Found in the Meseta

Yesterday, we made our way to Ledigos, about 14 miles from Carrion de los Condes. We ended up having some people sharing the apartment with us but we never saw them; kind of weird. I was up early and had the kitchen/dining table to myself for several hours. It’s a good way to start the day.

Real Monasterio de San Zoilo

We were excited to see no rain in the forecast as we packed up to get started. The first leg of the day was a 17km trek to Calzadilla de la Cueza – a long way with no towns, cafes, or restrooms. We decided to return to the San Zoilo Hotel (former monastery) for breakfast. The building is quite beautiful with hard wood and stone accents throughout. The bar area was clearly built on repurposed wood elements from other places in the original monastery. Like so much of what we’ve encountered in Spain, Carrion de los Condes has a storied past with interesting encounters between El Cid and the Counts of Carrion (he had some of them killed for mistreating his daughters as well as a particular carving in the Iglesia de Santa Maria del Camino depicting the annual tribute of 100 maidens to Moorish conquerors. We finish our toast and local sheep cheese and head out into the day.

Interestingly, we saw fewer pilgrims as we started yesterday. Following a busy road about 3km before turning onto a dedicated pathway, we found ourselves mostly alone. I suspect that many bused around some of these “boring” days. Our morning walk started with our usual Rosary, now a close friend and joyful part of our daily routine. From there we wandered into an interesting discussion about Jumanji as we broke it down into the parable lying beneath the entertaining veneer.

Four high school students get pulled into a game and become characters that are opposite their real selves, forcing them to develop strengths and overcome negatives they each possessed as they team up to overcome evil together. If one applies the proper lens, the movie has a great moral story to tell and we spent at least an hour talking through the details of it. I smiled as I tried to remember the last time we went into such detail on anything.

Memory lane?

From there, we found ourselves walking down memory lane through songs. Looking ahead, Sally started singing: “Country road, take me home, where I belong, West Virginia, mountain mama, country road, take me home.” We laughed as I joined-in and then realized we didn’t know all of the words. Believe it or not, that John Denver song was the party song that our Danish friend Katharine and her friends would all sing at their high school parties. Remember our high school dances? “Here she comes now singing Mony! Mony!” Thank you Billy Idol! We moved on to college where we recalled the theme song of some of our Butler pharmacy friends: Paradise by the Dashboard Lights by Meatloaf. “Stop right there, I gotta know right now. Do you love me? Will you love me forever? Do you need me? Will you never leave me?” What would those Korean pilgrims in the distance ahead say if they could here us? We sang and laughed as we walked along. I determined that I was going to learn the song Maui sings in Moana, “ You’re welcome!” – surely Cooper and Reagan will want to sing that with Poppy, right? Of course, that made me think of singing “Shiny” to Cooper, a song I associated with him because of his sparkly eyes. Now you know where the mind wanders when it has hours of nothingness – not a bad place to wander.

Still smiling!

We moved along nicely through the day, taking a break about 2 hours in. Sally’s new shoes were doing well but I had to remove the inserts I bought a few days ago as I felt a hot spot forming on my right heel. That’s the thing about changes you make in your gear, you never know what will happen under time and pressure. As moved back onto the path, it began to tip up a bit toward a ridge that looked like a man-made levee from below but was just another plateau with more pathway running across it. Looking up, we saw a heron fly-in to land at a nearby farm. With all of the birds we’ve seen on this trek, that was the first heron – a special bird in our family.

After Sally’s dad, Roy, passed away in 2009, Sally was walking along a creek on her parent’s property and a blue heron landed a few feet from her and stared at her. She stood there, mesmerized. The moment was magical and lasted for what seemed like an eternity. When he finally flew off, she had a sense of peace and we have since associated herons with the spirit of Roy Watson. For us, seeing a heron the Camino is a God-incident. We smiled and Sally couldn’t wait to tell the kids.

Meseta or Tipton County, Indiana?

Looking around, we realized that we could be standing in Tipton County, Indiana. Some fields still had corn in them. Cleared fields surrounded us and the occasional farm with barn appeared on the horizon. We noticed silver maples and sycamores growing along creeks and the leaves had begun to change. Many pilgrims consider this stretch of the Camino boring – just like many consider the flat plains and fields of Indiana boring. For us, it looked like a slice of heaven and reminded us of the home we love. We’re unapologetically Hoosiers.

At several points today, we were surprised as bicigrino’s road past us unannounced. It was a bit shocking today because we were alone so much of the time and the headwind made it so we could not hear them coming up from behind us. Of the eight or so we had pass us, only one had or used his bell. For those of you who ride bikes on paths with walkers: get a bell and use it. It will be greatly appreciated – and you may avoid getting nailed with a rock from an agitated pilgrim.

