Day 22: Astorga (San Martin del Camino to Astorga)
Today was another stupendously hard day, more mentally challenging than anything else as my nostrils flare while pain rockets though my leg with every step and my jaw is set tight as I picture my dad at every one of my cross country races clenching his fist and saying, "Come on, get going!" to encourage me forward. It still makes me stand up straighter and dig in. It's strange, the things you conjure up from your past to keep you going isn't it?
It's bizarre, initially, I felt that I would never turn back because I hadn't walked for long enough and that to turn back so early would be laughable. Now that I am over half way I would never turn back as I have come too far and been through too much to quit. While I was walking today I tried hard to think of anything which I have given up on in terms of a physical challenge and I couldn't think of a single example. There is no way that I am going to start now.
My tribulations were rewarded in the city of Astorga; it's beautiful and the best city I have visited on the Camino. When we were in Leon it was a Sunday so everything was dead as disco except for a smattering of restaurants and cafes, but here, on a Tuesday afternoon, Astorga was alive with thrumming activity.
The whole city is just so clean too! The Episcopal Palace designed by Gaudi (that bloke really got about in this part of the world) holds court as you meander through the centre of the city. It looks like a pristine princess's castle with its light grey stonework and cylindrical towers. Behind that is the Santa Maria cathedral which had humungous stone pillars holding up the ceiling to its central hall, it looked like something out of Moria from Lord of the Rings. The choir's vault was also beautiful with its extensive wooden carvings, there was also a wizened and bespectacled little chap leaning backwards and giving the organ keys a sound thrashing which added a lot of ambiance to my wanderings.
The city is also littered with chocolate shops, something which the region is apparently famous for: for a €10 note you could buy yourself a 5kg bar of chocolate, it was the biggest/thickest bar of chocolate I have ever seen!
After sampling some blanco wine at the main plaza and munching on some hot and fresh churros in the open market we headed back to our hostel and played cards and ate a mountain of biscuits before bed.
I have just spent half an hour massage and stretching my legs with tiger balm oil which has singed the hair inside my nose with its potency.
I am really concerned about my leg for the remaining eleven days which from now on will go back to being extremely mountainous and steep. I have endeavoured to strap my leg, use my walking poles, take paracetamol and to stop and stretch more frequently from now on. Tomorrow will be the first test, I hope it goes well!