Stage 9, Part 2: Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado (Curtis’ report)

We’re getting caught up here today folks, after a day off from blogging yesterday, so scroll down to read all the new posts since our arrival in Nájera. Also, make sure to check back and re-read some of the posts below, because I’ll probably be editing them to put some more photos into them. My camera battery just died and I can’t upload anymore for the moment!

Today’s walk was only a couple of kilometers longer than yesterday’s and, much to Linda’s delight, hotter and far less windy. But in spite of being only 23 kilometers, the walk into Belorado always seems to take forever to me. In part, this is because a good portion of today’s walk, including the last nine kilometers or so, transcur along a gravelled access road that runs along the asphalted main highway that connects Logroño and Burgos (and under which lies the medieval Camino), so for a good part of the walk from Santo Domingo to Belorado you are accompanied by the rumble of the heavy trucks passing along the highway. Not the ambience most conducive to reflection or prayer as you walk.

The other reason is that the rolling hills of this part of Castile (we left the Rioja region and entered Castile today) often take you up high above the way, and you can see a great distance, so what you inevitably see is the path of the Camino stretching out before you and a tiny line of pilgrims plodding along it in the distance. Can be a bit monotonous and disheartening when your feet are tired and you’re just ready to roll in and have a shower and something to drink.

The only stop I really made today was in the village of Grañon, some seven or eight kilometers after we left Santo Domingo, to have a second cup of coffee with Cheryl and to spend a little time praying in the village church. She and I chatted a bit as we left Grañon; Cheryl is apparently working on a list of hymns that she plans to ask her congregation back in Chicago to forego singing for at least a month after she gets back. You’ll have to ask her which ones they are, but I do believe most of them contain references to stones, rocks, wind and sun …

I commented to Cheryl and Linda at dinner the other evening that it is about a week into the Camino that the novelty of what you’re doing finally wears off and the Camino starts to be hard work. It’s not just the disappearance of the novelty though; we are definitely drawing nearer to the meseta, the high, flat table-land that lies at the heart of Spain, between Burgos and León. Spiritual writers of past times refer to this stretch of the Camino as the “purgatory” stage of the Camino. The landscape begins to flatten out and you can see for kilometers in almost every direction, the towns are almost uniformly small, dusty farm towns in the midst of an endless ocean of wheat. There’s not much to look at, folks, and so your gaze turns inward and you have loads of time to reflect and think, accompanied by the crunch, crunch, crunch of your boots on the dusty gravel roads that form the Camino here.

Lots of people hop on buses in Burgos and head straight to León, skipping the meseta stage of the Camino altogether. I think that’s a mistake, but then we do not live in a culture that teaches us to value silence, solitude or reflection, and not everyone’s up for the intensity of the meseta. In two days we’ll be there, and then it’ll take us about a week to get across it. I’m actually looking forward to it; I have long since come to appreciate walking across the meseta for the things I’ve learned about every time I’ve done it. And though it still kicks my butt from time to time, it’s where I get some of my best praying done on the Camino.

For now though, it’s off to bed. This little pilgrim is up way past his bedtime, and we’ve got o hit the Montes de Oca on our way to San Juan de Ortega tomorrow. Keep praying for us, and don’t forget to check back over the next few days for new photos in some of these entries after I’ve had a chance to recharge my camera’s battery.