Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Camino Crankiness

Hiking across the “meseta” today, which is Spanish for Kansas – flat as far as eye can see. But looks can be deceiving. In Navarre and La Rioja, towns were built on hilltops for defensive reasons (lot of good it did them – most of them were conquered and reconquered every generation or so for hundreds of years). In Castilla y Leon, with no hilltops worth the name, towns tended to be tucked down in the little folds of the plain, where water was more likely and there was shelter from the relentless winds.
So today we walked ten kilometers from Hornillas with nothing but the path in sight. But when we’d just about given up on reaching Hontanas (“Are you sure you saw a yellow arrow this way at that fork five kilometers ago?”), we crested an imperceptible rise and there, down a winding hill, was Hontanas. Unfortunately – speaking of restaurante roulette – the town power supply was out. So my morning café cortado was tepid, and there were no lights in the baño (I could have turned a nice profit renting out my flashlight).

A few hundred yards out of Hontanas, a tree lined road turned off to the left headed straight for Castrojeriz, our destination for the day. Crankily, as is its wont, the Camino path forked off a few degrees to the right of the road, allowing dutiful pilgrims to walk a hundred yards away from the shaded road on a barren, sunny path along the hillside. Comparing the two choices (pictured), I could not believe that a true medieval pilgrim would have chosen the rocky hillside over the flat path (now road) through the trees. So I walked the road. Of course, various pilgrims accused me of departing from the Camino, surrendering my possible entitlement at the end of the pilgrimage to the “EFI” award (first word “every,” third word “inch”). But I feel secure in Mi Camino.