I have been away on the Camino. Our little group has been doing a week or so every year, which prompts some raised eyebrows when we are asked, ‘So how long have you been on the Camino?’ and we say, ‘Three years’ (the expected answer would be a few weeks).
This year we were doing the stretch between Burgos and Leon, which we have now been informed is the stage that most Spanish people skip, as it’s so flat and boring. It was a bit like a John Steinbeck novel as we plodded through the unending dusty road, with stubbled wheatfields on either side as far as the eye could see, and the occasion deserted town, with buildings made of wattle and daub and practically tumbleweed blowing.
The Camino’s not for everyone, I suppose – we were describing it to one person who said it sounded like ‘Lough Derg with sun tan lotion’. But I love it. I love the feeling of getting up every morning, heading out the door and just walking, all day long. That’s all you have to do: walk. And if you walk far enough, and follow the yellow arrows, you’ll get to where you’re going.
We walked about 30k a day, long enough, but spirits were generally high, even if this was definitely the least picturesque part so far. We also came across a couple of hostels with swimming pools – bliss after a long walk. Special mention to Boadilla del Camino – as S said, ‘If Carlsberg made hostels’ … It wasn’t especially fancy or anything, but it had a wonderful atmosphere, and compared to the usual run of convent-run hostels, with insitutional rows of iron beds, it was like an oasis in the desert (quite literally). And we met an interesting variety of people, including one young man who told us the Camino was ‘the longest catwalk in Europe’. This is not even remotely true, but we liked the spirit that made him walk the Camino in Hugo Boss trousers and a stripy shirt, pumping weights (I kid you not) as he went. The fact that this is the least picturesque part, and it was August so quite hot, perhaps meant that our fellow pilgrims were strong-minded, independent types.
We’ll be back. Next year, Leon and onwards …