The boys were grilling in El Fuero and I was slower than a medical supply shipment from China and I could smell the charcoal all the way down the street. As Im dropping off my bag inside, I insist on getting some tobacco from down the village first and would return later.
On my way I see a small senora, very nicely dressed, asking if Im a pilgrim and I said yea. She looked very official and I didn’t nearly speak enough Spanish to accommodate her questions. Just smile and nod, smile and nod.
As Im buying the tobacco and returning to El Fuero, I hear a voice behind me coming from the first proper chica I had seen in weeks. “Français/English?” “Yea English is fine, I reply”. She introduced herself as María and she worked for the local TV station CYL1 and they were doing an interview about the camino and Castrojarez in particular. “Could she do an interview with me?” Well, shit, SURE!
I told her where I had my bag at El Fuero and requested them to meet me there, I watched the interview for a sec with the mayor and yea, cool. Weird curveball is weird. I was smoking a cigaret in front of El Fuero and it didn’t take long for them to come find me. Asking me if it’s possible that I took my bag to the beginning of town and if they could interview me there. I can’t say María her charm didn’t persuade me into going along with it and they offered to take my bag while I walked there.
At the beginning of town María interviewed me in full pilgrim gear, which was also the first time I actually wore my entire attire again after almost 3 weeks, so I was as much of a blessing to them as they were to me. The interview was short and concise with afterwards me walking back home with the cameraman trailing me and taking shots for the segment. Ending before El Fuero where he wanted me to walk in but I asked him if he’s out of his mind and he took a shot of me giving Lucy some water was shot instead. I exchanged telephone numbers with María and before we could take a proper goodbye, Guardia Civil rolled in and asked us what the hell we’re doing there. I had already met this particular law enforcer dude some 5 times over the last couple of weeks and his password was – Im going to the supermercado (“Voy al supermercado”). This was the first time he saw me wearing my full attire, backpack and all though and I could see his eyes playfully not believing a word I said, María and José drove off followed by the Guardia Civil and I pretended to walk towards the supermercado but looped back to El Fuero, high-fiving Santiago for spinning some yarn to the police and not incriminating El Fuero for granting me access during the lockdown.
I had a coffee on the balcony overlooking Castrojarez and the surrounding landscape, taking everything in one last golden hour. We did the normal thing of chatting a bit and playing some guitar. Very nice atmosphere and at sunset, I decided this was the optimal time to go. Tiziano had recommended a camp spot about 10km away already good and well on the Mesetas, with a bag full of homemade bread, I said goodbye to them, promising I would most likely be back after the lockdown opened up and I had arrived in Santiago, maybe even working for them when they did.
I found the campspot easy enough although the climb there was a bit of a hassle, on one hand it felt good to walk again but on the other hand it was a little bit of getting used to again, Ive been through this before though and I was going to take it slow on the first day and then just work my way up to my normal rhythm of 20-30km per day.
My first stop was a place called Itero de la Vega where I found the campspot Tiziano recommended, it was a bit of a shitty spot with a lot of bugs and high grass so the ticks were feasting on Lucy again the next day. NOTHING Im NOT used to by now however.
The next day I walked towards Fromista where there was a nice drunk Spaniard coughing on me. Always nice, ticks were still prevalent and after setting up camp next to a hermitage near Pabloción de Campos I again spent a good hour or so cleaning Lucy up. Yea I should really find a new flea collar soon, this was absolute shit and very demoralizing as well. Knowing that she’s being eaten alive and there was a meticulous search of her person after a long day of hiking everyday.
Beautiful sunset out of Fromista
The next day I walked into the sandy little pueblo and somebody yelled ¡Eeeyyyy Hollandaise! At me from a car while driving by and I took that to mean that they had already broadcasted the segment they did with me. A quick search on the website of Castille y Léon Uno and yea sure. There I was, eyes rolling on the YouTube still, fucking weird, but also very cool. They butchered the interview a little with here and there stuff not making it into the final interview, but I think I got across the happy-go-luck-yourself I was walking around with.
I had sent it to everyone and their grandmother and a lot of progress in terms of walking was not made, it was fine however. This was a real cool thing and I basked in the glory of it. Luuk, a friend of mine’s father works at the regional news station from my hometown Groningen (RTV Noord) and Luuk asked me if he could pass along my telephone number, so his father can recommend it to the editors as a possible story, seeing Im very much a striking the iron while its hot kinda guy, I accepted gratefully of course.
I found myself walking on a cloud towards the next biggerish village called Carrión de los Condes, hoping that I would find a store thats open that also sells some flea collars for poor little, casual tick herder, Lucy. I found a nice church in the middle of the town with a walled off garden. I tried lock picking the door like a gentleman at first but couldn’t get it to open, so I just scaled the wall like a hobo. It was a nice and secluded space with the grass nicely cut.
