Camino de Santiago Day Sixteen: Hontanas to Itero de la Vega Rebirth

16 04 2018

The Albergue Brigida in Hontanas was like staying in a suite. We woke up slowly in the super comfy bottom bunks and see even warm during the night. When I went to pack my backpack I realized while sitting on the tiled floor that it was heated! Something about that place, we really didn’t want to leave. We thought we would have a mellow Sunday Funday, maybe get to the next town early, have a drink, go to church perhaps. Do laundry. We settled on Itera de la Vega. They said there was a nice place called La Mochilla so Suzy sent her bag there.

Sadly I received a message from Heino that his Camino is over. He was headed to the hospital in Burgos due to tendinitis. This saddens me greatly as he is such a light to have on the journey even when he isn’t physically present. And so often he just pops up to offer a smile. The road is rough and so my toe problems are minuscule in comparison.

That said…. gross information alert but I’m not sugar coating things here people… so this morning there was a Camino miracle. I decided that my toe issue may be related to the nail rubbing although they didn’t really seem connected… so I decided to cut the nail a bit and suddenly my toe erupted and the pressure of the blister was released! Lo and behold my toe had born a new pinky toe underneath! With a little snipping of the large piece of skin (I know I’m sorry it’s so gross) a brand new toe emerged slightly pink but fully healed. I still bandaged it and was curious to see how it would fare.

We headed out and it was a bit drizzly. We got a late start and opted to have breakfast at a cute Albergue where they actually had fried eggs, two, with jamon Serrano…and a coffee for 5,50 Euro. We set out again at about 10 and hit a long windy road. Turns out the sign at the edge of town said we were basically halfway! Midway I stopped to check on my foot as I had another weird feeling on my right foot and wanted to bandage it. Of course this was the moment a pilgrim in army fatigues, a Polish guy from Chicago decided to talk us up. Turns out it was his second day after starting from Burgos so he decided to give me recommendations on how to treat my feet. I was pleasant and said it was cool and I was ok. Then as he walked away he said, “Careful over here it’s easy to trip!” I said thanks in my most pleasant voice but in my head I wanted to scream, “Are you frickin kidding me? Trip? Were you there below Alto de Perdon on the cobbles? Or for the last frickin 249 miles and 16 days? Are you serious?!” But I didn’t. Yes this day was all about just letting things go.

At San Anton there were some gorgeous ruins from a convent and a guy hanging out in his car giving out sellos (stamps) and offering wood figures of the Tau and whatnot for “donativo” a donation. He was putting hatchmarks on his list of pilgrims that had come by.

we walked along and luckily it was mostly just gray only a few showers now and then. We approached the pretty city of Castrojeriz and stopped for a fresh squeezed orange juice at La Manzana. The town wraps around a big hill and is very pretty it would have been nice for a longer stop. It started raining steadily as we neared our steep 12% ascent. We took it slow and I somehow kind of enjoyed it, I seem to prefer the up and down as it hurts my feet less than the long hard flats… this is unfortunately what the Meseta is mostly… at the top of the hill there was a little lean-to where we were able to get some shelter and then after a short time on the plateau it was back down again, now a paved 18% grade.

The next leg was very flat and very dull. We didn’t really see much at all and just walked on and on eager to get to Itero de la Vega two full hours on the flats. We were excited to see the sign for our Albergue on the edge of town next to an old dilapidated building, I joked that maybe that was it… I shouldn’t have joked.

Let’s just say that the town has seen better days. The welcoming committee consisted of a spunky Chihuahua mix zipping down the lane, a stocky black bulldog mix in a filthy green sweater and another less filthy white dog in a sweater. The first two dogs were running the rounds around town while the white dog was tending to his owner and a few others who stared at us as we passed the. At they were smoking in front of. We hobbled over to La Mochila and Suzy’s bag was there but it was a construction site. She is lucky they left it there for her! The workman just looked at us like we were nuts and told us the place was closed for renovations. Panic struck me as I envisioned us having to go back to the Camino and walk the extra km down to the next town which was FAR! I guess our plan to stay one city off the beaten path doesn’t work quite as well on the Meseta where the distances are huge and the towns far apart many without facilities!

