I escaped the hoards of pilgrims that started at Rionegro del Puente by stopping a relatively short distance, in Cernadilla. Most pilgrims go a minimum of 20 km, or 12 miles, a day. The Cernadilla alberguehad only 4 beds– pretty much just mattresses laid out on the floor of a very small, brick building that had a tiny kitchen, tiny bathroom, and not much else.
Nothing written in the journal about the next few days! Getting acclimated to walking miles and miles every day was taking its toll, and writing seemed to be a chore. I regret not having more notes! I was still having trouble reading the Camino, as intersections such as the one below kept appearing. Sure, go left! Or, go straight! Up to you!!!
Sadly, trying to follow the nice Window Lady’s advice (“Arriba! Arriba! Todo directo!” Up, Up! Straight ahead!) to the hostel proved, as usual, futile. With my typical self-concious trepidation, I stopped one of the few cars there was to ask where if they knew where the albergue was and the Driver, just like the Window Lady, simply pointed.
And since the town was virtually empty, there was no one left to ask. So, I just kind of wandered around, continuing on up, up, up, hoping to just stumble upon it.
And then, finally, finally, I found the alburgue, or what I presumed to be the alburgue. It was a large, incongruous building at the top of a hill, sort of overlooking the town, next to a closed bakery and down the street from a playground.
There was absolutely NOBODY there. I mean, nobody.
“Helloooooo?” I enquired, pushing the hanging plastic flaps to the side. “Haaaaaalo?”
I entered what appeared to be a deserted community center. I followed signs upstairs to a large, clean, and equally deserted dorm room with room for 20 pilgrims. I put my bag down, and heard it echo across the walls.
I can not overstate the creepiness of such a large room when you’re the only one in it! It felt vaguely like the aliens had landed, sucked up all the people from the Earth, and somehow, I had missed it.
More likely, the distance from the last town was simply too short for the more robust pilgrims, and they’d all sauntered or whizzed on past in a hurry to get to the next town before nightfall. And so here I was, in Calzadilla de Tera, alone.
Being a city girl, I was a bit worried about my bag being stolen, but, seeing there was nobody there to actually steal anything, I unpacked some things onto a choice bed, and took the valuables with me for a stroll, leaving the rest there. I made my way to the playground, where, finally! Signs of life! Two pimply middle-schoolers were hanging out on the swings, being particularly loud and obnoxious once they say me, showing off as I wrote in my journal.
Eventually, the sun began to set. The kids left, the bakery opened their doors, a group of senior citizens showed up at the community center to play cards and socialize. I bought a baguette and shyly went back to the albergue, stopping for a moment at the door to the rec room, considering joining the older folks for some company but in the end just too timid to approach them. I went upstairs to my large, empty room, and fell asleep to the sound of their laughter, with the wind keeping me company as I slept through the night, alone in my dormitory for twenty.
My feet were still jank, but I couldn’t stay any longer in Santa Croya del Tera, so I went only a minimal distance, to the next town: 11K x.6 = 6.6 miles, practically nothing in pilgrimage terms. I had a brief stop first for a tour of the little church on the outskirts of town.
Hugo, the loquacious Irish pilgrim who’d taken me under his wing to help guide me on my first days of the Camino, had talked to me a bit (read: gossiped) about some of the other pilgrims he’d met. He warned me about Annika, a German girl who he found “snobby.” Hugo also seemed annoyed that Annika would only speak Spanish, despite knowing English; Hugo’s grasp of Spanish being poor, I can see why this could be indeed annoying.