The refuge at “Castrojeriz”
Route segment: 15
Wednesday 11th October 2000
It is raining this morning. This is going to be one of the worst days on the whole Camino de Santiago for me. Normally I detest the combination of cold wind and rain so I don’t enjoy being out in it with just shorts to protect my legs. Eventually my legs are a bright red colour just trying to keep warm. It also doesn’t take long before I feel water sloshing around in both my boots.
The walk today is through particularly desolate territory as the fields that would normally be full of wheat are bare. The path here is based on a clay soil and it doesn’t take too long before my boots have an extra kilo or two of mud attached to them.
I try to remove it but after a few steps, there is more of it again so it’s a waste of time trying to get rid of it. For some reason there are a large number of stone monuments here. Presumably walkers in the past have tried to relieve the monotony of the walk by piling up the stones every few meters or so.
The rain is horizontal now and being driven into my face and I cannot see through my glasses. Although it is dark, the
photosensitive tint on them has darkened as if it was bright sunlight, very strange. I take them off and put them in a pocket.
Now I can see better.
Today would have been an ideal test for the poncho but I am sure it is better off with “Simone”. I plod on and eventually come to a crossroads. There is a sign for a refuge that also offers food and drink. I decide to stop there to
get out of the rain.
Inside there is a German couple and the keeper of the refuge. He is not a happy man and the welcome is not warm. I ask for some coffee and it is poured out of a flask into a plastic cup. It is not very good but it is hot and warm and what I need right then. I also decide to change my socks, which are soaking wet and also put on a denim shirt for more warmth.
After I warm up a little, there is no heating in the refuge, I decide to move on as no one else seems to have noticed the sign
and the French girls were just behind me. It is not raining but it does not take long to start again and now I have two sets of
wet socks. Eventually the path winds down to the village of “Hontanas“.
The place does not look very welcoming but there is a bar on the right and I decide to check it out to see if there is anyone I know there. To my delight, Thierry, Margaux and Ophelia are there along with the German couple and they are about to have lunch. They ask me if I want to join them and of course I say yes.
But joy of joys there is a blazing log fire and it’s just what I needed at that moment. We eventually spend 4 hours there getting warm and dry and everyone is reluctant to leave. But it is getting late and there is another 9 Km to go before we get to “Castrojeriz“. It has finally stopped raining and the sun is shining. The darkest times always seem to last for ever but they do eventually end. It is a valuable lesson.
The road now passes through countryside that is just like the county of “Fife” in Scotland and I again have the strange
feeling that I am no longer in Spain. But the girls are just behind me and the feeling evaporates as soon as I hear them singing. Margaux likes to sing and at one point the tune sounds like something from the Beatles. She is a bit off-key though.
Eventually we spot “Castrojeriz” in the distance and it takes another hour or two before we get there. Distances in this part of Spain are deceptive and what looks close by can actually be a long distance away. Margaux makes some comment to that effect in French.
“Castrojeriz” is a very long narrow town and it seems to take ages to find the refuge. We see a sign “Pan” on the left and the girls decide that they want to get some food for tonight and tomorrow. We follow the sign and find a small “Panaderia” which, typically sells a lot more than bread. The refuge is only a few more minutes ahead and we soon reach it.
There is an older couple running it and neither speaks any English but they have made lots of pictograms and describe all the features and rules of the refuge by pointing them out.
The beds in this place are very strange. They have been made out of metal and are tiled. They are certainly very solid and
there will be no problems with shaking tonight. Thierry is there and we go out to try and find a meal somewhere. But all we can get is “bocadillos” and we make do with that. We go back to the refuge and eat some of the food we bought earlier.
Thierry and Margaux seem to be getting a bit close and ever sensitive to that sort of thing, I leave them alone and go and chat to Ophelia. She seems to know what is going on and finds it a bit amusing. Of the two of them I find Margaux the more attractive but Ophelia has more character and I prefer her. We struggle to chat for a long time about the different types of law she can study at university in later years.
Ophelia thinks her English is not particularly good but I can understand her no problem. I have noticed this with the French. They pronounce the words very well but seem to have difficulty finding the right words to say. She makes some comment about the fact that she is now finding herself thinking in Spanish what she wants to say in English, which must be doubly confusing for her.