Our host was quite cheery this morning after breakfast and carried our bags down to the car to bring us back to Hornillos. When we got there, he dropped us off at the far end of town where the trail picked up towards Castrojeriz. This probably saved us five minutes or so, and we thanked him for a very enjoyable evening. He said goodbye and wished us well. Within a few minutes we were back up onto the Meseta. The weather was beautiful by 9:00 am, but it became apparent that we were going to have a muddy day because of all the rain the previous days. Greg and I were soon separated, but we had agreed that we would meet for lunch in Hontanas, about at the halfway point.
Before long, I found that the trail was so muddy and impassable that pilgrims ahead of me had begun to forge a path along the side through the wheat fields. This often required climbing up a slippery hill to get up on that part of the new trail after I crossed a road or a canal. On a couple of occasions, I fell down and landed in the mud. I also noticed that the mud was sticking to my boots and building up about two inches. I found a cement guard around one of the canals and did the best I could to scrape the mud off. It occurred to me that my walking sticks would have been valuable in accomplishing this, but that morning I had made the decision not to carry them any longer and packed them away in my large bag that was already being transported to the next town. The mud was also slowing me down and I was not making good time to get to Hontanas, but I figured that Greg would wait for me as he always did. This was another spot where I found myself alone for a considerable amount of time. In spite of the difficulty walking, I found the solitude in these open wheat fields to be quite exhilarating. After San Bol, the Meseta continued on for another five kilometers and then there was a steep descent into Hontanas, a charming town directly on the Camino. I foundGreg there sitting at a cafe, and we decided to order a pizza from the bar and eat outside at one of the tables on the main street.
It was here in Hontanas that we met some new friends. Sitting at the next table were two women, one of whom we had seen continually since Estella. Her name was Phyllis, and she was from Autralia. She was walking with a friend she had met on the Camino whose name was Pia. Pia was Swiss and spoke perfect English. Also sitting at a table across the street was Linda, who we had met in Hornillos. Linda had been moving at a quick pace. She asked us to take her picture with her full pack. It was then that we saw how big and heavy her pack was. Greg and I were both amazed at how fast this little person could go with such a huge pack. Soon she was off and headed for Castrojeriz. We continued talking to Pia and Phyllis, and Greg had some back and forth with Pia about Swiss sense of humor. It did not go over well with Pia. As we left town, we encountered a very strange statue that everyone was taking a picture of. I was no exception.
As we left Hontanas, the Meseta stretched out ahead of us once again and we came around a curve in the trail to see a herd of sheep with their shepherd and an amazing sheep dog.
There were also some stone pilings that were quite interesting and we soon discovered that this was a very common sight out here on the Meseta.
By this time Phyllis and Pia had caught up with us and over the next couple of hours we would see them often. We also saw two young French girls who appeared to be really enjoying their walk. When I passed them, I noticed that there were walking in sandals. Before long we reached San Anton and its magnificent ruins.
Castrojeriz was three miles down the road, and we arrived about three o’clock. Near the entrance to the town we saw Phyllis and Pia ahead of us, but lost them when we stopped to talk to a man who had a strange lizard on the end of a stick. He was a rather odd fellow, but pleasant enough, who wanted us to know that he had rescued the lizard from sure death by transferring him to a water trough at the outskirts of town. As we walked through the long narrow main street of this small town of 600, we suddenly heard two voices calling to us from a second-story window. It was Sandra and Cynthia, our Canadian friends, who had arrived an hour or so earlier. They were in the process of doing their laundry in the hotel there and were going to be looking for a place to eat dinner later. We told them where we were staying, and they said they would try to find us and maybe have dinner.
When we got to the central section of Castrojeriz, we were having some difficulty finding our hotel. It was there we saw the two young French girls who told me that they couldn’t find an alberque that had room. They were being hassled by a Spanish waiter at one of the street cafes, who said he wanted to help them find something. The girls were somewhat skeptical of this assistance, but the waiter backed off when I began talking to the girls. After a brief conversation in French, the girls indicated that they would probably move on to the next town to see if there was some place to stay there. This was a story I heard repeated over and over again by many pilgrims who were on the Camino. Greg and I were concerned about their safety, but they seemed to be confident that they would be OK.
Soon we located the street the hotel was on, according to our notes, and when we arrived, Phyllis was standing outside a nearby restaurant and informed us that the hotel was just up the street, but all the meals were served in the restaurant/bar where she was. We thanked her and checked into the hotel. After showers and doing some laundry maintenance, we ventured out to the street and down to the bar/restaurant. We got our pilgrim passports stamped at the bar and ordered a beer. Within five minutes, Sandra and Cynthia showed up and soon after, Phyllis. Phyllis had a drink with us, but said she would not join us for dinner. Pia, it turned out, was tired and was staying in her room. We went downstairs into the restaurant and found a table.
In a few minutes, the two German guys we had met in Pamplona entered. We laughed with them for a bit and they found their own table. Cynthia and Sandra told us about their adventures in various places and about Peter who was still on the trail. They had seen a lot of him, but had lost track after Logrono. We had a good meal and laughed a lot about our experiences thus far. Cynthia said that they were proud of themselves for all the conversions they were making. They were talking about converting folks over to staying in hotels as opposed to the alberques. Sandra also told us about her husband, Brian. Their 40th wedding anniversary was coming up in a few days, and she was getting clues that he might be joining them somewhere along the way, just because of the questions she was getting from him via email. Cynthia was certain that this was going to happen, but Sandra was just as certain it would not. They told us they would be staying in Castrojeriz for an additional day so we would not be seeing them for a while. We said goodbye and headed to our hotel for a good night sleep.