Day 34 – To Rabanal del Camino

Astorga to Rabanal del Camino – 21 Kms, 27,347 steps

I said farewell to Astorga at 8:00 AM and joined several others heading down the Camino to the city limits. Sunrise occurred about 20 minutes later. It was a chilly 44 F and I was layered up. The walking was smooth and easy, however.

Doorway in Santa Catalina de Somoza

Before long, I had passed through several small towns and arrived at my halfway point, Santa Catalina de Somoza, and I stopped for breakfast at a cafe I recognized from 2019. How I managed 10 Kms without coffee (there was nothing open in Astorga) is a mystery.

Santa Catalina Camino marker

The guidebook says that Santa Catalina de Somoza is the only town on the Camino named for a woman! She’s Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and apparently the “de Somoza” part means “of the foothills”. At any rate, I’m glad to have spent a nice 30 minutes there, getting my caffeine fix and shedding layers to better match the warming weather.

There are a lot of pilgrims out on the Camino now, more than I remember seeing at this point in 2019. Sometimes it seems crowded, other times it’s nice to be able to see where others are going up ahead when the path zigs and zags. I wonder what this means it will be like when I get to Sarria, where the short-distance folks traditionally join in and swell the pilgrim headcount.

The Spanish countryside

My next stop was the town of El Ganso, whose name makes me think of “Gonzo”, Hunter S. Thompson’s wacky type of journalism. The town is the home of the famous Cowboy Cafe, which I think might please Thompson:

The Cowboy Cafe exterior…
…and Western-themed interior

It’s more hype than substance, though. For example, there’s Willie Nelson on the sound sysem, but no Lone Star in the taps. Of course, if you’re going to have Cowboy Cafe, then you need:

The Albergue Indian Way

Yes, an albergue that houses you in teepees. I think Hollywood needs to look into filming a new series of westerns here – the community is obviously into it already.

I was in Rabanal de Camino in no time after that and I’m now checked in and unpacked at El Refugio Hosteria, a really nice hostal. In 2019, I ate a fantastic dinner here, featuring a salad with a scoop of spiced ice cream, and a main dish of beef cheeks in red wine sauce. It was absolutely the best meal of that Camino, so I’m looking forward to seeing what is on offer this evening.

Tomorrow, I’m off to El Acebo. It’s only 17 Kms but, as I recall, there are some steep sections with treacherous footing. The weather forecast is for more of the same, which is great. Cheers.

Day 33 – To Astorga

Hospital de Orbigo to Astorga – 17 Kms, 27,634 steps

I liked the cool sign out front

My night at the albergue was not that great. Lots of noisy folks making a racket right up to lights out at 10 PM, couldn’t get my sleeping bag to behave, early wake-up call. Breakfast was served from 6 – 7 AM, then we had to be out the door by 8 AM. No lingering over coffee! And sunrise was not until 8:20, so I found myself in the dark at the edge of town, 44 F, navigating with my headlamp. The stars were pretty but I’m not really a fan of walking by lamp light.

Wall decoration on buildings on the Camino route

It’s Fall and I’m experiencing typical Fall weather: crisp and cool, breezy, sunnny, and clear. As long as I put on all the layers in the morning, it’s really nice.

Another nice sunrise behind me, but look at that path surface: ugh!

I walked for hours on some of the worst path surface yet: rocky and difficult and without a worn tire track to spare the feet. At about the halfway point, I pulled into what I call a “hippie rest area donativo”. A well-tanned fellow named David occupies some ruins alongside the Camino and provides food, drink, hammocks, seats, and conversation, in exchange for donations. He told me he was there “in service to God”. I was grateful for coffee at that point, but the general level of hygiene was so bad that I passed on everything else he had on offer.

The Cross of Saint Toribio and Astorga in the distance

I finally arrived at the point where there’s a cross commemorating a 5th century bishop, with a view of Astorga ahead. So close, yet it would be another hour before I got there. I was keeping my eye out, however, for two things I remembered from 2019:

The trashcan is more battered but the bumper sticker is still there
A statue of a pilgrim doing something pilgrims do really well

I also re-experienced the steep climb up into Astorga when the time came. This is an old medieval town with ancient walls, built on the high ground for protection. I found my hotel without any difficulty and got settled in.

