Buen Camino

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living – Miriam Beard, US author, 1901-1983.

Camino Day 11, Jueves 17th September. 260 klms.

Yesterday’s nemesis, the howling gale from the West, abated a little overnight. She was replaced by her sister, the cold quiet westerly. She probably only blew at around 20kph, but quite some degrees cooler than yesterday. So we had our water (and wind) proof jackets and several layers on all day.

But back to the start of the day. Last night’s lodgings were very comfortable, and because today was a relatively short and easy 24 klms we didn’t rush out early. All the same we were on the road by 8:30 am, with the first stop planned to be Tosantos, just 5 klms down the road. Quiet little village, and when we got there everything was closed. So we chugged on just another couple of klms to Villambistia. There awaited today’s first treat.

The Albergue San Roque is a tiny bar/coffee shop, and we stopped for the now obligatory café con leche. While we’re were there a couple of older Spanish men came in, one carrying a large (maybe 7kgs??) tub of olives. He handed them over and then they both sat down at the bar, and proceeded took have a drink … it was 10:30am. They finished most of their drinks quickly and left. They had been sitting close to Janet so I suggested that she check out what it was they had been drinking. The woman behind the counter promptly at about pouring Janet one. We politely objected, but she would have nothing of it. So a good size drink was poured for us to share. See photos below:

It turns out that the village’s old boys come in from the fields (or wherever else they are working) for a morning shot. It’s a mixture of two drinks, one sweet and one strong. The bar lady called them la chica and el chico. A small amount of the clear strong drink is added to the darker sweet drink. It’s used as a pick me up I gather. Anyway, it was very nice and the lady would accept no payment for it.

On our way out of town we were reminded of our journey yet to come:

We departed with a fond adios from us and abuen camino from her. Which reinforced the thinking which had been forming as I walked earlier this morning. It is common to wish people “buen camino” and to receive same. I have noticed that cyclists, as they wizz past, seem to be the most prolific “buen camino-ers”, sometimes thrown backwards over their shoulders. Nothing wrong with that per se, as it seems also to be a form of thanks for getting out of the way.

So I started to ponder “genuine” versus “automatic” greetings. I have noticed that the buen caminos I have valued most are those like that from the lady at Villambistia this morning. Others have been from the very old señors and señoras in the villages, who often respond to an ¡hola! or buenos días with a gutteral and heart-felt buen camino. I wonder how often we all do that … throw out some automatic words versus some genuine ones. Perhaps these are just the ramblings of someone with too much time on their hands, or maybe that’s the very point of a journey like this, to allow, indeed force one to think outside the norm. Indeed, as Miriam Beard says, to think about the”ideas of living”.

Which leads me onto another observation. I will write later about the demographics (for want of a better word) of the people I have seen on the Camino, however there is one observation which jumped into my awareness today. Quite a number of people, often but not always the younger ones, wander along with war buds firmly in their ears, the other end no doubt attached to phone or IPod. So I found myself wondering this morning what they listen to … Gregorian chants maybe, or the latest from Iggy Azalea (probably not), or maybe the Dalai Lama’s most recent teachings (even less likely), or more likely just a selection of personal choices. But what it made me wonder is how come one world do that. There is so much to see – I would find myself taken away from the here and now by the music. But that’s just me.

We walked for much of today (as was the case yesterday) parallel to and sometimes close to the very busy N-120 highway. The guidebook is a little critical of this. I have a different experience. Mostly, not always, I can switch off the traffic noise, and I find myself wondering where all the trucks are coming from and going to. Most are Spanish, some from Portugal. They remind me of the practical commercial world around us, and the need for that to go on even as we indulge ourselves in different journeys.

We lunched at Villafranca Montes de Oca, about half-way along today’s journey. Perhaps not surprisingly we once again bumped into Steve and Claire as they were arriving in that town and we were leaving, and had a brief chat, and then headed on the 11 klm hike to San Juan de Ortega.

That was a bit of a slog, and we eventually got there a bit before 4 pm. One of the very interesting sights along the way was the Civil War memorial. Based on the very little I know about this, it is particularly sad.
San Juan is an interesting little village, more active than I anticipated. There’s a huge amount of work (and $s) being sunk into the local church and monastery. Interesting history here, worthy of more research.



After a bit of mucking around we were able to get a lift from San Juan to our hotel (a bit out of the way). Relaxed evening, nice meal, and ended up spending a lot of the night chatting to Rich the US federal prosecutor from DC.

Technically I think we have hit the one-third mark of our journey. 11 walking days out of 33, and 260 klms from a total of 776. Big day tomorrow – some 26 klms including quite a bit getting into the big city of Burgos.

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