Time walked – 6 hours including two coffee stops and a lunch stop
Total distance walked – 12 miles (280.95 miles total)
Weather – Cool, mid 50’s in the morning, cloud cover, 64 degrees F in afternoon
Terrain – gravel road, wet stone path
Someone had set the alarm on their phone to go off at 5:45 a.m. in the albergue at Calzadilla de la Cueza. According to my Fitbit, I got 6 hours and 16 minutes of sleep, which has been about average for me on the Camino. One of the worst parts for me sleeping in the multi-bed albergues is that I have no place to put my glasses. It usually works to balance them on top of my backpack, but Ray bumped them off getting onto the top bunk which caused me to worry about them for the rest of the night. The guy in the top bunk next to Ray was tall, so it was easier for him to use the ladder on our bunk to let himself up and down. Since we paid 5€ each for the night, the adage “you get what you pay for” kept coming to mind.
Ray and I left the upstairs bunk room and went to the pool area to spread out and tape my feet. There was a young man also attending to his feet, and by the judge of his limp, I would say that he was hurting. We left the albergue before 8 a.m. and thought that we would see someone from dinner, but did not. After walking with people we had met for the last few days, it looked like we would be on our own. We organized Ray’s pack with what we thought we needed and shipped my pack for the second day.
The way promised a few hills for this leg of the journey, but for the most part would be a flat path near a highway. A few kilometers into our walk, I spotted some houses near a hill. Normally we do not see any houses outside of a village. Ray has commented a couple of times over the past few days that the uninterrupted fields seem odd. There are acres and acres of fields and crops with no fences but also with no homes. Unlike where we grew up, the farmers must live in the villages and drive out to their ground instead of living on their property.
I looked up to evaluate the clouds in the sky, thankful for the cloud cover of the morning and hoping that it would last all day. Sometimes Ray will look back on where we’ve been because he likes to see how far we’ve come. It gives him a sense of accomplishment. I rarely ever look back, always looking forward to the next goal. On this morning, however, I glanced back over my shoulder when looking at the clouds. The rays of sun coming through an opening in the clouds was glorious. I snapped a photo knowing that it would not capture the splendor of the landscape, but I wanted something to remind me of that moment.
Before long, we entered the village that would be our coffee break. Like most villages, this one looked pretty sleepy as we neared. Often we see the church steeple first, then the roof tops come into view. What I noticed about this hamlet was the roof top antennas. It struck me how remote we must be in the middle of Spain if every house still had a TV antenna. Ray and I get frustrated when the wifi is poor, not understanding how that can be in 2017. Even in Panamá, we find good wifi in most places.
Ray and I were now into week 4 of our Camino, and it looked like we were going to spend the day jockeying for position, as I like to call it. I’ve heard other pilgrims refer to the passing and being passed by fellow pilgrims as leap-frog, but I can’t even fathom jumping at this point, even if it is just a phrase.
We had been following a group of three older couples traveling together as well as another couple, making a total of eight. We had passed the older couples when they were having a morning snack, then they passed us while I was adjusting my sandals. I was trying to convince Ray to hold off passing them all when something caused a commotion. The four couples scattered to each side of the trail as a small animal ran in between them toward us. It was too fast for me to grab my phone for a picture, but it looked to me like a young opossum. Ray didn’t think it was since it had a furry tail. I chuckled to myself knowing that I would be writing about this as a highlight of our day.
While the other pilgrims were reacting to the surprise Camino visitor, Ray and I seized the opportunity to surge ahead. We managed to pass all four couples, the most traffic that we had seen on the Camino in several days. After we had advanced a safe distance, I turned around and snapped a photo of what that traffic looked like.
To reduce our stress, I had already made a reservation for our stay in Sahagún. Of course that created a whole new kind of stress because the places we were staying weren’t nearly as inexpensive as the albergues. As we approached the hamlet of Moratinos, I knew this was a place I wished I had more time to explore. Ray referred to the dugouts that we could see to the right as hobbit huts, and we were instantly curious as to what they were. We had not seen anything like these thus far on the Camino. A sign was posted near the Camino route with the first line reading, “These are NOT hobbit huts.” It went on to give details that these were bodegas built in the 1700’s as what we would refer to as wine cellars. More recently they were used for storing vegetables and as root cellars, but had not been maintained and were dangerous.
While the sign was informative, it actually peaked my curiosity, and I wanted to know more. The town had more of an inviting atmosphere than most, so Ray and I rounded the corner and found a restaurant with outdoor seating to enjoy another cup of coffee. We had just found a spot for our hiking sticks and removed our packs when the proprietor came out to take our order. This was the first café to come outside for our order. Most cafés post a sign indicating that they do not have outdoor service, or it is assumed. While Ray and I sat and enjoyed our coffee, we watched all the pilgrims that we had seen earlier pass by us.
As we walked through Moratinos, we saw a few residents out visiting with their neighbors and walking about the village. When we got closer to the town center, we could see something colorful around the trees. The trees were decorated with multiple knitted “tree socks” that had been pieced together. A knitted pennant banner had been strung between the trees, adding an even more festive welcome. I noticed two local women smiling with pride as I admired the work and took photos.