First Camino marker seen with the Galicia region name (257 Kms)

Astorga packs its 12,000 residents in tightly and offers everything a pilgrim might need. Next to its large cathedral is the Bishop’s Palace, designed by our old friend Gaudi. He sure was prolific.

Gaudi’s Bishop’s Palace
More large-scale public art

Tomorrow, I have a bit longer walk, 21 Kms, to Rabanal del Camino. I’m staying in the same hostal that I stayed in last time, specifically because they served the best gourmet pilgrim meal. I’m looking forward to seeing what they have on offer this year. Only 14 more days left before Santiago.

Day 32 – To Hospital de Orbigo

Villadangos del Paramo to Hospital de Orbigo – 11 Kms, 19,873 steps

There’s nothing quite like waking up knowing you have a short walking day ahead of you. Unless, of course, it’s a rest day ahead of you. Today, I had just 11 Kms to walk to get to my next destination, Hospital de Orbigo, and the weather forecast said there might be rain but not unitl after 2:00, so I could take it very easy. It was chilly and there was a pretty good wind, so layers, buff, and gloves were required setting out.

A gatepost outside a private residence in Villadangos

I couldn’t check-in at my next albergue until noon, so I adjusted my pace to one I like to call “moseying”. The route, once out of town, was almost all senda, a track or farm road beside the N-120 highway.

The Camino, outside of Villadangos del Paramo

For some reason, the socks I hand-washed yesterday did not dry completely overnight, so I pinned them to my backpack to air-dry as I walked along this morning. I have a pair of 5”-long safety pins for this purpose.

Flying saucer sighted over San Martin? No, that’s the municipal water tower.

I quickly passed through my halfway point at San Martin and didn’t even stop for coffee. The cafe con leche and pastry I had for breakfast in Villadangos was enough to keep me going. And I knew I only had another 90 minutes to my destination for the day.

The sky above, the corn below
The Camino track alongside the N-120 highway

The weather quickly improved and I was soon shedding layers. This despite the fact that the distant sky looked dark gray and ominous. The path surface was pretty nice, pavement through the towns and packed sand and gravel in between.

The kilometers are being whittled down

Despite my efforts to dawdle, I arrived in Hospital de Orbigo at 11:00 AM, an hour before my albergue opened. I had coffee at a local bar and perused the headlines online. I mentioned earlier, I think, that I’m using an “eSIM” in my iPhone and the Airalo cell data service and it has been fantastic. I signed up for 50 GBs of data and have barely used 12 so far. Service has always been available, wherever I’ve been. So when the albergue WiFi sucks, I know I can still make these blog posts via cellular.

Looks like an albergue is drying their entire compliment of sheets

Just as I was about to present myself at my albergue, who should come walking down the street but my Australian friends Dennis and Ginny! You may remember that they detoured to a scenic route Camino branch yesterday and now here they were. We chatted a bit and they went off to have some lunch before continuing on towards Astorga. I went to the albergue to check-in.

“Pollarded” trees in the town’s main square

My albergue is, well, an albergue. So my “private room” is actually a private room with two bunk beds, i.e. a room for four persons. The San Miguel albergue is famous for the wall-to-wall paintings that decorate every wall and it absolutely reeked of patchouli incense.

My private room did not come with a private bathroom this time, so I’m using the communal one. As far as I can tell, there are beds for 32 people and dividing by sex, that’s 16 men. We share one toilet and two showers. Really? One toilet for 16 people? This should be interesting, first thing in the morning.

I’m glad brought along a few John Buddy bags, though I haven’t used one yet. What are they? These are lunch bag-sized bags with a few ounces of powder in them. You urinate into them, the powder becomes a gel that absorbs all the liquid and odor, and you discard them in the trash. I was the first male pilgrim through the door today, so I was ahead of the crowd for shaving, showering, etc. Nonetheless, I think the facilities-to-pilgrim ratio is poor here.

Tomorrow, I’ve got a 17km walk into a larger city, Astorga. I’m staying in a nice hotel there, so there’ll be no need for John Buddy bags. I just had to dash outside and rescue my laundry from the clothes line and a passing shower. I hope the hotel will have actual washing machines available – handwashing is okay but I doubt it gets clothes all that clean. I’m enjoying remembering my 2019 Camino, as I remember this part of the Camino more clearly and recognize many sights. Cheers!

