The days are passing quickly as we approach the midpoint of our pilgrimage. We have been blessed with good weather and the terrain has become much more level now that we are in the region of the Mesata. Autumn has apparently arrived right on schedule. The past couple of days have been quite chilly in the mornings and cool and breezy in the afternoons. It’s very nice weather for hiking. But, I’ve had to break out my fleece jacket and rain jacket/windbreaker to keep warm in the mornings and evenings, and my sleeping bag to keep warm overnight. Prior to this, it was shorts and a shirt during the day and just a light sleeping bag liner at night.
The scenery continues to amaze. As we enter the Mesata we are treated to broad vistas that seem to go all the way to the horizon. We were warned that the Mesata could be boring, but many of us are finding it to be as beautiful as any other part of the Camino we have seen to date. God’s handiwork does not fade as we cross the land.
Since one day seems to meld into another when we are in the country, I will try to catch up by covering the last three days briefly in a single post.
Shortly out of Burgos we experienced yet another Camino grace. We were approaching an area where construction crews are building a major highway intersection. As we approached, we were met at an intersection in the Camino by a woman who told us to not follow the yellow arrows pointing to the left, since that would lead us to the construction in an area that was impassible, but to go instead to the right, around the construction, and to meet up with the Camino again further on. Her directions proved totally accurate. The question was why was this lady there helping the pilgrims? The intersection was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. But she had taken this task on herself, for no remuneration, in order to help the pilgrims. This was indeed another Camino grace. It really makes you scratch your head.
On Tuesday we left Burgos and headed for Hornillos del Camino. As we left the urban neighborhoods on the outskirts of Burgos, the scenery changed dramatically and quickly into rolling fields of wheat, barley, and oats broken only by the occasional river crossing or small rural town. There is little or no shade on the Mesata, but the cooler weather is making the hiking easier than when the sun was baking us and our packs last week. Hornillos del Camino is an ancient medieval town with little to offer other than a couple of albergues and a bar/cafe/restaurant or two. But, the facilities located here have provided a quiet and restful break from the Camino and have given our bodies the needed time to recuperate from the day’s abuse.
On Wednesday we continued on to the the town of Castrojeriz, with a population of about 1,000. Again, most of the day we crossed extensive rolling fields of grain. But the departure from the noise, hustle, and bustle of civilization was very restful. In one of the intermediate towns, San Anton, we were treated to the splendid ruins of the 14th century Convent of San Anton. A little further down the Camino we entered the town of Castrojeriz. The first buildings you notice there are the 9th century castle on top of the adjacent hill (now in ruins) and the 16th century Iglesia de San Juan, which has been renovated and is now a museum of sacred art. It contains several beautiful altarpieces as well as a broad collection of religious art, statuary, and other artifacts. The church also boasts a beautiful rose window.
We had to search a bit to find an albergue that wasn’t already “completo” (full), but we finally secured the last two beds (upper bunks) at the municipal albergue located at the far end of the town. Our guidebook told us that the residents of the town “seem to be permanently occupied with siesta except during the garlic festival in July,” but I couldn’t confirm this based on our experience this day.
We have been traveling with a fairly large group of other pilgrims for the past week or so. Generally, we don’t see them except briefly during the day while walking, but we all see each other at the albergues, wandering around town, or at dinner. It is nice to have these new friends that we check in with every evening. We compare notes to see how the day went and what condition our bodies and feet are in. We are starting to become a sort of family far away from home.
Today we had a long walk (25.2 km/15.7 mi) to the community of Fromista. This town is noted for its beautiful 11th century Iglesia de San Martin (originally consecrated in 1066), reportedly one of the finest examples of pure Romanesque architecture in Spain. It is noted for the more than 300 corbels located under the roof eaves. Each one is a different human, animal, or mystical motif. Very interesting.
Tomorrow Clint is going off route to the city of Valladolid to visit the Museo Nacional de Escutura (National Museum of Culture) which reportedly houses one of the finest collections of polychrome religious figurines in the world. These are carved, wooden sculptures that are painted in lifelike colors and typically adorn altarpieces and other structures. I will be continuing along the Camino with a planned destination of Carrion de los Condes and we plan to meet up again at that time. More to follow…