Ray and I would have loved to spend more time in this village, and I was starting to regret that I had made a schedule. Ray has often repeated a quote that he learned from his father, “Plan your work then work your plan.” We have embraced this as our motto, which has worked well for us in the past. It is said that the Camino plans you, not the other way around, one of the many lessons that can be learned on the Camino de Santiago. More and more, this lesson of going with the flow or letting the Camino be our guide was making sense.
Ray and I returned to the trail of the countryside once leaving the adorable and welcoming village that will tug at my heart until I am able to return. Ray mentioned that he had been looking for a feather to put on the side of his hat, but he might change his mind and add a stalk of wheat. He also thought it that he would like to find two pins, like tie tacks to put on his hat, one a Camino shell and the other a yellow arrow. When we were told that we could pick our shell from the bin in Saint Jean Pied de Port, Ray was reluctant to choose one, concerned that it would swing around too much or chafe his backpack. I, on the other hand, was excited to show off the symbol of the Camino. Walking on this day, it seemed like the start of our journey across Spain was long, long ago.
From the guidebook I knew that we would be approaching another village in the next few kilometers, just in time for lunch. Sometimes there will be print ads on building walls as you enter a village, and rarely you will see a banner within a kilometer advertising an albergue or restaurant. The homemade sign posted on the trail without a town in view was unexpected, but Ray and I could not resist the humor. We decided to that we were having lunch at the 2nd Bar and were anxious to get there.
We walked a little further and looked ahead to see the trail curve to the left, but a village clearly on the right. Since I like to know what’s coming, it’s this type of thing that messes with my head. As much as I want to appreciate the adventure or the unexpected, I struggled with the temptation to whip out my phone and open the map app over something that would not matter in the long run.
As it turned out, the path turned back to the right, and we were seeing the village where the 2nd Bar was located. Just as it’s name promised, we passed the first bar restaurant option and arrived at the 2nd Bar at the town center. It was noon on a Sunday and there were families out with their children. Ray and I observed that we rarely saw children in the villages, and I loved watching the moms helping the small ones get a drink from the central fountain. Although the sign on the Camino had been in English, the owner did not speak any English. While most all peregrinos speak a English, Ray and I are glad that we can manage in restaurants with the little Spanish that we know. We watch as others have difficulty communicating, especially in the smaller remote villages.
Ray and I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and hummus to split between us. We had not had hummus on the Camino, so it was a delicious change from the normal offerings. As we ate our lunch, three local moms seated their children and ordered them snacks while they visited with each other. I knew most of the words the children were using, so I told Ray that we might need to rent a kid when we get back to Panamá to teach us more Spanish. I loved that the children were eating up the green olives as fast as their mothers could get them pitted.
We had another six kilometers to go after lunch to reach Sahagún for the night. The path returned next to the highway, and although the guidebook showed an alternative, more scenic route, we could not find it. We hadn’t gone very far when I realized that my cola had gone through my system very quickly. There were no services for the next five kilometers, so I started walking faster. I had been carrying a small roll of emergency toilet paper for more than 250 miles but had left it in my backpack that had shipped forward to our destination. There was little to distract me from thinking about finding the facilities until we came across this monument. I snapped a quick photo and Ray and I noticed the stones stacked on top. All along the way, pilgrims have stacked stones as well as used stones to spell out words on the ground or make crosses. For the umpteenth time, Ray and I talked about researching the meaning of the stacked stones, but we forget within minutes of passing.
Between my feet hurting and needing to go to the restroom, the last few kilometers were not much fun. Just outside of Sahagún, we crossed a bridge leading to an isolated church. Although most of these churches are closed, I could see a few pilgrims hanging around and hoped that meant it would be open so I could use the baño. A man sitting on a park bench outside the church smiled at me, so I asked him if the church was open. He said that it was not open so I kept moving toward two statues lining the Camino. It was then that I realized we had reached the unofficial halfway point on the Camino Frances. There were two young men taking pictures and one of them offered to take a picture of Ray and I together. I declined as nicely as I could and asked Ray to let me get his photo so that we could continue to Sahagún. Ray then started talking to one of the pilgrims, and I thought I was going to burst. I coaxed Ray along as best as I could, snapped what I knew was not the best photo, and took off down the trail.
We entered the outskirts of Sahagún through a business district. I could see a tall building with letters spelling out HOTEL about three blocks into the town. I bolted for the hotel even though I knew that was not where we were staying. On the side of the building was a sign for the cafeteria. I left Ray in my dust getting inside and finding the ladies room. I didn’t even stop to rest my hiking poles, but took them in with me. The timing could not have been better. When I exited the restroom, I found Ray’s backpack and poles at a nearby table. Apparently he needed to use the facilities as well.
Later that day, I realized that the man on the park bench had been Glen without his plaid hat, and the guy who had offered to take our picture was Jason, who I had met with Julie and Glen at a coffee stop. I either didn’t recognize them because they didn’t have Julie with them, or I was far to distracted the pressure I was feeling. Before we went to bed, Ray wanted to make sure that we agreed not to be in that predicament again. I assured him that I agreed wholeheartedly.