Just the facts
Day 13: Poblacion to Calzadilla de la Cueza
Distance: 23 miles / 38 km
Time: 7.5 hours
Total to date: 234 miles / 378 km
Aches and pains: Weary to the bone. No blisters.
Heading out before sunrise each day, I get to enjoy the sound of cuckoos, doves, songbirds and frogs with croaks that make the frogs at home sound lame. Other pilgrims also begin early and some of them have become my “regulars”. In particular, there are two Italian men, one of them quite overweight carrying an overloaded backpack. The other one is fit and always wears the same designer hiking shorts. When he walks, spirals, daisies, and other designs sway with each step. The Italians, like so many of the French, speak only their mother tongue and sadly, they are often isolated at mealtime. That said, the three of us enjoyed dinner together tonight. Well, sort of enjoyed dinner. We were all so tired from a tough day on the Meseta that we made a little small talk; they spoke Italian, I used my best Spanish, and somehow we managed to communicate over the sticky spaghetti and so-so chicken served at the local restaurant. We didn’t linger over dinner, though, preferring instead to speak the language of sleep.
Young Tom, is another one of my morning regulars. He can often be found in a quiet spot relaxing against his backpack waiting for the sun to come up. Tom spent his last year of high school working in a pizzeria to earn money for his Camino. His schedule is relaxed; he just has to be home in time to start university in the fall.
This morning I briefly met a mud covered German who volunteered that he’d wasted an hour by taking a wrong turn. Only he knows where he ended up. At a fork in the road, the German whistled at me and gestured that I was taking a wrong turn. I backtracked to follow him, went a short distance, had misgivings, then retraced my steps to get back on the “wrong” path. This afternoon that same German reappeared. Between labored breaths he said he had made a mistake back at the fork. I wanted to point out that he had made two mistakes that day, but he’d suffered enough, and he only had to see the mud on his pants to be reminded of one of them.
Today was the hardest yet. The first part was along a lovely, tree-lined canal. The last nineteen kilometers (almost twelve miles) traced an ancient roman road. It was interesting at first to think of the feet that had walked and marched before me, but after a few miles of a featureless straight, strait, straight gravel road my body became weary. I stopped often to catch my breath, swallow my now-warm water, take stones from my shoes and just plain stretch.
I have read that the Camino is not for everyone. Today I wondered if it was for me.
I just looked at my pilgrim passport and saw a line that is fitting for today: “Welcome each day, its pleasures and its challenges”.
It’s time for a quiet dinner and early to bed.