I started out at 7 a.m. because it was forecast to get to 87°F today. As I left town, a crow cawed loudly from a telephone wire, jolting me into the realm of the living. Today, I began to understand deeply the challenges of the Meseta. It was flat, flat, flat. It seemed endless and the hours were long.
The temperatures were nice enough in the morning but by 11:00, the sun was in full force. By that time, there was no shade to be found. There were no towns between Carrión de los Condes and Calzadilla de la Cueza, only a small mobile cafe offering a welcome break. There were also two shady picnic areas where I could sit for a spell to rest.
I passed the San Zoilo Real Monasterio, dating from the mid-11th century but now a luxury hotel, on the way out of town in the dark. Nearby was a pilgrim statue glowing as if wrapped in a halo.
Carrión de los Condes to San Zoilo (1.0 km)
Walking along the quiet country road wasn’t bad because it was still early morning and cool. Then we joined a stretch of the original Roman road still intact after 2,000 years of use. This is known as the Cañada Real Leonesa, and, at the same time, the original Way. The Romans once walked over this same path, as this was, originally, part of the road they called Via Aquitania, which ran between Astorga and Bordeaux.
The stony covering on the road made the walk uncomfortable, with pebbles rolling out underfoot and causing ankles to twist repeatedly. The landscape was flat, monotonous and even hypnotic, with few visual references. The road passed through a kind of wetland. Apparently the substrata of the old Roman road required an estimated 100,000 tons of rock transported from elsewhere just to raise the surface above the winter flood levels.
San Zoilo to Calzada Romana / Via Aquitana / Cañada Real Leonesa (4.7 km)
The Oasis Café was a small mobile cafe offering cafe con leche, fresh orange juice, and chorizo sandwiches. It was a very welcome break.
At the rest area, I met up with Kate from London, who I’d met the previous evening, and told her my whole story, basically: my mother, my loved one, my leaving my husband for seven years, my loved one’s flat earth beliefs, etc. Kate had lost several people dear to her recently, and then several others had diseases they had been expected to die from, but they survived. She was doing a walk of joy, a thanksgiving of sorts.
At the Oasis Café, I also met a Canadian guy from Ottowa who had been living in the mountains in Mexico. He said from things he’d read, it seemed the U.S. was in the middle of a political civil war. I agreed completely.
Calzada Romana to Area de Descanso (rest area) (4.4 km)
After the rest area, we walked a long way on a flat, hot and boring path, then crossed several small arroyos, or small streams, before descending into Calzadilla de la Cueza.
Area de Descanso to Calzadilla de la Cueza (7.2 km)
I checked into the Albergue Camino Real, right at the entrance to the town of Calzadilla de la Cueza. It was 5€ and not very nice. I certainly got what I paid for. However, the adjoining Bar el Camino wasn’t bad, with its lively owner. I joined Kate, who I’d met last evening and walked with earlier today, and Sheryl from Seattle, who I met for the first time, for lasagna and a huge beer. Sheryl was walking the Camino for her niece who was 30, addicted to meth, and in prison. We had a long conversation about their respective IT jobs and the challenges of family.
A good deal of the conversation was spent dissecting Sheryl’s experience with Sharon, who Sheryl was walking with. Kate had also met Sharon and thought she would be hard to take. I wouldn’t meet Sharon until later in the Camino.
Sharon had done the Camino 4-5 times before, and had arranged Sheryl’s trip for her, booking shared rooms in hotels; they often transported their bags ahead. Sheryl knew Sharon’s husband John when they both worked on ski patrol in the mountains of Washington State. Sharon had plans to meet up with her husband John sometime in the next few days, and then the three of them would travel together for the remainder of the Camino. It was odd situation and a bit stressful for Sheryl, as she was closer friends with John and didn’t know Sharon very well. Also, Sharon was apparently a driven type-A person.
I would turn out I would run into Sheryl off and on for most of the rest of my Camino. I talked often to her, but we didn’t seem to connect at a level that would lead to any lasting friendship.
In the evening, I wandered around the town. There wasn’t much to see and it was quite deserted.
Not all towns on the Camino are created equal. Many of the towns have declining and ageing populations and oftentimes it seems that business from the Camino is the only thing keeping them alive. This town was such a town; with its population of 60, there wasn’t much life here. After the lively town of Carrión de los Condes, it was a bit of a drag.
After my walkabout, I went by Kate’s hotel, but there was no sign of her, so I ate alone at Bar el Camino. I had a salad for dinner with white asparagus. The asparagus was good, but the salad also had broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and mushrooms that seemed to be either from a can or frozen and cooked. They were most certainly not fresh. I also enjoyed a glass of red wine.
Albergue Camino Real was one of my most disliked albergues on the Camino, with 40 beds packed into a tight space. Space, facilities, beds – none were great, but it was a place for pilgrims to lay their heads after a long walk on the Meseta. The only saving grace was a nice green courtyard area with a swimming pool; in the early afternoon, I had dipped my feet in the pool, which was icy cold.
In the evening, I sat in the green courtyard by the pool to watch the sunset, which was lovely. It was the only redeeming feature of the albergue.
I didn’t talk to a soul in the albergue as I didn’t know anyone and no one seemed particularly friendly. I went to sleep early. The bed covers were horrible and I could feel the springs in the bed. I couldn’t wait to get out of there in the morning.
I had reason to believe I would be in an even smaller town the following day.
*Day 25: Friday, September 28, 2018*
*28,328 steps, or 12.0 miles: Carrión de los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza (16.8 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: Cosmopolitan Horta.