Descending out of the village, I cross a quiet country lane and climb, riding a high wave for four miles before it spills me out on the road again at the Convento de San Anton. Pilgrims leave messages
for others on scraps of paper here, anchored by small pebbles and sheltered in stone holes. I hope to glimpse Castrojeriz from up high but it doesn’t appear until two miles later. A straight road leads me to the edge of town. Trees line the verges like sentries, providing shade and casting shadows across the tarmac in regular patterns. The castle dominates over a cowering Castrojeriz, its tales of bloody battles faded over time.
A mile further on from the village and the Camino climbs to just over 900m onto the Alto de Mostelares. The plateau continues before dropping off to startling views. This is what I consider to be the start of the Meseta. A far-reaching panorama stretches out in every direction, deep blue skies interrupted only by soft clouds casually drifting across the plains, casting shadows like moving apparitions. The Camino weaves ahead of me, dotted with an occasional pilgrim up to a small, shaded resting place with a fresh spring, visible but three miles distant. After a small break there in welcome shade, I stop for another day at the next village.
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I leave my overnight stay at the Puente Vitero Albergue without my promised English breakfast again (it happened on my first Camino as well). I do leave with a hangover, a shin splint and fresh blisters though. My mood slumps as I trudge the five miles to Boadilla del Camino, waiting for the sun to come up and the promise of the relative oasis of the Albergue en El Camino where I know a decent breakfast lurks. Sure enough, on arrival, the famous limitless coffee pot hangs over my cup as a steady trickle of black treacle mesmerises me and, slowly, my body responds.
A rising sun emerges over the horizon behind me. My shadow stretches in front, facing west. During the day it shrinks and follows a path to my right like a clock silently ticking. At day’s end it will be behind, lengthening once more. If you get lost on El Camino, your shadow may not be the most reliable compass but it won’t be far off.
Reaching Fromista, I walk straight through the town, eager to remain warm Shortly after, at Palomares, the Camino splits to offer two options. Most pilgrims continue by the side of the road to Villalcazar de Sirga. I turn right and follow what I believe is the Camino of old, which is longer but basks in solitude away from the road. An old pilgrim’s bridge at Vile-Veico suggests it may be the traditional route and an unexpected bar serves me a delicious bocadillo (sandwich).