After a good rest at my favorite albergue, as usual I woke early and as usual planned get an early start on the day’s walk and my second day in the meseta. So as to not disturb those sleeping I carried my gear downstairs and packed to leave. A pair of Frenchmen joined me as they too were heading out early. We “knew” each other from other short “visits” on the Camino, but we shared little due to our language barrier.
We had rain on the very first day leaving St. Jean and climbing over the Pyrenees. Since then, the weather has been nearly perfect, but this morning it was cold and gray and raining lightly. The Frenchmen headed out before me as I grabbed a cup of coffee and croissant. I was out as usual before sunrise on a very cloudy rainy morning, it was dark. And, with a path that led through trees outside of town, finding the way marks was difficult. I actually stopped before exiting town trying to use the light from a lamp to see the next yellow arrow. I used this pause to put on my rain jacket, pull out my headlamp and put the rain cover on my pack. It looked like the day would be challenging.
The trail was an earthen path that widened into a narrow, two-tract lane – about the width of a car. The official “way” was removed from but paralleled the main road between Hontanas and Castrojeriz. The path didn’t appear to actually be a country road – maybe a rarely-used trail for some farm equipment. Because of the previous night’s rain there was considerable puddling and in the very limited early morning light I had to watch my steps if I wanted to keep my feet dry.
The day brightened a little. I turned off my headlamp. I had covered about 5 kilometers in just over an hour when I turned left and came out on the paved road. Considering the remoteness of these towns and the early morning hour, I was surprised (and just a bit concerned) when I saw a car stop at the intersection of the road and the Camino path – and seemingly wait for me as I approached. As I got closer the passenger got. Glimpsing up, I was relieved – very surprised (because I was certain that only the “Frenchmen” and me had started out early), but relieved – to be greeted by George (from Arizona), with whom I had shared the paella dinner the night before.
George directed his flashlight beam at my shoes as he said, “somebody took my boots this morning.” I guess somewhat defensively I said, “well, these are mine – I’m sure.” He quickly agreed that the Vasque Mindbenders that I was wearing were not the boots he was looking for. I explained about how the Frenchmen and I were the only other ones out early and that they were probably 20 or 30 minutes ahead of me because I waited to have a cup of coffee before leaving.
My walk continued on the road through San Anton and into Castrojerz, an interesting town with castle watching over its medieval streets. After a cafe con leche and a brief rest, I made the gradual (but significant) climb in a light rain up to Alto de Mostelares. I enjoyed a brief break at the summit in a shelter with Frida and Jen (from the albergue the prior night). We then had a very steep downhill to a relatively flat and mildly rolling path for the rest of the day. I passed Frida, then she caught back up in the town of Itero de La Vega where we searched for lunch spot, but most things closed – Easter Sunday. Finally, we had to double back to the albergue at entrance to town – where we lunched on bocadilla of ham and cheese and ran into Jen (again), Carmen (from the day before), and David (from the albergue the night before).
The day started to clear. Rain gear came off and skies brighten. Most of my fellow pilgrims were stopping in Boadilla del Camino (our albergue in Hontanas had recommended another new albergue there), which would make for a 28 km day. I decided, however, to push on another 6 kilometers to Fromista (making its a 21-mile day) as part of my plan to shorten my time in the meseta. Sun begins to peak through as I walk through Boadilla. The trail then followed a canal that cut through the agricultural landscape, so the terrain were perfectly flat, so I made good time heading towards and into Fromista. Low on euros, job one was finding an ATM, which I did right away. Unsucesssful at the Santander cash machine, I ran into the Frenchmen, who had left the albergue just before me that morning. Fortunately an ATM across the street had an adequate supply of euros and I restocked.
I secured a room at the San Martin hotel and headed for an outdoor table to put my feet up and relax. While enjoying my afternoon cervesa, Ciaran from Ireland (another pilgrim about my same age) joined me in the café. Two days before his son was to start the Camino, Ciaran decided to go as well (how’s that for planning!). Now his son was a few days ahead of him, but they’d meet up in Santiago. (I was see Ciaran several times in the days to come – and, we would finish in Santiago at the same time and see each other at the Pilgrim Mass.)
Showered. Walked around town. Stopped in church long enough to focus on the day (it was Easter Sunday), give thanks and offer prayer. Back at the hotel I ordered some wine and pasta and worked on photographs, journal and blog. I called Cheryl and enjoyed a good night’s sleep in a private room – my second one after 13 days on the Camino. My second day in the meseta was not the monotony I had anticipated. The landscape had included traversing a high ridge and the scenes were more varied than the first day, including an interesting medieval town, a canal cutting through the agricultural plains, and the more modern town of Fromista.