Day 31 – To Villadangos del Paramo

Leon to Villadangos del Paramo – 21 Kms, 26,170 steps

I left my hotel in Leon about 15 minutes before dawn this morning and took a direct route to meet up with the Camino, at the point where it emerges from meandering through town past every religious site.

I’ve mentioned my Aussie friends, Dennis, Ginny, and Heather, before. I enjoy their company and have run into them repeatedly during my walk. This morning was no different: at the exact moment I was crossing a major Leon intersection to join the official Camino path, the three of the were doing the same thing from a different direction. That’s another one of those happy “Camino coincidences”. I hadn’t seen them in several days, even though we all had a Leon rest day, and bingo! here they were right in front of me this morning. Amazing!

So, we walked together all morning. Or rather Dennis and I walked together, with Ginny, and then finally Heather catching up with us when we took a break. It was fairly cold out and I had layered up with both a short- and long-sleeve tee-shirt, my fleece, and my windbreaker. My neck Buff and a warm gloves finished my Fall ensemble for today. Not only was it in the 40s F but there was a chilling breeze, too, and it was cloudy all day. I usually plan on shedding layers by mid-morning as the sun warms things up but that was not to be today; I kept it all on, all the way.

Dennis is a retired boat-builder from the Sydney area and we have some nice conversations as we walk. He, Ginny, and Heather are all Camino veterans, so we have that in common, too. They’ve invited me to get in touch if I’m ever in Australia; maybe this is why (Camino-wise) I’ve met them. Perhaps a trip “down under” is in my future.

The church of San Froilan, where the Virgin and the Apostles look to Santiago

The town of La Virgen del Camino marks the end of the suburban sprawl and industrial zone to the west of Leon. Many pilgrims choose to taxi from Leon to here; we walked it, of course, and arrived round 10 AM.

Shortly afterwards, the Aussies took an optional southern Camino branch to Mazarife, so we parted company. I’m certain I’ll see them again.

The real Camino wanders alongside the N-120 roadway, similar to, but with a much more varied landscape than, the Meseta. I stopped in Valverde (my halfway point today) for coffee, a slice of the proprietor’s wife’s excellent pound cake, and 20 minutes of “boots off” time, then went on to pass through San Miguel. In another 90 minutes, I was in Villadangos and my hostal was in view.

The last time I stayed in Villadangos, I was in a hostal right in town, over what I dubbed the “fly cafe” due to a prodigious number of the winged pests, and I wasn’t interested in staying there again. The current place is something of a truck stop and half a kilometer outside of town, but it has very nice rooms and a very good kitchen (hardly a fly to be seen). I had their Menu of the Day for lunch.

What happened when I poured my chilled vino tinto into the glass

The Menestre de Verduras (vegetable stew) starter was the best I’ve had so far, and I think the fact that it had vegetarian unfriendly chorizo in it was one reason it was so good.

I feel pretty good today, even after 21Kms, and I think that’s down to my rest day yesterday. I’ve got a mix of short and long days in my final two plus weeks, which I hope will turn out to be a good strategy. Tomorrow, for example, my walk to Hospital de Orbigo is only 11 Kms. However, the temperature is forecast to be much like today was, so layers are ensured, and there’s a chance of rain, as much as 50% at times. I’d prefer to stay dry, thanks. Onward to Santiago!

Day 30 – Leon Rest Day

I made maximum use of my day of rest by sleeping in and enjoying the hotel breakfast buffet. I spent an hour doing online administrivia and then took a cab to the local Decathlon store. This is a chain of big box sporting goods stores, similar to Dick’s in the U.S.

The Leon store was really big and really well-stocked but not with hiking gear. It had more space devoted to bicycles, rollerblades, and women’s clothing than I’ve seen at other Decathlons. Nonetheless, I was able to get most of the stuff I wanted, such as replacement socks.

The view down my hotel’s atrium

I did my laundry and then, in the afternoon, went to a restaurant, El Capricho, recommended by my friend Sergio for lunch. Boy, was that a great tenderloin steak! I may not need to eat any protein for days. Thanks, Sergio!

