Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Itero de la Vega (Sep 18, Day 19)

We left Hontanas before sunrise guided by the light of a torch once more until there was enough light in the sky. We had to climb tbe gradual slope out of the depression that Hontanas was in (pun not intended) in darkness but it was bright well before we got to the ruins of San Anton, the next village.  The heavy cloud cover made it a warm in the morning and also mild for most of the day. 

We were looking forward to Castrojeriz (probably pronounced "Castro - her ith" ?) because we needed an ATM to replenish our cash and the usual proper cup of coffee that albergues often did not provide. When we came to a crowded bar at the entrance to the town we pushed on knowing that the town centre was another one km further.  To our frustration, we found ourselves at the other end of town without  finding any real life. We later discovered that most of the shops were on another street and no one had bothered to put up any signs to attract customers. No wonder a guidebook described the town as being in perpetual siesta. 

We had morning tea by the side of the road and skipped lunch, tackled the Alto, a rare steep hill on the plateau, like a pimple on the flat land. Right at the top was a 360 deg view of the meseta and there was - yes nothing, apart a shelter generously defaced with wise cracks by peregrinos. In most places around the world there would be a kiosk serving food and coffee but of course this was Spain!

Walking towards Castrojeriz.

The 18% slope desent was steeper than the ascent and we watched with some concern as cyclists did it with courage and perhaps not much brains. Down at the bottom, we it were back on the meseta proper, a mosaic of grain fields all in harvested shades of golden yellow and brown broken by patcbes of black where dried sunflowers stood perhaps awaiting harvesting.

The sun had reappeared from behind the clouds and the 4 km to the shade of the next tree from the hill was arduous. When we came to it, there were a couple of locals behind a stall with some fruits on display and a thermos flask that contained coffee that K was desperately seeking. How much for the coffee? Just a donation. We admired their entreprise but it had not got to the profit motive stage. On the other hand, it might just be a way of evading stringent EU regulations. If only we had the Spanish to find out more.

The day's destination was Itero del Vega but just before it we passed by the albergue of St Nicolas a serious refugio with only 12 places for the hardcore that many had talked about. It had the long history of monks providing medical and other care to pilgrims on the Camino. Today the refugio retains the simplicity of the olden days by the absence of electricity as the place is lit only by candlelight.  We wondered what the monks thought of the young ladies in bras and knickers having a wash publicly outside the small building!  Not wanting to do without electricity, we pushed on another 1 km to Itero and stayed in a place where I could have my mobile phone recharged.

St Nicolas outside Itero.

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