Camino Trip Notes: Stage 16 (Hontanas to Itero de la Vega)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Distance: 17 km

6:50 – Breakfast in small Spanish towns doesn’t involve a trip to the drive-through or a big plate of greasy fried food. What many people eat may not be particularly nutritious but it sure is classy. The owner of this hostel was up at 4:30 to make fresh croissants and his wife is now juicing oranges and making espresso and cafe con leche to order. Half a dozen pilgrims are lined up for coffee and the woman isn’t very fast, yet I wait patiently as it could be another three hours before I find an alternative.

8:20 – It’s still another one or two kilometres to the town of Castrojeriiz but the big draw around here isn’t the town or even the ruins of a castle that towers above the town but rather the nearby ruins of the ancient monastery of San Antón. Established by Alfonso VII in the year 1146, the monastery was run by the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony, who cared for sick pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella. They were known far and wide for their treatment of an ancient ailment known as St. Anthony’s Fire. Today the only remaining part of the original structure is the main arch, through which pilgrims have passed for 870 years. 

9:26 – I stopped for a coffee in Castrojeriz and ran into Matt. We shared a room along with a Spanish guy, Ramon, a few nights ago. Matt arrived in Castrojeriz a bit before me despite the fact he’s walking on one prosthetic leg and foot. He’s an inspiration to the whining, snivelling pilgrims like me who are limping along with a blister on their little toe or a sore ankle, etc.  

10:05 – It wasn’t easy, but I managed to locate the ATM that I’ve been hearing about for several days. People in these villages deal largely in cash but they get it once a month when they take their pension checks to the regional bank branch. The ATM in Castrojeriz was a long way from the pilgrim path but just where you’d expect to find it – between the town’s only gas station, farmacia and supermercado (all of which were closed a full hour after their advertised opening times.)

“The village was established by Count Muño (or Nuño Nuñez), who defended the fort at the end of the ninth century against the Arabs. Before that it had been a Celtiberian, Roman and Visigoth fortress.” – Wikipedia

11:30 – There’s a long, flat stretch immediately past Castrojeriz but eventually you come to a rather daunting hill. From a distance, it reminded me of the slag piles near Sudbury, Ontario. The climb wasn’t nearly as taxing as it looked from the bottom and I attribute that to the fact that I argued with a woman all the way up the hill. She was from the US and claimed that she had held an iPhone 7 in her hand while visiting an Apple Store in North Carolina in March. She was adamant that she was right. As most of you know, I’m never wrong so I argued strongly that she must be confused with the 6 or 6SE. 

The view from the top was spectacular.  This shot was taken from the halfway point.  The confused lady was kind enough to take my photo.

15:10 – I have arrived in the town of Itero de la Vega and it looks like the kind of place that I could call home, if only for 16 hours. The first pension I come to has one room available for 30€ so I decide to skip the local hostel and get a  good night’s sleep in my own room.

19:10 –  After a late afternoon nap and a round of bathroom sink laundry, I head to the dining room for the 9€ Pilgrim’s Dinner. Halfway through my meal I realize that a woman sitting with her back to me is Darlene, the iPhone 7 lady. A quick Google search convinces her that she was mistaken.  She likely held the new 6SE as the iPhone 7 has not been announced. Case closed.  I win.  Good night.  

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