RELIEGOS – Today is my last full day on the hot dry Meseta and it ends with one long desolate 11+mile stretch, that is proceeded by twin six-mile segments with really only one town the whole day. Of course, there is an easier route that follows the highway all day. That route has towns. It would be flat, noisy, shorter and I think less interesting than taking the much older Camino route. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
I am now officially half way through my time and distance for this Camino. I feel enough certainty about my arrival in Santiago to book a return flight to Ghana. There were days when I wasn’t certain I could both do the soul care the Camino required and cover enough distance. It’s a funny return trip. Via Kayak, it would be $2200 for a one way or spend a few days working the trains, planes, and automobiles to get back…or I could use credit card points and fly Santiago-Accra for $145. It feels wrong to think about being off the Camino, like naming your baby before it is born. I’m not ready, which is good, I have another 18 days to go, and much work.
Today on the Camino, I bring up the topic I have been working on, about what I’m doing in Ghana, and she tells me to think longer term, as in what comes next, after Ghana. It was always a theoretical consideration, but now I think deeply, more to come up with our own story of what this transition might look like. I remember being raised in a house full of beautiful Ghanaian art, a reminder of the year our family spent there in the late 1960s. I want that to be a part of Suzanne and my story, to leave Ghana well, with lots of beautiful memories and art. This story will take more than one day to be born. She needs to end well; not burn out and go home.
Once the main Camino route, what I am walking today is an alternate route, and not as well marked. Navigation is by trust, dead reckoning, and what seems right. Is this a more ancient pilgrim experience?
All day, I mean all 11 hours of it, I see no one walking, working in the fields, or about, except for the people in the cars rushing for the 4k of road I don’t enjoy.
I meet the only town and stop for lunch, the next part is 18k with no towns or places for water. Right on schedule as I’m finishing lunch, the Dutch women show up, as they have the last three days.
Rena and Freda started their Camino from Lourdes, France about a month before I began. I don’t know if it is the Camino or the life they lived before, but to my eye, they have a lived a hard—think older motorcycle mama; not the age but the mileage–life. They turn out to be profoundly kind, and thoughtful people.
We never walk together, but we do enjoy the reunion when we all stop at the same place. They had not intended to walk together this far, Freda tells me, but then here we are.
A few days back I was walking around the town before sunset and noticed Hobbit looking houses on the edge of town. Doors leading into a hillside.
Some looked forgotten, others like someone might live in them, but none open. I wondered if they were leftover from the wars that dot Spain’s history, bomb cellars, or places the holy relics were stored when under siege? Maybe Hobbits are real?
Turns out they are Bodegas, a wine cellar. This area once was covered, not in wheat as it is now, but vineyards. Each family made enough wine to meet their needs for the months ahead, storing it deep in the earth in large clay vessels. Today they store vegetables, cheese, and jamon (that famous Ham Spain is famous for).
The oldest bodegas were hand dug over 500 years ago during the long winter. I’m fascinated and wish I could do more than stick my camera in the door to snap a pic; I’d like a tour.
The Mesada is void of the large trees, or even limestone or sandstone evidenced by the historic building materials: adobe brick.
The earthen buildings are beautiful, but what fascinates me is the Roman Road. Today we have been traveling on or next to a road built in the time of Julius Caesar, and I wonder did he walk this stretch?
I guess what amazes me is that much of the materials needed to make this road had to be brought in; the large stone substructure was not available here. There are parts where the old road is barricaded to protect it, but when the barricade ends, I step over and stand on a road to join millions of pilgrims before me. I imagine standing where their souls (or is it soles) have stood, and I think about how timeless this Camino has been.
About three hours left in my walk and suddenly I get feverish, sweat pours out. I’m not overheating, I’m sick. Food poisoning. I walk 20 minutes to the next set of trees and lay down, but my body has other ideas. Jettison the load, and it all comes out. It is not nice, but I lay too sick to move. An hour passes, but no one else does. I call Suzanne to let her know where to find the body. Still no one, but I take some water and begin feeling better. Another 30 minutes and I’m able to begin to limp into town and by the time I’m there I feel fine, even hungry.
So there is a big downside to both walking alone and taking the alternate route that few others do.