It has been said the first part of the Camino is the physical stage of the journey, the second is mental, and the third is the spiritual. Leaving Burgos we had already walked approximately 175 miles (which certainly tested our bodies), and there was still over 300 to go to Santiago. The Meseta, the high plains of Spain, awaited.
J’Nell and I had read the middle was a lot of people’s least favorite of the walk. The blogs and articles promised hardly any shade, long distances between towns, and uninteresting landscape to traverse. Many pilgrims actually skip it by taking the bus.
We would both love the Meseta, and it might have been my favorite on the Camino. Here’s my journal entries from the first three days:
September 30th, 5:15 pm
Bar Casa Monolo, Hornillos
Sitting here in the main square of this population 58 town with its 13th Century Church looming over us. We toured the interior of it, got a stamp for our Pilgrim’s Passport, and now enjoy a grande cerveza in the sun. Its all very nice, except for the flies. The tiny airborne bugs were also a nuisance on the walk today as well, though a minor one.
Overall it was a pleasant 13 mile journey from Burgos to Hornillos. We’re now in the Meseta, Spain’s so-called ‘breadbasket’ (as something to compare in the US, though a very loose one, you could say its their Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa). This is agriculture country for sure, with open plains, big sky, and plenty of puffy clouds above.
But it wasn’t all flat, and we had a steady incline at the start and a steep decline at the end. Heading down into Hornillos was so beautiful, and other than one biker we didn’t see anyone until a group of six passed us as we were almost into town.
They say this part of the walk is less crowded, and it seemed so today as we hardly saw any pilgrims (but of course, we left at 9am, which is late for the Camino). So happy to be sitting here in this square after accomplishing our 13 miles for the day … and I love that there’s a chicken on the fountain.
Tuesday, October 1st, Castrojeriz
We walked just over 20 kilometers today, which seems to be our sweet spot (more than 13 miles really wears on our bodies), and now are on a café terrace across from Albergue Rosalia, where we’ll be staying tonight. We just enjoyed a beer with Russ, a teacher from Australia who we met last night at our communal dinner at our albergue in Hornillos. Such a nice guy, and honestly, we met so many terrific people last night.
We brought our journals to this café to write (which I’m of course doing now), but I’m glad I had less time with my pen and more in conversation. There’s another communal dinner tonight, and I’m looking forward to it.
Day 2 on the Meseta has been just as incredible as the first. Gorgeous open fields with nobody around except scattered pilgrims and a farmer in his tractor. I love we are so far away from main roads and there are no cars to intrude on our Camino.
And how about those clouds today … amazing! Road, fields, sky, and clouds. What else do you need? I also love the remoteness of everything.
Wednesday, October 2nd – 10:38 pm
Hotel El Apostal, Fromista
Well … last night got a little out of hand. But in a good way. We were staying at the albergue with several of the great people from the previous night, and then we were joined by Sophie from France and Peter from England (who Butterfly and Jeremy introduced us to in Granon … I haven’t written about those two yet, but I will later as they became our best friends on the Camino).
There was lots of wine (most of it included with dinner, but we also got extra), and when that went dry we hit the vending machine for beers (1 Euro each). Albergues are generally lights out at 10pm, but since this was a small one and 80% of us were enjoying each other’s company, we went a bit later. There was also a thick door separating us from the dorms, so the party could proceed without interrupting our Camino neighbors.
It was one of those nights you cannot recreate from your memory, and you just have to remember you were there and it was special. With the booze flowing, Russ, Emelio (from NYC), and Sophie wanted to share their playlists with the group. Outstanding tracks, but I can only remember some of them, like Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen, and Russ’ great one we could all relate to after a few weeks walking through so many places on the Camino called “Every Fucking City” by Paul Kelly. So much fun!
I’m pretty sure we were all in bed before 11 pm, and then J’Nell and I were on the road by 7:45 today. I don’t see why anyone would think the Meseta is boring or something you should skip. The road, open fields, sky, and clouds … wow. Many years ago when I drove through Eastern Washington, Montana, and Idaho I got a similar feeling of just being amazed by nature.
And today’s walk was gorgeous. We got to visit the ruins of San Anton (pilgrims have been going to this site since 1146!), which were impressive, and so cool there’s an albergue inside where you can stay. We admired the beauty, chatted with some people there about the history, and then were on our way to Fromista.
But first a pit stop at the wonderful little pub across the street. We heard Irish music, of all things, when we left the ruins, and since we were in a very remote spot we were surprised because we didn’t expect a bar until the next town. We had to stop.
J’Nell and I still had an hour plus to walk to our albergue, but we gladly stopped for 2 beers at this bar. The owner was so friendly, nice, and funny. There was also a terrific dog there, and Nells got to relax on the hammock.
Such a fun night with wonderful people.