Canadians on the Camino, Day 15: Roman roads

Old Roman road on Spanish meseta
Old Roman road on Spanish meseta

(September 18)

We leave Carrion de Los Condes early this morning for another day in the open country of the meseta and we walk for 27 kilometres, encountering only two small villages along the way. We end the day at a modern hotel just outside of tiny village called Terradillos de Los Templarios.

Roman engineering

After an initial stretch of walking on or alongside a secondary paved road, we come upon a gravel road called Via Aquitana, which was built by the Romans 2,000 years ago. What remains of it runs straight as an arrow for seven kilometres.  According to our guidebook, all of the rock to support the road would  have been hauled in because this is an area of bogs. Two days back, near the town of Castrojerez, we walked on a trail parallel to a remaining portion of a Roman aqueduct, which is another amazing feat of engineering. The Romans left a big engineering footprint in France, Portugal, Spain and even the current day British Isles.

Few public toilets on the Camino

While I am on the topic of long, straight roads, one has to wonder why the national Spanish and local governments provide virtually nothing by way of toilets along the famed Camino — at least they haven’t so far and we have walked over 300 kilometres.

Each day one sees people heading off of the path into the bushes (and there aren’t many of those on the meseta) or behind walls to relieve themselves. Those areas are littered with white toilet paper and napkins and, sorry to have to say this, with human feces.  From time to time along the way, one encounters rest areas containing concrete tables and benches, but I have yet to see a single one of those with any bathroom facilities.

This just isn’t good enough for the Camino, which now attracts about more than 200,000 pilgrim hikers each year, which must pour millions of Euros into the economy. The privately-owned cafes and bars along the way do provide bathrooms but today, for example, there was a stretch of about 16 kilometres between small towns, a walking time of about four hours, and not one toilet.

Knights Templar

Our day walking day ends when we locate our albergue called Los Templarios just shy of a village of 60 people called Terradillos de Templarios, which is about 70 kilometres east of Leon. As the name indicates, the village was once a location dominated by the Knights Templar but little remains here today.  The albergue is modern, has a place out back to do laundry, contains a cafe-bar, and a restaurant where they provide a group meal beginning at 7:00 p.m.

One night downer

We have to share a room and when we enter it we find an older German couple who do not speak English. The room is small and has two bunks. Our German friend snores like a freight train throughout the night and reluctantly I shake his bed several times. He wakes up at least temporarily on some of these occasions and although I do not understand German I can tell that he does not appreciate the interruption.

We had planned to pack up and leave early in the morning but they are still asleep so we do not put on the lights.  We use our headlamp and shading it with our hands move our backpacks, boots and jackets into the hallway so that we can dress, pack up and be on our way. This night has been a downer.

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Dennis

Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based writer, blogger and a former member of Parliament