We finished the long 17km stretch and enjoyed a really bland tortilla (think egg quiche with potato in it). Fortunately, we found Tabasco and were able finish most of it. Coca Cola over ice was our saving grace today and we enjoyed its refreshing effects as we aired and rested our feet. The cafe may have been as cold as it was outside but there was no wind. We recognized a few of the pilgrims in the bar but none of our intimates. The language barrier was more of an issue with this group.

Spanish hobbit holes?

The last leg of the day was pretty quiet as we climbed our last hill on our way to Ledigos. Sally felt a hot spot forming in a new place from her new shoes so she changed into her old ones for the remainder of today’s walk. Breaking the shoes in takes time and she will need to divide her day with both pairs until the new ones are broken-in. Ledigos is not one of the prettier towns we’ve seen and was actually a back-up stop as two albergues in the next village were full. However, Albergue La Morena is actually quite nice with its own bar and newly renovated rooms.

After spending some time plotting our approach to the last large city before Santiago, Leon, we went to the bar for our afternoon cervezas. The bar was popular with some locals and we noticed many men stopping in for a beer, a shot of something, and or an espresso before heading home. Sometimes, they had one of each. A young woman walked in and warmed herself by the fire. We had seen her at our lunch stop. She sat down at the table next to us and we made introductions. Her name was Laura and she was from Barcelona. We shared some pleasantries as we checked phones and drank our beers. I ended up in a phone call with the office – the second since we arrived. No emergencies – it was a check-in conversation. Right now, I add value by affirming the instincts of my team at home; instincts that are really, really good.

Dinner was served at 7pm and we moved into the dining area. Sally invited Laura to sit with us as we ate our chicken, an uninspiring but safe option. Laura was an interesting and entertaining dining companion. A JavaScript programmer, she works for IBM in Barcelona and has taken a leave of absence to explore her options. She bused to Pamplona and picked up the Camino there. She does not plan to go to Santiago and will likely head home at Ponferrada – another week of so away.

Laura’s English was pretty good so we were able to dig-in a little on her story. Probably about 30 years old, she wants more flexibility in her schedule. She recommended that we spend some time walking alone as she felt it would help us meet more people. I asked Sally what she thought about that and she mustered a small smile as her eyes asked “Seriously?” We learned that Laura played in a rugby league in Barcelona and had actually started in that direction by playing in an American-style football league. Yes, apparently there are opportunities for women to play American football in Spain. Interesting. Her parents live in a suburb of Barcelona along the coast and her brother has apparently found success in developing and operating four “Escape Rooms” – she said he has even franchised his concept to a few people opening their own. I asked if Escape Rooms were popular in Spain and she looked at me incredulously, her eyes asking “Seriously?”

Laura asked us about our family, giving us the kind “You look too young to be grandparents.” We liked her immediately 😉 We talked a little about the unrest in Barcelona and she suggested that might be an interesting adventure for us before we returned. She had a wry sense of humor, something that often gets lost in translation – even those who speak some English often struggle with the nuances of full communication. She was able to “get it” most of the time which enabled us to get to know her in a different way. For me, I can barely understand the most basic Spanish words, let alone tune-in to anything resembling humor or nuance. We mentioned that we felt that we were moving along pretty slowly and she shook her head, “no, you are actually moving along pretty quickly.” We finished our meals and bid each other “Good night.” Laura was staying at the other albergue. Hopefully we’ll see her again.

As we were finishing up, a man stopped by our table on his way out the door. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation but wanted to let you know that I am from Indiana.” We had seen Hans (yes, Hans from Indiana) enter last night but had not met him. Hans is from Indianapolis. We only spoke for a moment before he moved on. Hopefully we’ll encounter him again so we can learn more. The world becomes small indeed when you randomly encounter someone from your hometown 6000 miles away.

Sporting her new Camino Buff!

As we walked to our room, Sally said: “It was really nice hearing our language tonight.” In the broad scope of all that we take for granted, her comment was incredibly profound. There is much to be learned by “exposing” ourselves to other cultures and languages. However, our language is home and the basis for so much that connects us as human beings.

Showing 2 comments
  • Jennifer Dittemore

    Love Sally’s new Camino Buff with Northwind jacket. Sounds like the food has not been what you would hope for. You both look happy, even if tired. Glad things are progressing as planned. Things are progressing here too. Never as quick as desired, but still progress.

    • Phillip Berry

      Based on our unscientific survey, most pilgrims are disappointed with the food we’ve encountered along the Camino. Just part of the experience!

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