As of today, I have officially graduated from the Meseta! Many people complain that the Meseta is boring and often will skip it all together. I don’t feel that way. It was really beautiful, expansive countryside. I am sure that more than other sections of the Camino Francés, it takes on a completely different personality with each season. There are the reported fields of poppies in the late spring, the green grains such as wheat in the summer and the bright cheery sunflowers in late August. The time of year when I am here the earth is being turned under and prepared for next spring’s planting.
The first clue that the Meseta was behind me was the beginning of gently rolling terrain. I actually look forward to some variety in the walking, both ups and downs.
I really need a rear view mirror when I am walking here in Spain. I don’t want to miss anything and in the morning, with the sunrise behind me, most of the excitement is at my back. That results in my slowest kilometers of the day with constant turning around like a junkie needing just one more fix. “I swear, this is the LAST time I will turn around.” That promise lasts but a few minutes until I have to peek again.
Today I bumped into Claudia and her mom from Toronto. I hadn’t seen them since I got sick. They were headed to a town ahead of me tonight. However, I think we will be heading up to O Cebreiro on the same day and we are both planning to ride horses up to the top. (More on this option next Friday after my ride.)
I stopped for breakfast after 8km or so and had a piece of amazing apple cake. It was super moist and there was custard woven throughout it. While it wasn’t a protein forward breakfast like I try to have when I am walking, it was delicious.
I walked a little further and came upon a woman sitting at a small rest area that had a cross and a mannequin of a pilgrim.
I started talking with her; she is very interesting. She is from Ukraine, but now lives in Finland (oh, if we had the time the things I would like to have asked her!). Her name is Polina and she calls herself Polina Nomad.
Polina often volunteers at pilgrim hostels and currently is serving at a hostel in Hospital de Orbigo. Today she didn’t have to report for her shift until 4 so she was walking to Astorga and would be taking a bus back to Hospital de Orbigo.
Her English is excellent and I suspect she is fluent in many languages. She is a graphic artist, but doesn’t like being in Finland in the winter because of the cold. So last year she came to the Camino in December and walked the Camino Francés. She saw no more than 5 other pilgrims on any given day. You might think the weather could be a challenge, but she said it was in the 50’s during the day and the whole time she had only 2 hours of rain. She celebrated the New Year at Fisterre, the end of the world!
Polina pointed out some “street art” she had done a couple of years ago. I have seen her work before and look forward to finding more later on the way.
There was a sweet little donativo stand that had all types of fruit and juice available. I took a banana for a donation of 50 cents.
Astorga came into sight, but it is always hard to judge the distance of a town. One thing is for sure, it is always further than you think!
Getting into Astorga required conquering the Pilgrim Torture Trap.
All this to cross two active railroad tracks. Easily 10 times the steps it takes just to walk across. Henry sent me the workaround for this beast, and I saw the secret path, but I couldn’t bring myself to defy authority. Besides, I am sure tens of thousands of dollars when into designing and constructing this to protect pilgrims so I took the safe way. Of course, many pilgrims coming into Astorga are on their 30th kilometer for the day when they hit this contraption, so I can understand the desire to circumvent it.
Dorm Living Again for me Tonight
I am staying tonight in a 10-bed dormitory Alburgue. We will see how it goes. This place doesn’t have any separate rooms, but what they do have is an amazing authentic Brazilian dinner. So, in this case the promise of good food won over a private room.
After checking in and showering I toured around Astorga. Unfortunately the Famous Chocolate Museum was only open 10-2 today so I missed that opportunity, but I did get to explore the Astorga Cathedral, which like those in Leon and Burgos, is huge and beautiful. I thin my favorite is the Leon Cathedral. I think it has more stained glass.
After a beer and a glass of wine (with a walk in between) I head back to my Hostel for a little rest
Then it was dinner time we were served black beans, rice, pork and a salad. This meal hit the spot.