Aargh! I had not had a good night’s sleep. I woke during the night, either too cold from sleeping next to the wall or worried that my bag full of important stuff (like passport, iPhone, money, kindle) was going to fall to the ground. As others started to rustle, so too did I. I decided to get moving as quickly as I could.
Irritation with this Albergue reached into the servicios today. A peregrino simply refused to come out of the toilet. It wasn’t like he or she was sitting on the toilet – heck, I could see their feet beside the door. Maybe they thought the room with the one toilet bowl was also a changing room. Maybe they were just admiring the smell of their poo. Still grumpy from yesterday, I took my stuff and my chances with the Meseta. I said goodbye to Sylvia, handed her food back to her, and I left.
It was dawn as I left. Dark enough to disappear into the shadows. I felt alone. It was great. I’d never ever felt I was the first in a long line of peregrinos. Usually, I’m the last. Except maybe for the walk to Tardajos. Not sure why, but I was leading the pack then. I felt like the Pied Piper. This morning, not leading anyone – just me. It felt peaceful to be walking alone with birds chirping and the cool dawn air blowing gently on my skin. It was 10 km to Hontanas. I kept the iPod in its pouch, preferring to natural sounds in the morning.
It was a nice walk. At about the halfway point, San Bol, I believe, I saw the Peregrinos from my albergue starting to catch up. Wow, they are fast walkers. Ah well, it was nice to be first while it lasted. The little pebble es underfoot kept niggling me, reminding me that it was going to turn into a blister. I had put a large Compeed patch over it – hoping to stall its progress, but I could still feel it. It didn’t hurt and in some strange way, it was pleasure able, like an itch you can’t quite get rid of.
I stopped at Hontanas which is heaps nicer than Honillos. I had a coffee and a piece of cake and removed my boots and socks to allow my feet to air. “OMG! Look at the size of your blister.” “Oh, I’m sorry”, I say slightly embarrassed. “I didn’t mean to frighten you. It is much better than it looks – only because it was much worse before.” I looked at this peregrina in white from my albergue scratching herself. She was complaining about how she has an allergic reaction to something and can’t stop scratching her hives. I bet you everyone else was thinking “bed bugs”. I can’t help but think about the hospitalero of the municipal albergue who made us buy dust mite sheets not for our welfare in Galicia, but to protect us from her dirty beds. Anyway, so glad I dodged the bullet. Yet another reason to not stay in a municipal, donativo or €5 place!
After breakfast, I decided to change my mood. I decided to saunter my way across the fields. So I packed away my walking sticks, pulled out my iPod and stuck my hands in my pocket. You know, a change in body does change the mood. I felt more relaxed like I was going for a stroll in the park. I still walked at a good pace. The views were beautiful and it was a cloudy day, so it wasn’t too hot at all.
I arrived at Castrojeriz quite early at noon. I had enough energy to walk to St Nicholas chapel but the heat underfoot made me think twice. Twenty kilometres is do-able but would another ten make things worse for my blister. I felt caution was wise. I’d just heard of a German peregrino who’d been sent back because he developed blisters all across his underfoot. There’s really no point pushing through today, if at the end, you don’t make it anyway.
The albergue I’d decided to stay at was very nice. Clean, well maintained, good spaces between bunk beds. I unpacked my stuff. I was so happy to get the lower bunk bed. Showers were clean and regularly mopped throughout the day. Wifi was accessible though it occasionally dropped off. I was happy.
After doing my chores for the afternoon – ie. Shower, laundry, check-ins – I went off in search of food.
Food. Have I mentioned I am bored of spanish food? Trying to find variety is so difficult. Trying to find anything that doesn’t involve bread even more difficult. Plus the fact that they don’t make *really* good bread in Spain. Not on the camino anyway. Sorry, but the Germans and Italians are ahead of Spain in this one. These days (and I can say that because I am not a double digit camino hiker), I won’t eat break unless it is a “caliente desayuno” – cooked breakfast. Not every bar serves a fry up. Most do continental, including the albergues. I’m not trying to be cheap or anything but I find the €3 albergues charge for breakfast a rip off. Often you get coffee (Americano), toast, and orange juice gem a tetra pack.
So most mornings, it’s just a hot coffee (cafe con leche) at the first bar I can find, sometimes with a wheat-based baked item such as croissant it cake. I then go off walking, only sustained by the odd dark chocolate piece, and naval orange till lunch. These days, I stop by the local shop to get a small biscuit or something. It’s not especially delicious, but it’s sustenance. Sadly, I do think the spaniards could do more variety in their food. It’s either that or I’m totally missing the menu that spaniards order from.
Look, don’t get me wrong. I do love iberico ham, chorizo and eggs. But not day after day after day after day. You get my point.
Where was I? Oh yes. Albergue Ultreia (very nice) in Castrojeriz. So I met Jan looking for a bank and some food. We wanted up the 2 km stretch which is this town. It’s built along a hill, like Gondor in Lord of the Rings. We found a shop, still opened at 3pm. So I bought provisions for breakfast – yogurt, croissant. (Turns out, I didn’t eat any of the baked goods except for yogurt). We didn’t find the cash machine but then I wouldn’t have withdrawn money anyway. I had read somewhere that sometimes spanish cash machines eat your card and if it does, you have to wait till Monday for the bank to open. I also don’t withdraw money unless there’s a branch attached.
I know – all this precaution. Yet, better safe than sorry.
Kay stayed in the same hotel as jan. So all of us caught up for dinner. Sometimes you have to watch out for the (so called) dim witted proprietess who pretend that change from a €54 payment (for a €14 meal) is €26. Uh-no, I don’t think so. And I think you are smarter than you look.