Time walked – 6 hours including a coffee stop and I long lunch to wait out the rain
Total distance walked – 10.2 miles (291.15 miles total)
Weather – Rainy and cool, mid 50’s to mid 60’s
Terrain – gravel trail, rock trail
The albergue where Ray and I stayed in Sahagún was slightly off the Camino path, so we had to find our way back through the city. I’m guessing because we had a few hot days that I’m now expecting it to be hot everyday. I dressed in a short-sleeved shirt and the shorts part of my zip-off pants with no layers. Standing in the shade as I took a picture of the Arco San Benito, I knew that I was going to be too cold. Since it would be nearly 10 kilometers before we would have a chance to grab some coffee, we stopped at the last coffee shop in town. Ray sat outside in the sun and I sat inside where it was warmer.
I kept my pack with me, not shipping it forward, as I did not notice a big difference and missed having it with me. With all the decisions having to be made on a daily basis, having to anticipate my needs and prepare my pack to ship ahead did not seem worth the effort. By keeping it, I would be able to add a layer if I didn’t warm up fast enough while hiking.
As the Camino path lead us out of Sahagún, we passed the crucifix that so often greets us or bid us fair well. The sights of the stone bridges have also become common place. Ray and I had barely crossed over the bridge when we felt a few drops of rain. I gladly stopped to don my poncho, but Ray was skeptical that the rain would not last for long. Over the years I’ve learned that he is very good at predicting the weather from observing the clouds in the sky, but because I was cold, I was happy to use the poncho as a jacket. A few other pilgrims had now stopped near us, putting on their fair gear as well. I convinced Ray to let me wrap his backpack with the rain cover so that we wouldn’t have to stop again, and on we went.
The rain was stop and go for awhile, mostly just a few sprinkles. It was funny how we had just been talking about preferring some rain to the heat with no shade. According to the guidebook, our trek for the day would again be very flat, with a steady incline so gradual that we would not notice. At first the trail was lined with trees on both sides, the largest birch trees that we had ever seen on our right.
Eventually the rain starting coming down much harder and I spent several kilometers looking straight down at the path to keep my glasses dry and spot free. The path had narrowed so Ray was mostly following me rather than walking next to me. He was letting me set the pace, determined by how my feet could handle the trail. The problem that presented, we determined, was that I get so focused on finishing for the day that I tend to ignore any pain. By ignoring the pain, I become vulnerable to more blisters. Since I had once again called ahead for reservations, there was no need to rush other than to keep from getting soaked.
When I could look up, I observed that the trees along the left side of the Camino had been purposefully planted. Since I had often wondered why this hadn’t been done on other wide open parts of the trail the last few days, I was pleased to see that someone had made it a priority. I spent a few minutes entertaining myself with how far apart the trees had been planted, determining about twenty-five feet. Because they would have measured in meters, I decided the trees must be eight meters apart. Since the metric system is based in tens, I spent a few minutes mentally measuring my stride and the relationship between my stride and the distance between the trees. I wanted the distance between the trees to be ten meters instead of eight, realizing that it really didn’t matter. After all my calculating, I started to wonder if walking the Camino was making me crazy or if I’d always been crazy. Fortunately Ray caught up to me and said that he was looking for a place to stop because he thought he might need his poncho. His interruption snapped me out of the loop I was traveling in my mind and may have saved my sanity.
We could see an overpass up ahead and that was where Ray wanted to stop to retrieve his poncho. We met up with Julie and Glen also taking cover, as well as a few other peregrinos. Jason was also there trying to wait out the rain so that he wouldn’t need his rain gear. I apologized to both of the men for not recognizing them at the half way point, saying that I had figured it out a few hours later. I told them that I was more focused on finding a restroom than being a friendly pilgrim, but I wasn’t sure if men could quite understand the predicament.
We waited for several minutes, and watched as people left the shelter of the highway although the rain continued. By the time Ray decided he didn’t need his poncho, the rain was more of a sprinkle, so we hit the trail.
We arrived in the first village past Sahagún around 11:30 a.m. Ray helped me remove my poncho just as a pilgrim from California walked up, wearing the same shoes as Ray. They chatted a bit about being the cool kids on the Camino, and Ray wanted me to get a picture.
It looked as though the rain was going to let up, so we ordered lunch along with our café con leche. The restaurant had a ledge holding ads for albergues and restaurants in the towns ahead, so I spent some time doing a little internet research. Ray checked his emails, and we readied ourselves to get going again. Ray didn’t think it was going to rain anymore, but suggested I put my poncho back on to let it dry. I hadn’t thought of that but wanted it on anyway because I was still a little bit cold. If the sun had poked through the clouds, or if it had been a little warmer, I might have gotten sweaty under the tarp of plastic, but it was cool enough for me to be comfortable. This village did not have much character other than three elderly residents walking together. I watched as they conversed, talking and laughing, thoroughly enjoying their conversation. As I passed, I wondered if the had ever walked the Camino Frances in its entirety, or if they had walked this part of the way so many times that it would add up to well more than 500 miles.
We had not noticed any of the familiar Camino markers or yellow arrows after leaving the villages, but there was no doubt that the trees were indicating the way. There were also benches lining the path, although I could not determine a pattern in the distance between the benches, and did not want to try. While walking the Camino is obviously physically taxing, I continued to be surprised at how mentally exhausting it was as well.
After four hours of light rain, the rain clouds turned to white, fluffy clouds revealing a brilliant blue sky. Ray and I discussed just how clear and beautiful the blue color appeared. We recognized that the gray skies we had been observing all day had possibly made the blue sky look even more vibrant than we would have noticed otherwise. I was reminded of a radio program I had heard many years ago while driving in my car. As I recall, the speaker was Dr. James Dobson, talking about the ups and downs of relationships, particularly marriage. He made a point that if we did not experience the downs, we would not appreciate the ups, or good times. We would become bored or complacent if our lives were consistently good, not grateful or appreciative. The message obviously had left an impression on me, and I thought about how it paralleled with the Camino.
This journey between Burgos and León, which so many skip over, has been a pleasant surprise. While flat with little variety, we have loved how it has reminded us of the prairie in Kansas, bringing back memories that we would never have thought of in our typical daily routine. The journey would not be the same if we only traveled through the best, most exciting parts. Although the Camino has been much harder than anticipated, Ray and I have laughed that one day we will say it was one of the dumbest yet greatest things we’ve ever done.
Spending so much of the day looking down at the trail because of the rain, and having passed through only one village to break up my view, I was looking forward to finishing our walk for the day. I had made our reservation at Hotel Castillo, knowing that it was not an ancient castle, but imaging what history the structure would hold. I had made a habit of using my map app to lead us right to our accommodation once we had neared our destination. I could see that this hotel did not lead us into or through the town, but was situated just on the outskirts. We had been walking alongside a highway for days, and it looked like we would be closer to the highway than usual.
Following the blue line on my phone, Ray and I could see a hotel sign in the distance. It looked like we were being lead to a gas station. When walking the final kilometer, we realized that the name was misleading. We would be staying at a truck stop. By the looks of backpacks in front of us, we were not the only pilgrims who had made the same decision. By this time my feet were giving me fits and I did not have much of a sense of humor. Thankfully, Ray’s humor was still intact, and he joked that he never imagined staying in a truck stop and a convent on the same trip. I was glad he was laughing. I was also glad to collapse in a spotless room with a large shower. I’ve come a long way in my travels completely changing my focus from the bed to the shower. It’s time to once again get ourselves clean, fed and to bed.