Time walked – 7 hours including one coffee stop, three stops for taking off shoes and a slow walk through a festival
Total distance walked – 11.5 miles
Miles to date – 351 miles (Ray) and 341.2 miles (Wendy)
Weather – 58 degrees F to 65 degrees F, cloud cover
Terrain – flat, gravel road, pavement
When I was in my twenties, I read a book called “Thin Thighs in Thirty Days.” As I recall, the premise of the book was to walk everyday for thirty days increasing the time walked each day up to two hours. I’m pretty sure I never made it passed the first week of the program. Walking through the plains of Spain with little to think about, I realized that I was greatly exceeding the number of hours the book recommended each day to reduce the circumference of my thighs. I became very excited since I had been walking for thirty days now. Even on my rest days, I was getting in an hour or more of trekking around for supplies. I grabbed the side of my pants to see if I could get a fistful of fabric. Sadly, I did not notice a significant difference. I thought to myself that maybe my age or maybe the days off would make it harder for my thighs to shrink. I decided that I would be hopeful for a Camino miracle. Either the size of my thighs would shrink or I would be glad I didn’t waste my time all those years ago.
Ray and I left Villar de Mazarife before 8:00 a.m. We had been leaving earlier than normal for a few days and liking it. Steve and Ann left before us, and we wondered if we would see them along the way. The views of the farm ground around us were starting to look the same day after day. It occurred to me that this was the challenge of the middle part of the Camino. Walking the plains was not technically or physically challenging, it was mentally challenging to walk miles and miles without thinking we were getting anywhere. As we were walking, Ray asked me if I could see what was ahead. I thought he was joking until I saw a faint line on the horizon that could be mountains. I studied the view before answering him. I wanted to make sure that I was actually seeing what I thought were mountains. I took a photo for evidence of something ahead and told Ray that it looked like we were headed uphill. He thought so too, and I surprised myself that I was excited about hiking mountains again. I have never been one to look forward to a physical challenge.
Ray was doing a great job of reminding me not to walk too fast, hoping for my feet to continue healing. A couple of kilometers before we reached our coffee stop, we could here a familiar voice behind us. Chris, who we met at Pensión Blanca in León, and his friend Bob were walking behind us. Chris was also recovering at Pensión Blanca, from a problem with his little toe. Instead of taking a taxi or bus ahead, however, he had rented a bike. While waiting for Bob to catch up, he experimented by cutting out the side of his shoe that was rubbing on his toe. Ray and I anxiously asked him how he was doing with his modified shoe. Chris happily reported that he was doing well and would be able to finish the Camino unless his shoes wore out first. Ray may have been a tad jealous of his ingenuity.
We stopped for coffee where Steve and Ann were finishing up. They stayed and chatted with us for a little while, but we had made reservations in different villages, so if both couples continued as planned, this would be our last meeting on the Camino. Ray and I invited them to come visit us in Panamá, and they invited us to visit them in Florida or the Bahamas. We promised to keep in touch through email and wished them well.
Because we have been gone from home for over a month, Ray and I were starting to talk more about missing our home and our friends in Panamá. Soon after we had started talking about wondering what everyone was doing and if they would remember us when we returned, an interesting looking building and door caught my eye. Our friends Bill and Gina took several door pictures while walking their Camino, and the door reminded me of them.
Most of our Camino friends were planning to stay a day of two in Hospital de Órbigo, an adorable hamlet celebrating their annual medieval festival. While Ray and I were tempted to stay, we were equally afraid that the noise from the festival would last most of the night.
The Camino followed the central street through the village where the festival booths were located. We took our time walking, shopping and taking in the sites. Many families were in full costume, making it fun to see the children enjoying the festivities. I found a bracelet to add to the collection accumulating on my wrist.
The most common food we have eaten on the Camino are bocadillos, or sandwiches made with thick, hard bread with a thin slice of meat. Ray had been commenting over the past couple of days that he would like to eat a big piece of protein without any bread. We passed a grill full of ribs and sausages, a pot of boiling pork loins, and a pot of octopus that made our mouths water. It was mid-morning and the food was not ready, so we forced ourselves onward.
Back into the open, Ray and I paused to appreciate the spectacular views. The sky appeared more blue to us in Spain making us question whether it truly was or if we had lost our fascination in adulthood. We could see the next village ahead of us, but it looked far away on the flat land. A month into our Camino, we had finally run out of things to talk about, but were enjoying the silence. Ray interrupted my thoughts by asking what I thought we would do after we had finished the Camino de Santiago. I was so focused with planning how we would finish, I had not thought about what we would do afterward. I asked Ray to answer his own question, and he responded that he was afraid the Camino might be addictive. We had met several pilgrims who had said that it was something that never leaves you and beckons you to return. Before we were aware, Ray and I found ourselves in another tiny Spain village glad that we had arrived so quickly.
The brilliant blue sky started to darken, but Ray did not think it would rain. I had been learning things about myself that only the monotony of the meseta, or plains, could have taught me. Where I had always hated the rain for most of my life, I found that I looked forward to the possibility. I laughed to myself thinking that I might be able to wear my poncho. After wearing the same two shirts and pants, altering every other day, I longed for variety, even if that meant a large piece of blue plastic with a hood. Once again, Ray read the clouds well, and it did not rain.
A few kilometers later and I couldn’t resist the beauty of the wheat meeting the sky. My feet were holding out and my legs were feeling strong. I could not have been happier with my backpack and the way it fit. It was a good day to be walking. Ray had asked me if I had plans for the next day. I knew what was coming so I asked him what he would like to do instead of answering his question. He told me that he thought we should go for a walk. Even after twenty years, I laughed. Others may not, but I love his wit and humor.
We reached the top of a hill and could see our decent into Santibáñez. I had called ahead to an albergue that advertised private rooms for two. Often that meant we would get two twin beds with a private bath, and it’s the bath that is worth the extra money to me. I knew that if I got a blister infected that my Camino would be over. We reached the albergue, one of only two accommodations in town, but there was no one at the reception desk. I ventured into the bar restaurant next door where the check in actually was. It was a Sunday afternoon and this was the only place open in the small village. The restaurant was full of local residents, so the one employee was occupied with orders. When she was ready for us, I told her that I had called to make a reservation. She opened the albergue book, and I saw my name written on the page. Without apologizing, she told me that the room was no longer available, and she scratched out my name. Ray was more perturbed than I was, since she did have a bunk bed available. Thankfully the showers for men and women were separate and spotless. Our shared room, however, was the stinkiest room we had experienced. The mattresses and pillows were covered with plastic. I could not figure out if previous pilgrims had left their sweat on the mattresses or if someone had hidden their shoes in the room. I tried to sleep with a handkerchief over face, but it looked like it wasn’t going to be a good night.