Camino Postcard 21: Calzada del Coto to León

1.5.19
Ninth and last day on the Meseta

Actually, we probably left the meseta days ago but I haven’t yet got round to finding out where it officially ends. I’ll try and do that anon.

When we left Calzada del Coto, the sun was rising in the east. My attempt, below, to photograph it is much too dark. Perhaps I was trying to take a chiaroscuro picture. Or maybe I just don’t know how to adjust the iPhone’s photograph settings. You decide.

By the way – the iPhone. Suck it up, Apple.

We got walking, but not very far – Ellena was unwell. At the first opportunity, we stopped and called a taxi to take us to León.

How far did we walk? About five kilometres – from Calzada del Coto to an albergue just outside the town of Bercianos del Real Camino. It would have been better had we been able to stop earlier, but there was nowhere to do so: the path took us either through the countryside or along the roadside, away from anywhere that we could stop.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the albergue that we stopped at. That’s a shame, because the barman there was very kind in calling the taxi for us. In fact, all the people who called taxis for us along the way were really kind. I ask God for His blessing upon them.

We had a brief breakfast at the albergue while we waited for the taxi to arrive. I also took a photograph the lovely decoration, above. Scallop shells were a very comforting sight on the Camino. Actually, they remain so today. They are a sign of something different and better. Thank you, St. James.

The taxi arrived and whizzed us to León. Our drive removed two stages of the Camino Francés and so eased our muscles, money and time worries considerably. It helped us, therefore, in a very substantial way, to finish the whole journey.

At León, we stopped for a coffee and set about finding an albergue. It wasn’t easy. The two closest to us were both closed – yes, it was still early, but I wonder if May Day played a role. So we wandered about, passing a pilgrim paying for their way by busking, passed the city’s beautiful cathedral, a square where a rock band was getting ready to play, and sundry bars and cafés before stopping to eat outside another bar. There, we went online and found another albergue down a side street. Better than nothing.

We used Google Maps to find the side street. If I am ever given an epithet, it will never be Malcolm the Navigator. Malcolm the Bad Navigator, perhaps, because if there is a way to misread the map, I will find it. Despite this, we eventually came to the albergue.

Hand to the door, and pu— no! The door’s locked! Damnit. Will we ever find somewhere to stay? But hold on, what is Ellena saying? She’s looking through the window and can see someone sitting at a desk. A woman. The hospitalera? Who’s going to knock and get her attention? Rap rap rap. Time to play hapless pilgrim!

The woman came to the door. And the very first thing she did was point to the doorbell. Well, thank you, lady, but as you’ll see there are several doorbells and ALL OF THEM ARE UNMARKED.

No, I didn’t say that – I didn’t even think it until later. It was, however an inauspicious beginning. Fortunately, things got better – much better – very quickly. We wanted a private room: the lady gave us a four bed room and promised that she wouldn’t give the fourth bed to anyone else. She also gave us a little map of the city and showed us various places where we could eat. In so doing, she told us about the Spanish tradition (?) of giving customers free tapas when they buy a drink.

We took our room, dumped our backpacks, showered and rested. After a couple of hours, I was ready to go and take a few photographs. Ellena came with me.

RULE BRITANNIA etc etc

We wended our way round the tight León streets until somehow, magically, we ended up at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. The fact that we had seen this one on the way into town and that Ellena is fond of eating there back home is purely coincidental. I have instructed my lawyers to take action against anyone who says otherwise.

I never eat at KFC so this visit was quite an experience for me. I have to say, I rather enjoyed it.

Manynoms and good conversation but eventually a return home.

It was just as well we ate at KFC because we tried and failed to find a bar to eat a pilgrim’s meal later on. It wasn’t that they weren’t there but we timed our search badly – we looked too early when a lot of the bars were not yet open. Thanks to a newsagents, we managed to pick up some snacks and so we took these back to the albergue. In the evening, we relaxed with clips of The Hobbit on You Tube. I saw the first of the three Hobbit films in the cinema and disliked it intensely. Watching the clips, however, melted my heart somewhat. The best clip, however, was this, er, deleted scene:

Since coming home, I have watched the first two Hobbit pictures and – although they are not in the same league as The Lord of the Rings trilogy – enjoyed them much more than I expected.

