These days are beautiful in their own way, but they also hold the extremes of heat and monotony.
We left Castrojeriz at daybreak to take advantage of the cool morning before the sun is too high. Immediately outside of town, we were faced with a big, tough climb. From a distance, the hill looked exactly like the mountain we lived on in Peru! And the climb felt similar! By 8:20am, we had hit the summit and sat to admire the view and catch our breath. But, all things that go up must also come down. So, it was soon time to head down the other side...always tough on the knees.
The rest of the day was through fields of wheat and other grains. Very beautiful, but we were soon hot and somehow those fields start to feel like glowing molten gold radiating heat toward you. These days become a race from about 10:30am on...A race to get out of the heat! PS - there are no trees and no shade. And very few water refill areas.
We stayed in Boabdilla...A tired little town with a depressing history of being farmers and workers for rich landowners who were usually less than accommodating or fair. The town's one 'claim to fame' is an elaborately carved stone pillar in the town square - a pillar where people were chained and publically punished by the landowners. Hmm...not my idea of a cool landmark.
We did have a fabulous evening in the albergue in Boabdilla, where we had a huge family-style dinner with other pilgrims. We met many great fellow pilgrims! We laughed more at that dinner than we have laughed in weeks! A fun bunch, for sure!
Monday was my birthday. It began at 4am when the Italians in our albergue decided to don their headlamps and begin readying their gear for the day. I tried to ignore the noise and headlamps that continued to flash around the room and salvage the last hour or two of possible sleep, but to no avail. Finally, Billy came over to my bunk and asked if I wanted to go ahead and leave early. So, we put on our packs and left at 6am, before daybreak.
It was great to start the day in the cool, having to actually wear long sleeves for the first couple of hours. We walked for 6km along a water canal. The frogs were croaking and the early birds were beginning their calling and singing. Lots of yellow water iris. Really beautiful. We did see the sunrise during the canal walk, which was nice. Billy tried to claim that it was a sunrise walk on the waterfront and a lovely picnic breakfast (a granola bar) for my birthday.
The remainder of the day was a repeat if yesterday, except this day would follow the highway for 19km. Talk about reflecting heat! And the trail is flat and hard...not easy on the feet or legs.
On that note, a professional trainer for expert backpackers is currently on The Camino. She said that she has NEVER seen such torn up and damaged feet and legs. She thinks a lot of it has to do with the terrain...hard-packed centuries old trails, miles and miles of very flat terrain, interspersed with concrete. From a trainers point of view, the variety of actual mountain trails and natural wooded trails are better for the muscles and structure of our bodies. That, and the fact that we do it day after day after day.
Best part of today was meeting Pepe. Pepe is well in to his 80s and he owns a piece of land on the Camino. He grows almonds. He was sitting out on The Camino with a big bucket of his almonds, trying to stop pilgrims and give them a free snack and have a little chat. We watched lots of people pass him by. But, you know us...We couldn't pass up Pepe without hearing his story.
Pepe had a car accident and lives to tell the tale. Bottom line, he feels like it was a miracle that he lived and that's how he found God. Nowadays, he works in his garden and small orchard and tries to talk to pilgrims. He says some stop, and a lot don't. He must have sat there and cracked a gazillion almonds for me while we chatted. He took Billy and showed him his almond trees. He told Billy all about how to plant his own almond trees. All the while, Pepe is talking to Billy and cracking almonds for me. In the end, Pepe hugged us and kissed me and said, "We're friends forever. We're friends forever." He even told us how to send him mail. Pepe made my day! He made me cry...so sweet.