Friday, November 30, 2012

Day 41: Feeling Cranky!

Dscn2793bSeptember 21: As I write about this day’s adventures, nearly two months after it actually happened since my blog does not reflect “real time,” I have to consult my journal to remember all the details about a given day. And I had to laugh at my journal entry for this day because it was quite obvious that I was an a cranky mood. Here are a few of my journal entries, word-for-word, as an example of my crankiness—that actually make me laugh now:


“A sad little road walk out of Carrion de los Condes. Why are so many hikers idiots, walking far in the middle of the road, barely giving cars enough room to pass?”


“Most of the day was on long, flat stretch over dirt road. Boring, I suppose, but I still liked it. Other hikers seemed like whiners. They complain when the trail is hilly and when it’s flat!”


“I laid out in field just before Caldadilla de la Cueza. It was nice that so many hikers asked if I was okay, but good grief—it makes me mad at the same time. Is wanting to sit out in an open field and listen to the wind and the birds such a bizarre concept that people think I’m in trouble?! They get into town and stare at the wall of a bar for 5 hours. Yeah, losers!”


“At rest area, where man set up shop, about 10 drops of rain fell and I swear all dozen or so hikers grabbed chairs and headed under a tiny shelter. Seriously? I don’t know why, but other hikers are seriously annoying me today with their stupidity.”


“Whenever there’s a choice between a road walk and a scenic route, darned near everyone takes the road walk then complains about how horrible it was. HELLO???!! Then they’ll say that their feet hurt too much to take the longer scenic route. Hello?! There are alburgues on those routes that you can stop at too!”


“They also complain about the mid-80s heat. What the hell is WRONG with these people?”


The all caps and underlines are actually in my journal. =) Even the multiple question marks and exclamation marks are reproduced exactly from my journal. Clearly, I was a bit cranky this particular day!


However, the day ends with a happier note: “Camped on alternative route out of Caldadilla on edge of plateau with wonderful, open views. Listened to iPod while watching sunset which cheered me up.”


And two months later, when I think back about this day, it’s that sunset and campsite I remember best. The rest of the day, without my notes, was largely a vague memory….


A vendor sets up a fruit and drink stand along the trail.


A few minutes later, about 10 drops of rain fell, and hikers everywhere
crowded under the small shelter. Because, you know, it’s better
to be crowded with a bunch of smelly hikers than—heaven forbid—get
a few drop of rain on you. Note, it’s actually STILL SUNNY, so
it’s obviously not a major rain going on. You’d think everyone was
afraid of getting nature on them! =) I decided to sit out
under the “rain” and felt much better for it.




Although the clouds looked ugly, the weather forecast did not call
for rain, and it never materialized. (Beyond those random drops
that scared everyone, but I don’t really consider that rain.)


A rest area along the trail. This is a rest area for people, not vehicles!
Although it certainly had enough room for cars to park as well. But
except for a few farm vehicles, nobody was driving on these dirt roads.


A flock of sheep block the trail.


This sunflower, I think, captured my mood for the day perfectly! =)


Walking into Caldadilla.


A pilgrim mural at an alburgue.


Flowers in front of someone’s home.


Sunset is coming to the Meseta!


This trail marker didn’t have enough rocks on it, so I added one. =)


My campsite for the night. As it would turn out, this was one
of my favorite campsites of the entire trip!


A cloud blows in front of the sun shortly before sunset.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day 40: The Souless Senda

Dscn2690bSeptember 20: The wind died down overnight, and the pilgrims were waking past my campsite at an unholy hour. You’d think pilgrims would walk at holier hours, but the first ones passing by needed headlamps to see to the trail which made them easy to spot. Although I was mere feet from the trail, I don’t think most of them noticed my campsite—it was just too dark for them to see me. As the sun finally started to rise, however, my campsite was impossible for the passing pilgrims to miss. Quite a few of them waved at me as they walked passed, and I waved back. =)


The trail passed through Fromista early in the morning, then followed a relatively short but unpleasant road walk to Poblacion de Campos. I followed yellow arrows across a bridge going out of town, then stopped and pulled out my guidebook to check. I knew there was an alternative path out of town that stayed well away from the highway, and I didn’t want to miss the turnoff. The alternative paths often are not well-marked at the junction, even when they are well-marked along their entire length. Sure enough, I was not supposed to have crossed the bridge I just crossed.


