Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sahagun Straightaway

(October 17, 2009 – Posted October 20, 2009) The stretch leading through Sahagun is by wide acclaim the most boring on the Camino. So I walked the 26 miles from Carrión de los Condes to Sahagun today to put it all behind me in one day. Straight it certainly is (see first two pictures, early morning and almost there). Partly because much of it follows the old Roman road, partly because there’s not much reason for curves and turns on the meseta. There are also no towns at all for the first 12 miles, and nothing much after that. I managed one cup of café cortado at Calzadilla de la Cueza (milepost 12), and a beer at San Nicholás del Real Camino (milepost 22), and I didn’t turn down any opportunities for something more substantial.
But the “most boring” award is at least in small part a bad rap. There are enough trees for picnics, and the countryside is not entirely empty. After a few hundred miles on the Camino, a shepherd with his flock is not blow-your-mind exciting, but it still has its charm. (see last two pictures)
The same cannot be said, unfortunately, for the Ermita de la Virgen del Puente, a highly recommended chapel two miles outside Sahagun on the rio Valderaduey. The careless pilgrim may, like me, assume that the eponymous “Puente” crosses the rio Valderaduey. It probably did when the Romans built it. Unfortunately, the river (we’d call it a “creek”) seems to have shifted course sometime over the last two thousand years. So now there is no bridge crossing the river, and the Puente crosses a pasture. I did not discover this until I’d walked half a kilometer in from the main road along the riverbank across from the chapel, so I then had to backtrack in order to walk down the right side of the creek (mistakes and excursions like this – there were a couple of others over the course of the day – not counted in mileage). The second problem was the large sign in McDonald’s red and yellow between the Puente and the Ermita telling us that the sorely-needed restoration planned for some time in the future will cost € 289,310.89 to be provided by someone. So much for photo opportunities. The third problem, so universal on the Camino that it’s barely worth noting, was that the Ermita was locked up tight.
But now I’m in the Puerta de Sahagun Hotel, a large establishment catering to business meetings but, interestingly for that business model, without “wee-fee” anywhere (so says the woman at the reception desk; my wi-fi finder shows a network but can’t log on).In the absence of the internet, tonight I’ll eat at a Spanish-fashionable 9:30 (i.e., if I start then, there will be someone else in the restaurant by the time I finish) so that I can have grilled leeks. Sahagun is the leek capital of the world, or Spain at least.