Camino Day 17: The Ol' Monastery

Tardajos Cruceiro to San Anton: 26.5 km/16.6 miles

May 21. 2016

Jesus, our hostel host set out a quaint breakfast in the morning at this municipal albergue. A “muni” albergue is a basic hostel ran by the local authorities. These hostels were simple in style, which basically entailed a bunch of bunk beds in a room, less expensive than the private hostels, and perhaps more authentic to the old Camino ways. Five star hotels or private fancy hostels weren’t an option back in the days. There wasn’t a full kitchen here, so instant coffee was served with bread, butter and jam offered. A donation box sat at the entrance to cover expenses for the next run of guests.

The landscape was changing with less trees noted. A few more hills to climb and then enter the Mesita. This great plateau of the Iberian Peninsula stretched for over 81,000 square miles with an average elevation of 660 meters.

The little oasis of San Bol allowed for rest and a foot soak in its cooling spring which was said to have healing qualities. The water was paralyzingly cold initially, but the effects calmed the muscles. The night before, the veteran Spanish Camino’er couldn’t ice his legs enough. Freezing one’s extremities must be the true remedy for overused and abused muscles. But my occasional, indulgent hot baths were so lovely!

As we soaked our feet, we talked with an American woman who was doing the Camino in reverse. Her reasoning was that back in the day, Pilgrims had to walk both ways as no trains or buses were available for the return. This thought inspired me later on the Camino.

We caught up with one of our bunk mates from last night, a tall Swede who appeared a bit of a loner, but friendly. He shared he wasn’t feeling up to par today. He seemed happy for some company, so together we slowly ascended up the hillside, in this rather barren landscape with little shelter for shade.

As we entered the village of Hontanas, we passed the chapel of Santa Brigida, the patron saint of Sweden. Our fellow Swede was planning to rest up here in addition to researching the Camino walk, circa 1341, of his patron Saint. Our lunch stop, not surprisingly, ended up being Swedish managed.

Sipping wine, alongside the cobblestone path we watched the Peregrino train pass by with clicking walking sticks and many doing the ‘penguin walk’ due to sore soles.

Recognizable from a distance came the friendly 50-something year old ‘Eagle Scout’ from the beginning days of the Camino, pedaling on a bicycle. Officially one can walk or bike the Camino to earn the coveted Camino Compostela Certificate in Santiago. Eagle Scout's feet were blistered beyond repair at present. To give them a rest and yet move forward, he chose to jump on a bike for five days. He was behind schedule. From a medical perspective, he should have hung up his shoes, but he stated he was doing this for his son in West Point. They don’t let people give up there and he was not about to do so either. He pushed forward as we finished our lunch. Was he courageous and honorable, or just a bit stupid?

The day ended in San Anton. We were thinking to just pass this lone monastery, but discovered at the last moment that Peregrinos could stay there. The living space was carved out of the towering ruins and split into two rooms which held a small dormitory, and a kitchen. Chairs, a sofa and benches were scattered about the enclosed lawn for lounging. Everything was sort of randomly placed. Long grass grew between where I imagined church benches once stood.

Dinner was communal and by candlelight as there was no electricity. The four hostelers from the night before; the moon worshipper and et al landed at the same hostel. Unfortunately, the group made a little drama at the dinner table. Just following prayer, the two Czech women of the group, exchanged a few foreign words, followed by one standing up and walking out. The Portuguese guy followed and then the other scurried out. The gracious hosts said food is hot, we must eat now.

Discussion at the dinner table was regarding a mold in the wheat fields that killed off an entire population at one time. The girls slunk in after dinner. Unsure of the drama’s end, we all went out to watch the rise of the moon between the broken walls of this ancient monastic ruins.

Kashi and I had started to give nicknames on occasion to fellow travelers and this quartet earned the title, The Musketeers.

With no lights, bedtime came early.

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