Yesterday was my first day of walking the Camino in Spain. Leaving the albergue (pilgrim shelter) where I stayed in Burgos, I walked a bit in the dark and drizzle, stopped at a bar for a cafe con leche (yes, the bars are open at 8:00 am, and not all the clientele are drinking coffee), and promptly got lost in town. Wandered in what I thought was the right direction for a bit without seeing any of the waymarks, but then I saw a gas station. The attendant didn´t speak a word of English, but between the two of us and my map he pointed me in the right direction. That's when I saw the three west-bound pilgrims, two of whom had bright yellow rain covers on their backpacks. I paced myself, and in about 20 minutes I caught up with them.
This is now the second day we've been travelling together and it is a nice thing. Artense speaks English, her husband Antonio speaks French far more fluently than I ever will, and Carmina studied French in school. (I suspect I've been out of school much longer than she has.) So we communicate with humour and sign language and snippets of French and English, aloing with my broken phrase book Spanish.
Of the three of us, I've got the most time to make it to Santiago, and I suspect that once Artense's blisters clear up, she and Antonio will go back to their 30 km per day pace. So far, 25 km seems about right for me. Today we only walked 20, but yesterday was fairly brutal, even for the experienced walkers.
As I mentioned above, it started out with drizzle, but after about two hours the sun came out. And I honestly thank God that it did, because the thought of walking the last section of the trail we covered yesterday afternoon in the rain makes me weak in the knees. The first 25 km went well. The section of trail we're on now reminds me of the parts of North Dakota I've driven across -- plateaus, with the occasional river valley punctuating the high plain. It's very beautiful, but when you're on foot you experience those hills somewhat differently.
Five of the final six km of trail yesterday was a constant uphill slog through mud with a strong head wind. It was indescribably miserable, and part way through (while I was still capable of coherent thought) I realized that fire is not the only biblical image for hell. There is also the miry deep. Finally I crested the hill and saw a sign which almost had me weeping with joy: Hortanas 0'5 km. Only half a kilometer to go, and it was all downhill WITH NO MUD!!! And at the end, my companions had already told the hospitalera that I'd be arriving. Marta waited patiently while I dropped my pack, removed my mud-laden boots, and fished out my pilgrim's credencial. She stamped it, recorded my details in the log book, and led me to the kitchen where my companions were waiting and she'd already begun cooking our dinner.
After a quick bit of refreshment, she led us upstairs and showed us to the dormitory. A hot shower, a clean change of clothes, and a foot massage later I felt human again. And then it was time to eat.
Today was a much easier walk. No mud, for one thing, and it was walking on the meseta. There were a few slopes, but much of it was walking on more or less level ground. I arrived in Itera de la Vega about an hour ago and poked my head into the first place that was open. Carmina had walked on ahead of the rest of us, and she wasn't there. Still, it was warm, it had beds and food and a nice big bathroom for each dormitory room. I was sold, especially since I knew we'd meet again on the trail tomorrow.
As I was scraping the mud from my boots (well yes, there was a little mud today, but nothing worth mentioning), Antonio and Artense came along the road. I hailed them and they told me they were headed to the albergue next to the church, which is where Carmina had settled in. We agreed that we'd meet back at "my" place for dinner together at 7:00 and I headed for the shower. When I came out a new man, they had changed their plans. In fact, so had Carmina, so the four of us are booked in here together again.
Dinner will be served in an hour, which gives me time to stretch out a bit, massage my feet, and relax with the others. I'm not sure when I'll be posting next, but I'm keeping notes as we go. Hopefully the next time I log on, I'll also be able to upload photos. The current machine is locked down, with only keyboard, mouse, and monitor accessible. Makes sense from a business perspective, but it is a tad annoying. Ah well.