Albergue- Las Eras”. It had an aerial “photo” printed on it.
The “Camino” route was marked in “red”, and helpfully the local landmarks like cemetery, railway line, were also named. It seemed reasonably straight forward, except for a sharp “left turn”, at a “Chicken Farm”.
I raised the possibility of getting lost. “Paco” assured me in “broken” English, that this was not possible. His confidence inspired me !!! He also said. it was only maybe 8/9 km to “Benavente”.
The guide books said 14 km, so this must be a “short cut”. I decided I would leave at 4.30 am, to cover myself. I could also get breakfast, find a bank machine, and then have a “chilled” last day !!!
It was absolutely “pitch black” and “freezing”, when I left. I made good time, until I encountered a problem. It was the sharp “left turn” at the “chicken farm”.
I could not be sure this was the building. There was no sign, no “clucking” sounds, no Roosters “crowing”, no foul smell of hundreds of chickens cooped together .There was just 2 large German shepherds, “barking” furiously, at my presence.
I looked at the aerial “photo” but it was no help. I could barely see the ground at my feet. There was a dark road to the left, but there were no “yellow arrows” anywhere.
I was not certain this was the road, so I decided to go on further. It was too risky!!! There were more buildings in the distance, but as I got closer they were not right.
After 30 minutes I came to a small village, and found the “Via de La Plata” route. I could see to my left, the lights of a large town about 4 km away. I guessed this must be “Benavente”.
I tried to go through the village in that direction. The road however, came to a “dead” end. I then thought, if I go a bit further on, surely I will come to a road, going into “Benavente”.
I seemed to be getting further, and further from the town. I could hear the occasional sound of vehicles up ahead, but I could not be sure, they were not from a large “quarry” type facility up ahead.
I decided I had better turn back. That left turn must have been correct!!! The sun was starting to come up, and it created all sorts of “confusions” now. I now could see pathways, roads, everywhere. Aaaaargh !!!! I took this photo of a large “Bull” sign that had been hidden in the darkness.
Eventually I made it back to the missed “ left turn”. In the good light I soon found a “yellow arrow”, 50 m up the road. The walk was very pleasant with maize fields and the occasional out crop of Sunflowers. I took a photo.
The route then passed under a disused railway line, and into a small forest. The “yellow arrows” vanished, and I had to rely on tractor tracks, and the aerial map for guidance.
I was supposed to come to a small village “Villanueva de Azoague”. It was all getting very confusing now, and I had to constantly look at the ground, to make sure, I was still on the main track.
I could see houses on top of a small ridge, and made for it. When I finally got into the village, I could have “screamed”. It was the same village, I had passed earlier. I suspect this may have been the original route of the “Camino”, but that means “Paco`s” estimate of distance is way off !!!
A local came out of her house, and I asked the direction of “Benavente”. She pointed down the “Via de La Plata” path. When I asked “Quantos Kms , por favour ?”. She replied in English “7 km”. Damn !!!!
It was now 8.30 am. My bus left “Benavente” at 10.15am. It was time to put on “the afterburners”, and try to see could I make it !!!
My calves were “burning” as I came into “Benavente”. I manged to find the “Estacionne de Autobus” quickly, and fortunately there was a “bank machine” nearby. However it was now 10.20am. The bus had gone !!!
Fortunately there was a private company running a service to “Zamora”, and I managed to get a ticket, for 1 hour later. This then allowed me to make the 2.40 pm train from “Zamora to Santiago”.
I managed to check into my “secret” hideaway in the old part of the “Santiago” city. It is “pensionne” located just 30 m from the Cathedral. They have a room located in the attic, that used to be the former servants quarters. They normally rent it out to “locals”, as they think it`s not suitable for tourists. I call it the “Mary Poppins” Suite.
There is only one part of the room, that allows you, to stand fully upright. However it has a mini-bath, with shower and a toilet. The bed is very comfortable, and it only costs €20. A steal for “Santiago” !!! Pilgrims learn not to be fussy !!!
I had a few pints outside the Cathedral and took a photo of the “Bell tower”. I had a few too many, hence the tardy delivery of my recent blog posts.
Tomorrow I shall go the “Pilgrim Mass”, and visit the tomb of the great man himself, “Santiago”. I hope you will accompany me there !!!