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! =)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember hearing of thru hikers on the AT and PCT who would not take even a short alternate path because it would violate some rule in their heads about "following the true path". It's your hike - make of it as you will.

PI Joe