Because I knew today’s walk would be short, I enjoyed sleeping in a bit between nice sheets, a rarity on the Camino. Upon waking, I found that my hotel room had no electricity. When I tried to tell the woman at the front desk, she couldn’t understand at first and then couldn’t figure out why the power was out; it seemed the outage was confined to my room. It was a good thing I had my headlamp.
Today was only 10.1km of walking, but it felt like an eternity. I didn’t talk to a soul for the entire walk. The path ran straight along a road through a flat, featureless landscape. I kept it short, because the next town after Carrión de los Condes was 16.8 km, and I wasn’t up for walking 26.9km.
I left at 8:15, so the sun had already risen and was quickly bearing down. The 4.1km climb into Villalcázar de Sirga wasn’t steep but it was long. There, I stopped for a potato tortilla, peach juice, and cafe con leche. Known as the town of the canal towpath, it is also known for its hospitality; it has welcomed pilgrims here since the 12th-century, when it became an administrative district of the Knights Templar.
I visited the impressive 13th-century Templar church, Santa María la Virgen Blanca. It houses the tombs of nobles and royalty and is now declared a national monument. The porch has a wonderful sculpted south door.
Many of the chapels and altars in Spanish churches are cloaked in darkness. In the Templar church, I saw a woman putting a coin into a box, which resulted in an altarpiece lighting up. I wondered how many churches I could have put a coin in a box for light! There were panels depicting the life of St. James — his meeting with Jesus to martyrdom and transference to Galicia. Another side chapel had a statue of Santa María La Blanca, who supposedly performed many miracles. There were also tombs of Infante Don Felipe and Felipe’s wife Doña Leonor.
I stopped and said prayers and enjoyed the interior of this sacred space.
Villarmentero de Campos to Villalcázar de Sirga (4.3km)
When I stopped in churches today, I prayed for my mom, who died in 2002, and asked her forgiveness for my lifetime of hard-heartedness to her. I hoped she would forgive me and that I could forgive her for not being the mother to me I thought she should have been. I knew I needed healing in my relationships to both my parents.
The stretch between Villalcázar de Sirga and Carrión de los Condes (6km) seemed an eternity because of the heat and the gnats and flies swarming around my face the whole way. I used my hiking poles like a baton, twirling them around and around to keep the flying insects at bay. They were so annoying. I guess I got spoiled by the two cooler days we had and was not prepared mentally to return to the annoyances of summer. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of summer and its heat, bugs, or humidity. I hate sweating! I was so ready for fall.
Villalcázar de Sirga to Carrión de los Condes Entrada (5.2km)
I entered the town of Carrión de los Condes at close to 11:30 a.m. The town occupied a a strategic position in this volatile border area. Though only 2,200 (+ declining) people live here now, it once had a population of 10,000. It has meandering side streets that give it a medieval feel and at one time was home to no less than 14 pilgrim hospitals.
The first monument I came to in the town was the Monasterio de Santa Clara. It is one of the oldest Order of St. Clare convents in Spain, dating from the mid-13th-century.
Carrión de los Condes Entrada to Carrión de los Condes (0.5km)
I walked past the 12th-century Romanesque Iglesia de Santiago, which was destroyed during the War of Independence in 1809. Luckily, the magnificent facade and frieze were left intact as a national monument and the church itself had been converted to a museum.
I may have hit a wall today. I was almost halfway done, but the 10k seemed too much; I felt tired of the whole thing. I hoped I’d have a better outlook tomorrow.
I checked into a private room at Hostal Santiago. I was increasingly enjoying having private rooms on the Camino.
There was a pilgrim store in town and I wanted to get a better backpack in which I could carry my water bladder through the long Meseta ahead. I found one I liked in one shop but went off to think about it. When I returned to buy it, it was gone. So I went to another shop and bought a red and black one, still bigger than I wanted. And I hated the red color! I also bought a shirt and two new buffs.
After I went out in the early evening, I joined Simon and Karen at an outdoor cafe where I met some new people. I met Kate from London but originally from South Africa. She had lived in Dubai for a time and had visited Oman, so we shared our experiences there. I also met Adele and Bud from Tasmania. It was a lively group who lifted my spirits considerably. They would tease me about my new red backpack over that evening and in the coming days.
At 7:15, church bells started pealing through the town, calling pilgrims to the 7:30 mass at the 11th-century Romanesque Iglesia de Santa María del Camino (St. Mary of the Way). Its south façade depicts the terrifying annual ‘tribute of the hundred maidens’ which Christians were obliged to make to the Moors during the time of Muslim rule. Because of that forced tribute, the Christians fought the battle of Clavijo in 844, where, thanks to the miraculous intervention of Saint James on a white horse, they defeated the Moors.
The mass was all in Spanish, but I recognized the ritual: communion, singing of Hosanna, the “peace be with you” greeting, a nun playing guitar, and the readings and prayers. I sat beside Leanna (Lee), who I’d met earlier that day in the bar. After the service the two priests called the pilgrims up and read blessings in Spanish and English. They they placed their hands on each of our heads and said blessings on our Camino journey and on each and every day of our lives and did the sign of the cross on our foreheads. I was in tears.
When I skipped communion, I said to Lee that I didn’t participate because I hadn’t been to confession in many years. She insisted none of that mattered anymore, that anyone could take communion. If that were true, I was disappointed I didn’t take it. Before the service, I saw a Scottish guy I’d met at San Anton confessing to the priest; there was no screen or curtain and the confession was open to the rest of the church. I obviously hadn’t attended a Catholic mass in a long time if things had changed that much.
After the mass, when we went into the Sacristy to get our sellos, the really tall priest who had performed the mass took off his robes to reveal a pair of shorts and a sweatshirt underneath. I thought this odd, although I don’t know why I should have!
I went in search of the 11th-16th century San Zoilo Real Monasterio, connected with the order of Cluny. It was now a national monument and had been restored to a private hotel similar to a Parador. I couldn’t find it, but it was supposedly on the outside of town; hopefully it wouldn’t be too dark to see it in the morning when I left the town.
*Day 24: Thursday, September 27, 2018*
*22,773 steps, or 9.65 miles: Villarmentero de Campos to Carrión de los Condes (10.1 km)*
You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:
On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.
This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Simply São Jorge.