According to my rough guide, Hontanas to Boadilla is a good 28 kilometers. Why another long day? Well, to be honest, I'm not exactly sure. I really tried not to overdue things in the beginning. I had read numerous times that the people who end up hurt on the Camino are, perhaps paradoxically, the young ones--they go too fast. The first few days I kept stopping and asking myself--Am I going too fast? I'd stop every hour for water, every two hours for a snack, even taking breaks to stretch in the beginning.
All that didn't last too terribly long. I don't know if I wanted to push myself or if I was getting into the habit of it all. I came up with various scenarios for walking the Meseta portion of the Camino, but, in the end, I decided that I really wanted two things--to be in Leon for Easter Sunday and to make a stop in Carrion de los Condes (I read that the albergue there was run by Benedictine nuns who are famous for their hospitality--I wanted to pick their brains a bit). All this meant that I would have some long days through the Meseta. Theoretically it seemed like the best place to power through--it's known to be "flat and boring."
Flat and boring turned out to be wishful thinking.
The day started out beautifully:
We soon approached the ruins of San Anton monastery. It was beautiful, but unfortunately I didn't realize at the time this where I was supposed to place a wish. My Sevillan friends had told me about the pilgrim tradition to write a wish on a piece of paper and to tuck it into a specific ruin along the way. I didn't learn until days later that this was that place. Ooops.
Shortly after San Anton the Camino passed through Castro Jeriz. Full of churches, fortresses and men on roofs who spontaneously serenaded me, it somehow still retained the ghost-town vibe that so many of the tiny Camino towns had.
The fortress--I definitely didn't have the spare energy to climb all the way up there!
Outside of town things flattened back out a bit.
I looked ahead and thought, surely that trail I see going straight up that hill isn't the Camino.
But it was. Up we go!
Not sure why exactly I'm making this face, except for the fact that I was mildly annoyed that there was this giant hill in the part of the Camino that was supposedly flat as Kansas.
The view was stunning though (that hill you see to the right is the one the fortress in Castro Jeriz was on). When I got to the top I sat down, took in the view and some water and congratulated the older pilgrim after me for making it to the top. He looked at me in utter confusion. I tried to clarify that I was just saying, good job for making it to the top. He stared at me really hard, walked up to me and asked if he knew me. Um, no. (And this is where I thought for the umpteenth time in my life--Stop talking to strangers, Lauren!). He was from Norway and apparently climbed mountains much steeper than this everyday in his back yard. He also ended up being really "sticky"--meaning I couldn't shake him for the rest of the day.
Stacks of stones, windmills and vast expanses--Camino companions
The Meseta would prove to be a course in cloud studies
And what do you do right after you climb that giant hill? Go right back down. Ugh. A photographic frustration along the way was the fact that the trails never looked nearly as steep in pictures as they were in person.
The clouds in the distance started to look a little ominous...
We stopped for a coffee/snack from a local guy set up beside the road. He swore it wouldn't rain. Then, when the sky started spitting fat drops at us, he told us it was just one cloud's worth of rain. Storms came fast here, people die each year here from lightening storms, he said. But don't worry--This is just one cloud's worth.
I wasn't so sure it was just one cloud's worth...
We made it to Itero de la Vega without getting too soaked and waited out most of the storm while having a cafe con leche. I polled the bartender and all the sage looking old men in the cafe and, after about an hour, decided to get going on the last 8 km/two hours of the hike to Boadilla. It was getting late, but I will admit that part of my motivation to go on was also to lose the crazy Norwegian guy. When Irish Samantha (who seemed to have some kind of advanced knowledge of lightening) strapped on her poncho to continue I went with her.
And almost died.
That might seem overly dramatic, but as I was miles away from anything taller than a hedge with black clouds sparking lightening every few seconds (and carrying a metal tipped walking stick!), I thought--this is going to be a really absurd way to die. Tornado safety I know, but what do I do in a lightening storm? Should I crouch in a ditch? Wait it out? Walk right through it?
We stood there and stared at the storm for a few minutes debating what to do. I really thought it would be better to wait a little while longer--while we were exposed standing there, continuing would lead us right under the thickest part of the storm. A few minutes later we heard the click, click, click of hikers with poles coming up behind us. Three Germans were trucking on unfazed. We asked them what they thought about the storm and they looked at us like we were crazy. They kept walking right along with their metal poles. With their poles, and the fact that they were taller than us, I decided they would be the lightening's first choice--we decided to carry on after them.
We finally made it to sleepy Boadilla--soaking wet, blistered, and a little dazed (but oh-so-thankful to be alive!)
The albergue was a little unusual in that there was a loft that contained a third tier of beds. The ladder to get up there was a little precarious, but it did provide me with a normal bed (aka not a bunk bed) and a place to hang my wet clothes. As the day continued to better itself I had dinner at the albergue and met some new pilgrim friends, including two German moms and a Parisian psychoanalyst (I wouldn't learn that part until almost a week later!).
It was definitely a memorable day on the Camino. New friends, new fears, and a new desire for the "flat and boring" I had been promised.