Last night we numbered four camigos at the Hostal Far Home Atocha. Myself, (Australian) Eli, (South African) Marilyn and (English) Paul. This morning we set off at around eight am, heading for the church of Santiago and San Juan. Eli and I went to the church last evening, hoping that I could acquire the rather nice credencial (pilgrim’s passport) that they provide. When we arrived the priest was busy attending to others and when I managed to ask him about my credencial, he suggested that we wait until after the 8 pm mass when he would have more time. So we attended the mass and were given a special pilgrim’s blessing and afterwards waited for at least half an hour. Eventually he appeared and told me that he was finished for the night and instructed me to leave and return at 11:30 am. Yeah, right! That definitely wasn’t happening. Luckily I had a less attractive credencial that I can use without delaying my morning departure. But I was a little sad not to have the official church stamp to start me off. Hey ho, that is how it is in Spain. They say ‘no’ and there is absolutely no arguing.
We took a couple of selfies at the church before taking our first steps on this camino, luckily Eli was prepared with directions downloaded on her smartphone as there are no arrows to indicate the way until we reach Plaza de Castilla, around 6.5 km from the church.
But what a send off we had! Police were lining the streets and had closed the side roads so that we had easy passage. There were live pop bands along the route to motivate us to keep up our pace. The were loads of stewards with countless hundreds of bottles of water to quench our thirst, and then came crowds of people running to wish us farewell and good luck. Many might have believed that all this effort had been put into action because of some sporting event, perhaps a marathon with over 30,000 participants. But I knew it was all in order to give us the best possible send off, probably organised by the priest who was feeling rather guilty at sending me away last night!
Once we reached the city limits and passed through the area of Fuencarral at 11 km, we were suddenly in the countryside walking through green pastures and, it being a Sunday, we were constantly passed by cyclists, buzzing by in ones and twos and large groups, but there was plenty of room for us all to co-exist.
We received a few ‘buen caminos’ and one cyclist skidded to a halt to talk to us about the camino.
It was quite hot – mid to high twenties centigrade and I needed to drape my scarf around my neck for protection. We arrived at Tres Cantos, our chosen end of this first stage, around mid-afternoon. Paul and I overstepped the mark by around 500 metres, but we soon realised our mistake. There is an albergue in Tres Cantos, but it is situated in the basement of the ayuntamiento (town hall) and as it is a Sunday, it is very unlikely that we would be able to gain access. So I booked rooms for us in the hotel VP Jardin, which is really rather nice. We have two family rooms each with three beds, one for the girls and one for the boys for a cost of 23 euros each. Very good value.
I heard from (German) Carsten that he and his friend Ralf had arrived in town (they had made a later start from Plaza de Castilla) and we joined them for a drink and then we visited the huge carrefour store for supplies for tomorrow.
Day one done, thirty six to go.
Distance 26.7 km
Accumulated uphill elevation 244 m
Accumulated downhill elevation 163 m