We climbed about 130 m in elevation on leaving Castrojerez. The rain was gone. We caught a view of the Meseta ahead. The Meseta is the name given to the extensive flat plains in central Spain that we had been walking on since leaving Burgos on Day 11. We quite liked them although there were some sections where you would walk and walk and nothing changed. Some found this discouraging. We liked them because they were generally flat and so easy to walk!
So what does it cost to hike the Camino? In 2010 our budget was roughly 25 Euro/day each. Typically our refugio cost 8 Euro, dinner and wine 10 Euro, lunch, breakfast, water and snacks, 7 Euro. This was the average. Some days were less and some were more. You could do it cheaper if you stayed in religious group run refugios that asked only for a donation. Some spent more and stayed in private room accommodations. We liked staying in the refugios because you met up with the many people that you had seen on the trail that day. ATM machines dispensing Euros were available in the cities and larger towns. A credit card was not useable along the way except in the city.
Well something happened on this day. I was raring to go. Marie was still suffering from blisters and needed a break. So in the afternoon, I walked ahead and said I would wait for her at the Canal de Castilla crossing just before Fromista. I enjoyed my solo walk and crossed over the beautiful canal. I waited about 30 min thinking Marie would be right behind me. She wasn’t. I remember asking a man if she had seen her and he answered “Be patient man, she is coming.” I was getting worried as we had come almost 25 km. I was about to walk back, when there she appeared, all smiles.
She normally carries her crocks dangling from her pack at the back. Someone informed her that there was only 1 crock hanging and had seen one beside the road, so she had gone back to find it to no avail. The mystery of the missing crock! All was well again but Marie’s feet were still in pain. We checked into the 56 bed municipal Estrella del Camino in Fromista. After the usual shower, nap and laundry I explored the town of 1000 residents a bit.
The next day we set our sights on Carrion de los Condes a town of 2400 some 20 km away. It was sunny and flat. Marie needed to take the bus to let her blisters heal. It was a complicated triangular route. She would have to take one bus to Palencia and then another to Carrion. I remember seeing her get on the bus and worrying that we would never see each other again since she spoke no Spanish.
Carrion was home to the beautiful Santa Maria Church. I realize we have not talked yet about the faith aspect of pilgrimage. Since the middle ages millions of pilgrims made their way to Santiago de Compostella where the Apostle St. James reputedly visited after the Resurrection of Jesus. Back then these were usually for moralistic or monastic reasons or as penance for sin. Many died along the way without the pilgrim services of today. Gradually the importance of place – e.g., the shrines of saints – to express devotion, receive forgiveness or to collect badges and relics became the reason. That was a primary motivator for us.
There are many churches along the Way of St. James that offer pilgrim Masses and a quiet place to reflect. We took advantage of these often stopping to enter a church and say a prayer. Too, we did not linger as the perceived “rush for beds” was on every day. Nevertheless, a good part of our day was reflecting on our faith individually and pausing at the many religious statues to read the inscription. We felt God was leading us to a new way of living. We could see the face of God in other pilgrims’ eyes.
I checked in at the refugio and asked when and where the bus would arrive from Palencia. At the appointed time I went and sat on the bench by the stop. Within 5 minutes a bus pulls up and there is Marie again, all smiles. After that that we visited the church to give thanks. We then spent a very peaceful night in the 54 bed parochial Santo Espiratu Albergue run by nuns.