We set off in the dim light of morning after an improvised breakfast at the Montamarta albergue – headlamps attached to our foreheads to alert the oncoming vehicles on the N-630 highway to our presence. Before long, we were off the roads and onto the tracks that lead past the Ermita de la Virgen de Castro. This historic hermitage stands above a valley that is sometimes filled with water. I guess that must be in the spring because I have only ever seen it dry.
Today was a beautiful day for walking – we enjoyed a refreshing breeze all day and the ferocious sun was filtered by cirrostratus clouds. A couple of hours into the day, we passed Griet- a Belgian pilgrim who had joined us for dinner yesterday evening. Unfortunately she hasn’t been enjoying the Via de la Plata. She felt uncomfortable being the only pilgrim in the albergue each night between Salamanca and Zamora. And by the time we met her she was making choices that further isolated her – she’d booked into a hotel in Montamarta and booked ahead at a hotel in Granja de la Moreruela, with a plan to catch a bus to Leon tomorrow to walk the Camino Frances. Had she known we would be at the albergue in Montamarta she might have stuck at this Camino.
She passed us again as we took a break near the ruins of the castle town of Castrotorafe. As we enjoyed our bread, cheese, sausage, and pickles, Michael spotted a well camouflaged praying mantis in the grass.
We pushed on through the villages of Fontanillas del Castro and Riego del Camino – the scenery a little less flat and monotone than yesterday. We found ourselves walking with Griet for the last few kilometres into Granja de la Moreruela. I was apprehensive about staying here, having experienced a less than warm reception the last time I was in town. But the staff in the bar were friendly enough when we arrived. They issued us with paper sheets and pillow cases, gave us the book to register ourselves as guests at the albergue, then pointed us up the road to the building with the flag. The albergue lacks a kitchen or a washing machine but it is clean and comfortable with decent showers. Not bad for €6 each.
We thought we might have the place to ourselves, but a hippy-like pilgrim arrived later in the afternoon. He has flowers attached to his walking poles, flowery shorts, a red umbrella strapped to his backpack. a colourful headband, and an athletics singlet emblazoned with the legend ITALIA. I think I’ve seen his photo. He may be a rather famous character who walks thousands of Camino miles every year and runs a mini Camino museum somewhere in Italy. His photograph is all over the place. He didn’t seem to want much conversation – but since he’s walked all the way from Zamora today, that’s not surprising. We left him with his feet in a bucket of salt water at the albergue. My feet feel tender after walking half the distance that he covered today with a pack half the size of his. I can hardly imagine how his feel.