Pilgrims taking advantage of the only shade tree on the 17- kilometer stretch of the Meseta between Carrion de los Condes and Calzadilla de la Cueza.
Yesterday, or the day before yesterday, or maybe today, depending on which guide book or informed pilgrim you choose to believe, we crossed, or will soon cross, the halfway point on the Camino Francés. But by the day before yesterday I was sure I'd reached the end of my endurance to go another step.
That day's walk was 17 kilometers - about 10 miles - from Carrion de los Condes to Caldadilla de la Cueza, not overly long distance-wise.. But it was 17 k's on the Meseta without a town or bar along the way to stop into for a drink or some food. There wasn't even a even a water fountain off the path from which to refill your water bottle.. And the path was relentlessly dusty, stony, gnatty and shadeless, the vista excruciatingly changeless.
As the hours dragged on the road seemed endless.
By the time we reached the municipal albergue in the first town we came upon since we started out that morning, the tiny village of Caladilla de la Cueza (I've come to the conclusion that the rule of thumb must be the smaller the town the longer the name),
.....I was completely wiped out. I had no energy to do anything except shower then collapse into my 5€ bottom bunk bed.
After I'd lain around in my bunk for an hour or so in sort of sleepless twilight zone of exhaustion, I dragged myself down to the pretty albergue court yard and sat on a bench.
There was a pilgrim from New Zealand who was a yoga teacher and she was leading a little stretching class in the courtyard. You really should join them, said my brain. No can do, said my body.
I also managed to drag myself to dinner, served at the only bar in town, which was crowded with pilgrims. Once again I wondered where the local folks - all 60 of them, according to the guide book - go when they feel like eating out. Maybe they just don't.
Over dinner we mostly talked about the day's journey. This day had been a hard one for most of the pilgrims. Some of them shared how they dealt with the tedium of this grueling stretch.
A French-Canadian police officer said that after a while he just looked down at the ground as he found looking up at nothing but the road ahead to be depressing. A Dutch woman said she pushed herself ahead, forced herself into "6th gear" and sang songs in her head all day to make herself keep moving. Another Dutch woman came up with the best idea of all: she hopped a taxi and skipped the whole stretch.
To each her own Camino.
The next morning, yesterday morning, amazingly, I woke up feeling refreshed, renewed, and ready to don my pack, grab my sticks, and hit the Camino again.
It probably didn't hurt that we started the day with these apple custard pastries that we'd been looking for since our return to Spain,
...and had finally found in the town's one grocery store, a little room about half the size of my kitchen. We kind of got addicted to these cellophane-wrapped confections on our last trip. They're kind of like the Tastykakes of Spain.
We then walked 23 kilometers - almost 14 miles - from Caladilla de la Cueza to the city of Sahagún. It was a much easier walk than the day before's, with a bit more variety in the scenery.
...and some shady rest spots along the way.
We also stopped for some cheese, tomato and olive oil bocadillos - sandwiches - in the village bar in San Nicolas del Real Camino - you can imagine how small that town was!
We were keeping our fingers crossed that in Sahagún we'd be able - and subsequently were able - to get beds at the same place where we stayed on our last Camino, an upscale hostel called Domus Viatoris that also has an albergue with beautiful facilities and beds for 7€.
The dining room, where we had a delicious 10€ pilgrim mea:l
I went with the mixed salad, a juicy steak filet & paper-thin fries and rice pudding.
The showers were plentiful,
... but co-ed, and were of the cubicle variety with no dry place to hang your clothes So I had to do the old, "hang-your-clean-clothes-over-the-shower-door-and-cover-them-with -your-dirty-clothes-to-keep-them-dry-but-don't-let-the-whole-pile-fall-on-the-floor" trick.
I'm getting pretty good at it.
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
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