We got an early (for us) start hoping to arrive at our destination by 4 p.m. which was when rain was predicted to start there. It had rained during the night, so the predicted 8 a.m. bout didn’t materialize as we walked out the door of our hostel.
A hostel, by the way that proved you can’t judge a book by its cover. When we arrived there yesterday, we looked at each other and said, “Really?”
OK, now we know why some people choose to bike or even skip the Meseta. I’m glad we didn’t, but it is, indeed, a long, hot stretch of nothing but crops, dust and flies. I am a big believer in the notion that you find what you’re looking for, so Donna and I made a point of looking for things that we could be grateful for.
Our walking notes warned us that this 20K section would be a straight shot along a highway, through vast fields of cut hay and dying sunflowers. Actually, the notes only mentioned the distance, the highway and “crops.” We would pass through three tiny villages called Campos de [Spanish word], and that would pretty much be the only break from crops and crops and highway.
I made a decision today, Sept. 12, 2019, aka Day 3 on the Camino. It was our longest day so far (big deal, we’ve been walking three days): 25km [15 miles]. We didn’t get to our lodging until 5:30 p.m. and I was frustrated because I had looked forward to having some down time between shower and dinner to write. Specifically, to write this blog. I was already a day behind, and I really wanted to post every day.
Wait just a dang minute. Sounds like stress to me. Felt like stress to me. Layer that on top of aching limbs, flaming feet, a drippy, sweaty face and still several miles to go before I’d see a rooftop, let alone the reception desk of our lodging—that’s when I made my decision.
Starting our Camino on my birthday, Sept. 10, 2019 was special, but purely accidental. When Donna and I planned the trip we looked at our calendars and worked backwards more than forwards. I remember saying at one point, “Oh, cool. Our first day of walking will be my birthday.” ‘Nuf said about that.
And then, this morning, we made our way to the breakfast buffet at our hotel in Burgos, gathered our favorite source of caffeine and food stuffs, then sat down at a table in the hotel’s dining room.
Donna puts a stack of envelopes and folded papers next to my plate. Birthday cards. I gulp, choke and almost sob an itty bit. This took advance planning and a decent amount of schlepping on Donna’s part.
You see, my mother spoiled me when it comes to birthdays. From as early as I can remember, the first words I would hear on my birthday were from her lips, “Happy Birthday!” She might have been waking me for school (in fourth grade my birthday was actually on the first day of school) or I could have been walking into the kitchen in search of a cup of tea on my way out the door to Cal State Long Beach.
This year, my 64th trip around the sun, this birthday is an exciting way to begin a new adventure in oh, so many ways.
Each day, or at least each day last time on the Portuguese Camino, Donna and I would take a morning selfie. Today, we handed the camera to the receptionist at the hotel.
Yesterday we found the Camino markers in the road outside our hotel and decided to take before and first day photos.
We were ahead of schedule. Alarm at 6 a.m. Check. Throw on the clothes we laid out the night before, call the bellman to bring down the luggage. Check. He arrived at 6:30 a.m. and asked if we needed a taxi. Yes, please.
We checked out 6:40 a.m. and were in the cab with time to spare for the 8 a.m. train departing Madrid’s Chamartin station.
At 7:10 a.m. we hop out of the cab, open the hatch, and I gasp. “Donde esta nuestra equipaje?” [Where is our luggage?]
“What luggage?” he said in Spanish. “Soloa mano.” [Only by hand, referring to our large purses.]
I managed to explain in Spanish that we needed to return to the hotel for our luggage, and did he think we would still have time to return and catch the 8 a.m. train. This was not the context in which I wanted to practice my Spanish, but I was grateful for every Pimsler lesson I listened to at that moment.
We landed in Madrid Saturday night, dropped our luggage off at the hotel and started walking through City Centre. We were on a mission for tapas and sangria.
The San Miguel Market, located behind Plaza Mayor, was the perfect spot. Something for everyone, including Padron peppers, which Donna and I discovered in Galicia on our previous Camino via the Portuguese coastal route.
One full day is not enough
Sunday morning we wanted to cover as much of the city as possible, given we only had this one full day to do so. (We leave Monday, Sept. 9 for Burgos at 8 a.m. via train.)
In May of 2017, my friend Donna Halker and I walked about 180 miles of the Camino de Santiago Portuguese Coastal Route. We had planned on walking the Camino Francigena from Luca to Rome, Italy, in 2018, but my breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, chemo and reconstruction surgeries got in the way. As in no way.
CaminoWays.com was understanding and generous. They applied our deposit to a 2019 trip, which we decided would be the “real” Camino, aka The French Way. Except for the Pyrenees. We’re going to skip that part and start our 300-mile trek across Northern Spain in Burgos, aka the beginning of the Meseta. I know. A lot of people hate the Meseta for a boatload of reasons that include it’s hot, boring and flat. I’ve heard that some Pilgrims actually bike the section between Burgos and Leon.
Nope. Not Donna and I. Meseta means plateau in Spanish, and we think that’s a peachy way to kick off 22 days of walking. We’ll each be carrying a daypack that weighs about 10 pounds or so, or at least they did in “rehearsal.” Daypack is the operative word in the preceding sentence. Camino Ways has made arrangements to move a suitcase from lodging to lodging. They also have made room reservations for us each and every night.
I see that my last post was Day 7. Egad. A week has gone by? I’ve been posting on Facebook…snippets and photos that help me remember what happened when. Today is Day 14, Sunday, June 4.
Here comes the ramble.
Day 7 we walked into Baiona and wondered if we had made a mistake in designating our day off in the next city, Vigo. The blessing of Baiona was that the hotel had a jacuzzi, and gluten-free muffins in the morning.
Vigo is a huge city. Reminded us of Paris, New York, but on the sea. We hiked and climbed (yes, on our day off) to the top of a park that gave us an amazing view of the islands off Vigo (and visible from Baiona) and up the river that empties into the bay.
Leaving Vigo, Day 10, we were also leaving the Coastal Route. We were headed to Redondella, inland, where intersect the main Portuguese Route to Santiago (Central route).
Wifi is fading, and photo loading is frustrating, so I will have to say adios for now.
Tomorrow morning, Monday, June 5, we will walk a short 12K into Santiago. There is anticipated joy, and a sadness at the same time. Each day has had its physical and mental challenges. Yet the simplicity of waking each morning know that the only thing on your To Do list is to walk–well, there is peace in that alone.