Pilgrim statue wearing a mask in Carrion de Los Condes
Sure enough, the next day it was a public holiday, of which Spain has many where the stores just don’t open and everything feels like a Sunday, or maybe it was a Sunday, I mean who’s keeping score at this point, every day and town is as deserted as a Sunday and this town didn’t feel any different from other towns I crossed. Everyday is a walking day and the Mesetas was pretty gentle with me so far.
I found a little shop that was open but didn’t have much in the way of food, the lady from the shop still recognized me from TV though and this goddamn celebrity thing was almost going to my head. Until at the end of the village I took a little rest and then I got a call from RTV Noord. If they can do a radio interview with me about my experiences so far, innnn abouuuuut 20min. The butterflies in my stomach went from 0 to 60 but I remembered someone once told me that if you’re not nervous, you also dont care and I tried to point my nerves in the right direction.
The interview was fun and the radio program was hosted by my parents neighbor (unbeknownst to me at the time). Me, a little bit nervous, tried to answer the guy’s questions about the road so far. I told him about the applause from the balcony’s in Burgos and how the people treated me. I sleep in a tent, out in nature, mostly social distancing myself anyway.. “Scared?” “For?” “DA COVIDS” of course. I wanted to tell the good man about the collection of ticks I scooped up from my dog, or the scourging heat or the lack of food on several days, or the hide and go seek I played with police for the last 500km and that some *cough*virus from China currently takes up #5 on the priority list.. Its whatever. It was over before I could even say hi to all the people back home but it was good nonetheless and Bless Luuk and his father for the opportunity to be eternalized in the annals of Groningen radio! HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF by Duran Duran on the way out which ties a nice bow around the entire thing because I share a group chat with Luuk named…wait for it…The Wolfpack. Yes totally stolen from the Hangover in case you were wondering.
At the end of the day a radio guy contacted me if I could send them some photos, I asked them if I could also post my website alongside the news article for their website and they said yea sure. SO that made me very happy at least.
(read or translate and read the full article here)
The towns from here on out were dusty and sandy, not much in the way of business especially in the Covid season and I arrived in the dustiest of towns so far called Ledigos, arriving there well after darkness and this seemed to have become my rhythm once again with my body getting into gear only after 1700h. ‘tWas too hot during the day anyway. The next day in Ledigos I tried to open the church and I actually got in fairly easily, old locks that have been used a lot proved the easiest and I lit a couple of candles while reading a couple of pages from the Bible. I wrote “¡Hola!” on a blackboard in some dusty room of the dusty church and dusted off the dust from my boots as I set out for Sahagún, a reasonably bigger town again. The people on the way weren’t very nice but I couldn’t blame them. A thunderstorm in the distance passed by. I didn’t quite make it to Sahagún, no food the entire day although I also didn’t feel hungry. My body was able to switch to reserves easily and I stocked up on those in Castrojarez.
Sahagún was but a stones throw away from where I slept and the next day when I arrived I found the nearest shop, too bad they didn’t sell any flea collars but another shop was opening at 1700h., rain was also on the program and because my feet were properly killing me once again it was maybe better to take a little rest here. I also ate so much when I finally did arrive that I was unable to walk at all, and then rain, and yea.. fuckit. RESTDAY.
At the end of Sahagún I found a nice soccer field / pool / sports complex and the cutest of willow trees where I was able to pitch my tent, tomorrow was a Sunday and the weather didn’t look too good even though it turned out great when I did wake up the next day. I bummed around all day, eating some of the food I still had left and on monday I was woken up by the friendly neighborhood Guardia Civil. 4 of em at once? Sure, its not like Im not used to crowds at this point..(what?)
A little more sure of myself this time around and a little better versed in Spanish that I was before Castrojarez. I was able to talk them into not giving a fuck, the guy who was there to do the gardening and his team (who probably called the cops in the first place) onlooking from a distance. Police went away after the usual song and dance and I got to walk out of the gate instead of climbing the fence, “adios muchacho-ing” my way past the gardening team.
Some nice policia local walked by as Im raping an empanada in a little park and handed me 2 facemasks in my favorite color and damn, does your boi look apocalypslick..
Someone from the radio contacted me in the evening, someone had contacted them saying that he also did a pilgrimage and that he now owned a house in the final province of Galicia and that I was free to join him there if I wanted to.. Amazing. But I was fully planning on finishing this camino before I was going into hiding somewhere. His name is Imre and he heard/read about me on the news and contacted the editors. New possibilities were on the horizon.
Tiziano had recommended the same place that long-since-gone-Italian-pilgrim-in-France (Francesco) recommended, a place called Casa de los Dioces, a place of magic and spirituality in front of Astorga. Cant wait to arrive there and see whatsup, I had read a news article in Spanish about it and apparently there’s some people holed up there, some violent incidents, trouble with police holding them there..sounds like a place for me. Might be nice to just chill for a bit, seeing how many times it got recommended to me, Im pretty sure Im supposed to visit..
So on my way I went.