We scrambled to look up another Albergue, the “fancy” one that was on the posters on the way into the town, they only had a few. Some Aussies were already there luckily and told us to ring the bell of the supermarket next door (which was closed). The owner came out and showed us a perfectly nice small double room and we had a shared bathroom. It was kind of like grandma’s house part two, about four other rooms in the place. They asked us to come back to the grocery store to pay, we got the second to last two beds in the place!

When we got to the grocer the now husband and wife team told us we needed to pay the 12 Euro for the room and to buy anything we thought we needed as they were only opening the grocery for us. We asked if there was a restaurant in town but they said really only the bar, and they repeated “Es Domingo”, It’s Sunday. So we scrambled around and got some potatoes, cheese, lomo, chorizo, anchovies and some wine, 1,95 Euros a bottle! We paid and one of the Aussies tried to buy something. It the grocery didn’t have any change. The Aussies had asked me to inquire about the Wifi which wasn’t working. Once the husband realized I spoke Spanish it was all over. The Wifi by the way just didn’t work so well the wife said. A very mangy cat came to greet us also…

I was sent to tell the rest of the guests to come and do their shopping ASAP as they were closing soon. We were also told that under no circumstances were we to microwave the potatoes. When we returned we set to snacking and staring our potatoes in the oven. Husband swept in and told us the oven didn’t work. He told me there are only two burners that work to the stove and that one was the better one but never to use it at the same time as the microwave or we would blow a fuse.

Then he told me it’s also important not to use too many lights at the same time… he explained that he and his lady were heading out on a drive and wouldn’t be back til late so we were to be alone. If the fuse blows he said to be sure to turn the circuit breakers back on and showed me where they was, and how to do it. He said to be sure not to lock the outer door, if the power goes off do not touch the pellet stove, he would come back to turn it off, etc. etc. I’d become the new building manager I guess.

Once he headed out we could relax and I met another pilgrim also drinking the 1,95E wine. He said it was probably Rioja. I explained that Rioja always has a strip label on the back, so the small Rioja in the address on the back label just meant it was bottled at a winery in Rioja but from a mix of grapes from elsewhere. We commented that the wine was good. Then he said that Champagne is overrated because it is blended from so many places and grapes.

You cannot just tell me Champagne is overrated and expect me to move off that topic without a discussion. I explained that there are in fact amazing Champagnes from small producers and not blended or single vineyards and how Krug multi vintage is such a great example of the art of blending, the choir versus the soloist analogy. He argued with me a bit and then shut down the conversation saying, “This conversation and topic really don’t interest me at all.” WTH?! So why did you throw out a controversial topic and then just decide that you have no interest in the conversation? Not very polite, a perfect example of someone who just wants to be right and not engage in a discussion but would rather just drop the mic at that point. Very annoying to have wasted any of my relaxation time on that guy. I hope I don’t have to see him again. Luckily he went off to the bar for his meal and left us all to our snacks and nibbles.

The night wore on and next it was the Aussie gentleman, who was a seemingly nice guy but similarly pig headed. His partner was even getting annoyed with him. He discovered I was a wine and spirits professional and decided to tell me that all distilled spirits are just marketing, all ethanol tastes the same, flavorless he said, so it really doesn’t matter what the origin of the spirit is (potato, agave, rye etc.) or where it is made, it’s all just flavored. You have got to be kidding me, I thought! What the hell!? Patience completely gone I finished up my wine and nodded off in my chair while Suzy played a few songs.

I woke up super early to use the bathroom only to find not one shred of toilet paper in the bathroom. Seriously? How do you own a grocery store next door to your Albergue and not stock toilet paper for the guests? Argh! Good grief! It was a town we could have skipped…but the good news is that the baby toe seemed to fair well despite the pain of the day. I’m so grateful. I am so grateful that I didn’t let any of it really get to me. Like rain that falls on you just let it go.

Say hello to my little friend…

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