Thursday, April 03, 2003

October 10, 2001
Hontanas- Fromista (cold morning/warm day)
22.4m/35.9km - 198.6m/329.1km

Another hard day. Just past Castrojeriz we start climbing up a ridge to a small plateau. The other side drops down on to a wide flat barren plains. We are out in the middle of the plains, following a wide dirt road, when two fighter jets coming from the north zoom low over our heads. They are flying so low I can see the pilots sitting in the cockpits of both aircraft. The scream of the jet engines as they pass over is deafening and the rumble of it resonates in my chest. As I watch them race south I wonder if they were checking to see if any terrorists were hiding among us.

It is my husband's birthday today and in Itero de la Vega I give him a call to wish him a happy one. It is good to hear his voice and when I hang up I feel homesick. After the phone call we eat lunch in the town square. All the buildings surrounding it are closed with no sign of life within. Where are all the people in these little towns?

We planned to walk only as far as Boadilla de Camino today but when we get there we find the refugio closed. After just walking 18.1m/28.9km this is very disheartening. The extra 5m/8km to Fromista seems like another 100m/160km. We rest for a bit at a water pump just at the edge of town. A stone wall and stone benches have been built around it and a large wagon size wheel set in the wall pumps the water up. After getting a drink B and I lie down on the stone benches and put our feet up on the wall. As I lay there watching the breeze gently shake the leaves in the tree branches above me I play with the idea of sleeping here tonight. It could work. The wall forms a kind of shelter and the stone benches would get us up off the ground. Today has been almost hot so tonight it should be warm enough to sleep outside. I'm tempted to suggest it to the others-anything to keep from walking anymore today. But I know my sleeping bag is not warm enough for outside use so instead, I go with the others to a bar where we order Cokes and then start walking again.

The walk to Fromista is on a gravel road that runs beside cultivated fields. Between the road and the fields is an irrigation ditch filled with reeds and line of cedar trees. A little way out of Boadilla the road climbs up an incline and following a canal. I am enjoying this extra walk. It is late in the afternoon, that time when everything seems to slow down, one of my favorite times for walking.

Since Azofra J has been bedeviled by a French girl he cannot stand. Unfortunately, she like him- I think. She and her girlfriend have decided that the cheapest way to do the walk is by having other pilgrims pay for their food and drinks. Of course they only ask the male pilgrims to do this and ignore any women. J has figured out her game and tries to avoid her whenever possible.

When we reach the outskirts of Fromista we cross the canal by walking over a lock and take a break. B and I are sitting there eating a snack and J is standing up smoking a cigarette when we hear the sound of a car horn across the canal and behind us. As I turn to see who is honking, I happen to glance at J and he has a look of both disbelief and dismay on his face. When I turn completely around I see a small car driven by a tall man and in the back passenger side window the faces of the French girls. Both have big "aren't we smart for getting a ride" smiles. I want to laugh at the look on J's face but I am just as shocked and dismayed to see them as he is. They talk to J for a couple of minutes, ignoring B and me, and then the man drives them down to the main road near the bridge that crosses over the canal and drops them off. When we see them walking toward town we hurriedly get our packs on and race for the refugio because we do not want to be put into the same room as them. We get to the refugio before them and it is so crowded that for the first time since we started we are put in different rooms. The French girls arrive so late they have a bunk that is set up in an alcove on the second floor landing. I guess we should thank them for hurrying us alone because two of us could be sleeping on the landing tonight if we hadn't rushed to get here.

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