Camino Postcard 19: Calzadilla de la Cueza to Moratinos

29.4.19
Day Seven on the Meseta

For a few kilometres after leaving Calzadilla de la Cueza today, we were silent pilgrims. Perhaps Ellena was still feeling the effects of last night’s pain. As she was the glue that held the group together, we were fractured without her.

We kept walking. ln my journal, I have noted that although we were still on the meseta the path was a bit more varied than yesterday. I then spoil the effect somewhat by adding ‘Well, there were a couple of elevations, anyway’. Insert facepalming emoji here.

We came to a little town named Ledigos. There, we saw a sign that said ‘373,870 Kms a Santiago’. After what seemed a very long time, we were now less than 400 kilometres away from our ultimate destination! This knowledge was a great psychological boost. And what it also meant was that we were now definitely over half-way there. Sahagun may be the official half-way point, but we had now walked over half of the Camino.

We stopped at a café for breakfast. Not long after our arrival, Colleen walked in, as did Tony – he had stayed behind at Calzadilla this morning to tend to his blistered foot.

After we left Ledigos, the group spread out. Ellena walked ahead with Tony. I tried to keep up with them but could not. My leg was feeling better after yesterday but was not up to matching Tony’s pace. I remembered some wise advice that Colleen had given me about walking the Camino at my own pace and started to do just that. The day immediately got better.

Along the way, I saw an albergue named after Jacques de Morlay, the last Grand Master of the Templar Knights. As well as winning (and losing) the Holy Land, the Templars also provided places of refuge and rest for pilgrims to Santiago so he has a good place in my books.

Carolin and I also saw a cat on the prowl, which was a very neat sight.

As we walked, we also saw a very strange sight – doors appearing in the side of mounds. What were these – hobbit holes?

A concrete path took us into Moratinos. Embedded in it were, of course, paw prints. A lovely, funny sight!

Ahead of us and to the left, at the bottom of the incline was our albergue. Well, not ours yet – we neither owned nor had pre-booked it – but it was the one where we would soon decide to stay for the rest of the day and overnight. Ahead of us and to the right was a hill with more doors running around their side.

Fortunately, they did not look evil (moor doors > Mordors > Mordor – geddit? I’m here all week)

After checking in and relaxing with a beer, Ellena and I investigated the hill more closely. Here is the sign we saw:

We both laughed. I was, and remain, impressed at the extent of Tolkien’s cultural influence.

During the course of the afternoon, we met up with Lillian again. Tony, who had walked with us from Ledigos, decided to keep going. The albergue dorm was very small – there were just three bunk beds in our room. As Moratinos was not the end of the stage, relatively few pilgrims stayed here overnight; as a result, Ellena, Carolin and I almost had the room to ourselves. The only other person to share it with us was Lillian.

Today, I received good news from home – my friend E. who suffered two serious bouts of bad health last year sent me a text to say that he had just received a promotion. He is a police officer, and had to sit the promotion exam just after the second bout, when I and others were telling him to forget about it and relax. After spending all summer revising? he said, No way! I was ever so pleased for him as he is a natural police officer and the Met need people like him as high up as possible.

Back at Moratinos, Carolin and I ate dinner while Ellena rested – she was not feeling well enough to eat a full meal; we took her something to eat and drink later. As Carolin was not a confident English speaker, and I couldn’t speak German, we used Google Translate to speak to each other. It was every bit as cheesy as you might think but funny all the same.

Camino Postcard 18: Carrión de los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza

28.4.19
Day Six on the Meseta

This was a tough day to walk, and is a tough day to talk about. The two key words for it are sore and monotonous.

I was sore; or rather, my right leg was. I should have taken ibuprofen for it but didn’t. That was a mistake and robbed me of such enjoyment as I could have taken from the monotonous walk.

