|This small chapel marks the beginning of the Meseta|
|As far as the eye can see........|
|Convento de San Anton|
|Woman and her dog|
"How is your dog enjoying the walk?"
"At day's end, she is like me. She's shattered."
"Are you allowed to stay in Refugios along the way?"
"Not always. I've had to sleep out in the countryside from time to time."
I plan to walk 32 kilometres today and so will start my journey at 6.00 a.m. so as to avoid the mid-day sun. I am trying to buck the trend made famous by Noel Coward and his song: "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun" Trouble is that the Refugio where I have been staying is under lockdown until 6.30 a.m, so I am late starting. I will have a light breakfast after walking my first 10 kilometers.
I come to the unprepossessing town of Tardajos and at a junction in the road, just before the beginning of the Meseta, there is a large stone fountain for pilgrims to refill water bottles. A couple of Italian men are pressing on the brass button to start the flow of water but with no result. Jokingly, I go up to them, issue a blessing in my best Latin: "Introibo ad altare dei; ad deum qui letificat, juventutum meam," take a step forward and tap the fountain with my walking stick. To my surprise and theirs, the water starts to flow. My secret is that I had inadvertently trod on a small disc-shaped foot release peddle embedded in the concrete. That, in conjunction with the brass button, enabled the water to flow. "Laus tibi Christi!"
Once on the flat plains of the Meseta there is nobody around and I need to change the photo card on my camera. There seems to be data on the new card and, on closer examination, it is of my girlfriend, Patricia, playing piano and singing "Danny Boy" at a concert in Cleveland. It is a slow and pensive version of this song and, in combination with the solitude of the wide open plains, brings me to tears. Patricia, I know you are travelling with me.
Walking alone allows me to go to that place of great joy and gratitude for all the things that I have in my life. Despite the extreme heat, my walk is brilliantly meditative and I feel euphorically lucky to be alive.
I haven´t entirely avoided walking in the mid-day sun and arrive in Hontanas at 2.30 p.m. I join Alan, Sophie and a group of Irish people for dinner and drinks. They don;t like to stay in Refugios but prefer the comfort and privacy of hotels.
|The dormitory accommodation of most Refugios. Lower bunks are much in demand|