So I backtracked a minute or so to the junction just before the bridge then turned left onto the alternative path, probably confusing all the pilgrims heading out of Poblacion de Campos as I walked in the wrong direction momentarily. =)


The alternative path followed along a nice river for much of its distance. I saw only a couple of other pilgrims along the route, the vast majority once again having decided that it was preferable to walk one kilometer less than along a pleasant riverside road walk. I could see the road walk most of the way, far off in the distance, with tiny dots trudging along the road knowing each of those dots represented a pilgrim walking alongside the road. It wasn’t an especially busy road on its own, but still held plenty of fast-moving traffic—at least compared to the dirt road I walked along where only one slow-moving car passed me the entire route. My guidebook described the road walk a “souless senda” and some hikers had even been rumored to take the bus ahead to get around it. I’m not sure a “souless bus ride” would be much of an improvement, though. I just couldn’t get it around my head that so few people wanted to take these alternative paths when they were so much more pleasant! But I tried not to get upset by it, reminding myself that part of the reason these alternatives were so pleasant was because they were NOT so crowded with other pilgrims. =)


The alternative path reconnected with the main path in the town of Villalcazar de Sirga, where I found a pilgrim surfing the web with his smartphone. “There’s free wi-fi here,” he told me, and that was all the words I needed to sit down, pull out my laptop, and get online for a bit. Since I wasn’t plugged into an outlet and still had more to walk, I just made a quick check of email and Atlas Quest before closing up and continuing on.


Dscn2693bThe rest of the day’s hiking really was a “soulless senda”—an utterly miserable section of trail built alongside a relatively busy road. My guidebook called it the “pilgrim autopista,” or the “pilgrim highway,” because of the vast numbers of pilgrims following the road here, anxious to push through the miserable little route.


The only thing that would have made the route worse is if we actually had to hike on the shoulder of the road, but there was a dedicated walkway next to the road. It looked fairly new, and by all accounts, this area has invested millions of dollars building these pilgrim autopistas along the busiest roads they could find. I think the trail used to follow less busy routes—perhaps the alternative path I took earlier used to be the main trail?—but I’m stunned to think that they’d spend so much money to make our walks so unpleasant by pushing pilgrims alongside busy roads.


On the other hand, by all accounts, as much as pilgrims everywhere seem to claim to hate it, the vast majority of them still choose it over more pleasant alternatives, so many the authorities do know a little something about the pilgrim psyche. I imagine them in a smoke-filled room. “Yeah, of course they’ll hate walking alongside this busy road, but look at the map! It’s 0.5 kilometers shorter! That’s what they really want most of all—not to walk anymore!”


In any case, I pulled out my iPod again and cranked up the music to help drown out the noise of the passing vehicles and a few kilometers later, I hoofed into Carrion de los Condes for the night, deciding that I needed a shower and clean clothes once again, and checked into the Santiago Hostel because, you know, I was hiking towards Santiago. =) When I arrived, Andrew from Ottawa was already in the room—a fellow I had first met my first night in Spain and hadn’t seen since. A short while later, Brent walked in—a pleasant surprise, but he brought news that Hilary had stayed behind because she had gotten sick. “It’s not good to be hiking when you need a toilet every 30 minutes!” The room was rounded out later in the afternoon by two Koreans who knew no English at all, but I could at least greet them properly in their own language. =)


The trail passed by a lock in the canal. I’m no engineer,
but I can’t imagine that the water leaking out of the side walls
here is a good sign….


Artwork while coming out of Fromista.


The “pilgrim autopista.” Walking alongside the
busy road isn’t my idea of pleasant, though,
so I kept my eyes open for an alternative path a
short ways ahead.


This sign made me laugh. It reads, roughly speaking,
”Dumping trash is prohibited.” The part that
made me laugh was all the trash piled up behind the sign! =)


Artwork in Villovieco, about halfway through the
alternative path.


The alternative path was a pleasant little walk alongside
a small creek. =)


A pretty little bridge, but the creek here has run dry.


The end of the pleasant alternative path is near…. Now I’ll have
to suffer along the road walks from here on out for the rest of the day.


These strange houses appear to be more underground than above it!
I assume it helps keep them cool during the hot summer months, although
the temperatures were quite comfortable at this time of year.


The “souless senda.” (“Senda” is Spanish for “footpath.”) Fortunately,
I didn’t have to walk on this section for very long, but most pilgrims
choose to hike along the section for pretty much the entire day!


A statue of a pilgrim in Carrion de los Condes.


The view from the window in my hostel. Looks like
some sort of street fair going on! =)


When I went grocery shopping, I found this candy. It looked kind of
like Starbursts so I thought I’d try it out of curiosity. And indeed,
they have the same texture and look as Starbursts, although the flavors
are quite different! =)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 39: The Beautiful Meseta

Dscn2579bSeptember 19: Rain never materialized overnight—nothing more than a few drops, at least. Strictly speaking, setting up my tarp wasn’t necessary, but it did give me a peace of mind that I wouldn’t have had without it.


Without anyone to hike with, I listened to my iPod for most of the day. While twirling around my trekking pole at one point, I accidently whacked myself pretty hard in the nose with it. I looked around to see if anyone saw that, but nobody did, but my nose hurt a bit for the rest of the day and I tried to be more careful about not whacking myself in the nose in the future. It would be kind of embarrassing if I had to get off the trail because I broke my own nose with my own trekking pole! =)


I arrived in the long, long town of Castrojeriz, but I didn’t stop to rest there. I pushed on out of town where the trail climbed a steep but exhilarating hill that I absolutely loved. I loved the strong wind through my hair, I loved the wide-open views and Walking on Sunshine became my Song of the Day. “And this is the ‘ugly’ part of the trail!” I would say to other pilgrims along the route, absolutely thrilled with the scenery. They all seemed to be in agreement that the section between Burgos and Leon—so far, at least—was absolutely wonderful. “Those folks who skipped on ahead to Leon are missing out!”