So, about that. The path cut a straight line through the fields of the meseta. As far as I remember, deviations only occurred when it sometimes dipped or rose according to the contours of the land.

With all that said, however, the morning – for we arrived in Calzadilla de la Cueza around midday – was not without its charm.

As we walked through Carrión at the start of the day, we stopped for a quick second breakfast. We ate doughnuts that we had bought yesterday. This led to much posing like Kate Winslet in Titanic on the sitting stones nearby.

Won’t you draw me like one of your French pilgrims

mmmm you sexy beast.

Ahem.

Moving swiftly on – one reason we bought the doughnuts was to insure ourselves against failure to find anywhere to eat later on. Fortunately, however, we found two cafés along the meseta path. One was a van-café, and the other a stand next to a crumbly shed. We stopped here.

While we ate, Ellena played with a dog the size of a very big dog that I would never have dreamed of going near in case it bit my whole leg off. She, of course, had no fear about playing with this mighty beast. And no wonder, it was very well behaved and frankly a bit of a goofball.

As you can see from the photograph above, we saw mountains in the distance today. Well, not just today, but anyway – Someone asked us if they were the Pyrenees. Woe to us if they had been as it would have meant that we had managed to walk in a circle over the last two weeks.

It’s funny, though, how – in the absence of a map – our sense of place can suffer so badly. Did you know that when Alexander the Great was in Afghanistan, he thought he was not far from Europe?

But let me not laugh at the person who thought these mountains were the Pyrenees as I have to admit I have no idea what this mountain range is called. Please leave a comment if you know.

We left the lovely, goofy Huge Dog behind and continued walking – straight on, under the sun, no cover, drinking our water,

slog

slog

slog

until we walked over a crest and saw a hamlet ahead of us – Calzadilla de la Cueza. It was a blessed sight.

Calzadilla ahoy

Two albergues greeted us as soon as we entered the hamlet. We picked one, dumped our backpacks and joined our friends outside for a beer.

Later on, a photograph was taken of me sleeping. I look very silly in it – yes, even more than normal, thank you for saying – and so the photograph has been deposited in a bank vault for all eternity. I took a photograph of Lillian and Tony looking like mafiosi. It’s one of my favourite Camino pictures as you could not meet two more unmafiosi like people. What can I say, but that I like a cheeky juxtaposition from time to time.

Our albergue didn’t make meals so in the evening we all descended upon a hotel dining room to eat. I met Colleen from Montana again, who rescued me on the first day with a bottle of water, and Alex from Bavaria who I think I also met that day with another German fellow – the latter had since left his company. One pilgrim went missing halfway through their meal, never to be seen again (that night, anyway, and only by me, as far as I remember) and the rest of us had a very pleasant time. Well, to a point (Lord Copper): Ellena was struck by pain later on and another part of my dodgy front tooth broke off today. The larger part of it remained intact but would the rest survive the rest of the pilgrimage? (Narrator: Yes, it did).

Wait. What. How did this get here???

Camino Postcard 17: Población de Campos to Carrión de los Condes

27.4.19
Day Five on the Meseta

We left La Finca behind and began walking. It was another hot day, and Población was another sleepy Spanish town. Spaniards simply do not do mornings.

Further up the road, we stopped at a café-albergue that promised ‘Paradise Without WiFi’. I’d love to be able to speak approvingly of this, of how good it was to be freed from the chains of communication but I’m neither a hipster or a hippie and love my WiFi so can’t.

This café-albergue was certainly a paradise for hippies and hipsters – it has very ramshackle, had a farm attached (I saw some cute asses there; now let’s talk about the donkeys frnarrrrrr) and the rooms were tents. They weren’t called tents but had a particular hippy name that I can’t remember.

Anyway, it was also a very friendly environment. Inside the café itself, pilgrims were encouraged to leave messages on the side of the counter or on the wall. Many had done so. So did I. I could have written an appropriately inspirational message but instead chose to write something facetious about Alexander the Great that nobody but me would understand and which thankfully I forgot to photograph.

