The sunrise doesn’t have yesterday’s glow. Dark clouds are affecting my mood. Even the Camino looks dull: another gravel path next to a straight road. Every passing car reminds me how slow walking really is. What takes 20 minutes by car will take me all day on foot. I’m struggling to find a decent breakfast place. By sheer coincidence, I end up at the table of Albergue Amanecer in Villarmentero, the iconic hostel with its tipis and circus wagons. I feel like a wedding crasher among hippie-ish Camino snobs. “How long you’ve been here?” I ask an Irish pilgrim “Two weeks” the confused man answers. Good Lord, this man needs help. Divine or pharmaceutical.
I continue my journey, looking for company. Normally I respect the silence of the road, now I embrace dialogue. I’m all too happy teaming up with Andrea, the cute pilgrim from Austria, who always listens to DJ Ötzi. Together we walk into the first supermarket at Carrion de los Condes. We need to stock up for the much feared, marathon stroke to Calzadilla de la Cueza. 17 km of non-stop Camino Madness. Zero villages, zero bars, zero shade and zero mercy. The little town of Carrion de los Condes - filled with charming squares, romanesque marvels and sun kissed terraces - merits a longer stay. A missed chance but our minds are with the road ahead.
Take a good look at the pictures above. No, that’s not 6 times the same shot, but a photo taken every few miles. The landscape hardly changes. You lose every sense of time, distance and orientation. I keep staring at the horizon, desperately hoping to see a church tower popping up. The way shipwrecked pray for a sign of a rescue ship. It’s getting hot. We talk ourselves through the first 2 hours. But then we’re slowly running out of juice. Andrea is struggling with an ankle injury, reducing our pace to a near standstill. This is never ending. I’m kinda relieved when she tells me to go ahead. I quickly propel myself to maximum speed. After a few minutes, Andrea is nothing but a dot behind me. Even at 6 km/h, I can’t spot the village. Maybe after that hill? No. The next hill? Still No. The very next one? Nooooo. I soon find out why. Calzadilla de la Cueza is sitting in a pit. It just pops up out of nowhere. Not a second too early.
The only 2 hostels are right next to each other. I quickly check-in at the Albergue de Peregrinons and walk to the nearby Hostal Camino Real for better WIFI. The waitress stares at me with big eyes, like a ghost just walked in. Maybe I pushed myself a little too hard. Later Andrea joins me for dinner. Even Remi shows up. The pilgrim’s meal is simply outstanding. But hey, anything tastes great after eating so much dust.
Prepare well for 17 km of non-stop Meseta madness between Carrion de los Condes and Calzadilla de la Cueza. In summer, plan your stages well. Don’t even think of walking this part after 10 AM. Sleep at Carrion de los Condes, a really charming little town with many great romanesque sights. In May, you can walk in the afternoon. Just make sure you carry plenty of water and food. There’s not a single drinking fountain along the road.
Where to sleep in Calzadilla de la Cueza?
The 2 hostels are side-by-side at the entrance of the village. Both have popular terraces. You’re all surrounded by fields. Absolutely lovely in the evening. I reserved at Albergue de Peregrinos de Calzadilla - Calle Travesia Mayor, 2 - +34 979 883 187 - Open all year, from 12.00 to 22.00 h - 80 beds in a comfortable dorm on the first floor. 7 euro. Modern bathrooms. Cafeteria on the ground floor with outstanding tortilla. Friendly service. The Municipal is right next door, 2 euro cheaper. For supplies, there’s a little shop in the Calle Mayor.
Hostal Restaurante Camino Real offers a great pilgrim’s meal, 10 euro. Outstanding chickpea soup, salad, chicken or trout plus half a bottle of wine. Eating à la carte is much more expensive, you’re much better off with the set meal.
Next Episode: ‘Day 15 to Calzada del Coto - Half Way’