Time walked – 6.5 hours including 1 hour of breaks
Total distance walked – 11.5 miles (258.95 miles total)
Weather – Cold with strong wind in the morning, upper 50’s, warm, cloud cover, and perfect for hiking, 68 degrees F
Terrain – gravel path, rock path, flat
Ray and I spent thirty minutes doctoring up my feet with the supplies we had purchased at the pharmacy the night before, following the instructions given by the pharmacist. The day before had been unseasonable hot. Living in Panamá about 9 degrees north of the equator, Ray and I are used to protecting ourselves from the hot sun, so it’s surprising to us how burning the sun feels on the Camino. I did not hear it raining in the night, but was glad the next morning that it had blown through.
In a conversation with Paul and Sara, Paul had commented that the weather forecast was unreliable. He suggested that if you wanted to know what the weather was on the Camino, you should stick your hand out the window. If your hand got wet, then it was raining, and if it was dry then it wasn’t raining. So just before I got dressed, I stuck my hand out the window, and it was dry. I knew this was supposed to be another hot day, so I put on a sleeveless shirt and a pair of zip-off pants, with the legs stowed in my backpack, making them shorts. Even though it was a little cool, I knew that I would warm up quickly once we started walking. We left our key on the hotel desk, and I noticed that ours was the last one, again.
Once outside, we had to back track to rejoin the Camino de Santiago. We rounded the street corner from the hotel and were blasted with a strong, cold wind. New spring leaves were blowing off the trees and rushing past our feet. I thought I heard Ray say that it was coming right at us, meaning a storm, but he was saying that a cold front was headed our way. Where there had been no clouds for a few days, now the sky was full of clouds.
I spotted a park bench near by and walked toward it to rest my pack. Even after warming up while walking, I wasn’t dressed for the cold wind. I found my long-sleeved, button-up shirt, and put it on, using it like a jacket. Frómista had at one time been a big enough village to support several churches. As I was adjusting my backpack, the size and style of the church before me awed me with the ominous clouds above it.
I knew that our coffee stop would be close, but just as we were leaving town, you could already see the next village on the right. The signage indicated that our café was three kilometers away, and our daily destination was 18 kilometers. The path followed directly next to the road joining Frómista with Población de Campos, so besides the clouds and the crowds, it didn’t look like our walk would be very exciting or have many photo opportunities.
Ray and I were surprised to see so many pilgrims on the trail with us, but then realized that these travelers probably started in the village before Frómista an hour earlier. We had seen several pilgrims having coffee at a café near where we had stayed, and it dawned on me that they had started in Boadilla del Camino and this was their coffee stop. Several of the pilgrims were bundled up with long pants and jackets. While I hoped it would not rain on us, Ray and I discussed that we would prefer rain over heat. We also laughed that if we had a couple of days of walking through rain, we might change our minds.
After our coffee break, we had the option to stay on the path next to the highway or to take a more scenic trail next to the river. Since I had made a reservation in Carrión de los Condes, we could be more relaxed and take the longer, but more remote route. I had read some good reviews about our next overnight stay, a convent where all the rooms had a private bath. With my suffering feet, I was concerned about susceptibility to infection in community bathrooms. Knowing we had a reservation in a private room at a convent run by nuns was a endless source of material for Ray’s sense of humor as we walked between the fields. I couldn’t help but laugh. With three weeks of walking together daily under our belts, he continued to make me laugh every day.
About an hour later, we saw a café in a park-like setting with several outdoor tables and chairs as well as pilgrims. Ray was wanting another cup of coffee, and I was ready for a bathroom break. I found a table under the large gazebo and sat down, pulling up an extra chair to get my feet up. At a nearby table, two men and a woman were talking, and I recognized North American English. While the vast majority of peregrinos speak English, for most of them, it is a second language. Now that we are nearing the halfway point, we see more Spanish, French, Italian and German pilgrims than those from the United States or Canada. In Boquete, it is common for us to ask other English speakers where they are from originally. Out of habit, I asked these three the same question. Julie answered that while originally from the U.S., she and Glen have been living in Barcelona. They had met Jason, the other man, along the way and were walking together. Since our plan is to end our trip in Barcelona and because we are also expats, I was curious to learn more about their story. Julie was delightful and happily answered my questions. She and Glen gave me some inside information on being a tourist in Barcelona, suggesting neighborhoods to look for and things to do in a two day stay. Our brief encounter was quite productive. They were getting ready to head on down the trail while I was waiting on Ray to place our coffee order.