While at the café, we met George from Seattle. He was in good spirits despite the fact that his husband had given up on the Camino and returned home – walking was not for him.

Tony had left La Finca ahead of us so at this point, and indeed until we arrived in Carrión, it was just Ellena, Carolin and myself together.

We left Paradise Without WiFi and continued up the road. The Meseta continued to roll by. Our path took us along the roadside and we saw a sign saying ‘Santiago 464 [km]’ which meant that we had now walked about half distance from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago. As I think I mentioned before, despite being called the French Route, the start of this particular Way is regarded by the Spanish as being at Roncesvalles, which meant that we would not receive our halfway compostelas until we arrived in the town of Sahagun in three days time.

Upon a moment we arrived in Carrión de los Condes, and there we checked in at an albergue in a former (?) covent. The dorms at the Espiritu Santo were named after the continents and contained single beds – no bunks again, which sore legs greatly appreciated. I slept under a beautiful wood icon of Our Lady (below), which more than made up for the cheesier Catholic artworks in the vicinity.

To its credit, the Espiritu Santo had a chapel, although it was no more than an altar and cushions. However, the Blessed Sacrament was reserved there, which immediately made it the most important place in the building.

After ditching our backpacks and showering down, we went out for a beer. I lost over a stone walking the Camino yet still drank beer every day. No wonder I enjoyed myself so much.

To celebrate the fact that we had, or were about to, walk half distance we took a stroll into town to buy a congratulatory present for ourselves. Ellena and Carolin chose matching bracelets. I bought the necklace that you can see below in imitation of the one that Martin Sheen’s character wears at the end of The Way.

While in Carrión we met Tony again. On his recommendation, we ate tea/dinner at a fish restaurant. On the way there, he had to make a pitstop at the local pharmacy to get help for his poor blistered foot. Tony is a powerful walker but it’s amazing that he could walk at all on that foot. The blister was huge and, of course, open.

Afterwards, we strolled happily back to the Espiritu Santo. In the large courtyard there we met a certain someone smoking a joint. Well, I suppose a religious house is a place for ecstasies.

Camino Postcard 16: Castrojeriz to Población de Campos

First of all, I owe the people of HONTANAS an apology. I realised the other day that in my earlier posts, I referred to their hometown as ‘Honatas’. Lo siento!

26.4.19
Day Four on the Meseta

Today, we ate breakfast at our albergue in Castrojeriz before setting off. Our boots had spent the night in a little shed. When we collected them we found that they were now more or less dry.

Tying our laces up, we started walking; just the three of us, now; we left Tony at the albergue to catch us up later.

This morning, we climbed the alto de Mostelares. The path wound its way to the top, stretching our legs but never being too strenuous. At the top, we were rewarded for our efforts with a beautiful view of the valley we had just crossed.

A short plateau followed before we began walking down a very steep incline. It was so steep, we had to lean backwards as we walked.

The clouds skudded across the sky as we continued on our way – a breezy day in the heavens.

Upon a moment, we came to a chapel where we paused to stamp our pilgrim passports. Framed photographs of the current and last two popes hung proudly on the wall. The photograph of John Paul II showed him wearing a brown pellegrina with scallop shells embroided onto it. This photograph was taken in the early 80s when John Paul made his own pilgrimage to Santiago.

We next stopped at an interesting café-albergue in Itero de la Vega, where we saw bronze insects mounted on the wall. Tony caught up with us here so we ate together.

After stopping again at Boadilla del Camino, we joined the Canal de Castilla, which took us to Frómista. As canals go, it was a fairly ordinary one although the high walled lock at its end with its two bridges, one held up by a lovely arch, were impressive sights.

Our original intention had been to stop in Frómista but at Boadilla Tony told us that the albergues there (or at least the one we had intended to stop at) had been reviewed unfavourably online. In contrast, an albergue three kilometres up the road – just before Población de Campos – had been very favourably reviewed – so we decided to head for that one.