In Itero de la Vega, I caught up with Hilary and Brent again. I’d have liked to keep hiking with them out of town, but I still hadn’t found a good place to resupply my food since leaving Burgos and it was getting dangerously low. This town had a grocery store that I intended to hit before I left, even if it meant I had to wait for a couple of hours for the store to open. I hoped I wouldn’t have to wait for the store to open, but I would if I had to. I really needed more food in my pack if I wanted to camp overnight again, and I definitely intended to camp overnight again.


Fortunately, the store was open. They call themselves a “supermarket,” but there was absolutely nothing “super” about this “market.” I’ve seen 7-11s with a better food selection! But I made do with the food they had available—beggars can’t be choosers and all that—then hit the trail out of Itero hoping to catch up with Hilary and Brent quickly. Which I did. =)


Karolina was still MIA. I asked Hilary and Brent if they had seen her in Hontanus overnight, but they hadn’t. I had been thinking that Karolina was probably ahead of me, but the lack of Karolina sightings had me starting to think that maybe she was really behind me after all.


The landscape, for the most part, was completely and totally flat as far as the eye could see. Almost! Far to the north, I could see a distinct haze of rugged mountains, and I smiled knowing that the Atlantic Ocean was probably just on the other side of those mountains. Another Camino path followed along the north coast of Spain, and there were probably other Camino hikers over on the other side of those mountains. I could also see a smaller, less-rugged-looking mountain range to the south. And our path followed this flat area between the two ranges. The Meseta—what a beautiful place!


Dscn2581bI wound up hanging out in Boadilla del Camino for much of the later afternoon killing time before looking for a place to camp. Hilary and Brent bought sandwiches, but I decided to wait until later in the afternoon and get one for dinner given the poor food supplies I had left in my pack. When I did finally get up to order a sandwich a couple of hours later, I was told that they weren’t serving sandwiches anymore. ARGH!!!! “But I KNOW you have sandwiches! My friends ordered sandwiches from you!”


So I continued further into town where I knew there was a restaurant with an alburgue—I’d just get dinner there instead. Except when I walked into the alburgue, it was crowded with several dozen pilgrims lounging around. I felt positively claustrophobic in there and immediately decided I wanted no part of it. I turned around and left without dinner.


I did still have food in my pack, but it was getting pretty thin on food that I actually wanted to eat. But it would have to do….


The wind, like yesterday, was still mighty strong all day long and into the later afternoon, so when it came time to set up a campsite, I had to look for a place that was protected from the wind. The trail followed along the top of a berm that held in water from a canal, and I finally decided that the best place to camp was at the bottom of the berm, on the side opposite the canal. Some wind still got down to me, but the berm blocked the worst of it. The worst part of the location, though, was that I was in complete view of the hikers passing by in the morning. I liked my campsites to have a little privacy, but I knew there would be absolutely none of that come morning. On the other hand, I thought, if Karolina is behind me, she’ll have to walk along the trail here and she can’t possibly miss me camped on the side of the trail like this!


I really missed my camping buddy. It’s a lot lonelier to camp by oneself. I kept hoping when I was looking for a place to camp I’d look behind a tree and see her already camped there, but that never happened. The most surprising thing to me was that I hadn’t even found anyone who had seen Karolina since Burgos. Where the heck did she GO?! I hope she wasn’t trying to avoid me!


The busting streets of Hontanus.


I was a little disappointed that this fountain
didn’t seem to work. =(


Beautiful! And this was considered the ‘ugly’ part of the trail? Ha!


Arco de San Anton—the coolest ruins along the trail. No, wait—correction—
the coolest ruins ON the trail! The trail goes right through the
arch on the right. =)


I stopped at these ruins for a quick sightseeing tour. =)


Castrojeriz is a very long town that wraps around this
hill like a boa constrictor.


The ridge ahead is the first non-flat section I’d seen in days.
The trail goes up the dirt road you see in the middle of the ridge.


Yep, it’s gonna be steep! And I was looking forward to it! =)


Looking back towards Castrojeriz. (The town is by the hill on the right
side of the photo.)


And back down the other side of the ridge back to the flat ground.


I saw a lot of this particular view. At least when I wasn’t
busy whacking myself in the nose with the trekking pole. =)


A pilgrim rest area. I think the building here used to be an old
hospital for pilgrims back in the day.


A beautiful bridge across the River Pisuerga.


The view from the top of the bridge.


There was nothing ‘super’ about this supermercado….


I have absolutely no idea what this mural is supposed to represent….


And back to the Meseta again….




Art on the trail outside of Itero de la Vega. The wheel in the background
can be turned to get water.


In Itero de la Vega.


A tree-lined path out of Itero de la Vega.


Then the trail followed by the Castilla Canal for several kilometers.