The Camino from Hornillos del Camino was truly wonderful. A good quality path led out of the village onto a high flat plateau. It was covered in mounds of stones and had magnificent displays of wild flowers. It was like a huge rock garden. There was an albergue at Sambol which I later found out had no electricity or water and was probably the most basic albergue on the way to Santiago de Compostela. I walked with Lorenzo and Mateja for a while. Lorenzo kept repeating ‘Where is Luigi’, his friend from home. Lorenzo was struggling with his boots. They were pinching his heel and he was starting to limp. He had to stop from time to time to remove the boots and relieve the pain.
We came across Daniel and Ricardo, two Spanish guys we had met before. They were sitting by a pile of stones totally absorbing the atmosphere of the Camino. They said nothing. They sat there in the sun with smiles on their faces in the peace and silence of the surrounding country.
Hontanas was the next village and for some reason we were getting so close and could not yet see it. The plateau stretched into the distance and every pile of rocks appeared to be the village ahead. Finally a notice by the track said half a kilometre to Hontanas – still we could see no sign of Hontanas.
Suddenly the Way dropped into a small valley and there it was. It was a special place set in a special land. It was calm and relaxing with a few cafes and albergues. Lorenzo, ever looking for the next coffee, ordered some at one of the cafes. Anna (suffering from mild heatstroke) and Lina from Sweden were there and the conversation continued about our experiences on the Camino. Coffee led to an early lunch of a spicy sausage and cheese bocadillo (sandwich).
We continued after one cafe owner had advised us to take the small road to Castrojeriz as it was shaded by trees. The Camino ran parallel and the distance was the same anyway. It was a good choice as by now the midday sun was beating down. The cafe owner had also told us that there was a party that night in Castrojeriz. They were preparing for the Festival of Saint Jean. We headed off in anticipation.
Three and a half kilometres before Castrojeriz was the Convent of Saint Anton. This was a former hospital for pilgrims set up by the Antonins, a French order that was believed to be able to cure Saint Anthony’s Fire, a form of gangrene common in the 10th century. Pilgrims were send on their way after receiving the blessing of the Tao Cross. There was a small albergue there and we duly had our Credentials stamped.
Arriving in Castrojeriz, the town was deserted. It didn’t appear like there was any festival in the offing. There was a strangely deserted and run-down looking church at the entrance to the town. This was the Collegiate of Nuestre Senora del Manzano, built between the 13th and 17th century. It had an eerie atmosphere about it. It was a few more kilometres to the Castrojeriz that lay below the spectacular hilltop castle that gave it it’s name. We found the Refugio of Saint Juan and checked in. The dormitory was small and the building very old. There was a warm welcome from the two volunteers. Tiziano was having some problems with an ankle. He thought it was tendonitis. He spent some time in the dormitory wrapping bandages round his foot.
I went for an exploration to see if there was any signs of a festival. There wasn’t apart from some locals dressed in white shirts with crimson scarfs. Some music could be heard in the distance. Apparently at midnight the town’s population would come to the square to select the ‘belle’ of the festival. Midnight would be too late for us after all the walking in the heat. Instead we dined on the pilgrim menu in one of the hotels, and headed back fairly early to the albergue. On arrival, the volunteers in the albergue had made some Queimada, a warm Galician alcoholic punch that contained coffee beans amongst other interesting things. It was certainly a good recipe. We all went to the balcony to enjoy the last light of the evening. Looking West you could see the Camino rising up onto yet another plateau. Our ‘work’ for first think in the morning. The Queimada threw me into the desire to head straight to bed. One of the best nights sleep followed.
TIP: Drink plenty of water little and often in the heat of Spain. Cover your head with a good hat to avoid sunstroke.