The albergue in question is called La Finca and it was unique among all the albergues we stopped at on the Camino Francés. How can I describe it? There were no dorms, but rather, individual bedrooms. I say ‘bedrooms’ reservedly because they were more like cubicles. The bedroom/cubicles had an upper and lower level. The lower level was on the ground floor; the upper level was accessible via a short set of stairs.

Our first impression of La Finca was very favourable. Very soon, however, we began to see some of the cracks – the showers didn’t have locks on them and the water was permanently cold; neither were the bedroom/cubicles as clean as one would have liked. I think La Finca had only lately opened so hopefully these were just teething problems. At any rate, the food that evening was good. As we ate, proud parents took photographs of their daughter in her first communion dress outside.

As soon as I finished my meal, I retired to my bed. I was feeling out of sorts that afternoon and not in the mood for company. I did a little writing before going to the toilet. When I came back, I found Ellena sitting on my bed. She had been concerned for me and came to make sure I was alright. Did I say I didn’t want company? I will always be very grateful for the company of a friend. We sat and chatted and peace came back to my heart.

Camino Postcard 15: Honatas to Castrojeriz

25.4.19
Day Three on the Meseta

I slept badly last night; the dorm was too warm and one of the other pilgrims snored too loudly. I couldn’t be angry, though; the heat was good for our boots and as for the snoring pilgrim, well, who is perfect? As it happens, I am prone to snoring as well, and goodness knows how many other imperfections I have that other people find annoying.

We did not eat breakfast in Honatas but hit the road straight after getting dressed. It was not a comfortable walk – my boots were still very damp from yesterday. Only from tomorrow would they start to feel dry again.

Before we left the albergue, an American pilgrim reminded me of a neat trick I had first learnt in Roncesvalles: put newspaper in your boots; it helps soak the wet/dampness up. I remembered her advice thereafter and it never failed me. How does paper soak water up so effectively? I would love to know the science of it!

When we left Honatas, the weather was dry. Alas, it didn’t stay like that for long. Thankfully, though, the rain was not heavy and we were spared the sleet and slow. Not that the weather showed us any mercy. Around mid-morning, hailstones began to fall. One struck Ellena in the eye – fortunately no damage was done.

The hailstones were so vicious we paused to take refuge next to the wall of the Arco San Antón. It was ‘just’ a ruin so didn’t keep us dry but it did allow us to turn our back on the hail stones until the shower stopped.

Prior to the hailstorm, we passed a finger of stone (photo below) on the hillside next to the path. It was, no doubt, all that remained of some building or another but in its desolation under the heavy clouds it had a real Tolkien-esque feeling about it.

After passing the ruin, we had to negotiate a huge puddle, which I almost slipped into. I came so close to doing so that I feared I had soaked my boots through for the second day in a row. Fortunately, I managed to avoid that fate by a hair’s breadth.

At St. Anthony’s Arch the hail storm soon stopped and we continued on our way. Not long later, an ambulance whizzed past us in the opposite direction; it was a salutary reminder of the dangers that the Camino can sometimes pose.

A long, little used, road took us to Castrojeriz. While walking, we met Lillian, and saw two dogs playing with each other in a field. Lillian was her usual bubbly self and the dogs looked like they were having a rare old time. It was all very heart lifting – which we needed after the hail.

As we approached Castrojeriz, the rain stopped and two rainbows appeared. One of them, as you can see in the photograph below, actually ended on the nearside of the hill. I should have gone to see if I could find the pot of gold!

When I mentioned this to Ellena and Carolin, the joke belied the fact that money was concerning me again: discussing it takes up half a page in my journal entry for today. I was still spending too much.

We arrived in Castrojeriz before midday and stopped at a café. Still suffering from the effects of yesterday’s weather, no one had the heart to continue and so, although the albergue would not open for another two and a half hours, we decided to stay there for the night.

It was a good decision. The albergue, built around a courtyard, had nice, smallish dorms. The hospitaleros cooked the meal, an oriental dish, which was very tasty. The other pilgrims were very friendly and we met Tony again, which lifted everyone’s spirits.

