Day 11 - Sto Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado

Trip Start Sep 03, 2012
Trip End Oct 07, 2012

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Where I stayed
Albergue Cuatro Cantos

Flag of Spain  , Castile-León,
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Kms Walked Today: 22.9 km
Kms Walked in Total: 230.9 kms
Kms to Go: 551.1 kms
Blisters: minor ones. Nothing serious.
Pains: none
A- "Carry a roll of toilet paper with you at all times". It will help with colds; when the pilgrims have abused of it at the albergue and there is only one little piece left; when you eat fruit or those huge sticky croissants or "napolitanas" which they adore from Logrono to the end of Castilla-Leon; or if unfortunately you have to imitate the lizard walk along the path. In the latter, have some self respect and please find a bush which is not directly on the Camino.
B- Phone the albergues privados ahead. They tend to accept reservations for the dormitories and do not require any deposit. Some of them will not allow it. Many pilgrims have told me that its not the "pilgrim" way, but I'm sure Santiago himself would have done it if there were mobile phones available.
Another different issue is whether they speak English or not - most don't.
This allows to walk calmly if necessary.
Either my body has adapted to albergue conditions and I don't wake up noises and movements, or the albergues have improved greatly. Probably a mix of the above together with accumulated tiredness.
In any case I slept perfectly until the argentinian hospitalero woke us all up at 6am (or at least the ones still in bed). It hasn't happened before so I assume its a speciality of the Sto Domingo albergues.
I slept so well that I didn't even notice that "Big Helga" (a woman from Munich who is quite sizeable) apparently left at midnight to sleep on the sofas. The catalonian next to me giggled that she had complained about the continuous snoring and had stormed out. She seemed to leave shouting "enough!".
There is one constant every day I start walking: one pain. There is always one pain somewhere, but it keeps changing from one muscle to another, one finger to the other. It seems to be a similar condition for most people, and as long as it keeps moving we are all fine. The problem is when it decides to install itself in one single point. Then treatment is necessary. Up to now, no pain has survived a good shower and a few hours sleep.
With all the above in mind, when I wake up and the pain is new, I thank Santiago for this new location:
"Santiago, Santiaguito,
To you I must pray,
Thank you for giving me this pain,
In a new place each day,
The dark part of the walk was easy peasy today as I only had to follow the pilgrims ahead of me. They even made it simple for me, as crossing the Rio Oja they had taken a wrong turn when an arrow was missing. By the time I arrived they had backtracked and found the correct way.
I crossed an old French man who is doing the Camino all the way from Paris. However his back has given up and he is pulling his rucksack on a trolley with four small wheels. That has to be even tougher and somehow I don't think he will make it along some of the tougher parts.
One thing is for sure, there are a lot of towns along the way that exist exclusively due to el Camino. Albergues, cafes and shops. Which is why it is so annoying that they are not open early morning to serve some coffee. I'm sure that once the pilgrims have passed the business will be low, so why not open at 6am and close longer at lunch or at night.
I arrived at Granon after two hours walk, and had to keep going as there wasn't a thing open.

As I cruised along I bumped into the Italian walking from Turin and another big chap who spoke Italian but didn't look like one. I always shout "Turinense!" to the old chap as we have got to know each other quite well. He informed me that he had just crossed the 1,400 km mark...and not one single day of rest.

I started chatting to the other big bloke, and he reminded me of a German friend that travelled with my wife and myself to Costa Rica a few years earlier. The same size, walk and face.

It took me back to the days we were visiting a jungle there. As it had been raining quite dramatically, and there was snakes in that area, the guide told us to put some rubber wellies on. They didn't have my mates size so he went along with trainers (and his chino trousers!).

As we got further into the jungle, he stopped and refused to walk on. We asked him what was wrong and he replied "I don't want to wet my feet".
Given it was difficult not to, we tried to convince him, but he was panicking. He suddenly shouted in German "my grandfather told me never to wet my feet in the mud".

My wife asked him "was your grandfather in the First World War?", to which he replied positively. Hence we found out were the reason came from...trenchfoot!

