Today marked my first day walking on this year’s Camino. After a full fourteen hours of travel yesterday, perhaps you’d have thought I would have wanted a little bit of a lie in, but by 6am the hostel was bustling and by 6:45 we were on the road.
On sunny days in the meseta (Spain’s high plains) it’s a good idea to start early, when it’s cool. So we started very early, when it was dark. The first part of this morning’s walk was lit by an enormous barley-yellow, nearly-full moon. Gradually the moon grew larger and sunk toward the ground, a burning red orb. It was soon replaced by a beautiful sunrise that crept up quickly behind us.
Despite this spectacular sight, such an early start presents an obvious challenge. Nowhere is open when you leave the hostel. Most days on the Camino this doesn’t matter, you can get a coffee at the next town in an hour or two, but today has one of the longest stretches on the Camino without a stop. Eighteen kilometres. Not easy when you’re feeling sleep deprived, that’s for sure!
We broke the long stretch up with a little picnic breakfast of bread and cheese, where we met Inês, from Portugal, who has been teaching me similar Portuguese words and Spanish words since then.
Nonetheless, as the sun started bearing down on us, eighteen kilometres without shade was a tough slog. I was feeling hot and tired. My backpack felt heavy. We moved slowly.
Even at its toughest moments the Camino brings joy though. We met another pilgrim, Javi, from Palencia along the way. After several hours, the town of Calzadilla de la Cueza appeared, quite suddenly, behind the ridge of a hill. We all cheered.
Coffees, cañas and tortilla consumed, we set off again in better spirits. We walked easily along the flat, sunbaked plain, stopping once when some trees and a picnic table beckoned with their shade.
The rest of the day passed pleasantly, and we’ve stopped in a lovely albergue in Terradillos de los Templarios. We’re sitting now half in the shade, half in the sun, and cañas in hand. This was worth the walk.