Day 21 – To Castrojeriz

Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz – 20 Kms, 25,697 steps

A beautiful dawn for my exit from town

Mornings at albergues are interesting. If breakfast is offered, as it was at Hornillos Meeting Point, it’s laid out the night before and there is no albergue staff there in the morning. Pilgrims help themselves to breakfast (which can be of varying quality) and often have to exit the building through a side door, because the front door is securely locked.

I ate, finished packing, and trooped out of town along with many others getting an early start. So far, I’ve managed to time it so that the pre-dawn light and other pilgrims show me the way, without having to resort to using my headlamp.

The relentless Meseta landcape

We climbed up out of town and I was on the Meseta an hour later. There were dry wheat and oat fields as far as the eye could see, along with the usual wind turbines. It was sunny and dry, with a little breeze, so it was good walking weather.

It’s been said that the landscape and monotony of the Meseta do strange things to time and distance. I haven’t noticed that yet, but I’m just two days in and I’m ready for the Meseta to be over.

And they call Montana “Big Sky country”

As I plod along, I pass or am passed by many of the same people from one day to the next. Actually, there’s something telling in that sentence: I pass people. In the early days of this Camino, everyone passed me. I must be getting stronger.

There’s a Camino saying that the first third of the journey is physical, the second third mental, and the last third spiritual. I’m in the second third now and I confess to having a lot of thoughts, especially at night, questioning what I’m doing. It can be lonely and boring. I’m lucky that I have the support and affection of many people and that they encourage me daily. I wonder how it is for other pilgrims.

I pass a lot of interesting art work in small towns, speaking of encouragement, which urges pilgrims to continue. There are also some weird artworks, like this statue, seen in a private yard:

Not a pubic water fountain

I walked through the morning, through the towns of San Bol and Hontanas, and then past the ruins of the Convent of San Anton.

The 14th century convent ruins

There’s still an albergue there, run by a religious order, that offers the full rustic effect: no electricity and a shared evening meal, in return for a donation. I prefer a little more modern shelter, thank you, but I was happy to refill my water bottle at their fountain and make a small donation.

My destination, at last

The last 2.5 Kms into Castrojeriz were down a paved road. That’s better than the rocky paths I walked today but still a hard surface. It’s always nice to see the town limits sign for my destination.

I’m staying tonight in a hostel right at the near edge of town. No more walking today, which is good. However, tomorrow I’ll have to walk the length of the town just to leave it. My hostel, El Manzano, is run by a lovely young woman who took it over just two weeks ago. She’s from Argentina but lived for a year in Sedona, AZ and she is getting a trial-by -fire taking charge at the height of the pilgrim season.

A nicely-restored VW Bug parked outside my hostel

I’ve been calling ahead each day to confirm reservations I made a few months ago and have gotten no answer at the albegure I’m supposed to stay in tomorrow in Itero de la Vega. Some online research revealed that the owner died in August and the place is closed. That’s a Camino first for me (and for him, of course) so I was suddenly scrambling to find a place to stay. As I’ve mentioned earlier, these tiny towns have no excess capacity, so my plan was upended. After half an hour of calling and considering, I decided to combine the next two days and go all the way to Fromista (25 Kms!) tomorrow, where my hostel could accept me a day early, and let me stay two days. So I traded a long walk for a day off. My longest walk so far has been 22 Kms, so I should be able to do a few more. Let’s see what happens.

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