May 28, 2011 Rabe de las Calzadas to Itero de la Vega

Left Rabe at 06:45 after toast breakfast and walked nonstop to Hornillos del Camino. Met Luke and girls there as well as Philippe and Roberto. Happy reunion! Left Hornillos with rumors that Rocky had been there also that night. Luke and the girls heard she’d been there but hadn’t seen her.

Walked from Hornillos to Hontanas with Lila and had a great talk. Nonstop talk and lots of laughter.

Arrived Hontanas and enjoyed lunch with Luke, Lila, Gal and three Germans. Nick, David, and Lucas. Decided it was time to strike out on my own without Luke and crowd, so left with plan to overnight at Castrojeriz. Arrived hot and tired there. Passed first albergue at beginning of town because didn’t like its looks. Discovered next 2 albergues were completo. Decided to strike out for next village, 10 kms away, but stupidly did not buy water before I left town. I realized the next hill is huge and I began to hope that there was a lot of water in my camelbak. Sign said the climb was 1050 meters and it felt like it. At top of hill a group of Italian bikers was resting and they gave me water after I asked, with much kindness. Kept walking and saw that after hill was a desolate stretch of at least 10 km. Continued walking without shade and without water. Bikers passed me just as I spotted the fuente and asked if I was ok. Very nice. Stopped at the fuente for +/- 20 minutes to air out socks and rest my feet and drink drink drink.

Arrived at San Nicolas de Puentetitero (Hospital de Pelegrinos) and was turned away by the hospitalero. I must’ve looked very downcast as in a few minutes he told me I could stay! Said I could sleep on mat on floor — which was just fine — and sent me to the showers to give me time to get ready for dinner. Had a foot washing ceremony followed by a lovely dinner and wine drinking contest and grand/funny Italian toast. Met 3 French women: Claire, Flora and Cecile. Also Finnish woman with excellent French and English named Sukkar. Very quiet setting on quiet side of river from Itero de la Vega. Cloud and Tom here along with Michelle and Robert. Very satisfying meal and general “feel” of albergue. Everyone is happy and satisfied. The pilgrim hospital (albergue) is small and quaint. A beautiful camino experience for all the normal reasons, plus the general ambience that is about joy, faith, and love. This all felt more genuine as they had relented from sending me away!

As David the hospitalero left he put me in charge of the albergue. If a pilgrim comes along I am to let him/her in. The door is never locked, David says, and breakfast is at 06:30. Long walk of 38 kms today, but ended in joy.

June 7, 2008 Hontanas to Fromista

Trevor proved to be much fun and very good company and he had with him Danni, a policewoman from Berlin. We set out after breakfast on a cool and windy day with rain threatening from the skies.

Soon after Hontanas is the Convento San Anton, a ruined medieval convent with portions of the apse and some buttresses all that remain. The road goes under one of the buttresses and the whole scene is one of beauty and desolation.

After a time the road straightened out as vistas of the next town, Castrojeriz, came into view. The crescent-shaped town hugs a conical mountain with a ruined castle on top and, though Castrojeriz is quite small, it is easily 2 km in distance to cross it from one tip of the crescent to the next.

After traversing the town, Danni, Trevor and I set out to climb the big hill opposite. This is considered the biggest climb of the Meseta, and perhaps one of the steepest (though not the longest) climbs of the entire camino. At the top we looked back to spectacular views of Castrojeriz and the pathway from which we’d come. On the other side of the hill we looked down to unobscured views of the remainder of the Meseta and the mountains beyond. The steep downhill was followed by more, seemingly endless, flat stretches.

Feeling good in my new boots, I left Trevor and Danni behind and headed to Fromista, 34 km from the day’s start. This was one of my longest days so far on a camino and, when the hospitalero at the albergue indicated there were no more beds I was discouraged. After walking through the plaza area and finding now hotel rooms, I was even more discouraged. I went back to the albergue, put on my sad face, and the hospitalera opened a vacant overflow room and let me take the first bed. Later that evening a group of strapping, young Italian bikers in Spandex shorts joined me and, though we had no language in common, we spent a friendly night in our bunks, with handshakes and smiles all around.

I regret missing the open hours of the Fromista church. It’s one of the treasures of the camino, with hundreds of sculptures in the outdoor soffits. It’s tiny, but clearly a Romanesque gem.