Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Camino 2013 : Day 7: Artieda To Undués de Lerda

We left Artieda going the wrong way.  We left the town the same way as we'd arrived not knowing that there was another road.  After walking along the road for a short while (fifteen minutes maybe) we stopped, turned around and started heading back, and then stopped again.  We looked around and Gv saw a pilgrim.  It turned out to be J-M and we discovered that both ways out of town met a little ways ahead.

Reflections on the reservoir. 
The Camino approaches a reservoir formed by a dam on the Aragon river.  There were signs all over the place protesting the expansion of the reservoir.  As I walked along the reservoir, all natural sounds drowned out by the noise of heavy machinery clearing trees and, I presume, preparing for the expansion of the reservoir, I could see that the Camino would be affected.  The trail along the reservoir would be totally submerged.  Along with the trail, several old hermitages, churches, and other historically significant sites would also be flooded and lost.  I walked through, and took pictures of, one of these hermitages, La Ermita de San Juan Bautista.

San Juan Bautista Hermitage.
The next albergue you pass is located in the hamlet of Ruesta.  The town, believed to be in harm's way by the flooding, is nearly abandoned.  There is some question if this town truly will be submerged.  It seemed quite high above the current reservoir level and is on a road that I believe will not be closed.  We stopped at the albergue to see if we could get some breakfast but we left empty handed when we found it closed for cleaning.  There was a small store open but it had a limited selection.  The highlight of Ruesta, besides the ruins there, were the cute kittens playing.

The ruins of Ruesta.
After Ruesta we approached one of the toughest parts of the Camino so far.  The trail turned up and followed a wide dirt and gravel road up to a ridge.  The road went up and up without any leveling off.  The approximate length of this hill is five kilometers (3.1 miles) but it feels like it goes on forever.  I think this trail climbs higher than the mountain.  You would think you were reaching the top and it would turn out to be a turn in the road and the road just kept going up.  My reaction when I turned a corner and saw that it kept going gave the mountain it's informal name: Mount Oh Man!!!  I'm not sure I would have made it without the wild raspberries along the road that kept me going.

At the top of Mount Oh Man!!! looking down on Undués de Lerda.
At the top of Mount Oh Man!!! we had a great view of the mountains with the town of Undués de Lerda in the distance perched up on a hill.  Now, there were two ways they could have routed the Camino to get from here to there.  They could have gone along the ridge and followed a road down to the town or they could take the Roman road.  The Camino, naturally, follows the Roman road.  Roman roads are kind of amazing.  They are usually paved in stone - the fact that any of the paving still remains after such a long time is impressive.  While the Romans knew how to make great roads, they were terrible at choosing routes.  This particular Roman road took you down into a ravine below the level of the town before climbing back up into the town.  As I was huffing and puffing up the hill into the town all I could think was "F-ing Romans!"

We stopped at the town's one bar and bought some sandwiches for lunch.  This was also where you checked into the albergue.  The albergue in Undués de Lerda is new and it was pretty nice.  There were a few things not quite finished yet but it had all of the comforts.  I ended up with my first top bunk here.  We did our chores and washed clothes.  We hung our clothes on a drying rack and, chasing the sun, moved the rack to a nearby square.

Downtown Undués de Lerda.
This square was the place to be the rest of the afternoon.  There wasn't much in the town besides the albergue and a bar/restaurant/store (similar to Santa Cilia and Artieda).  Our little Camino family gathered here and lounged around in the sun: J-M, Rh and Nc, Ju, along with a few Spaniards and a German who we'd met along the way.

Food this day was a communal meal in the one bar/restaurant.  I had my first pork cheek for dinner.  It was pretty good ... like pot roast and pulled easily off the bone.  Another exceptional meal.

Sunset from the Albergue window.
Somewhere in this town one of my Icebreaker merino t-shirts decided it'd had enough and didn't make it into my pack. I discovered this at the next town.  This was the first and only thing I have ever lost on the Camino.  I'd had three t-shirts to walk in and one to sleep in.  From this point on I would have to sleep in and wear all three shirts - not a major deal really.  Three shirts turned out to be just fine.  It's just the idea of losing a $50 shirt ... rubbed me the wrong way.

After the hard day before, we'd shortened this day by 11 km (6.84 miles).  I'm glad we did that since Mount Oh Man!!! had sucked a lot out of me.  Not sure I would have made another 11 km.  It's unfortunate, though, since we ended up missing something interesting in the next town.

Pictures can be found in my 2013 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Total Distance on Day 7: 21 km (13.05 Miles)
Total Distance Walked: 143 km (88.86 Miles)

Approximate Track of the day's hike.
[Click on map for a larger version]

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