Wednesday, August 21st

Outside, on one of the Caja Ahorros Circulo Catolica green seats. A bloody awful night. First, the pissed NZ girls arriving back, late, then the stupid boyos moaning loudly about the five t-shirts they still have to wash. Five? bejaysus, some people should have been strangled at birth. Then Christian poking me at about 2.00am to complain about my snoring. He really has no idea about how close he came to be strangled on the spot.

First bar in town. A pastry and a coffee. Feeling just a tad negative, about the whole deal, about the walking, about the experience of it all, about always having to leave early to avoid the heat of the afternoons, about arriving at whatever the destination might be and suffer interminably boring afternoons, just waiting until you can move again, about not being understood, about the never-ending searching for food in tiny Spanish towns, about the other pilgrims, especially about the other pilgrims, the ones just out for the craic, about the pilgrims with something to prove, the closed-minded ones, about the fact that I'm three days into The Way of Death, and I'm nowhere near dead, just mightily pissed off.

Began walking in the dark, using the flashlight to find the markers, not that there were many to find. Through the wheat fields, as usual, 5kms to San Anton with it's ruined pilgrim hospice; to here, Castrojeriz, 3kms further on. There's a dog in the bar, an Alsatian, that the barman tells us will follow us all the way to wherever we're going, and not to worry about it, as it'll find it's own way back. In fact, it'll lead the way for the next 10kms. It's a pilgrim dog, a pelerin pooch, a peregrino perro.

Still in Castrojeriz, having another coffee and a tortilla. Not feeling quite so pissed off.

A climb. a long one, from Castrojeriz to the monument on top of the meseta. Feeling much better, actually singing zip-ee-dee-doo-dah to myself. And yes, the dog is still with us, it even began the walk with a stick in its' mouth, the doggie version of a pilgrim walking stick, I guess.

Walking with Christian, in virtual silence, not because I'm still pissed off or anything, it just feels more comfortable that way. Over the meseta. It was great. Then a rest area, where some enterprising locals have set up a stall to sell overpriced drinks to thirsty pilgrims. I had water, stuff 'em.

Then on, passing the refugio at St Nicholas. The Scottish pilgrim outside, waiting for it to open at 4, telling us that they provide dinner and breakfast for just a donation.

And over the bridge into the province of Palencia, the bridge which, apparently, has borne witness to many duels. But not now, more's the pity. The dog is still with us.
Walk on though, into Itero de la Vega. Find the refugio. Round the corner, then right. Doors unlocked already, so, I guess it's an 'installez-vous' deal. The dog obviously thinks this is home.

At the refugio. Yep, the dog is still waiting outside, although never misses an opportunity to come inside. Maybe it wants to claim a bed. I hope it goes home soon.

There's a shop around the corner, and I end up buying huge amounts of food, and coffee in saches. Then Christian orders lunch, so I join in. A salad, huge; fish with 'patatos' otherwise known as French Fries, a can of beer, and a bottle of red wine, which we end up sharing with the NZ chicks who also turned up. They hitched, and intend to hitch further. I loath them, as they take the places of the real pilgrims. And, although we passed him on the steps of the previous refugio, MacPilgrim was already here, signing his name into the Libre D'Or, he then walked on, saying he was going to Boadilla, the next refugio,
So, I'm stuffed, so much food, so much wine. When a bottle of good red is 1.50, it's hard not to be.
And, begosh and begorrah, there's a busload of Irish just arrived. They're doing a 'best bits' of the Camino tour. Mostly staying on the bus, only walking occasionally. It's easy to play spot-the-Irish, they're all white skin and sunburnt. Yet, their tour leader is having their pilgrim passports stamped. Bejaysus, I think this means they count as real pilgrims.
There's a Dutch guy here, telling me all about the extensive training he did to attempt The Way, learning techniques for walking uphill, and other techniques for walking down, and how to walk long distances. He's yet to have a 30km day, and probably won't.

And after finding an abandoned novel in English at the refugio, read quite happily for a few hours. 'Fashionably Late', it's about the fashion industry, written by the author of 'The First Wives Club'. It's trash, but whatever. I had to abandon Wuthering Heights this morning. Whoever's bagged that one got the better deal.

In the iglise, after the bells tolled at five, and like any self-respecting pilgrim, came over. I was told it was a mass, but somehow I don't think it is. The guy behind the altar isn't wearing robes, he's just making notes, the sound of which is magnified by the nearby microphone.
The retablo is Baroque and Rococo, but not that impressive. In the middle, though, under the crucifixion, is somebody that I don't recognize, but he has an abnormally large mole on his forehead. Over on the left, however, is Saint Jacques, with the scallop shell in his hat, but he's missing the staff. Maybe he gave it to a poorer peregrino. It's nice though.

The old note-taking guy has shuffled off to ring the bells once more. There's only two of us in here. I reckon it's another electronic bell, I bet he's just got his finger on the button. It's too regular to be a rope-pull thing. Maybe that's why the congregation numbers are falling. I mean, if they can't put in the effort to actually chime the 'come hither' bells, then why should anybody put in the effort to actually 'go thither' ? Self-evident really.

Woohoo! The one bar in this town has an Internet connection. I've 3 new hotmails, one including the details regarding the hotel I'm staying at in Madrid. It just keeps getting better and better.
Ended up in the pub after being invited by the Dutchman. He's a computer specialist in networking, owns his own company, and knows a hell of a lot, but was happy to leave it all behind to walk the Camino. I ended up buying both rounds of drinks, doesn't matter. Don't care, they've got the 'net.

This is amazing. The others in the refugio are still drinking and talking, I'd join them but I can't speak the combination of German and Dutch they were using. Christian hit the sack at 9:00. Lights Out is usually around 10:00, but he really cracks it with the talkers. They're taken aback, as it's still not Lights Out. Bejaysus, he walks 17kms, has lunch, then a siesta, then tea, then bed, and expects everybody else to do the same. Sorry, Christian, sometimes the Way is actually the people you meet.
What must have pissed him off further was all the noise from the Spanish kids outside, allowed to roam free 'til midnight. Certainly kept me awake.