Monday, January 14, 2013

Jan 13, 2013 Hornillos to Castrojeriz: Our first snow

Our plan for today was to leave early enough to arrive in Catrojeriz in time for the 1:00 pm Sunday mass. We spent a cold night at the albergue in Hornillos. Once we left the warmth of the fire in the kitchen area, it felt as though the temperature dropped 10 degrees as we entered the dormitory. Robin and I bundled up with just about everything we had with us and slipped into our sleeping bags. I even wore my wool cap. It certainly was cold, but we made it through the night managing a few hours sleep. This morning, with the kitchen fire now a distant memory, we hastened into our walking gear and plunged out into the dark. It was 6:45, 25F, and pitch black. We switched on our headlamps and started climbing out of Hornillos. It is somewhat disorienting navigating in pure darkness, as one's field of vision is so restricted. That reality combined with the bitter cold, and a rising wind, brought to mind the potential consequences of making a wrong turn. I was wearing my usual t shirt, mid weight base layer, and a hard shell jacket. I also had on my wool hat, gloves with liners, and a buff. I almost opted for my ultra light down jacket, but the thought of climbing in too many layers scratched that idea. I was alright, but just. It is tricky planning what gear to bring when temperatures can swing between 20F and 70F, and every extra ounce has to be justified. This morning some heavier gear would have been welcomed (at least for awhile).

We crested our climb onto the Meseta, still in total darkness, only to have a sort of "Close Encounters" moment draw our gaze to the distant blackness. Off in the distance a large pod of red lights with intermingled flashing white lights stood alone, without any context, confusing the senses. It looked as though something large and alien had just landed. At this point we would have hopped a ride with just about anyone, but in truth our spaceship to Castrojeriz was an ordinary wind farm.

We continued to walk with the sun rising at our backs. It was not a dramatic sunrise as our hoped for fiery orb failed to show. the sun simply went from below the horizon to behind a sheet of clouds. Our morning gift was a thin cold light that cast everything in a flat, uninspiring, single dimension. But, at least we could see where we were going. We trudged on. We finally drew abeam of our alien spaceship just prior to descending into Hontanas. We pulled over to the only open bar in town and walked into a frantic scene of customers (locals and pilgrims alike) all trying to vie for the attention of a distraught lady who was struggling to remember orders and make change as the "light brigade " grew more restive. As always it sorted itself out. It just took a bit of time. One unusual and extraordinary experience, in the over subscribed phone booth size bar, was meeting a fellow who has become a sort of global celebrity. He was the sole survivor of a shipwreck and has been walking for the past many years offering his caminos as thanks for his deliverance. Francisco, one of the Spaniards walking with us, handled the translation. Apparently this man had just walked from Jerusalem to Santiago, and was now heading back to his home in Italy, for good. His total global mileage was 97,000 kms to date. He has been living mostly on the kindness of strangers. Quite a serendipitous encounter, from a random stop at a bar in Hontanas early this Sunday morning.

Albergue at Castrojeriz
Leaving Hontanas we walked the road all the way to Catrojeriz as the brief excursion onto the Camino path (which parallels the road) did not seem worth it. Just before Castrojeriz the sky darkened and snow began to fall. It looked a though it might amount to something, but it turned into snow showers and then into cold, bone chilling, rain. We all checked into the municipal albergue (all that is now open), attended mass, had a hearty, warming lunch, and are now crashed in the albergue for a siesta. Tomorrow"s destination is Fromista. More cold rain is expected along the Camino between hear and there. Ciao for now.

In the albergue trying to warm up
Hospitalero, two Spanish friends, and Robin
Lights going out over the Meseta

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