Time flies

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain

Camino Day 14, Lunes 21st September. 327 klms.

Once in a while one meets an interesting person with whom you feel you really click. Today was one of those days…

Our hotel last night was lovely. Probably only 5 rooms, and run/managed by the friendliest of Spanish gentlemen, whose name I forgot to enquire. Last night’s simple cena was followed this morning by an equally delightful desayuno; after which transfer by mini-van back to Hornillos del Camino was arranged (much easier at 8 am than a ~3 klm walk just to get to the start point ).

My leg is playing up (more of that later), so we slowly headed off; up the hill out of town and into the meseta. Not long after departing we chanced upon two American women. I don’t recall exactly how the conversation started (I think it may have been about my camera), but however it did, Kerri from San Francisco and I became engaged in a deep conversation. At the same time Janet was in a corresponding conversation with Helen from Scottsdale Arizona. Kerri’s husband had been travelling with her until recently, but he had to return to the US and his job. Kerri is self-employed, and has cleared the decks for another 5 weeks, and so is now walking alone (well, as much as anyone walks alone on the Camino, as I am discovering.)
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I won’t attempt to detail Kerri’s and my conversation, beyond simply saying that there sort of wasn’t much which wasn’t covered to some degree: photography, especially Sony; China (she was there at the time of the Tiananmen Square incidents); China/Tibet; China/Hui people; Pope Francis (like me she is not undertaking this walk for religious reasons, and like me she looks for the good in world leaders, from wherever they may come); the death penalty/Indonesia; birthdays (ours are a few days and several years apart); blogs/FB and sharing v privacy; spreadsheets; authenticity (see my Buen Camino post; travel; and much more. We could almost have put words in each other’s mouths.

And maybe most importantly, we talked about the motivation to live life fully, whilst we can, about which I have written and spoken many times. It was this which prompted today’s quote from Mark Twain. And there is also a very close link, in my view, between this and living life authentically.

Given that this day (now “yesterday”) was completely full of surprises, I am going to do something else out of the ordinary, and probably unexpected. Below in italics is a comprehensive extract of Kerri’s blog post for the day – written quite separately and independently of mine, but with (not) surprising similarities. It has only been edited for length and context, but not a word of content has been changed:

What an unexpected day!! I had started out from Hornillos this morning just after 8 am – that would be considered late, I guess. I knew I didn’t have far to go today to get to Casterjerez, so I was taking my time getting out the door. Just minutes into my walk I came upon 2 people – a husband and wife. I said “Buenas días” and they responded in kind. We walked a bit further without much more of an exchange. For some reason we started talking and once we did, we talked for the rest of the day.

I happily introduce you to Peter and Janet from Southwest Australia – closest large town would be Perth, 250km away. Peter and I started walking and talking – maybe our conversation started when I mentioned his awesome Sony camera. You actually don’t see many real cameras out here, and Peter was carrying, and using, his super nice Sony DSLR. So we talked cameras and photography for a while, and then it was some history on the States of Australia, and somehow we got talking about China … And then Tibet … And then the Australian reputation in Bali (not good), and recent events of drug smuggling which resulted in executions of many foreign nationals by the Indonesian government. And then we just started talking about life: personal accountability towards living your life each and every day. We soon realized that he and are were very much cut from the same cloth. Every now and then you meet someone who is do much like you it is uncanny. It reminds me of me and my friend Wang Jie. We grew up in circumstances so different from one another, and yet, we are so much alike. We have always just clicked. So, I found a new friend like that in Peter. Instantaneously on the same page. We walked and talked all the way to Hontanos where it was time for breakfast #2 where I got a cafe con leche and a sandwich with chorizo sausage cheese and tomato.

We were walking along and came to the ruins of San Anton. San Anton was a gorgeous monastery built by the French in 1146. It was a place to care for pilgrims, and a place to send the sick infected with “The Fire of San Anton” – a painful disease affecting the fingers and toes caused by the eating of moldy rye. The monastery fell into disuse and in 1787 it was abandoned by the French and fell into ruin.

Peter and Janet and I had gone in to take photos of the open air ruins. You walk through the front gate and there is no roof and the walls are partially destroyed but the magnificence of what once was almost 1000 years ago is still quite apparent. As we were visiting with the voluntario a young woman walked by to check in. Check in??? You mean you can STAY here??? Yes … It is a ruin, but it is also an albergue. In 2002 a local man opened an albergue with 12 beds in one small room that had been created from the former monastery.

