We leave the tiny village of Boadilla del Camino well before sunrise this morning, planning to get most of the day’s hike completed prior to about noon, when it gets hot. Martha has a small headlamp to show the way in the dark but the Camino signage, usually very good, is not so good this morning. We crunch our way along a gravel path and occasionally check behind us to see if there are others on the same path.
Flashing red light
At some point we notice not a white, but rather a red light behind us and it is flashing. Then we hear people shouting as that red light bounces its way closer toward us. “You are going the wrong way.” We stop and three young guys emerge from the half-light. “You missed the turn. You are going the wrong way.”
I recognize them as the young South Koreans who had posed for a photo that I took at a rest stop yesterday. Martha says, “Thanks so much but what are you doing way out on this road?”
“We saw that you were on the wrong road and we followed you.”
They pursued us for at least a kilometre and now we all have to retrace our steps. When we do we find ourselves along the Canal de Castilla, which reminds us somewhat of the Rideau Canal in and near Ottawa. We follow it until a set of locks at a town called Fromista where we cross over and enjoy an early morning coffee.
It begins to rain intermittently and we pull out our jackets and waterproof pack covers. The gravel path (senda) from the farming town of Fromista to our destination runs just beside and parallel to a secondary paved road for about 18 kilometres. Apparently the local government thought that this arrangement would be a good idea for pilgrims, but who wants to walk beside a road humming with trucks and traffic?
This is farm country and today I see tractors, even an old Canadian made Massey Ferguson, cultivating the stubble in fields along the road. I have that loamy earth smell in my nostrils for the first time in years. The sun is out but the temperatures have cooled noticeably since last week, from highs in the mid-30s then to those of about 25 now. This makes each day’s hike more pleasant and less exhausting.
A lost package
A kilometre or two beyond Fromista we find a clear plastic wrapper on the path and it contains Camino maps but more importantly the Camino credencial, a kind of passport allowing pilgrims to stay in albergues along the way.
We pick up the package in the presence of two other walkers and wonder how we might find its owner when we reach today’s destination, a town called Carrion de Los Condes.
About an hour later a taxi approaching from the direction Carrion stops and someone emerges to talk to other walkers, who wave back toward us. The car then moves down the road toward us and a man gets out and rushes across the highway. He is almost struck by a speeding Audi, which gives him a long blast on the horn.
The man is a Spaniard from Valencia and he is walking a week long section of the Camino. He is visibly pleased to be reacquainted with his papers. We are pleased, too, after the selfless Good Samaritan act visited upon us early this morning that we are able to reciprocate in some small way.
We reach Carrion by about mid-afternoon after a 25 kilometre walk. It’s a town which had a population of about 10,000 in the good old days of Knights Templar and local warlords, but it has now shrunk to about 2,200.
There are some buildings on the periphery that look like barns or hay sheds as well as some newer apartment buildings at the far edge of town. But the town’s centre hosts crumbling church buildings and a somewhat down-at-the-heel business district makes it appear as though the best days here are long gone.
We have had good luck with the weather. There was a slight bit of rain yesterday morning, just enough for us to dig out the rain covers for our backpacks (we are carrying them again) – but that rain didn’t last. After we book into our hostel and take a meal in an adjoining restaurant with some young Germans, it pours rain for about 20 minutes but by then we are safely inside. Some of our clothing, however, does get soaked because we had left it to dry on an outdoor balcony at the hostel.
We find that two of the three Germans were in their late teens when the Berlin wall was breached in 1989 – clearly they are much young than are we. They were confounded and confused by what was occurring and the one who lived in East Berlin said his mother was frightened for him when he joined the throngs heading toward the wall to find out what was happening.