The Road to Santiago.

October 10, 2002


Altar at Viana.
Altar at Viana

Torres del Rio to Viana

A couple of times I woke up during the night and heard the rain pounding against the roof. I crossed my fingers and tried to go back to sleep. Got up again feeling sweaty, so I checked my blood. It was 94. Not too bad, but I ate one of MiguelAn's little loafs of pan (bread), just to be on the safe side.

Left at 9:15 in the wind and rain. The traveling was up and down, up and down along a goat path. Mostly it was sliding: sliding when going down, and sliding when going up.

At one point took a shortcut along the highway because I see el sendero (the path) up the hillside as I went around the curve of the mountain. But on the other side, the path went off to the right while the road went left. I could see that off in the distance that the road curved again right wards. But I couldn't be sure that the highway intersected again with the path. Besides, my goal was to reached Santiago, not get knocked off of some Navarraese mountain by a skidding truck.

So, I went up the hill, slipping and a sliding all the way. Several times I almost lost my balance as my pack shifted on me. I was afraid that I would fall and slide all the way back, down the trail that I just spent twenty minutes climbing. My shoes were caked with mud and the cuffs of my warm up pants were getting caked so I rolled them up exposing, my extremely pale legs. Great, now I'm a pilgrim in knickers. The path was so slippery that I tried going along the edge through the bush. The rose thorns helped me forget my blister and the fact that I was cold and damp. Several times I had to jam my stick into the mud to keep from loosing my balance and falling over. I was sure glad that my friend George had made such a sturdy one. Eventually I reached the top and looked down the other side. I had chosen right because the path continued on to the right while the road, at least as far as I could see kept going left.

The level parts were not much better. It was like going into a bathroom with a wet floor. If you weren't careful, you would slip and either wrench your back or give yourself whip lash. Occasionally the path would disappear and I would have to walk on the side of the highway. At times like this I would be jealous of the pilgrims on bikes who speed along not worried about the mud and the ruts.  Once I looked up upon hearing the sound of the horn of an oncoming vehicle. It was my buddy from the restaurant last night. As he went by he pumped fist gesture which says "go for it, man" in both Spanish and English.

Got to Viana by 2:00 and found the albergue. My boots were caked with mud and I was shown to the laundry room were I took them off and left them on a section of the floor that had newspapers spread all around. As I looked around I noticed two rows of several hooks hanging from the ceiling. All I could think of were the hooks that sides of beef are hung from to age. How strange, I thought. Twenty minutes later I discovered the answer. I went to the laundry room to wash out my socks and rinse the mud off of my pants. There were two bikes hanging from their back wheels looking like hunters' trophies.

Walked around the town and found a nice restaurant and decided to eat a good lunch, Spanish style. The place was jammed and I had to wait a few minutes for a table. Just as the waitress came to take my order, my phone went off-home base calling. So, I excused my self and went out into the street so I could hear the call (Spanish restaurants are always noisy). After the call, I enjoyed a great meal. A big, fresh mixed salad with just oil and vinegar and pork ribs-no sauce, just garlic and herbs. And of course great red wine. They just put the whole bottle in front of me and let me take what I wanted. The dessert was a Spanish version of tiramisu, made with real whipped cream-low in carbos. The whole meal, wine included, was nine bucks. What a bargain.

While sitting there eating, I thought about how bad the weather had been for the past two days and was feeling a little sorry for myself when I saw on TV that there had been severe flooding in Barcelona and snow in the mountains of Madrid province from the same storm. So, I guess I didn't have it too bad.

After lunch I wandered around the city to take in the sights. One of Viana's claims to fame is that the place where Caesar Borgia was killed in battle. He was the commander of the Navarrese army fighting for the King of Navarrre. Borgia was the Renaissance's nastiest s.o.b. He was the subject of Machiavelli's book The Prince. Machiavellian is a word to describe Caesar Borgia's modus operandi (not Machiavelli's). His sister Lucretia wasn't much better. She is known for poisoning a few husbands — a real black widow spider! They were both the children of Pope Alexander VI.

I went inside the church. Behind the altar was a beautiful tableau of wooden carvings painted and gilded. It was incredible. I could imagine how a poor illiterate campesino must have felt upon seeing it. The story of the Bible in easy-to-understand format.

Went back the albergue to be in bed by the 10 pm. curfew
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