This is EXACTLY what I was looking for. As much as I hated to say goodbye to my sincerely wonderful new friends, Peter knew, as soon as I had exclaimed my amazement that you could stay in such a place, that I would be staying. I *really* hated to say goodbye to these two new wonderful friends, and honestly, I already had a reservation in the town just 3.7km away. But, this is what I was just talking about… sometimes you have to do what you have to do. It wasn’t easy, and I could see spending the evening – talking, laughing, debating the merits of this or that … But, this was a place I had to stay. I have been looking for this opportunity, and even more so, I had given myself the luxury of time to do exactly these kinds of things. I could stay on the safe and steady way and head forward to Casterjerez, or, I could go a bit rogue. I choose San Anton. And I hope that my path will cross again VERY soon with my new friends Peter and Janet.

And today’s title? Well whilst all this was happening we walked over 10 klms, about 2.5 hours worth, and didn’t even notice. For me, when we got into Hontanas, it was almost as if we’d barely started our conversation. Now those who know me well will well know that I don’t easily strike up conversations with strangers. I certainly have my views and opinions, and these are usually reserved for those close to me, or at the very least those I have come to know. So this was an unusual and enjoyable experience for me.

I was slow exiting Hontanas (taking photos), and was hobbling a bit anyway, so Janet and Kerri teamed up for the next 5.6 klms into San Anton. And then we chanced upon the unexpected jewel which is San Anton. This magnificent 14th century monastery, now in ruins, belonged to the now defunct Antonine order, which itself goes back to the 11th century. The ruins have reopened in recent years as an albergue, and it is here that we parted company with Kerri, as she had a change of plans and decided to stay at this romantic place for the night. Coincidentally, the hospitalera there was an Aussie woman from Sydney. Anyway we said our fond farewells, with imaginings on all sides that we will meet again. (And if not she has all my electronic contact details – those cards did come in handy.)
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Back to the start of the day a little. The walk today was day 2 of what I called yesterday the “infamous” meseta. I understand that many (?) people bus through the meseta because it’s long and flat and dry. This I do not understand. Yes, it’s somewhat drier and a little more sparsely populated than other parts we have seen, but I find the landscape stunning. I’d be sure that people who find it otherwise have never experienced the Nullabor in South Australia, or driven across the Hay Plains in outback NSW. I don’t yet understand the geography, but I think that we are in meseta-type land until we hit León.
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The last 4 klms into the Castojeriz, whilst very pretty, along the poplar lined road, and under the watchful gaze of the now ruined Castillo up behind the town, were characteristically hard. It’s as if you can see a clear goal in sight, but it eludes you, always staying just out of reach. It didn’t help that I was becoming more lame. But eventually we did find our hotel, in the main part of town not far from the Plaza Mayor, with a lovely outdoor setting under the shade and the trees. Lunch (a salada mixta as has become the standard midday meal, accompanied by a vino tinto) was the first order of the day.
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Our room overlooks Calle de General Aranda, so much like so many of the village streets along and through which we have walked. I suspect that Castrojeriz has a fine and interesting history, about which I am going to have to research. Certainly the existence of 9th century Castillo up behind the town suggests as much. It’s a shame that my leg won’t let me walk up to it as I had wanted to do. Next trip ;).

The statue near the middle of town (2nd below) appears to be a 1000 year memorial to the Camino. How cool is that?
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To finish today’s story with a leg update. I’m bugged that I injured it in Burgos on a rest day. I wasn’t wearing my boots and the sandals are not supportive enough, and so I did it walking back to our hotel after a final photographic expedition. I’ve stained a muscle in my right shin, and it’s sore and swollen. I think I’d kill for some proper anti-inflammatory ointment. I visited the town farmacia to get whatever ointment they had plus a wrapping bandage, and so tomorrow will tell. Too early to hoist the white flag and catch a bus the whole day’s walk. Tomorrow’s not a huge day (~25 klms), and my fallback plan will be to grab a cab or bus the last 6 klms or so from Boadilla del Camino to Frómista. Stand by.
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ps – one more photo. I have become curious about a very common symbol in this area; that of a stylised Christian cross and also a sword. I assume that it has a Knights Templar connection, and if so this is something about which I know little. The wine bottles at our lodgings last night (Monday) intrigued me, so I have attached a photo below. In a couple of days we stay in Terradillos de los Templarios (Land of the Templars?) so I guess that will provide me with the opportunity to learn more.
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