The Road to Santiago.

October 22, 2002

Pilgrim sculpture.
Pilgrim sculpture

Hortanillos to Castrojeriz

I couldn't have been more wrong! It could get worse.

First of all, I went hypo in the night. I woke up at 1:00 a.m., all sweaty and shaky. I tested my blood. It was 51 — the lowest blood sugar level I've had since being in Spain. I rattled around in my plastic bag looking for a sugar-fix, afraid that I would wake the others. I finally found an orange, some crackers, and a sugar cube. I ate them and immediately felt better. After waiting about twenty minutes, I tested again. It was 77, still low but heading in the right direction. So I didn't eat anything more, confident that I would be all right. (You have to be careful that you don't eat too much sugar, which would make the blood go too high necessitating more insulin and the possibility of further problems.)
There was no breakfast available at the albergue and the restaurant wouldn't open until 10 a.m. When I tested my blood glucose it was on the low side, so I had some milk with a teaspoon of sugar stirred into it before I started out.

It was a boring morning with nothing of interest except a startled partridge that ran across the field as if the devil was chasing it. Later I came to an area that was very rocky. The strange thing was that there were hundreds of piles of rocks built by pilgrims. This seemed very strange to me. "Let's see, I'm tired and cold what should I do? I know. I'll stop to gather some rocks and pile them up!" I don't know what it represented!! It was very peculiar.

20 miles of bad road.
Twenty miles of bad road
The next three hours were the most difficult of my entire journey — even more difficult than the very first day, going up all those steep slopes. Mile after mile along a slippery trail there was wind and more wind. Two songs kept going though my mind. The first was Duane Eddy's Twenty Miles of Bad Roads (in this case it was 20 K) and the second was They Call the Wind Mariah. Just as I thought I couldn't take it any more, the trail started down.
Finally Hortanos

Next I came to the town of Hortanos, a very small community with a lot of old buildings, some of them falling down. On the wall of one old dilapidated building was a hand-painted sign that said, "Bar Bienvenidos Peregrinos" (Bar Welcome Pilgrims). I didn't need much encouragement to get out of the wind, so I left my pack in the hall and pushed open the door. The place inside was as old and dirty as the exterior had suggested but at the far end of the room was an old fireplace with a big fire ablaze. There were three other pilgrims huddled around it and after I got a big café con leche, I joined them.

After a quick bite of day-old bread, cheese, and some very dry ham, I left the comfort of the bar and continued on the trail. The wind wasn't as strong at the bottom of the hill and the rest of the walk wasn't too unpleasant — at least the land was varied and there were signs of human activity. Soon I saw a castle in the sky in the distance — situated high on a hill. This was the castle that once protected the town of Castrojeriz, my destination.

Castle in the sky.
Castle in the sky
This area of Spain has many, many castles, hence the land is known as Castile and its form of Spanish is called Castellano. In South America Castellano is used to refer to Old World Spanish as opposed to New World Spanish. Since each area of Spain has its own way of speaking Spanish (Catalonia has its own language — Catalan), Castellano refers to a specific dialect. Castellano is considered the official version of Spanish, although, as evidenced by graffiti, not everyone agrees with that assessment.

I arrived in Castrojeriz at 3:00 p.m. to find the albergue closed - until 4:00. So I left my pack in the lobby and went to find a cash machine since I had very little cash left. After, I went to a bar for some warm coffee and to bide away the time 'til 4:00.

A pretty black dog with a red bandanna tied around his neck was hanging around in front of the albergue. Later, I saw the dog in the backyard while I was hanging up my laundry. I assumed that he was connected to the albergue because every place I had stayed had signs saying that they do not allow pilgrims to keep dogs or animals. But, as often is the case, my assumption was wrong. One of the pilgrims had sneaked the dog into the backyard, hoping that once established they would be allowed to stay for the night. But the dog wouldn't stay in the backyard. He kept coming into the albergue only to be shooed back out.

Apparently the hospitalero saw the dog and we could hear a loud argument ensue. I couldn't understand all that was said, but one concept was loud and clear. The hospitalero kept yelling: ¡Perros no! ¡Perros no! ¡Perros no! (No dogs!) The pilgrim, a short young man, went around to each pilgrim trying to get sympathy but found very little. Soon the hospitalero, a big man — taller than I am, came into the dormitory and grabbed the little man's backpack and threw it into the street. I felt sorry for the dog, but not for the man. He seemed very shifty and manipulative. A woman came up to me and said she was glad that they were thrown out because they had been in the refugio the night before and the dog walked all around the dormitory during the night sniffing every thing in sight. Then she confirmed my suspicions by telling me that he had stolen food from the refrigerator.

Later in the day, Ugette came in. She was very depressed — said she almost "lost her heart." I invited her to join me for dinner in hopes that I could cheer her up. She wanted to eat at a place where there was an Internet connection. After a little bit of a search, we found it. She used the Internet to answer her email. After she finished, I read some of my email but I couldn't answer them. For some inexplicable reason, the site kept locking up. Not wanting to waste the coins that I had put into the machine, I showed Ugette my Web site. She responded in her French accent "Ohh, la, la!" (Yes, she really said that! It seems to be her favorite exclamation. Oh well, it's better than some that most people use.)

While we were there, the owner came in with two big baskets of fresh picked setas (wild mushrooms) which she had harvested in the hills. Apparently they only grow where there are conifer trees — in this case, pine trees. In Spain they serve setas a la plancha (wild mushrooms cooked on a griddle) with olive oil and garlic. They resemble shitake mushrooms and are very delicious.

The restaurant also was a private albergue and Ugette recognized two French girls she had met previously, and invited them to join us. They were very young (17 & 19) and very pretty but they had so many piercings in their ears, nose, eyebrows, and tongue, that it was hard to look at them without flinching. Except for the "jewelry," the dinner was quite pleasant. And we had a surprise — the proprietress sent over a large platter of setas.
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