Day 2 – Carrión to Ledigos (24 km)
3/2 – diary Around six in the morning I was ready to leave Santa Clara and Carrión de los Condes but today the distance to the nearest town was an unusual 17.5 km and there was neither food nor water available on the way. As shops had been closed the previous day and I could not stock up provisions, I needed to find breakfast before hitting the road. What I finally found at this early hour consisted of one toast with molten cheese, two extremely small muffins, almost the size of Coffee pods used today in percolating machines, one minute glass of orange juice, the smallest I had ever seen and not dissimilar to tot measures, and one cup of coffee. This meagre breakfast cost €5.00 – no comparison to the price of the sumptuous plate del dia I had in Frómista.
Finally I was on my way and joined an Italian pilgrim while it was still pitch dark. At a large intersection with a huge traffic circle at the outskirts of Carrión, a small way marker pointed straight ahead, indicating the direction to our next destination. We were on our way, walking and talking, until we became concerned, worried and suspicious. We finally realized that we were the only pilgrims around and that we were likely on the wrong track. After some deliberation and contemplating alternate routes that would lead us to the Camino somewhere ahead, we eventually retraced our steps. It turned out that in the darkness we had missed a large sign on the opposite side of the circle which clearly showed our way and this deviation added a good two to three kilometres to the day’s distance. The Italian was a young and energetic journalist from Parma. He had walked from St Jean Pied de Port on the French side of the Pyrenees to Burgos, returned to St Jean and repeated the first stretch. He was now continuing to Santiago and was scheduled to meet his parents when reaching León. His employer was not pleased with his impending absence for all these weeks and had fired him. The Italian, (I forgot his name), mentioned that in any case he had been quite unhappy with his job as he had to write about people and events he passionately disliked and would never want to associate with. He had always felt restricted in his profession and had no concern losing his job. The pilgrimage was more important to him than a secure but boring career. He was also a passionate cook and this made him contemplate writing a book about Parma ham, adding recipes he had previously tried. I hope his dreams have come true.
S / Day 2/2 The 17.5 km to Calzadilla de la Cueza today led through an endless landscape of harvested cornfields and this flat countryside is probably the most monotonous stretch of the total Camino. In the four hours or so that it took me to reach Calzadilla I had enough time to experiment and improve my walking skills. I found that a speed of around five kilometres per hour in this rather flat region was just right for me. This was slightly faster than the pace of most other pilgrims, probably due to my longer legs, or because I was still fresh on my second day.
This was the first time in my life that I used Nordic walking sticks. They were a joy and provided great assistance. I will never attempt a long-distance walk without them. They can be applied and manoeuvred in so many different ways. For instance, with arms almost fully stretched out at around an angle of 45 degrees to the body and pumping in a rather purposeful and vigorous trajectory, or, when trudging along rather unenthusiastically, with sticks dragging in the sand, leaving lines of evidence but not adding to the task at hand. One can also walk with elbows slightly angled. When pumping the arms up and down in a short arc, it aids the legs in the most effective way, especially when walking uphill. This last position can be varied by spreading one’s legs ever so slightly apart, arching the hips a little forwards and back in the process and swinging the shoulders in the opposite direction to hips. I call this the bold walk. Apart from efficiency, this style also generates joy and displays flair. Some say that Nordic sticks add a good 15% efficiency to walking, nothing to sneeze about.
If one really feels good and on top of the world, one can add a fancy display by swinging the left stick outward in a circle, similar to the way in which a marching band leader would handle his baton. This is more for show or entertainment, expressing a joyful mood rather than being a practical exercise. It probably displays one’s elation or, at other times, it might prevent the onset of monotony. Another way of walking is to swing arms forward and angle the elbow quite sharply on the return stroke; this livens up body movement, but does not add much to leg functions.
S – day 2 / 3 The flies on the way were a pest, constantly buzzing around the head but not really settling on the skin where one might swat them. Without my wearing sunglasses the occasional one would fly into my eyes; with me wearing sunglasses they crept up on the inside of the frame, tickling and irritating the skin. I finally moved the glasses further forward, allowing the flies to fly or creep in and out between frame and cheeks and when running over the inside of the lenses they appeared like monsters in my vision. Not that this mattered: on these long stretches any distraction is welcome.
I would say that for a great part of the distance to Santiago one only looks as far ahead as the rim of one’s hat with the head tilted forward allows, even when the landscape is awesome. For me in this pose, and with the large size of my rim, the eyesight extends only for about 10, at the most 20 metres ahead. Side vision, especially when one is tired, is seldom made use of, especially in this dreary countryside.
Finally, at 12 noon, after many exasperations to reach Calzadilla de la Cueza, the village suddenly appeared just around a hill. It was the place I had earmarked for an overnight stay but with the albergue only opening at two in the afternoon, I took off my shoes and socks to relax and air my feet, bought a tortilla wedge and a Fanta Orange and rested for a while before continuing to Ledigos. This meant that the total distance for the day, including the deviation this morning, was around 26 km. I still felt energetic and mentally strong on arrival, but my calves and thighs complained. I booked into the albergue with its three rooms as the first visitor for the day. My room had eighteen beds and the others looked similar. By the way, there is no segregation between genders in albergues; all facilities, including ablution facilities, are shared.
It appears most pilgrims are dedicated and demand a lot of themselves. Of the few I had met in the last two days, all had crossed the Pyrenees and there were several who had been walking extremely long distances – from as far as central Europe.
I met a German who was probably 60 years of age and had walked from the vicinity of Salzburg for the past 76 days. Another German, Horst Hill, had walked from Frankenthal near Mannheim in Germany for a period of nearly three months and was looking forward to his arrival in Santiago. He then planned to continue the journey to Finisterre, 87 km further west on the Atlantic Ocean, and from there back again to Santiago. By the time of his return, he would have walked for well over four months, what dedication! In comparison I was a casual tourist intending to do less than 500 km in about three weeks.
S day 2 / 4 Later in the afternoon I took a stroll through Ledigos. The 13th century church on top of the hill was closed and I continued exploring the village, which essentially had been an age-old farming settlement. In early days farmers and other likeminded people formed communities and villages to protect themselves from bandits and other undesirables and the fields they farmed spread into the surrounding countryside for as far as they could work them.
Most farming complexes in Ledigos consisted of a perimeter wall with animal pens, tool sheds and living quarters forming part of it. Almost all of these old places are now crumbling and deserted. They were built with solid blocks of sun-baked clay and straw mix. Windows, if still in place, were tiny and the wooden doors were low and crooked. Many thatched roofs had caved in, with old support poles pointing skywards, and the walls were leaning in all directions. Less than a handful of farms are still operational and have been extended and modernized to accommodate today’s equipment.
Some clay buildings have been replaced with relatively new houses, now standing next to these ancient skeletons. Their owners, no doubt, work in larger towns nearby. I estimate the population of Ledigos to be no more than eighty people.
My computer skills were still very rudimentary at that time and my attempts to send an email home were not successful. I was not sure that my first email, sent from the train station in Madrid, had reached home; I heard later that it had not – the computer time had lapsed as I hit ‘send’. In Ledigos I could not log into my website, and the screen layout was totally unfamiliar, confusing and written in Spanish; even the albergue owner’s daughter was unable to assist me and I decided to try again another time.
The albergue had a bar and a small storeroom acting as a shop with very few goods. I bought some cheese, half a baguette and bananas for the next day when my destination was Sahagún – a sixteen kilometre walk away. I intended to be there around ten to see all there was to see before the obligatory Siesta at 13:00 when all doors close. I had then planned to walk a further 10.5 or 18 km to the next albergue.