It went very well with a glass of Crianza

Yesterday, I decided to clean out my backpack and was horrified to find a plastic bag at the very bottom containing the moldy remains of a breakfast-to-go (baguette, orange, other stuff). I think I got it about three weeks ago, and it must have fallen down beneath my backpack liner, to be totally forgotten. Yuck. What a surprise to find it! Luckily, the food wrapping was intact so there was nothing gross in contact with my pack.

I mentioned the crowds of the fiesta of Los Pendones in my last post. I noticed a lot of temporary tents and bleachers being put up yesterday, so I asked around and it turns out this year’s parading of the flags is this coming Sunday. I am really glad I will not be here for the crowds!

After a day away from the pilgrim routine, I’m happy to be back on it this afternoon. I’ve showered and done laundry, had lunch, and after I’m done with this blog entry, I’ll be reviewing the weather and route for tomorrow’s 21 Km walk. It appears I’m staying at what might be another truck stop! If so, I hope it’s as nice as the last one.

Two Fridays after this coming Friday I will walk into Santiago. I wonder how it easy it will be this time to go back to Real Life once this is over. In 2019, it took me about a month to “recover” from the Camino.

Day 29 – To Leon

Mansilla de las Mulas to Leon – 18 Kms, 29,870 steps

I had a pretty good sleep, although it was cold outside and the pension manager didn’t seem to think that meant that the heat should be turned on inside. It’s the old “it’s not November, we don’t turn on the heat until November” philosophy that ignores the realities of the temperature right now. I had a comforter and was warm enough in bed; but, boy, that marble floor in the bathroom was cold.

My waymarkers through and out of town

It was, in fact, around 39 F again at dawn and I could see my breath in the air. I layered up and was quite comfortable as I joined a gaggle of other pilgrims and exited Mansilla.

I walked along the senda beside the highway for several hours, then went through the small towns of Puente Villarente and Arcahueja before finally reaching the outskirts of Leon, after five total hours of walking.

My kind of place: “Brico” means “DIY”, so this is effectively a Home Depot

Despite warnings in the guidebook about it, I found the Camino route through urban Leon to be exceedingly well marked, with brass pavement shells and plenty of the popular yellow arrows.

The path is easy to follow in town
Of course, lions are a favorite symbol in Leon, on pedestals
… or coming up from underground

I found my nice hotel and checked in around 1:00 PM. My room is quite nice and has a big bathtub! A half-hour soak in a hot tub this afternoon really did wonders for my legs and feet. I may do it again tomorrow.

The view from my 5th floor window
Gaudi’s neo-Gothic Casa Botines museum is just around the corner

The Camino is just a few blocks away and, after six blocks, it empties into the plaza right in front of the Cathedral. Here’s a view up that street:

The last time I was on this street, in 2019, it was wall-to-wall people watching the Pendones parade. This was the hours-long parading of flags by regional groups and it was something to see (see my Camino 2019 blog for the details of this event). The street was filled with the parade and the sidewalks were jammed with people. The difference now is so striking that it took me a while to recognize where I was.

Leon Cathedral and its empty plaza

Similarly, the plaza in front of the Cathedral, which was the destination of all the pendones flags last time and filled with people, was wide-open today. It was much nicer to be there today!

As you can see in these pictures, the weather is gorgeous but a little cool. I enjoyed it by sitting outside for lunch, on the Camino route for maximum people-watching, and had a really nice meal:

Flattened, grilled artichokes sprinkled with chorizo! Yum!

Inquiring Minds Want to Know: What are you using to do blog posts?

Here’s the great, folding, Bluetooth keyboard I carry…
… and here it is unfolded. My iPhone rests sideways on a ledge above the keys.

Tomorrow is a Rest Day here! Yay! I plan to do some errands to get preprared for the last few weeks of my Camino, such as buying a replacement pair of socks, etc. I would like to print my absentee voting ballot and send it in while I’m here but that may be a challenge – the hotel doesn’t have a “Business Center” so I don’t have access to a computer and printer. My iPhone doesn’t have a USB connector, which might simplify things. So, I’ll need to do some research. Do “Internet Cafes” still exist? Stay tuned and see you tomorrow.

