[After eight days, we’ve heard from them! Garin writes, 7:33 p.m. Spanish time, July 3rd, 2014:]
So, as it turned out, we did do that 30-kilometer day we were talking about in the previous email. It was a tough day, walking through rain and squelching for a couple kilometers through mud. By about halfway through our squelch session, we took pictures of the excess mud sticking to our shoes that weighed around 1 or 2 pounds on each foot! We arrived in Santo Domingo [de la Calzada] to find the Cistercian-run albergue and it was really nice (complete facilities including a microwave, but no oven). For dinner, we bought a bunch of microwavable (or in some cases, not-so-microwavable) food for dinner and since we ran into a time crunch with Mass, we ended up eating a bunch of half-cold, semi-microwavable food items including mushrooms, hot (or not-so-hot) cheese pockets, and pizza (still half frozen)… not something we want to repeat.
To Santo Domingo de la Calzada:
The next day, we walked about a 27-kilometer day to Tosantos where we stayed in a wonderful albergue, and our favorite one thus far, with the close second being Logroño. In this albergue, we went up the hill to a church that was built at an unknown time into the side of a hill in a natural crevasse. It was a rare opportunity to see the inside, since the woman who had the key to the church was not always available. We also cooked a communal meal with everyone in our albergue under the direction of the hospitalero, Jose. We enjoyed that communal meal and the night of prayers in their chapel afterwards. Personally, I also enjoyed sleeping on the mattresses on the ground (I didn’t have far to fall if I rolled off).
We stopped in Burgos to see the cathedral and stay the night, and we somehow managed to arrive and stay on the night of the feast of San Pedro y San Pablo [Saints Peter and Paul], which is a HUGE local celebration. We were joking that we felt like we were in Disneyland because of how many people were out on the streets with balloons, bands playing, people dressed up in costumes for performances, etc… The cathedral was GINORMOUS… so many side chapels and other branches off of the main part. We had Mass later that evening in one of these chapels.
We have been keeping up a good enough pace that we are managing to keep up with a lot of the people that we have previously met. We keep seeing them over and over again, and we can just pick up the conversation where we left off. We have met so many Americans, including Steve and Paige from Florida, Erin and Chris from Indiana, Robert from Orange County, [California], etc. We have also met Wendy and Mae from Canada, some really nice Brazilians who semi-adopted Kelsey and Becca when they found out they were at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro [in 2013]; Tom from Scotland, and tons of really nice Spaniards who always think that Mom speaks Spanish fluently and start talking to her, and then Becca or Kelsey have to translate. We keep seeing a group of Italians who always stand out in a crowd because of their wild dreadlocks, and Lucas, our other Italian friend who doesn’t speak very much English or Spanish, but is very memorable due to his personality and banana-bag hat. Adrien, a man running the Camino [rather than walking, biking or horseback riding], is also an interesting figure, due to the fact that he is always running, but he still wants to talk to pèople and make friends.
Since beginning on the meseta [the high plains of central Spain] in Burgos, we have had rain every single day, even though the meseta is supposed to be the hottest part of the whole Camino. We aren´t complaining, though, since it’s easier to walk in the cold and wind. Sometime during our hike tomorrow we will pass the halfway point in the Camino, having walked about 250 miles out of 500 to Santiago (plus our hike to Finisterre after Santiago). There is no type of walking trail we have not trudged over — dirt, gravel, pavement, sand… the bottoms of our feet have basically become one big callous.
Most of areas of Spain that we have seen are wheat-growing, or grape-growing for wine. We celebrate whenever we see a new plant growing on the side of the Camino (like counting hills in Florida). We have passed goats, sheep, cows, and many other animals for food. But the one animal we have not seen or heard real evidence of is a pig. It is the enigma of the Camino, since the Spaniards basically eat no other meat besides ham. But we are enjoying the silence, solitude, and calm of the meseta. Recently, we have been encountering American music from the 1960s and 70s in the bars. It was a little freaky hearing “Stairway to Heaven”, Simon and Garfunkle songs, “Knights in White Satin”, etc. No Grateful Dead songs yet. We got overrun by a shepherd with his flock. And we have made many dog friends who like to show up at dinner time and disappear soon after, sadly disappointed.
One of our recent highlights was in Castrojeriz, where we explored the ruins of an old castle on the top of a hill that overlooked an old Roman path which later became part of the Camino. We walked over an original Roman road, which Kelsey took lots of pictures of. Many parts of the meseta that lie ahead follow the path of old Roman roads.
Rebecca does not miss much from her old life, but she does miss peanut butter. She requests that her parents have a jar waiting for her at the airport (even better if in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich). We laugh at ourselves when we pull everything out of our backpacks onto our beds, and then comment on how much stuff we have. Becca and Kelsey take an hour in the supermercado because there are so many choices after the little tiendas [stores] and alimentaciones de los pueblos (of the towns).
We are excited by the town we are staying in tonight, Carrion de los Condes, as it seems that there is life here. A lot of us pilgrims have joked that we think a lot of the towns along the Camino were put up just for pilgrims (and so we have been informed by some locals), towns whose population literally plummets from 20 to 0 in the off-season. Here, however, there are people of various ages doing everyday activities. It is quite the sight. We still have no idea how anything gets done in Spain, although we have been told that the economy is doing poorly here. The albergue we are staying in tonight is run by nuns and has a chapel with a tabernacle inside. We feel very at home here … Its great! Other than that, all is well. Kelsey is still champion of the lightest pack (and me with the heaviest). Kelsey and Becca are improving in their cooking. Talk to you all later.