Camino Postcard 14: Hornillos to Honatas

Day Two on the Meseta.

Wow. A short, and intense day. When we left the homely albergue, it was raining, but only lightly. Everyone felt fine. Ellena’s knee was getting better, Carolin felt okay, and so did I.

Our intention was to walk to Castrojeriz, 20 kilometres away. We managed 10 before throwing in the towel.

What happened? The weather did, big time.

The meseta

The light rain got heavier. It turned into sleet, then snow. The wind drove it down against our faces. My left foot started squelching. Uh-oh. Had I trod in a puddle? The squelching got heavier. It started in my left boot but soon both feet were affected. No, I hadn’t trod in a puddle: the rain, sleet and snow had penetrated my boots and soaked my socks right through.

For me, this was the worst news. If my feet were squelching they were rubbing against my socks and boots, and that meant I was at increased risk of acquiring one or more blisters. And that, of course, I really did not want to happen.

I don’t think I have mentioned blisters for a while, so let me reiterate: they were bad news. At best, they slowed you down; at worst, they could end your walk.

Slowing down doesn’t sound so bad. No, but had I needed to do so, I might have had to leave Ellena and Carolin, which would have been a great blow as we were getting on so well. It would also have put me behind schedule, which had the potential to cause money problems.

A Camino ending blister would certainly be bad news. Yes. I wouldn’t have minded having to go home early because of my eye because I can’t help being short sighted but if it had been because of my leg (I should have got physio for it last year) or because of a blister that would have been incredibly frustrating.

You had the right boots and socks, though; the weather was not your fault. Welcome to my world of irrational thinking.

The snow continued to fall. All three of us soon got soaked through. It got even worse – the wind lowered the temperature until our hands were frozen. Mine stung with the cold. We decided to stop at the next town we came to, which was Honatas. There, we found an albergue. We checked in as soon as it opened. Until then, we drank wine and a couple of hot chocolates (not at once) in its café.

Exhibit A: One frozen pilgrim

The afternoon was spend warming up in bed.

There was still a little drama to come, though. After checking in, we were asked – as per the custom at all albergues – to leave our boots on a rack under an awning outside. We knew, however, that if we did that, they would never dry out in the cold, damp air. So, an executive decision was taken to go against albergue custom and keep them in our dorm. Fortunately, the hospitalera did not notice (or chose not to do so). If she had, I would certainly have brought them in later on and kept them in the dorm overnight.

At tea time, we ate in the dining area. At the end, we were charged for our food. Again: we had already paid for it when checking in. The man-in-charge (pun intended) made a stink about it but eventually found it in his gracious heart to let the matter go.

As the afternoon wore on, the bad weather passed; we even saw a little blue sky. The rain made a couple of comebacks but didn’t last, and was never as bad as the morning.

After we checked in, I inspected my feet for blisters. The good news was that no new ones had appeared. The bad news, however, was that my left thigh had severely chafed. Fortunately, that resolved itself over the next few days with a generous and regular application of vaseline.

I got lucky – all three of us got lucky: we were told about a French pilgrim who had been found laid out on a bench somewhere behind us. Thank the Lord she was alive. Details were never more than sketchy, but I recall being told that she was found wearing inadequate clothing for bad weather. Exhaustion must have taken her. This is why, as I said yesterday, it is so important to prepare as well as you can. Of course, this applies to the Camino as a whole and not just the meseta.

The weather was so bad, Ellena and Carolin were forced to put their ponchos on over their raincoats. Note the muddy path, which made the walk even more difficult – especially when it was filled with puddles.

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