Back to the walker...he was German from Cologne, but had lived in Colombia and Spain quite a few years and was nearly fluent.

The walk went fairly fast in between chit chats with different groups. Sometimes I would catch up with someone, other times they would reach me. And if not I would listen to the radio, so never a dull moment.

Around 11am I reached Belorado, a town I had never heard of in my life, and if I had would have probably linked to a spaghetti western village.

Its claim to fame, apart from being part of the Camino, is that its the first town in the original Spain (Castille at the time) which was allowed to celebrate a "fiesta" (holiday day). That was in 1116. I guess it was all downhill from there on!

I went directly to the albergue where I had reserved a bed (Cuatro Cantones - 5 euros), and put my ruck sack after a French couple's. We waited patiently for one hour for the albergue to open.

Just a few minutes before noon, two Swedes arrived (mother and daughter), and another couple. From the language they spoke I concluded they must be Israeli, and the looks did fit. I was surprised as one wouldn't link Israelis with a ultra Catholic pilgrimage! Then again, they could be Catholic themselves.

I observed them carefully as I could see they were not carrying any rucksacks (cheats!), and were walking towards the front of the cue. As I expected, the moment the door of the albergue opened, these two jumped in and ignored all the other people.

The moment they put their pilgrim passports on the table to be stamped my guess was confirmed - Israelis.

I have met a large number of Israelis while travelling, and they are tough to deal with as they are quite direct (sounding quite rude to other nationalities), and they are keen negotiators (i.e. - they will try to reduce the price always).

This one I hadn't heard before, but it did fit with the above cliches. When the hospitalera assigned them their bunk beds, the guy said "we are both going to sleep in one bed, can we pay one bed?".

The hospitalera didn't speak Spanish, which was probably better for they ended up paying both beds (single beds we are talking about).

When I saw them inside later I realised they had committed a terrible error and I thanked them for their rudeness. The first two beds were next to the toilets and there was no door separating them from the thrones! Even worse "alubias rojas" (large red bean soup) were on the menu, so anywhere close to the toilet was a place to be avoided at all costs.

They weren't the only ones. As the Israelis had broken the "cue rule", the Swedish mother and daughter also went ahead and passed the first three of us. Never better than before did a typical Spanish expression apply: "se hicieron las Suecas" (they acted as if they were Swedes, which is used when someone ignores others).

The albergue was quite nice, with a good restaurant upstairs, a back garden with hens and rabbits, and a covered swimming pool. So fantastic for 5 euros! The places are certainly improving.

Camping in the back garden is a Finnish girl, who always camps as she is doing the Camino with two dogs. A larger and older one who wears little socks during the day to avoid cuts, and a small one. The small one was wearing a blinking red light during the early morning walk so cyclists and other walkers could see it. Quite a show.

After preparing my bed (upper bunk again), I tried the hotel lunch. Another culinary experience:

- Alubias rojas
- fried chicken with potatoes
- dessert
- full bottle of wine
- water and bread

All for 10 euros. I was stuffed enough to have to roll into bed for a siesta!

Under my bed lay a young american chap, and on the other side an old woman. Both were staying a second night at the albergue (which is a no-no in the Pilgrim code), as they were struggling.

I have started seeing pilgrims in quite bad states, and also a significant number staying behind or disappearing. However, their gaps have been replaced by a large influx of Spaniards who are starting the walk for one week or two.

Nothing much can be done from 2pm to 5pm on the shopping or visit side as everything closes for lunch and siesta. So joining them for a day was not a bad idea.

I also had plenty of time to upload photographs as the albergue again had WiFi. It seems most of the private albergues do have free WiFi available.

Belorado is certainly not the most exciting town on the route, although it does have a good old plaza to sit around and have a coffee. Although having said that, for a population of potentially 200, they have 8 pubs or night clubs, including the "John Lennon" pub which must be a hot with the locals!

The only other thing is a huge church, massive for the size of the village, and the hermit caves on the mountain side.

The weather finally changed to slightly colder and forced me to wear my fleece for the first time since Roncesvalles.
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