The galumfing and head-torches started at 5.30am and there was no point staying in bed, so I got up and was on the road at 6.00am- thank goodness! 

An unforgettable day- beautiful scenery but 17,000 steps with an endless 1:3 ascent up 500m. The toughest day so far, but cool and with shady woods. 

I start out by myself and have breakfast (bottled asparagus baguette) in a square in a small empty village- the only sound is the donkey with her bell in the field nearby.

But I catch up! with some German and French pilgrims. I stroll... the Germans GO and were soon out of sight. I follow the three Frenchmen who are good pace setters with Santiago in their sights. 

Lots of lovely animal encounters today- a valley full of chestnut coloured cattle; the sound of their bells fills the air, tiny local ponies with their foals, donkeys, geese and chickens and a tiny black pig. 

The scenery is almost alpine with lots of wild flowers, pine trees, shady Holme-oaks, large grassy meadows and streams crossing the tracks. Quite a lot of mud. 

Merkina-Xenmein is a nice old town in a valley. I follow the yellow arrows and stop at the open door of a small church on the outskirts. WHOA!! CRIKEY!!

For a second I couldn't comprehend what I was looking at- my first thought was an art installation! Then I saw it was a group of 3 enormous weathered rocks that filled the whole space. 

A few other people arrived, but seemed totally unimpressed! I wondered what it would take to surprise them - perhaps Catholics are more used to miracles?

I trudge into town and find the Alberge which is in an old monastery and have a hot shower and wash some clothes. Then I wander into the central square and join the four Frenchmen for a 3 course Pilgrim's dinner with red wine for 10€. Then bed by 9pm.