Day 28 – To Mansilla de la Mulas

El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de la Mulas – 19 Kms, 29,470 steps

To leave town, just follow the familiar markers

After a very pleasant night in the truck stop hotel, I realized it was 39 F outside at 7:30 AM and broke out the cold weather gear. Lots of layers were involved and I was plenty warm when I headed out just before dawn. Of course, this is the time of the year when, within an hour or two, most of those layers will be shed as it warms up. However, the next few days are forecast to have cold mornings so it was good practice. How cold was it?

So cold even the trees were wearing sweaters!

It was a cool sunny day and eveyone seemed to be looking foward to leaving The Meseta tomorrow. I met up with my two of the Australian pilgrim trio I seem to encounter a lot, and discovered that one of them had taken the train to Leon to rest her Achilles tendon.

Roadside reminder that all this pilgrim stuff has a religious context

I started thinking today, as I shed layers, what I would do with my clothing and gear once this Camino is over. Right now, I don’t think I’ll do the Camino again, so why should I keep the gear? That led to thinking about donating or trashing some of it right in Santiago, rather than hauling it back to Paris or Virginia, only to dump it there.

Inquiring Minds Want to Know: What’s Your Favorite Piece of Gear?

This small fan has been wonderful

This little battery-powered fan, which uses the same USB charger as my iPhone, has been great at providing night time airflow in stuffy rooms and even a breeze for drying clothes. It was a last-minute $20 Amazon purchase and worth every penny.

Tree farms provide interesting perspective views
And there are informative signs along the way, too

I took my halfway point break at the town of Reliegos where, this being Sunday, nearly everything was closed. The one bar open at 11:00 AM was very popular with pilgrims! There were endless calls for cafe con leche.

The Esla River, contained here within concrete banks

Eventually Mansilla de las Mulas came into view on the horizon, then a few hours of walking later, it was in front of me. Once again, because it’s Sunday, the place was a ghost town. Luckily, my pension was open and receiving.

NOT a Guinness product

After showering and doing my laundry, I managed to find the only open bar in town and had lunch there. I have taken a liking lately to Radler, which you may know as “beer with lemon”. This despite the not-at-all-fond memories I have of horrible hangovers in my youth from drinking a product called Hop’n Gator, a kind of malt liquor/gatorade mix. Ugh! Radler is usually available on tap and Amstel bottles it, but this bar today had neither of those. Instead the bartender simply added some lemon soda to a half pint of draft San Miguel beer, in a Guinness glass. It tasted fine but I’m sure the good folks in Dublin would be appalled.

Tomorrow, it’s 18Kms into Leon and I’m looking forward to it. I have a list of errands to run in Leon on my day off, getting myself ready for the last few weeks of the Camino. Cheers!

Day 27 – To El Burgo Ranero

Sahagun to El Burgo Ranero – 18 Kms, 24,792 steps

Giant mural in Sahagun supporting… what? Women farmers?

Some two-star hotels are surprisingly good and some redefine how low the bar is set. Sadly, my lodging in Sahagun was the latter. I tell myself “it’s only for a night” and hope the next place will be better. I did’t sleep too badly, though.

Sahagun’s Arch of San Benito
Dawn making an appearance in the rearview

A small group of us walked through Sahagun’s pre-dawn streets, past some of its finest monuments and churches, and out into the countryside. The Camino path was another senda, a path alongside the highway. Some gently-rolling hills led us away from town.

Nice, shady, tree-lined path sections became fairly common

I made a startling discovery early this morning: I had no reservation and, therefore, no room at the inn that I was traveling to! This was another independent operator email snafu and reinforces the value of using a service like Booking.com for reservations.

Luckily, I was prepared. I’d had trouble yesterday getting any answer when I called the place, so I made a reservation at, of all places, a nearby mega truck stop. So when my original reservation vaporized, I had the truck stop to fall back on. And it’s surprisingly nice: a good room with real A/C, just a tad off the Camino, and with a 24-hour diner and convenience store beside it. Not a whiff of diesel fumes. I suspect it may be nicer than my original accomodation at the albergue, and for a few dollars less. Another case of “the Camino provides”?

