Well, we find ourselves in the famously historic city of Leon enjoying our second rest day of the month and slowly easing my way out of faint hangover. Hey, no hiking today so why not, right? Anyway, we have just completed (or almost anyway) our traverse of the dreaded “meseta”, a week or so of flat agricultural land. That´s right, a whole week of grain fields, straight roads, hardly any hills, a complete lack of shade and only the very occasional spindly tree. However would us Saskatchewan folk manage it? Exactly. Not really the big disappointment others have sometimes described it as. And actually the general consensus was that many people actually enjoyed it, noticing the key point that all those stunningly scenic hills tend to come complete with a whole bunch of climbing up, and climbing down, repeat. Not the meseta. Although our take may have been considerably different were we crossing in 40 degree summer heat, huddled under the one lone tree we´d seen for the past 10 kilometres, jostling for position with 20 other deliriously sweating pilgrims.
Our rather pleasant 10-15 degree daily highs left us more or less apathetic about shade, much like clean clothes, or taking off our shoes in restaurants.
While on the subject of weather, well, it had to happen sooner or later I suppose. Rain! Ugh. We were strutting jauntily out of Castrojeriz one fine morning, whistling and self-congratulary as we marvelled at the incredible sunrise made all the finer by misting rain off in the distance (a brief touch of foreshadowing), then completely blowing us away in the opposite direction as the suddenly dark skies and picturesque rainbows offset the sun dappled hill in just the most pleasing manner. Well, you´ll never guess what happened when we reached the top of the hill. It started raining. Crazy, right? And then it kept raining. All day. And all night. And all day the next day. And all that night. Then, on a semi-related note, it turns out that our rain jackets aren´t necessarily rain proof. I mean, they clearly fought the good fight, and didn´t give in easily or early, but give in they did. And how. On the bright sides, our rain pants, backpack covers and myhiking shoes acquitted themselves magnificently. As for the rest, well, the struggle only sweetens the victory. Or something like that I´ve heard people say that didn´t have cold drops of rain slowly creeping down their balls every 5 minutes or so. Anyway, the rain drove us into a hotel where we could at least dry our clothes (the communal albergues are usually unheated and 50 pilgrims share one small clothes rack).
Then, after 2 days of fighting through the best we could, we finally reached a larger town where we came across and outdoor shop and bought ourselves some new and improved rain protection – an expensive, ultralight rain jacket for me in anticipation of hiking in Ireland next year, and a plasticky 6€ poncho for Laynni that she “absolutely loves”, mostly because she discovered it is big enough to hide under while she relieves herself along not so solitary roadsides. Her “privacy poncho” as it has come to be known. Anyhooo, the point is, it hasn´t rained a drop since we bought them.
Now, details anyone? We have now dragged our sorry lumbering arses 460 kilometres over 21 days of hiking. That´s the good news. The bad news is we still have 320 kilometres to go over the next 2 weeks. Whose idea was this anyway?
As everyone eventually racks up more and more semi-sleepless nights thanks to snoring in the albergues we are noticing a distinct discrimination towards older men, with large swaths of empty beds surrounding them until those unfortunate late arrivals finally succumb, grimacing through a reluctant Buenos Tardes and climbing on to the bunk above with a defeated sigh and haunted eyes.
There has also been a noticeable decrease in the generall level of excitement, perkiness and vivacity of the pilgrims these days. A lot of things have taken a toll – pain, physical exhaustion, emotional exhaustion and the loss of novelty have all dulled the atmosphere slightly, although we are still definitely enjoying it overall. Although I have to say I don´t know which I am more sick of – wearing exactly the same clothes every single day, or having to look at all the other people wearing the exact same clothes every single day. Plus, I have grown quite weary of listening to other people poop.
So today the plan is to celebrate Father Frank´s birthday, probably by getting drunk in his honour and filling him to giddiness with candy and Coke (you´ll note the capital C), then getting mentally prepared to attack the final third tomorrow.
Ok, I´m off to super glue the sole of my shoe, and probably have a nap. Talk to you soon.
And if you have a little time on your hands please take the time to check out my book Random Acts of Travel : Featuring Trepidation, Hammocks and Spitting.