After our coffee, I noticed an archway exit where you could see the next village on the Camino. I stopped to take a quick photo, then gathered my hiking sticks to leave. As Ray and I headed back toward the trail, we spotted Steve and Ann on their way in the entrance of the café. We waved and shouted at them, and Steve said he thought we should come back for another cup of coffee with them. It doesn’t take much to convince Ray to have coffee, so we returned for another cup.
Steve and Ann had started in Boadilla del Camino and had already caught up with us. We asked where their destination was for the night, and it was about six kilometers before our destination. We were walking about the same distance, but we continued to be one village apart.
Once we had finished our coffees, we decided that we could visit while walking. We had mentioned that we would be staying in a convent, so the jokes started all over again. I told Steve and Ann that I mentioned them several times in the blog, so they agreed to let me get a photo. Ann is a fabulous planner, so I always appreciate her sharing what she knows about each leg of the Camino. While visiting along the way, Ray found out that Steve was a surfer which gave them a lot to talk about.
The trail lead us to an enormous church in the middle of nowhere. Ann had read that it was supposed to be the most beautiful church of all of the churches on the Camino Frances. We climbed the steps to the large doors, but it was closed. A sign on the door said that it was to open on May 27, 2017. We were one day early.
I was glad that we had run into someone we knew since the landscape was not changing and the weather was holding steady. Other than getting specific about Ray’s convent jokes, I wouldn’t have had much to write about.
We found out that Ann was originally from Arkansas, and she and Steve met in Texas. Ann had also expected this part of the Camino to be boring and monotonous, but like us, was pleasantly surprised at how much it reminded her of the Midwest. She and I agreed that much of the appeal of this part of our journey was an appreciation of childhood memories.
We left Steve and Ann in Villalcazar de Sirga to check in to their accommodation, and followed the arrows for another six kilometers to Carrión. While I’ve mentioned in the past that I try to avoid having a song run continuously through my head, Ray and I couldn’t help but quote the lyrics, “Carry on my wayward son,” every time we mentioned our destination. Thankfully, I couldn’t remember any more of the song, appropriately recorded by Kansas, considering this area reminds us so much of the prairie.
I read that four kilometers an hour is considered an average pace. With six kilometers to go, we should have about an hour and a half of walking left to do. We knocked out the first couple of kilometers pretty quickly, continuing to be thankful for the unexpected cloud cover. It appeared that we should be finished just after 2:00 p.m., and I’m always wary of the afternoon heat.
According to my map app, we had three kilometers left to reach Carrión when we could see it from atop a small sloping hill. I had started checking the distance more frequently because my little toe was starting to hurt. After purchasing my new sandals and socks, the new socks had slipped on my left foot, causing a tiny blister at the tip of my little toe. On this last bit of this day’s jaunt, it was much more irritating, and by the time we had reached a place for me to sit down, the pain was intense.
We hadn’t gone very far into town, when a young peregrina from Germany asked if she could give us directions. It turned out that Uli was staying at the same convent, the furthest of all the accommodations, and would be happy to show us the way. Being able to talk to Uli helped keep my mind off the pain. I asked her how she liked the convent, and she replied that it was nice and the nuns were the sweetest.
Our room was on the third floor, and while we couldn’t wrap our heads around taking the elevator in the hotel in our first week, I had no problem using it now. As I had feared, the blister had migrated behind and surrounding my toenail. I glanced at my foot just long enough to evaluate the problem, but looked away within a split second. One look was enough for me, so no way was I going to take a picture. Fortunately for me, Ray is fascinated by this kind of thing and brought a well-stocked first aid kit.
After getting me patched up, it was time for dinner. We were seated at round tables, and Shawna, who we had met in Villafranca the day of the rain, was seated next to me. She had checked in to the convent three days before this, having picked up a contagious bug of some sort in an albergue. The nuns had insisted that she stay until she was well again, and she had finally ventured out of her room for dinner. While we had only met briefly before, it was fun to get caught up on her Camino adventures.
Ray had gone out to replenish our adhesive bandages while I was showering. He said that Carrión was a nice town with a variety of cute shops nearby. After dinner, however, we went back to our room for the night. Ray had been amused at the concept of boarding in a convent all day, and I’m just going to say goodnight right here.