España V – Saint Anthony’s Fire

My shoes are fried, Im fried. Ive walked in a straight line from Roncesvalles to Burgos (roughly 260km) and I still had about 40km to go to San Anton. San Anton is a place where in the past there used to be a monastery/church where they would take care of weary pilgrims that had an affliction called Saint Antony’s Fire, is also where it lends his name from, its a spot thats right before the Mesetas or table in Spanish. That in turn translates to a table mountain where water and towns are few and far between. The defensive town was (/still is) Castrojarez and San Anton the nearby monastery thats now an earth quaked to shit- church ruin. They kept the albergue part of it however and its all donation (donativo) based. Saint Anton of Padua is also the patron saint of lost things, like mentioned in earlier posts and I had bought a little pendant while staying in a monastery in France.

City Wildcamping

I woke up behind the statues and some cars passed by, some 20m away on a road that I had a nice, secluded, vantage point on. There were some people walking their dogs like they actually gave a shit but clearly just cherished their moment outside without police having an excuse to fine them. The dogs benefitted at least so that made me happy and I was just amazed by how serious every Spaniard took this whole thing. Im not saying I didn’t take it serious but damn, what I heard from the Netherlands is that theres a so called “smart lockdown” in place and there’s a reason why Spain and Italy are being ravaged the way they are. This is by no means an offense to any one country, the things that I like about the countries also make it prime targets for a disease like Covid. Being as social, outdoorsy culturally like as they are.

To me personally this whole pandemic and the lockdown is like walking the streets during riots or a flood or some other natural phenomenon that disrupts day to day life, its a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the world in a different light. This golden age is slowly coming to an end and in my mind this was never meant to last my entire lifetime. Preparations were made and were now put into action and if I can survive this far into the camino, I can manage the rest too. Having a break somewhere however is very necessary and San Anton felt like it was that place.

I went to the supermarket and there was a waiting line to outside of the store, worming along the corner and all around the block. People were yelling social things with a good 2m between them and it was nice to see their spirit wasn’t broken in that regard albeit fully on their knees in regard to the government imposed lockdown. This was the 2nd“real” city I crossed during daytime and I did not like the state of things. People that I did come across were very friendly though and I enjoyed everyone I couldn’t properly speak Spanish to but acknowledged my existence.

Brave new grocery shopping

The supermarket finally let me in and I made an nice sandwich for myself back at my tent, I noticed that Lucy had an ungodly amount of ticks on her and I continued to remove them from her. I continued walking afterwards, out of town, and onto a little bit dryer part. Still alone, still following the arrows, still enjoying the warm sun that became a burden after my last cloudy/rainy/cool day, 23 days ago. I met a nice girl on Tinder (which I use as a travel application more than anything else) and we hit it off. Her perfect English made everything very easy. My last shower (real one (/ post 1930 A.D.)) was about 20 days ago, my last laundry was also about that time ago. Still I thought it to be a good idea that, instead of asking this beautiful girl that I really got a click with for a shower before I arrived in Burgos, I decided to ask her on the day of leaving. Tinder is not for long term communication and she didn’t see the message until long after I had my breakfast and already decided to leave. Sending me a message asking if I was still around and that yea, of course it was no problem! HMMM SURE! Too bad I’d already walked 20km out of the city by the time I read the message, timing is everything and boy did I time this wrong.

I arrived in a little town and decided to put my tent up when Allison messaged me back saying it was no problem for me ! OF COURSE! Gentle men always finish last.. Too late, too far, 25km to go to San Anton and hopefully, my salvation. Even though it was a gamble. Very few good samaritans like the ones Ive encountered in France, Grañon didn’t pay off and the road became longer and longer and just a little bit further and longer. Still I kept my hopes up for San Anton. Dogs were barking in the distance the entire night but the next day was sunny and bright. I helped a lady put away her trash and the pilgrim code doesn’t permit me to not help. A brief friendly talk was all I needed to take my mind of the hurt and to push on. A nice and inspiring mural with talk of dreams. Inflammation bothering my every step.

Nice random mural in a sandy town

A rest here and there, a dusty town full of noone but a little shop supplying me with the absolute bare necessities. I sat in front of the main church and a woman walked by, apparently feeling my struggles and I made my best effort to be friendly. She scurried down the street and all of a sudden I hear music playing from a few blocks over, drowning the silence of the sandy town with mariachi and folklore music. The woman passes by again and this time takes a moment to stand still and point towards the music. I raise my thumb to her in understanding, grateful for the moment of respite and fresh mariachi tunes. I walk around the church a little bit and since there’s an uplifting soundtrack playing to my life right now, I might as well enjoy it with a coffee. Only 15km left to San Anton so why the hell not. As Im finishing up my 2nd, I walk over to my solar panel hanging out in the sun, a Guardia Civil car showed up. We had the all too familiar song and dance about my travels to a backdrop of beautiful Spanish guitar music and since they were doing their best to be as unfriendly as possible, I did not try either and stuck to my path. Packing my bag while they asked me questions..Passport? Of course..handing it over… a big struggle not to touch it with their bare hands while they tried to take a picture and run it through the scanner. All good.. Packed to go… 3 times we will stop you and then we will arrest you. A faint smile from my side with a “well shit, then what” in Dutch.. And we parted ways.

Normally theres a caravan of people on this sandy path

A beautiful sunset where I took a small break near a water pump that I had to fill myself to create water pressure. A small dusty town in the dark filled with nothing but water fountains and just when I wondered where this fucking broken down church would finally appear, it appeared. Looming and dark against a moonlit sky, only vaguely what I remember it being last time from the outside. I went through the side path and found the giant Tau bearing gates to be closed. Despair entered my mind but after a closer look I found the lock on it being modern and new however.

