Saturday, June 20, 2009

Day 11: Sanguesa to Izco

We were on the road very early today 6.45am, again a lot cooler, great for walking. We had stayed close to the river in Sanguesa and everytime we crossed the river there was a strange smell, could not work out what the smell was. Well we had hardly left our hostal and we passed the water treatment tanks and realised that was what we had been smelling. We walked on a grassy path uphill through almond trees for 1.5k´s to Rocaforte. Then on to a concrete path which became gravel. All along the hills were topped with a line of windmills. Our path was undulating sometimes gravel, rocks, sand or grass. Sometimes through a wooded forest and sometimes in the open with majestic views of mountains in the back ground, still could see a bit of snow on the tips. We also walked through fields of wheat. It was a very easy walk today.
Izco the village that we are staying in tonight is again up on a hill, so was a climb to get to it. The village is very small. Our albergue only sleeps 8 so luckily we arrived early to get a bed. Our albergue has the only bar in the village so if we have a glass of wine or two it won´t be far from our beds!!

Val = Minister of Nutrition
Up early and on the road by 06.35am - no coffee or breakfast so eat a banana on the way. Arrive at a lovely little village in the middle of nowhere and find our way to the Albergue. It turns out to be the village community centre but they provide 8 beds for Pilgrims. The local handyman is repairing the ladies ablutions and is very kind to us. There is nowhere to buy food (as usual!) and he offers us coffee..from a cupboard in the community kitchen he takes out a stove top espresso pot and disappears and returns 5 minutes later with coffee in the holder..he brews it on the stove cups so we pour it into glasses..heaven. He shows us with pride, the outdoor braai .. it can roast ast least a couple of whole animals together with washing up facilities and a huge hall with tables and chairs and a bar. He says they have big gatherings here....strange because we are yet to see anyone in these children, no old people...they are deserted. He says the lady will be here in a couple of hours.
Time for a rare relax. I lay on my bed with my ipod and Syl and Marion go to visit the local church..the flies drive me mad so I pull the blanket provided over my head and disappear for a couple of hours. Eventually Paul Simon finishes his 17th track and I unplug. There is a lot of noise coming from the passage and I walk into a bar with lots of pilgrims who are passing through..there is not enough room for them all to sleep here...Syl and Marion had managed to get bread and ham and saved me one. Marion says"good now you've arrived, we can have a glass of wine". We have a glass of Vino Tinto each. Then Mr Fix It explains that the place must close so we get up to leave. He asks if we want more vino? Yes we say, he goes to the bar and puts a bottle under my is a Castillo Irache - Cabernet Sauvignon Y Merlot, Crianza 2004 Navarra region - GOLD MEDAL MADRID! He is proud of this wine which is from his region Navarra. We ask if we can buy food for tonight and eventually find out that they will send the "Supermercado" to us at 6pm. There is nothing to do until then. An Italian couple arrive, we have stayed at the same places with them off and on. She has terrible blisters and has walked on a sprained ankle for almost 2 is swollen and black and blue and she cannot go any further. We all have a lie down for a while and set the alarm in fear of missing the Supermarcardo! By 5.30pm we are all awake and gather outside and we share our wine with the poor lady with the swollen ankle. We all talk about the supermercado and very soon it has become this wonderful refrigerated unit selling everything from fruit and vegetables to "real milk". At 6pm the lady and Mr Fix It returns. A moment later she says, Supermarcardo? Si we say and remain seated. We hear a truck and get excited but it turns out to be "garden services". Then the village dog arrives and we say it must be coming soon, the dog has come for his bone! He takes one look at us and runs..Syl says we must look very very hungry and he's scared we'll eat him. The lady again comes out "Supermercado" she yells and beckons us in. The Supermercado turns out to be a cupboard with a few cans and packets! We take pasta, a tin of toms, a jar of chargrilled peppers. She gives us free salt and fresh garlic and shows that the last pilgrims left 4 sticks of asparagus so we will add that in as well. She also has some bread left from lunchtime so we buy that as well. Sil buys a cold custard and a tin of fruit salad for her supper. The pot for the pasta is taking ages to boil and I have fried off the garlic and Marion and I will finish our 3 day old piece of Chorizo. Then the lights blow...the lady says it is a serious fault because even Pamplona has no electricity. The tom sauce is warm but we cannot cook the pasta. It is light outside but too many flies so we have to eat inside regardless of the fact that there are no candles or other lighting. We eat with the Italian couple and share another Gold Medal bottle of wine. We all put on our headlamps so we can see. The wine is E5.60 per bottle which is good value given that we pay E1.60 per glass of table wine. Our accommodation tonight is E8.00. The Italian couple are lovely and the universal language of music makes it possible for us to communicate. She sings beautifully and he plays the drums in a group..he demonstrates with knives on the table. "Phil Collins?" I say, "Queen?" "Bruce Springstein " he says and becomes more and more animated. Eventually they are talking so fast to Marion andme that we have absolutely no idea what they are saying, Marion looks at me with raised eyebrows, pleading with me to say something...I return the look..eventually Marion says "Agh Shame!!"
Now 'Agh Shame' is a wonderful versatile South African expression. It is appropriate for just about any situation..for instance: Meeting a neighbour or friend in the Supermarket "My Great Aunt Betty died yesterday" "Agh Shame"
A friend "Do you know Woolies has run out of fresh asparagus?" "Agh Shame".

We left at sunrise along straight, wide gravel paths with our shadows strecthed out before us. It is a good way to warm up. Then it was upill to Rocaforte to the Alto de Albar and Alto de Olaz with a stunning view over a wide valley that looks as though a gargantum glacier gouged out this valley millenia ago. From there the path narrowed to a single clay track, becoming a narrow clay and rock animal track which must be lethal when wet.
Having climbed to the Altos it was time to go down again along a very steeply downward trail through the woods. The last 6km were an uphill climb to Izco. Many of the pilgrim ´rooms´on the Aragones (not strictly pilgrim albergues) are a part of the local community ´Sociedad´or social club. It appears that the community are happy to provide a room in their club property with a few double bunks and offer them to pilgrims. At 8€ per pilgrim it doesn´t bring in much revenue but if the pilgrims buy lunch in the social club diningroom and have no option but to buy food stuff to prepare in the kitchen, it must be worth their while.
We find Mark and Chris - the Swiss and Beglian pilgrims we´ve been meeting all along the route - sitting outside having a beer. Some pilgrims arrive at an albergue, have a beer and food, lie down on the beds for a snooze and then pack up and continue walking. I don´t know how anyone can walk after a heavy meal with beer or wine. We manage to have a bocadillo and a Coke before the place is locked up at 3pm. Marion and I visit the local church, walk about the village - it takes all of 10 minutes to walk from one end to the other - admire a woman´s garden and then stroll back to the albergue. It starts raining, ´Not good for the paths´we agree. Val has told you about our supermecado purchase and dinner by headlamp light! I opened my tin of ruit salad and shared it, together with one small sub of custard, between the five of us. Loaves and fishes! Quite a night.
We had just finished eating when a cyclist pilgrim arrived in the rain. As we got into bed the electricity came back on but we were too tired and pleasantly full by then to get up and cook the pasta.
Buenas noches todos.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Val
Really enjoying the food stories.... know food is generally on my mind, and I enjoy my food... but you do seem to be having your fair share of food source drama's. Not to underplay that food is scarce in many parts of the world and that many people have very little food, and battle to keep themsleves going on that which they can access .. your access is at time quite insecure hey!
Kathy (who doesn't share her food)