October 22, 2002
Hortanillos to Castrojeriz
|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.
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.
|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
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.