THURSDAY: We left SanBol while it was still dark and had to follow the arrows by starlight and torchlight. The sun always rises behind us as we are walking forever westaward and it is quite beautiful to look back and see the sun rise over the hills in the distance. We had a fairly easy walk to Castrojeriz - 14.5km cross-country and then the last bit on a tree lined road. Castrojeriz is a long village that hugs the lower portion of a high 'koppie' with a ruined castle on top. We left our packs at a refuge and walked about 1.5km to the closed convent of Santa Clara to buy biscuits from the nuns. One of the nuns suddenly opened a door and we were quite surprised to see her as they are never usually seen. Annaliese explained that a few might be public nuns and can show their faces. We had a photo taken with her and walked back to the town. We had a drink at the El Meson (where Joy and I had dinner in 2004. I remembered that the refuge where we stayed in 2002 was like mattresses on cold, stone slabs, so we took our bags up to a different albergue and booked in there.
Marion and I climbed up the Camino de Castillo - the steep, winding road up to the castle on top. I wanted to fly the SA flag so I took off my shorts and we took photographs with my SA flag shorts flying proudly! Marion said, "How many people are there in the world like us?" Instead of our usual rallying reply - "Too damn few!" We shouted, "ONLY TWO!" We were the only pilgrims to climb to the castle.
We had dinner at the La Taberna and have ordered some special olive oil, which we will collect when we go back there on 2nd October. The beds are in a large room - some bunks, some mattresses on the floor. Marion and I were on top bunks and neither slept very well because the streetlights shone on our faces.
FRIDAY: We left Castrojeriz at 6h30 in the pitch darkness. I remembered from 2002 that we had to climb a very steep hill and although it was a tough climb, we felt exhilarated when we reached the top and could look back at the distant lights of Castrojeriz with the morning star and a sickle moon above the silhouette of the hill and castle.
Once we reached the summit of the hill we were on the Meseta - the vast flat open plains of Castille y Leon. We walked for hours on rocky paths that go on and on - something like driving through the Karoo. We spent last night at a delightful refuge with an oasis like garden. It has a swimming pool and local ancient rocks in the garden. We had almost first choice of beds and chose bunks with few other pilgrims around us. I was able to have a long chat in Afrikaans with a couple from Belgium. We had a very nice pilgrim meal there and went to bed at about 9pm.
SATURIDAY: I have been walking in sandals for the past 10 days and have been taping my heels with plasters and foam. Today I decided to try them without all the plasters etc and they seem to be fine. We had a LONG walk today - about 25kms - from Boadilla to Carrion de los Condes. We booked into the first refuge we came to in the convent of Santa Clara and, for a change, we each have a bed (instead of a bunk) in a four-bed room. It is really cold in the morning when we start walking so we have long pants over our shorts, a shirt, fleece and chill cheater. Our hands feel especially cold but once the sun comes up - around 7h45 - it warms up and by 10ish we start to moult! First off is the chill cheater, then the longs, then the fleece, and then Marion puts on her sunscreen and bandana to protect her sunburned ears and Anneliese and I put on our hats.
Marion and I walked another half hour out of town today for me to put a laminated picture of a pilgrim dog called Trigo onto a tree. In 1987 Trigo was a stray who followed a pilgrim from Holland all the way to Santiago. Piter couldn't bear to leave him so he took him home to Holland. Don Trigo de Carion delos Condes became the mascot of a web forum called Santiagobis and was quite famous around the world. Sadly, Don Trigo died last year and has a grave with head stone with scallop shell on it. Now, I have put his picture and story on a tree outside Carrion de los Condes. We collected a few stones to place at the base of the tree. I buried a little box with a shell and a photo of Don Trigo under the stones. I painted his name on a log and an arrow on the road to mark the spot. Now, all Santiagobis members can salute Don Trigo as they walk past or, they can add their own stone to the pile under the tree.
Marion and I are sitting in a crowded bar whilst I type this email. It is 7:30pm and Anneliese has gone to mass in the church of Santa Maria. There is a fiesta day today for Santa Maria so all the shops are closed. Sunset is at 20h42 and sunrise tomorrow is at 7h50. We will have a 17km walk to Calzadilla de la Cueza, the next town tomorrow before we can buy anything to eat or drink. We then walk on to Ledigos a further 6km - 23km altogether. We will email you again if we find another Internet cafe.
S A M