September 18, 2015: We were awoken before the sun was up by our noisy neighbors in the adjoining bunks, but this was OK with Heather and I, because we couldn’t wait to get out of this place and back on the trail. What a crummy night! It didn’t take long to pack up and make our way to rua do Carmen and out of town into the forest. Once we were in the woods, it became darker but we could see well enough. About a half mile up the trail, I noticed the track to the right that led to Hotel Suiza where Greg and I had stayed last trip. Approaching Pregontono, the sun was rising in spectacular fashion and Heather got a great picture:
At A Peroxa, we stopped at a cozy bar for some breakfast where we encountered a very friendly and efficient staff. Here, we also ran into a young German friend, Marie, from Berlin, who we had met the day before. It was great to see her again.
During the climb up to Salceda, we met an elderly South African man who had been on several pilgrimages. He was moving in a very labored manner up the wet, muddy path and we walked with him for a while listening to his tales as he told us in great detail what he intended to eat for dinner in Santa Irene. After a while, this became a little tedious and we said goodbye and moved on. He was very good-humored about it, however. Later, when I stopped to use the outdoor facilities, he caught up to us and was bending Heather’s ear once again. We chuckled about this encounter for the rest of the day. While we were heading up into the town, we came across two young women, one of whom was struggling with a painful leg problem. Heather stopped to help her and offered some advice for using kinesiology tape that she might be able to download via the internet. She was thankful for that, but thought she could make it OK. We stopped at a rest area along the road in Salceda and ate some fruit and nuts. This would be our lunch for the day. The sunshine felt good, and it warmed us as we sat on a comfortable bench and watched other pilgrims pass us by.
At the outskirts of Salceda, we began another long climb and soon we were at the high altitude point for the day at Alto Santa Irene. Then we began the steep descent to the rio Burgo and into Arca. As we entered the busy town, I pointed out the Respol gas station where Greg and I had called for help in getting to Casa da Agua two years earlier. We proceeded up the busy street into town, stopped at a supermercado to get some snacks, and then quickly found our hostal, Pension A Solaina, with little problem. Our host was quite helpful in getting us to our room and settled in. This was a great place, located right in the center of town. The room was quite modern, and the bathroom was spectacular. Hot showers followed quickly and we both took brief naps before venturing out for some food.
At the entrance to the town, we remembered passing some restaurants, so we decided to head there first and see what we could find. We settled on a modern Italian joint and ordered a pizza. While waiting for our meal, we noticed two of the Australian men that were in the group with Vic and Heather. I waved to them and one of the guys came in and said hello. He told us that they were probably going to be in big trouble with their wives because they were drinking beer in a bar and missed the ride to the casa rural where they were all staying. They had to arrange alternate transportation and were waiting for the taxi to arrive to pick them up. While waiting, of course, they were downing a couple of additional beers! Haha! We said goodbye to them, and they said they would convey our regards to Vic and Heather. Our pizza came and we devoured it quite easily. Of course, we just had to have our chocolate Magnum Ice Cream bars for dessert. Then we were ready to head back to the pension and hole up for the night, grateful that we had made it this far, and that tomorrow we would be in Santiago. Woohoo!