Camino Postcard 24: San Martin del Camino to Santibañez de Valdeiglesia

4.5.19
Today was a hot day and a short day – we were on the road for less than three hours. I can’t remember why we stopped so early but illness or the desire for a break are the most probable answers.

The highlight of today’s walk was a very long medieval bridge that took us from one end of Hospital De Órbigo to the other.

By the way, just in case you were thinking ‘That MJM, he’s a good chap’, I did intend to text message my family and say ‘I am in Hospital… de Orbigo.’. And not only once but on the two or so occasions that we came to a town with that name. I never did but that was only because I forgot (or God had mercy and clouded my memory).

Anyway, the long bridge was called the Puente de Órbigo. According to Brierley, it was built in the 1200s. Here it is:

I’m guessing that in the Middle Ages, the rio Órbigo stretched from where I stood to take this photograph to the buildings at the far end. Or maybe the field existed then and the bridge also functioned as a kind of grandstand for any tournaments happening there? Or maybe it was a working field and I’m completely wrong. The latter is most likely.

Anyway, at the other end of the bridge, immediately on the left, was a hotel called Don Suero de Quiñones; we stopped at its café-bar for a break. There was a plug in the wall next to our table, which was a great mercy as I needed to recharge my portable phone battery.

In Praise of Portable Phone Batteries
There are people who say that you shouldn’t take your ‘phone with you on the Camino. But if you do, and it is a smartphone, I thoroughly recommend taking a portable battery as well. It is extra weight but it is also piece of mind. I found that on the Camino my phone used up its battery with alacrity. That may have been because it was nearly two years old. Or because – unbeknownst to me apps were running in the background. Or because it was forever trying to find a signal in the countryside. Whatever the reason, the portable battery ensured that if I needed the phone for an emergency or, as happened, to plan the way ahead or find an albergue, the phone would be there for me.

We sat down in the Don Suero with Lillian, with whom we had been walking. When we got up again, I kept a look out for a cash machine – I still hadn’t found one. I didn’t have to wait long: a few seconds up the road, one magically appeared out of the mist, like the sword in the lake—

Okay, it was a hot day and there was no mist, but come on. I strode over to the cash machine like a knight about to fight a duel only to find that my adversary refused to fight me. Which is another way of saying that the cash machine had no money in it. Severely disappointed in the Spanish banking system, I withdrew with such dignity as I still had in me.

A statue and an Ellena in Villares de Órbigo

We kept moving. Possibly in Villares de Órbigo we bought pizza slices. I say we, I mean Ellena and Carolin. Ellena kindly bought me one and I happily and appreciatively nommed my way through it.

Minutes later, we were back in the countryside. Our path took us up a gentle incline. I remember feeling wary when we passed a motorbike rider who had stopped ahead of us to drink from a fountain. There was something about him I didn’t like. More likely, though, is that I had taken an irrational dislike to him and now feared him. Silly, really. We passed him without bother and went on our way. May God’s peace and protection from irrational idiots like me rest upon him.

We walked along a gravel path that had a golden hue under the bright blue sky. Presently, we rejoined the road, and began walking up a hill. It didn’t last long, however, and soon the path began to slope. Along the way, another motorbike rider stopped just ahead of us and disappeared into his house.

Funnily enough, I didn’t fear this man. And actually, I immediately fell in love with his motorbike. There is something about the kind of motorbikes where you sit back with your legs forward that – now I think about it – I find very attractive. Maybe it’s the rider’s posture which makes him look laid back and carefree; in short, cool? Or maybe it’s a mixture of the gleam of the sun on the bike’s muscular metal body, his sitting position, his leathers and sunglasses which give him an air of power, strength, nobility, purpose and sexiness?

Whatever the answer, I inevitably thought of Bon Jovi’s reference to steel horses in Wanted Dead or Alive. This also upped the bike’s, and it’s owner’s, cool rating.

Reluctantly, I left the bike behind and caught up with Ellena and Carolin. Not long later, we arrived in Santibañez. Our first choice albergue had not yet opened. Too disappointed to simply wait for it to do so, we went back down the road to another one that had a café. There, we drank beer in the sun. At some point, Tony arrived and joined us. As always, he brought new life to our group.

The albergue we stayed at was called the Albergue Camino Francés and was a pretty nice place. The café was on the ground floor, the dorms on the first – they were quite small without being too small. Ours had about six bunks and plenty of space in the centre of the room to walk about (not always the case). I think we had our own plugs, too (also not always the case).

Best of all, the albergue had its own knight.

Imagine riding your steel horse in that armour!

Camino Postcard 23: Valverde to San Martin del Camino

3.5.19
Before writing this post, I consulted my journal to remind myself of what happened today. My entry is eight lines long and was written nine days after the event.

Unfortunately, it is the beginning of the end for my journal, for after catching up with the entries from 3rd to 9th May, I stopped writing it. We arrived in Santiago on 16th May so the last week’s blog posts will have to be written from memory and using Instagram, which I managed to update for the duration of the Camino.

***

Today, we took our leave of Valverde and set off down the road (side). We walked for just under three hours before arriving in San Martin del Camino where we decided to stop.

The journey to San Martin was unspectacular – our path was sandwiched between the road and fields with hardly any variation. I don’t say this from memory but the witness of my photographs. After the first few days of the Camino, I started to take more and more; the only days when I didn’t was if the path was monotonous. Today, I only took 15 photos, relatively few for me, so that tells me that there wasn’t much to see. The storks in the photograph below were an exception. It was always heart raising to see them in their nests, built on tall ruins or atop churches.

I regret very much not keeping up with my journal – I’m pretty sure that when we set out, we didn’t intend to stop at San Martin but I can’t remember where our original destination was meant to be: Hospital del Orbigo and Santibanez de Valdeigleisia are in my mind but why?

Actually, Santibanez is where we walked to tomorrow so that’s probably why – did we mean to go there today, though, but were waylaid by illness or the heat?

The weather was very hot and when we arrived in San Martin, the albergue had a little swimming pool. Unfortunately, it was too early in the year to use it.

Not to worry, quoth I, a shower will do.

Yeeeah. About the shower. Naturally, you would expect the men’s and women’s showers to be behind closed doors. At this albergue, though, there were no doors. Once you stepped out of the shower unit, anyone walking down the corridor could see you. While this was not ideal, there was – at least – room in the shower to hang one’s towel and clothes up away from the shower tap and so dry off and get dressed before stepping out into full view of passers-by.

If the albergue showers were a bit of a let down, the albergue cat was not. He wandered about at will and was happy to accept strokes from Ellena. Our dorm was a small one with four bunk beds, all of which were taken. We thought we would have trouble with one woman who had starey eyes and asked with a bit too much purpose if the lights would come on at six o’clock tomorrow morning but in the end she didn’t turn them on and left before everyone else with admirable quietness.

The only other thing of note to happen today is that I ran out of money. Ellena and I went in search of a cash machine in San Martin but found nothing. The Camino is a cash economy so I was very fortunate that Ellena paid for me until I was able to refund her – either directly or, as usually happened, by paying for things for her.

Oh yes, I just remembered one other thing: Ellena thought she lost her I.D. card (or was it her pilgrim’s passport?); either way, a frantic search followed that led to the miscreant’s discovery. I can’t tell you how scary it was whenever you couldn’t find your passport (or I.D.) or credencial. In different ways, losing them were potential Camino killers. I mislaid my wallet and pilgrim’s passport once or twice and had my heart in my mouth until I found them again.