Friday, December 20, 2013

Camino 2013 - Day 20: San Bol To Itero De La Vega

We got up early and had some breakfast at San Bol.  Another hospitelera had arrived early and prepared coffee and set out a spread of muffins, toast, and pastries - a very typical Spanish breakfast.  I asked for a cola cao to drink.  I ate my breakfast fairly quick and left my cola cao cup half full.  The hot chocolate didn't taste as good as the cup I drank in Villamayor de Monjardín.

Sun rising on a new day on the meseta.
We stopped in Hontanas to use the internet.  I'd stayed there last time and there wasn't much there.  We ran into a few people we knew here.

After Hontanas is the albergue of San Anton.  We stopped there to see what the albergue was like.  It's located in the ruins of an old monastery.  It is very rustic and a few kilometers from the nearest town.  When I was planning our itinerary I'd hoped to stay here but it hadn't worked out - too many interesting albergues to stay at in too short of a distance.  We got a stamp at the albergue before moving on.

The ruins of the San Anton Monastery.
We caught up to a few more people we knew in the next town of Castrojeriz.  We talked a little as we walked through the town.  Gv was talking to an Austrian lady, Kr,  we'd encountered on and off since Grañon.  She was a very nice lady.  Gv asked about a small picture she had on a necklace I believe (the memory is a bit hazy as I was ahead of them while they talked).  Kr began to cry.  The picture was of her late husband.  I'm not sure if this was her reason to walk the Camino, Gv has more of the story, but the motivations to walk the Camino are varied,  both happy and sad.  Some walk to remember.  Some walk to forget.

Looking back at Castrojeriz from the top of 'the hill'.
We stopped in Castrojeriz to get some food and something to drink before we tackled the hill.  The hill is just outside Castrojeriz.  You climb a steep road up, cross a flat stretch, and then go down an even steeper road.  This is where the flatter part of the meseta starts though, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the meseta is not really that flat ... at least not as flat as I remembered.

The meseta lies before me. What was green last time is now golden brown.
The hill was tough and we rested at the top.  I hadn't rested last time but I needed it today.  We crossed the flat area, which was naturally shorter than I remembered, and, after admiring the view, headed down the hill in a very slow, zigzag pattern to lessen the stress on the knees.  Thank heavens for the trekking poles.

Our next stop was at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere.  I remember the place from last time.  There had been a guy selling fruit and drinks.  He was still there.  He was offering fruits and drink for donations.  I  took a coke and a banana and left some coins in his cup ('some coins' sounds like a small amount but the Euro, roughly $1.37, are coins and I'm sure I overpaid).  We sat at a picnic table and watched the farmer harvesting sunflower seed in the field next door.

At this point we were not far from our destination.  I was tired but the caffeine in the coke gave me a little boost and it got me to San Nicolas.  San Nicolas is another rustic albergue out on it's own.  I'd thought about stopping here but I'd had enough rustic for now.  Instead we walked to the nearby town of Itero de la Vega.

Itero de la Vega was filling up fast.  The first albergue we stopped at was full.  The hospitalera strongly suggested we should avoid the municipal albergue (it had a bad reputation apparently) and she took us herself around the corner a block or so down to a new albergue run by her friend (I'm still not sure if the municipal was really that bad and she was doing us a favor or if she was doing her friend a favor and bringing her business).  Her friend ran a tiny albergue that held eight to twelve people that felt like someone's home.  The beds were two to a room and there were nice big bathrooms with locks on the door - always a bonus in an albergue.

We did laundry and bought food in the grocery store next door (also owned by our hospitalera) before walking around the small town.  We met a nice Australian couple.  They were looking for his sister who was also walking.  Soon after we would realize that Ci, who we'd met at San Bol, was the sister.  The brother seemed to be having a great time and always had a wide smile on his face.  His wife was doing okay but I don't think she was enjoying it as much ... and the eye roll suggested she didn't like her sister-in-law either.

We found a bar and bought some lunch.  Ek, the loud kid from the Netherlands, was here with his buddies. They were staying at San Nicolas but had walked into town for food, supplies, and, especially, drink.  The Camino was a lot like this last time.  We would see people on and off all along the Camino.  Everyone was walking at different rates and I think we were constantly leap frogging each other.  Right when you thought you would not see someone ever again ... they would appear.

That night Gv made dinner.  Our albergue mates felt ... not like pilgrims.  They felt like tourist.  They were nice enough but you could tell they saw this more as a vacation.  This was especially true when they talked about getting taxis to skip undesirable stretches of the Camino.  They were tourigrinos.

There would be a lot of tourigrinos (tourist peregrinos [pilgrims]) this time around.  Many more than last time.  This is another way the Camino had changed.  People were walking the Camino considering it a cheap vacation rather than a meaningful experience.  I'm not sure I'm one to talk.  The Camino is first and foremost a religious pilgrimage and I am a long way from being religious.  I do consider myself spiritual though and most of the people I met last Camino also had, to some extent, a spiritual or religious motive.  This time around I met fewer obviously spiritual/religious pilgrims.  They were still there but the number of tourists, many inspired by the movie "The Way", was fairly large and the feeling of the Camino was changing ... moving in an uncomfortable direction.

Pictures can be found in my 2013 Camino de Santiago Google Photos album.

Total Distance on Day 20: 25 km ( 15.53 Miles)
Total Distance Walked: 455 km (282.72 Miles)

Approximate Track of the day's hike.
[Click on map for a larger version]

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