Our host in Mollerusa (2 K from Palau), Joan, has proven to be a model of human kindness. He has answered all our questions, solved our transportation problem for today (getting from Verdú to Tàrrega where our hotel is), picking us up and dropping us back to Palau, doing our laundry, and then this morning at breakfast assuring us we could have eggs for breakfast when the breakfast room attendant said they were not available. One thing I noticed is that he never equivocated. His first instinct was to say yes, and be of help. There was much to learn from this young man’s behavior. It was a gift to meet him.
We left our new friend Joan at the trail head in Palau and stepped off into a very cold morning with temperatures struggling to get out of the 20’s. We were bound for the village of Verdú where we would meet a taxi, arranged by Joan, to take us to Tárrega where we would spend the night. Verdú was one of those towns that had no accommodation available other than an albergue (30 beds). We were looking for private accommodation and could only find that up the road in Tàrrega. But I am getting ahead of myself. So off we went enjoying the fact that the low overnight temperatures had frozen every soft spot on the Camino path rock solid. No muddy boots today. We were very comfortable in the clothing we had on, and suffered not in the least due to the cold. I had on a 120 weight Icebreaker t shirt, a 200 weight Icebreaker long sleeve zip neck pullover, a lightweight Montbell synthetic filled vest, a merino wool buff, and a Golite hard shell. I also had on wool glove liners and Mountain Hardware waterproof outer gloves. I wore 200 weight Icebreaker long underwear and over that pair of lightweight Patagonia hiking pants (non waterproof). A wool beanie and my Teva Kimtah boots completed my trail ensemble. Oh, and on my feet were Injinji liner socks and Icebreaker medium weight merino wool hiking socks. The only trick I had left up my sleeve, well two actually, were a lightweight Montbell down jacket (best piece of gear I ever bought), and a Mountain Hardwear pullover fleece. The last two are what I typically change into after walking, but could be pressed into service for added warmth if necessary. So as we were walking along feeling very well fitted out I started thinking what St. Ignatius would have been wearing as he moved through these same lands, at this same time of year, in 1522. I was thinking you would need a crane to lift him up onto his mule as his winter clothes alone must have weighed a ton (and that is assuming they were dry).
The morning passed by quickly as we were stepping along nicely to generate some body heat. We passed through the village of Bellpuig (our half way point for today) at around 11:15. We didn’t stop. No carajillo today (although I could have used one). We pressed on through very tidy agricultural lands. Lots of orderly fields spread out before us. It struck me that this area just seemed a bit more cared for (a bit more prosperous) than the fields we saw leaving Lleida. While on the topic of agriculture, it dawned on me, after many days of walking through farmlands, just how much of this earth is used just to feed us. Breathtaking.
The afternoon passed nicely as the temperature climbed into the mid 30’s (positively balmy). The terrain was changing as we now saw the land ahead actually rising to meet us. We will continue to gain elevation as we approach Montserrat. We arrived in Verdú at just after 2:00 and walked up to church where we were to call our taxi. As it turned out the Tourist Office was located right next to the church and it was open so in we went. The young lady manning the desk was thrilled to see two pilgrims walk through her door. She spoke good English and agreed to call our taxi and explain where we were. While we waited she stamped our credentials and told us much about the town. She took several photos of us and just was filled with energy. She was saddened a bit that we had a hotel reservation in Tàrrega and would not be staying at the local Albergue, but she also understood. Ten minutes later our taxi arrived, and after a flourish of hand waving goodbyes, we zipped out of Verdú for the neighboring town of Tàrrega where we processed in behind a tractor right through town to our hotel. We just had time to drop our gear and race back up the street to the nearest restaurant for lunch/dinner. We returned to the Ciutat De Tàrrega, our hotel, ballasted down with a menu del dia for Robin and a pizza for me. All was going well. Robin was up in our room, and I was sorting out some transportation issues for tomorrow’s walk. The lady at the desk was very accommodating and we soon had a plan for tomorrow. With this minor miracle accomplished I ascended the stairs thinking of nothing but a nice hot shower. Upon entering the room Robin informed me the water was sort of lukewarm. Not to be discouraged, and always the optimist, I thought how cold could it be. I soon found out. I am not accustomed to screaming while I shower but today was an exception, and scream I did. I took the world’s quickest shower, and then piled on my warmest gear to stop shivering. This is the first place we have stayed that did not have at least hot water. Also, this was not what I wanted to face after a day of walking in 20-30 temperatures. But, as St. Paul reminds us (I have learned to live both with and without) sometimes you just don’t get what you want. In fact, after a bit, I did stop shivering. No harm done (I guess). St. Ignatius pray for us.