Never try a task thats crucial when you’re tired. I put my tent up in front of the gate. Going to try find entry tomorrow.

I woke up the next day absolutely shot still, piling on 30km after 30km day with no rest day really took its toll on me and Lucy, Lucy was enjoying the warmth however and was just fast asleep everywhere she could follow me. Lets try the door if its really as locked as it seems to be and what do you know – it wasn’t. 2 quick rakes and a minor pick switch was all it needed and the heavy gates creaked open.

A big courtyard thats now filled with green grasses and plants and pots, actual grass growed everywhere, about 50 pidgeons watching my every step. The actual hostel doors were still locked but I didn’t see why they would be hard to open, They were though! Holy shit. Spent an hour and a half raking and picking the other doors but I couldn’t get them to work, luckily there was a big ol’ water vat on the side of the building where I could at least get a little hydrated and get me through the day either way. Still, if I didn’t get this to work I would have to walk another 5km to Castrojarez and after that its the dreaded Mesetas, where pilgrims lose their mind – a place often skipped entirely by even the most resilient. I still enjoyed the little courtyard and noticed there was a paper hanging off the door with a telephone number on it. I sent the number a WhatsApp message and the next thing I know Im talking to some Italian lady, who normally runs the place there but obviously wasn’t there right now. She told me that she was home in Italy due to Covid and I told her I had a dream about San Anton and that I wanted to become a hospitalliero there. She asked me how I got her telephone number and I told her the door was open in the morning. She only 20% believed me but it wasn’t like I forced or broke anything.. She said she would contact me later on and that she was busy now.

I did a little exploring around and was able to enter a clocktower that was previously unaccessible. There was also a big watervat but I couldnt find the valve responsible for the water to the part of the building I was able to access.

I went back to my tent and decided to keep a rest day here either way, I was running a little low on water but the water tank should be able to last me at least the day and I just needed to rest.

Picture of San Anton from the previously inaccessible clocktower

As Im doing a small handwash of my socks and underwear and sitting on a bench that I positioned next to my tent, I heard a car in the distance rolling up the little path next to the church. This could only mean one thing but it was already too late to do anything about it and I just set there acceptive of my fate. Guardia Civil rolled up and of course started to talk to me. It was the same song and dance that Im already used to but these 2 were pretty forceful. I told them the door was already open and that I had no clue. 

Right at that moment a nice lady walks by walking her dog (coincidentally the same breed as Lucy) the police wouldn’t let up and they began talking to her as well. To me the whole timing was a little bit too off but its whatever at this point. Today was Sunday but still they found it the right idea to give me the number of the Dutch embassy saying that I should give them a call, so I did. No answer of course but there was a contact center for emergencies that I tried, to my surprise they actually picked up the phone on a Sunday and I asked them for the procedure of getting back home. EVEN though there was no chance in hell I was going back home, The guy on the other side of the line told me that I could fill out a form for the Dutch foreign department and I would get called within 3 days by the “emergency coordinators”, I asked them about the dog and they said that the emergency coordinators would answer that question, he also mentioned to me that if the emergency service said to contact them again, I shouldn’t accept that answer. With my callcenter experience, I knew what this meant – it was a mess and I couldn’t help but verify this. The dude on the line laughed and said yea, its a bit of a mess haha. Well no shit, the world in pandemic mode. 

The lady and the cops were having long conversations and I told them about what they said on the phone and what the plan was, that I had to wait for 3 days. The lady said that she had a little house/shed thingy where I could stay and that I could even take a shower at their house! Me, her and the police walked down the sandy path and social distancing wasnt practiced by any means as the nice lady was blowing her nose while one of the cops walked directly besides her and the whole thing was just a bit ridiculous. After about 50m we came to, what looked like, a ruined house of which the wooden door had a shabby lock on it for which she needed a key but I could see a small wooden toolshed sort of house through the cracks. Police and me walked back to their car and my tent and they gave me a bottle of water that had been drunk from but whatever, even though Im fried, Im also in top physical condition and Im pretty sure I could survive some coughing virus from China, just the whole ridiculousness and not following of the common sense guidelines by people in authority was just funny to me. 

Police left after taking a picture of my passport and the nice lady introduced herself as Ana, she said she would go get the key and that I could just wait there for her. I thanked everyone and went to sit back down on the bench.

After about an hour where I had my serious doubts if I should just leave and make a run for the Mesetas or if I should just sit tight. I chose the latter and the nice lady returned with her husband, named Salva, a handful of blankets, a bag full of food and water and holy crap, so nice.. Just when you think there’s no good samaritans anymore, there’s these 2 angels out of nowhere.

She opened the door and the little house wasn’t as shabby as I initially thought. Small, sure. But it had a bed, a little kitchen area, a little sitting area and wow. This was actually better than I expected. The door led to what used to be a house but was now a courtyard and with all the resources there, I should be able to stay there a little bit. I thanked them for everything and they said they were going to Burgos tomorrow to go to the supermarket, and that if I needed anything – I should just say so. Also laundry and showers shouldn’t be a problem and I needed just ask.




I texted the Italian lady from the Whatsapp message earlier and she said that she had sent Ana there and that they were good friends. What a blessing this was. San Anton did indeed save my hide as I really needed the rest. This was all pure luxury to me and I could nicely do some writing/resting here.