Day 16 – 2nd October 2015, Belorado to Villafranca de Montes de Oca.
I had a lovely, warm and snuggly sleep in my room in the Pension El Caminante. It is definitely worth treating yourself to staying in a Pension, Hostal (like a B&B) or private room in an albergue once in a while to get away from the snorers from hell or the pilgrims with a total lack of head torch etiquette! The prices still work out cheaper than B&Bs or even some youth hostel prices in the UK and it will work out even cheaper if you share with another person.
I suppose I had better get the nerdy bit over and done with. Belorado is 540.7km or 336 miles from Santiago. This means I have walked about 235.5 km from St. Jean Pied de Port, approximately 146 miles. Today, I decided to slow things right down and do a short bimble from Belorado to Villafranca de Montes de Oca of 12 km. My logic told me it might be better to do a short ramble today and conserve energy for tomorrow, when I would need to get up and down three rather large looking hills (in the Camino guidebook)! I still got up in the dark though and click clacked my way out of town, only to get lost because I had missed an arrow. All of a sudden, I could hear someone running down the cobbled street behind me calling out “You go wrong way, you go wrong way, come I show you”, it was Tias, from Singapore. Bless him! How kind of him to help me get back on the right trail. Tias was becoming my lucky omen. He had already signalled good accommodation options twice before and now he prevented me from getting lost.
It was a quiet and beautiful morning. For a short while, in the early morning light, I fell into step with Margo, from Holland. I was amazed to learn she had walked and cycled all the way down from Holland and France and was now doing a 40 day trek along the Camino. What a trip! Margo loved to travel and now that her children had all grown up and she was her own boss (she runs a language school), she liked to spend a few months a year travelling and also spending time renovating her house in Burgundy. We talked about how the Camino enables us to be free from many of the trappings of our modern world and so called “pressures”. For example pilgrims carry all they need for the journey in their packs. It is a reminder that we do not need a lot of stuff to live on. Margo explained that at home she lives a frugal life as she doesn’t need much to live on, which is why she can afford to go on adventurous trips.
I reflected on the time I spent in South Sudan, living in a one person tent as part of a mobile emergency relief team in northern Bahr el Ghazal at the height of the conflict. There, we had to carry our camping equipment and a trunk of food in with us on the plane to last us for a good 8 weeks or so. For two years I managed with a medium sized rucksack containing my clothes and toiletries, a small day sack, my short wave radio, my walkman and my guitar. I was content. I did not need anything else and I got used to a minimal way of life. However, when I returned to the UK, it was easy for me to get sucked into a way of life that revolved round working to earn, to pay for a flat with a mortgage and then buy stuff! Not that I am a hoarder or a person who lives extravagantly. This conversation with Margo made me realise the importance of returning to the simplicity of life. I am looking forward to simplifying and decluttering my life when I get home.
My Camino walk took me through the little village of Tosantos and onwards to Villambistia, where I followed a roundabout route to the local albergue for breakfast, a very pleasant stop. After that I passed by Espinosa. A little further on I spotted Ryan and Roisin, who told me they were going to stop for the night in Villafranca de Montes de Oca so we wandered into the pretty town together. We were lucky and booked in to a dorm with proper beds, not bunks, in a lovely albergue at the back of the Hotel San Anton Abad, that had the same name. The dorm was laid out in the style of mini bedrooms as each bed was separated by a divider and the space contained a cupboard for the rucksacks and a pretty picture on the wall.
After settling in I met up with Alan and we had a pootle around the town and enjoyed a coffee. Unfortunately, yet another church was closed, so our tour around the town didn’t take long. Roisin and I spent a little bit of time admiring the garden of the hotel. The Camino made me slow right down long enough to smell the roses!
Later on, we all enjoyed a pilgrim meal in the restaurant, but the tables were set out individually and not in a communal style, as in some of the other places I had stayed. The atmosphere was slightly more formal as a result, not that it deterred us from having a good time and laughing a lot!
Peace, love and light,