I keep waiting for the dreaded boring nature and emptiness of the meseta, but I have not experienced it. After our third day in this middle section (about 13 miles today) we are really enjoying the walk. Getting up early and walking in the dark has been a great pleasure. I have never seen the stars so bright. (Did you know that miles go faster in the dark?) I am also shocked that we haven’t found this area to be flat. There are lots of rolling hills – and today outside of Castrojeriz we climbed up at 12% grade (18% coming down the other side). While I never understand this measurement, I can tell you that it is steep.
The meseta may be fairly empty of towns, but it is a rich agricultural area – kind of the “breadbasket” of Spain with all its grain. It is interesting to look ahead and see mile after mile stretch way out before us. We might see a church bell tower in a town but not arrive there for another 5 miles. It feels vast but not imposing.
Another thing we have seen is lots of wind turbines. They are everywhere we have been, but are especially prevalent in the meseta. Perhaps that is because the wind is so frequent here. By finishing up each day before late afternoon, it seems like we have avoided much of the wind – but it is stiff and cold in the afternoon today. I do think about this method of power generation, and wonder if we could do more of it in the United States. While dozens of wind turbines are not the most beautiful sight, it just seems such a clean and sensible way of creating the power we need.
In fact, as I think about it, it seems like as a rule there is more attention to conservation here in Spain than I see in the United States. Bathroom lights that shut off and on depending on the presence of someone in the room. (Admittedly, I have been in the dark in more than one bathroom.) Showers that will only run for a certain period before cutting off. Limited use of paper and ice in restaurants. Far more reusable cups and plates, even in the fastest of the food places. I’m not sure Europeans are more enlightened, perhaps they have just had to face the reality of limitations more readily than Americans.
We ended today at a wonderful albergue in Boadilla and shared a lunch table with four young men. They all started this journey on their own and are now walking together. I don’t know many details, but each had an interesting story. One was French, and as a vegetarian he was finding it challenging on the Camino. One was Italian, and he will be veering off the Camino Frances to connect with the Camino Primitivo, a more mountainous route to Santiago through northern Spain. One was from the Czech Republic, started in Finland, and has been walking for many months carrying the ashes of someone he loves. At the end of his journey he will cast the ashes into the ocean. I am not sure where the fourth young man was from – all I know is that he just finished a hot shower (this is what Camino conversation is like). What I appreciated about the conversation was the easy camaraderie that these young men had developed with one another. As Lena remarked, walking the Camino can really be an antidote to the demonizing and cynicism we see in our world today.