I woke early and was up and on my way before 7 in the morning. It was very cold and I had all my layers on again. These consisted of a short-sleeved top, a long-sleeved one and a light fleece. Apart from that all I had in reserve was my poncho. I think I was lucky to get away with not having brought a jacket with me because of the weight, although I felt chilly sometimes I was never really uncomfortably cold.
Up on the meseta the mist cleared, the sun shone and there was a strong cold wind as an incentive to keep going. I was really looking forward to a nice hot coffee in Hontanas, the first village which I thought was about 5km away. Unfortunately I hadn´t looked at my map properly. When the path just went on and on I checked again and found Hontanas was more than 10km away, a real letdown. I hadn´t had breakfast yet so decided to stop for some water and a snack, but the wind was too cold and there was nowhere comfortable to sit, so I ate on the move. I could have really done with a break, too, as my back was getting quite painful. If I´d realised how far it was to the first stop I´d have waited in Hornillos for the bar to open and at least had a hot drink and something to eat to fortify me for the long cold walk. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
I finally reached Hontanas, a lovely medieval pilgrim village, where I enjoyed a coffee and a rest. I mentioned my back pain to a young Canadian I was chatting to and he had a look at The Beast and suggested I wore the hip belt higher, which did seem to make a difference, it didn´t cure the problem but the pain was less most of the time.
After the village the path dropped down from the high meseta and was out of the wind so it was pleasanter walking and I even took a layer off. The route passes by the ruins of the convent of San Anton, a very atmospheric place that has a basic albergue. After that it joins a long straight tree-lined Roman road where I could see my destination in the far distance. Walking along a tarmac road never bothered me as it does some people who find it hard on the feet, and I made good time.
Castrojeriz is a Roman town built in layers round a hill and it stands out from the surrounding landscape. This was the first and only time I didn´t get a bed in an albergue, all the bunks were taken and I was given a mattress on the floor. This was surprisingly comfortable and much nicer than having someone in the bunk overhead tossing and turning all night and clambering up and down to go to the toilet. The albergue didn´t have a set charge, you were expected to make a donation. I always gave 5 euros in this situation but I believe some pilgrims gave less or even nothing at all, which I think is shameful. These places are run by volunteers and the donations go towards the upkeep.
I went to a bar for a sandwich and beer, hoping to meet the Brazilian owner as there was a Brazilian flag hanging outside, but the owner was Spanish, he just liked Brazil! After going back and doing the usual chores I tried to have a rest on my mattress as I was tired after my early morning start. There were too many flies though , that kept landing on me and tickling me just as I was nodding off, so I gave it up as a bad job. The quiet French couple were there, strange how I only ever saw them in dormitories or kitchens, never walking.
The sun was extremely hot now and I went and sat on a bench in the shade waiting for the local village shop to open at five. There was a German chap sitting there, Marcel, and we got chatting. He must have been in his mid-thirties and was doing the Camino in order to decide about a serious career change in his life. Many people I met were at some sort of turning point in their lives and walking in order to seek insight or to reach an important decision. Poor Marcel was having a great deal of trouble with his feet, due I think to wearing unsuitable boots.
There was a ruined 13th century castle on the hill which I would have liked to visit, but the steep streets and flights of steps were enough to put me off after all the walking I´d already done that day. This was often the case, unfortunately, and I saw very little of the places I stayed in or walked through. I have the feeling others saw much more than I did, I can only say they must have had much more energy than I did, too.
NOT Santa Barbara
5 hours ago