Day 16, Tardajos to Hontanos, Oct 14

We are now a party of five: Linda and I, Mats, Rob and Thomas. We are a bit worried about Rob and his Achilles tendon. We only did 10k yesterday, and he managed, slowly, but he made it. Today we plan on twenty km, and we do not want Rob to overdo it and make his tendon worse, but he is determined to try it. Twenty km will bring us to the Meseta.  Meseta means high plains.  Pilgrims have told us the Meseta is 200 kilometres of nothing. Mind-numbing nothing.  Nothing to see, nothing to do, just think.  By the time you get to the Meseta the blisters are under control, you have either succumbed to your ailments, and dropped out, or you can live with them and carry on. They say it is the Meseta where you come to know yourself. The first two hundred kilometres of The Way was to prepare your body. The Meseta’s two hundred kilometres is for your mind.

At this point, many pilgrims take the bus.
Crossing the river, just past the stone hospital church
Thomas usually walks 30-40 km per day, but he is determined to socialize more and therefore go slow, but finds it more tiring to slow his pace to match ours than to walk his usual fast pace. He tells us of pilgrims he has met on this trip and his four other walks, like the 85-year-old on her 19th Camino who told him of her childhood hiding from Nazi’s.  And the man who usually took a blind person with him and would describe everything he could see, from dangers in the path to sublime sunrises, and of the two men who took a donkey to carry their things and if lucky were able to do two km an hour.
We come across a narrow stone church all by itself along the banks of a river. There are pilgrims sitting on a bench relaxing outside. The entrance is close to the end of a side wall, and we peek in the open door. An altar is at the far end, a small kitchen along one wall that has a curtain to hide it. A long table was in the middle, and the other end had bunk beds – enough for eight pilgrims.  A loud Italian voice that we recognize booms out ‘Come in, come in. We have-a the best-a Italian coffee on the Camino, water, cookies, come in. Please-a’. It is the young Italian man who held court at dinner the other night. I will call him ‘El Grande Italiano’.  It appears that he volunteered here. I  am impressed that volunteers would walk to the place they are volunteering at.  To volunteer is striking, but to walk all the way to where you are volunteering is most impressive.  My hat goes off to El Grande Italinao.  He looked and acted as if he owned the place or at least was THE host. He was pouring coffee for Linda and at the same time pointing to a tap for filling up Thomas’s and my water bags while having two or three conversations going on with others at the same time. ‘You are-a lucky, this place she closes tomorrow, and she opens again May, or April.  This-a place she was-a peregríno hospitalia.’ We finally realized he was not a volunteer.   He had only arrived within the hour and the real host was sitting on the bench outside with a big smile of pleasure on his face, enjoying the performance alomg with El Grande Italiano’s amigos,


Amazingly, we meet tall gaunt Mat outside our destination at Hontanos. He beat us here. We  didn’t think we would see him again.  But while we had dealt with Steffen, he had kept on going like the energizer bunny. Stacey arrives too. She did a 30 km day, ‘the longest walk in my life!
I go to bed early, and while the others are out drinking vino tinto, a young oriental woman comes into the room, and putters around her top bunk which is above Linda’s bunk, next to me. The lights are out, and some people are sleeping, but she is making noise, entering and exiting the room while leaving the door open and the hallway light lighting up the room. It doesn’t bother me as I am surfing the ‘net but these actions go against Camino etiquette. I am sure some of the would-be sleepers aren’t happy. It was when I heard a soft noise like an electric hissing toy that had accidentally gone off that I really started to pay attention. Then she came around to my aisle and realized she was spraying bug killer all over the sides of her mattress and the spray was landing on Linda’s bed and wafting over to mine and Thomas’s on the other side! Even then I didn’t say anything but in hindsight, I probably should of.
Bedbugs are a scourge on the Camino. A friend of Rob’s: Dee from Aussie had shown me her bites back in Burgos. She knew right away that she was being bitten. It was two weeks ago, but she reacted badly and went to emergency where they patched her up, and she still has the welts to show. Rob, is determined to avoid them. As soon as we book into a dorm he uncovers the mattress, lifts it up and inspects the seams. ‘Look for small blood spots on the mattress and the black bugs along the seams.’ Many albergues give you a disposable pillow case and sheet to put over the mattress. Others have some sort of rubber mattress. We like those. No seams for the buggers to hide.
Time on trail: 11 hours
Weather: very hot, and sweaty, esp after 2 pm!
Distance travelled: 28k
Distance to go: 480k
Food: café con leche, watermelon, chips, apple, croissant, cookies, salad, beef stew, ice cream
Lesson learned: we are all a bit quiet and missing Steffen who would say ‘Zer are no rules except one..zer are no rules!  
Feeling: pleased to see Matt had made it this far.
Aches and pains:No new blisters!

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