Home Sweet Truck Stop

I was walking for a while on the route of the ancient Via Romana, the original Roman road through Spain, in the era of Augustus.

A tiny onlooker or, as the French think of them, an “appetizer”

The rolling hills today introduced acres of a new crop: corn. Some of it was totally dried out but still standing (“feed corn” perhaps?) while other fields were still green. All were heavy with ears of corn, ready for harvesting.

Dried but still standing

When I got to my halfway point this morning, at Bercianos del Real Camino, I was surprised by Albergue La Perala, a really nice place with something I’ve rarely seen on the Camino: a well-manicured, green lawn. It was a pleasure to take off my boots, sip a cafe con leche, and rest for a while here.

Albergue La Perala’s flower-lined lawn

I found another fine example of local large-scale mural art in the middle of Bercianos. Look at this image and appreciate its terrific use of perspective. Can you tell which areas are flat?

Answer: ALL of it

Quite a few pilgrims on bicyles went by me today, including a pair on a tandem. Almost everyone shouts out a “Buen Camino” greeting as they pass.

Just about perfect conditions

For most of the second half of my walk, conditions were just about perfect: temps in the 60s F, a light breeze, sunny but not on the well-shaded path, gently-rolling hills, and a really comfortable path surface. I hope this keeps up!

A Camino Eyesore

I’m not sure who approved it, but the metal arch over the path outside El Burgo Ranero is jarring and unattractive. And all of the stickers that have been applied to it haven’t helped its appearance, either.

I’ve enjoyed my stay at the Avia Truck Stop so far. Tomorrow, I’m off to Mansilla de las Mulas and my last night in the Meseta before heading to the big city, Leon.

Day 26 – To Sahagun

Calzadilla de la Cueza to Sahagun – 22 Kms, 30,165 steps

I had a nice rest at the Hostal Camino Real and enjoyed their breakfast buffet (lots of good protein) before leaving just before dawn. The forecast was for cool, cloudy weather and that was fine with me.

I walked along a senda, the path beside the highway, for several hours and the path surface was pretty nice. Then we got away from the road, back through farm fields, and the crappy, rocky surface was back.

Inquiring Minds Want To Know: What Do You Eat?

Good question! Most Spanish cafes and restaurants offer a “menu of the day”, which lets you select from several items for a first and second course, and dessert. Wine, water, and bread may be included, all for a usually low fixed price. Here’s a example of my mid-afternoon main meal yesterday:

My first course was a tasty Menestra de Verduras (vegetable stew)

Note that there’s a giant bottle of water and a full bottle of wine on the table, and I’m welcome to consume as much as I want. Such generosity is not always the case with the menu of the day – a single glass of wine may be served instead and water might cost extra.

My second course: delicious pork loins in a Blue Cheese sauce

As you can see, the servings are large. The food was tasty and I was pretty stuffed at the end of the meal. Three pork loins is generous.

An ice cream sandwich chocolate-dipped thingy

My dessert preference is always Rice Pudding, but they were out of it so I requested ice cream. The weird hybrid bar shown above was presented and, while not what I was expecting, it was good. Total cost for my meal: 12 euros.

Note the cloud cover

Back out on the Camino, I strode along through Ledigos and Terradillos de los Templarios (yes, we’re in Templar knights country) and I took a 30-minute break at my halfway point for the day, Moratinos. I ran into the trio of Australians I met in the first few weeks of my Camino, whom I haven’t seen since Burgos, which was a nice surprise.

At the next town, San Nicolas, I was concerned to see a Guardia Civil van parked beside the Camino path and pilgrims gathering around it. The Guardia is sort of a cross between what in the U.S. is the National Guard and the State Police. An officer approached me as I walked up and… wanted to know if I wanted a Guardia Civil stamp in my pilgrim passport (which was what everyone else was getting). I didn’t, but I thought it was an interesting positive PR exercise on their part.

Look at that – under 400 Kms!

I finally made it to Sahagun around 1:00, which meant I covered 22 Kms in 5 hours – not too shabby. I have two more 22 Km walks planned in the coming weeks, but everything else I think is 20 or less from now on.