Although we did not know it at the time, today was the last day we had to walk in really bad weather. From now on, the weather would be at worst too hot; there would be rain, of course, but nothing like we experienced today and yesterday. In this respect, we got lucky because we did hear of snow coming down in one or two of the higher up locations along the Camino Francés. By the time we reached them, however, the snow had melted away and the weather was fine again.

Camino Postcard 14: Hornillos to Honatas

24.4.19.
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.

Camino Postcard 13: Burgos to Hornillos

23.4.19. A wet day, but a better one than the last two – well, just about.

We saw numerous statues on the way out of Burgos. I don’t know who this one commemorates but it was good to see a disabled person remembered in this way

Ellena’s knee was improving but continued to hurt. My right leg ached as as per usual and Carolin started feeling unwell. Ellena and I were able to keep walking but while Carolin could walk, she felt so bad she was not able to carry her backpack. Ellena took it for her, and now wore one on her front, and her own on her back. She looked like a backpack sandwich, and it is a matter of great regret to me that I never took a photograph of her! (If I never write another blog post, you’ll know that she killed me after reading this! Entschuldigung, Ellena!).

Given her situation, it was a heroic effort. She never once complained and carried both backpacks for sixteen kilometres.

In our haste to leave Burgos, we did not stop for breakfast there. Instead, we waited until we reached the little town of Tardajos. There, we took cover in a small tent outside a café, amongst other pilgrims, and ate chocolate croissants.

Given our previous experience, and the fact that 23rd April was a public holiday in Spain, not eating in Burgos was a bit of a risk. We could easily have ended up with nothing like we did between Redecilla and Belorado. I think my advice to future pilgrims would have to be Always eat when you can or at least, Take food with you in case you don’t find any open cafés.

Not long after leaving Tardajos, we passed a small town named Rabé de las Calzadas. In doing so, we entered the Meseta. This section of the Camino Francés is just over two hundred kilometres in length and consists of fields, fields and more fields, and paths that go on forever.

What is a true pilgrim? One who looks after another

I have read that many pilgrims take transport rather than walk across the Meseta, and I can understand why. There is no cover from the elements.

  • If you walk across the Meseta in the summer, put on sun tan lotion and wear a hat/sunglasses! Make sure, too, that you have as much water as you can carry with you.
  • If you walk across it in winter, make sure you are wearing a rain proof coat! These things are of critical importance – not just to get across the Meseta comfortably but to do so safely.

With all that said, let me not make the Meseta sound like a danger zone. It can punish the unwary, but the truth is, if Ellena, Carolin and I could walk the entire length of it in our depleted state, anyone can. Just make sure that you prepare as well as you can.

On the 23rd, the rain stopped and started all day. Fortunately, our day ended at around lunchtime. Just over twenty kilometres after leaving Burgos, we arrived in another small town – Hornillos del Camino – where we decided enough was enough. And because the day had not been an easy one, we also decided to treat ourselves: rather than go to the municipal albergue, we opted to stay at a private one instead.

It was a very homely house (the last one?) and cost €15 rather than €5 but was worth every penny. The living room was very cozy, the other pilgrims were some nice Americans, and we were given a room with two bunks, so had to share with just one other person – who turned out to be our friend Lillian: a perfect circle!

The hospitalero did not provide food so we had to eat out in the evening. Until then there was a convenience store right across the road. When I made the epic three second journey across the road to buy some food, the store owner gave me a scallop shell free of charge, which was rather kind of him.

In the afternoon, Ellena and Carolin rested. I worked on the Fixxbook while the Americans chatted to one another about the origin of the St. James in Spain legend. Later on, I discovered that one of the Americans was a fan of Bruce Springsteen. He told me that there really is an E Street in The Boss’ hometown, which was great knowledge.

The private albergue we stayed at in Hornillos also looked after members of The Way production! This poster is signed by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez

That night, I slept well.