Just like buses – you wait for one for hours, and then three come at once! This is the first time we have had wifi for three days …….here’s one I prepared earlier…..
I was first up this morning at a few minutes before 6am and had the bathroom to myself which is a luxury. I then fumbled around in the dark for 20 minutes before others started to stir. Eventually six of the eight occupants in our room were up and also fumbling in the dark until I decided that the two odd-ones-out would have to put up with the lights. We didn’t get away until 7:30am. There was a steep climb out of the village and for the first time there are kilometre markers along the way. I am not sure if this is a good thing or not. We can see how far we’ve come, but also how far we have to go.
The snow capped mountains are back today, although we didn’t see them at all yesterday. The land in this area is very red and there are interesting rock formations.
The landscape soon opens up to vast fields of grain, stretching as far as the eye can see, interspersed with vines.
We reach the village of Azofra after 6km and stop for breakfast in a local cafe.
The way is marked by a variety of yellow arrows, painted on every surface imaginable, so it is difficult to go wrong.
Today is fabulous. Bright blue sky, early sunshine, a light cool breeze – perfect walking conditions. Suddenly the tack improves from rough gravel and stone to a perfectly graded surface, and after a couple of kilometres I can see why the track is so very good – there is a compactor at work, but once I get beyond it, the track returns to a poor condition which is hard on the feet.
Søren has decided to walk his own walk today, and left after Ella and me. Ella strides on ahead of me. She has developed a very strong pace and I find it difficult to keep up, but that is not a problem, we catch up every now and then for a break.
There are quite a few cyclists riding the camino, and it is often quite a shock when they pass because they don’t give any warning of their approach. We have also seen a couple of people with dogs. During day three and four we came across a German lady with a golden Labrador. At Los Arcos she gave the dog her sleeping bag to keep warm outside whilst inside she had to pile clothes on top of her to keep out the cold. The last couple of days we have seen a guy who I think is Spanish walking with a small mastif type dog, that is wearing boots on his front feet (the dog, that is)
After 14 km we come to a golf course, in the middle of absolutely nowhere. There is a huge housing complex built around it, hundreds of houses, all absolutely deserted. It is very surreal. Very soon after we come to the tiny village of Cirueña and then continue on tracks through fabulous open farmland.
As I walk I plug into music again, this time listening to a favourite old compilation of film sound tracks, from Quentin Tarratino films and The Full Monty, amongst others, and I remember fun times back in Bristol, with great friends at parties. Good days!
A welcome sight comes into view when I see our destination town in the distance. It doesn’t seem very far, but it takes another 40 minutes before we arrive at the albergue.
Santo Domingo de Calzado is an ancient town, the streets of which are classified a site of National Historic Interest because of its grand buildings, particularly the Cathedral of San Salvador.
The municipal albergue a very large and modern building in the centre of the town with 220 beds. We are in a room of about 20 beds, luckily I am in a lower bunk. The accommodation is spread over two floors with facilities on each floor, separate for men and women. We have five showers and two loos with six basins, all very clean. There is a good kitchen which pleases Ella because she is keen to cook for a change which suits me very well.
We shower and I wash out some socks and underwear before wandering off in the direction of a bar with a sunny terrace where we drink a few glasses of white wine and enjoy some olives and pork scratchings courtesy of the management.
We then decide it is time to take a look around the town and find a beautiful square behind the cathedral, and discover that there is a charge to enter the church.
There is a interesting legend relating to the cathedral which I shall copy below from my guide:
……….. The cathedral of San Salvador dates from the 12th century and is a mixture of Romanesque, Plateresque and Gothic. Inside you will find Santo Domingo’s mausoleum. At the rear of the cathedral there is an ornate chicken coup, the permanent home of a cockerel and a hen (which are replaced once a fortnight).
The legend behind the chickens came about through a story begun in the middle ages. It is said that a German family (parents and teenage son) were attempting the Camino and stopped in Santo Domingo for the night. A flirty barmaid took a fancy to the 18 year old son but the boy, probably because he didn’t understand the language or was overly pious, was having none of it and turned her down.
The scorned girl sought revenge and placed a silver goblet into his luggage (there are different accounts of exactly what was placed in the bag, some say it was a bag of money others say it was a chalice from the church). The next morning the goblet was discovered missing and the barmaid accused the young German boy of stealing. The boy’s luggage was searched and the goblet found and he was promptly brought before the local judge, found guilty and hanged.
The grief stricken parents continued on their pilgrimage and upon arriving at Santiago de Compostela, prayed to St James for the soul of their son. On their return journey they again decided to stay the night in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Upon reaching the town they were surprised to find that their son was still hanging from the gibbet and more surprisingly, that he was still alive.
In memory of this miraculous event a snow white cockerel and a hen, donated by local farmers, have been kept in the ornate gothic henhouse in the cathedral ever since……….The parents rushed to see the judge and explained what they had seen. So incensed was the judge hat they had the audacity to interrupt his dinner that he proclaimed “your son is about as alive as these roast chickens I am about to eat”. At that moment the two birds jumped off the plate and began to fly, so proclaiming the boy’s innocence………..
We decide that maybe we will go to the mass in the evening to see the cathedral for free.
We walk towards the pardor which was originally an ancient hospital and decide to go inside and try out the bar, but although the hotel was beautiful, the bar was very unimpressive so we continued to wander around and came across a chocolate shop and bought a few truffles which were definitely up to standard, and then we went in search of a supermarket so that Ella could buy provisions for her cook-up tonight. As we walked back we came across Søren who said he would be very happy to join us in our meal.
So,we returned to the albergue to sit in the garden in the lovely sunshine and demolish a bottle of cava whilst talking to some ladies From Finland, a Dutch girl and an elderly Danish woman. And here I am at this very moment.