Sahagun is a a larger town (pop. 2,800) and has a rich religious history tied to the Benedictine order. The town is awash in ruins, churches, and holy remains. None of which I’ll take in, as I’m out of here tomorrow at dawn. I’ve got two more days before I leave The Meseta behind and get to Leon, where I’ll enjoy some luxury hotel living and a rest day. Oh, yes!

Day 25 – To Calzadilla de la Cueza

Carrion de los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza – 17 Kms, 24,104 steps

I had a good night’s sleep in the Comfort Suites hotel and headed out at 8:10, just as the sun was making an appearance. There were several routes out of town and I saw some departing pilgrims twice, after they’d made an unexpected loop of the market area. The waymarking in towns can often be confusing.

Dawn, from my lodging’s courtyard
Sometimes it’s as easy as following the markers at my feet

Yesterday I had an interesting experience at the local Lupa supermarket. I picked up two pre-packaged, bar-coded pastries and when I went to the cashier, she told me I had to go back to the Produce department, weigh them, and get a pricing sticker! It’s common in Europe to have to weigh produce and print the resulting price sticker, but this?! Luckily, she told me which “button” number to press on the scale, as it had 100 options on its display (just text, no images). Really? Isn’t the idea of the UPC, the UNIVERSAL Pricing Code, to make pre-packaged items easy to scan and price? I was amazed.

Pre-package pastry with the sticker I had to print

So, off I went to Calzadilla, a 17 Kms walk with the promise of no towns, no facilities, and no food on the way. The path ran along the highway for quite a while and was beautiful: flat and smooth, then headed off through farm fields. The weather started out clear and a chilly 46 F but warmed into the 60s soon enough. There was plenty of sun and even a little cooling breeze. Pretty nice walking conditions.

The Carrion de los Condes suburbs

Inquiring Minds Want To Know: What about masks and COVID? Well, I alway carry an KN-95 mask with me, and I’m careful to eat outside and to avoid indoor crowds. Almost no one wears a mask outside here and few wear them inside. If I go into a store or pharmacy and the staff is wearing masks, I put mine on, out of respect if nothing else. Otherwise everyone behaves as if COVID is gone (I understand President Biden declared the pandemic “over” recently) but every day people are still catching it. I still prefer the cautious approach, thank you.

A food truck, in the middle of nowhere

I got lucky and found a food truck at the halfway point of my walk (and there was another one, too, about 30 minutes further down the path). God bless these vendors, who show up with a generator, a mobile kitchen, and seating. They offer coffee and tea, pastries, grilled foods, and cold drinks, at reasonable prices. I had a cafe con leche and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Sharing a table is also a great way to meet other pilgrims.

We are, of course, still in The Meseta

I was grateful for the occasional tree and shady spot, but there was not much more than a lot of horizon to see. At one point, one of my shoelaces came loose and I promised myself I’d tuck it in at the next opportunity (defined by me as a rock, bench, marker, or stone taller than 12”, where I could put my foot up). I didn’t find one for 62 minutes! The flatness of the path kind of accentuated how boring the walk was. I mean, if you’ve already seen a thousand acres of wheat chaf and browned sunflowers, there wasn’t much to take notice of.

Calzadilla de la Cueza

I arrived in Calzadilla at 12:30. The Camino runs right through the midde of this tiny town. There’s a hostal and two albergues, each with its own restaurant, and a small general store. That’s it for commerce. All the locals I interacted with were very welcoming and nice and the hostal, where I’m staying, is surprisingly well-equipped. For example, it actually has an elevator to the upper floors.

All that sunshine is good for something

One of the albergues actually has a half-size swimming pool in its garden and I met two interesting women sitting nearby it this afternoon. One, a Belgian, was severely traumatized by the 2016 terrorist attack on the subway system near her office in Brussels and, after years of seclusion and therapy, is using the Camino as the finale of her recovery. The other woman is a managing director of a Ronald McDonald House in the Netherlands, and is walking her Camino in memory of an unborn child she lost. The Camino means so much to so many; I wish them well and hope I will see them again along The Way.

Tomorrow, I head for the larger city of Sahagun, 22 Kms away. Tomorrow also marks the beginning of my last three weeks on the Camino. While walking this morning, I had my moment when “three more weeks” on the Camino became “only three more weeks”.