Calzadilla de Los Hermanillos to Arcahueja: 35.5 Kilometres
It was another weekend on the Camino. We woke up around the usual time. Honestly, I did not think it would be possible to walk after having nearly no sleep due to the hay fever symptoms. I was filled with gratitude for only being able to get up. I woke up with a sense of excitement. Wilma immediately asked me how I felt: “Much better, doll, thank God. I will stop at a pharmacy to buy some celestamine for my horrible allergies.”
“How are the blisters? I am so sorry! From today on and with the new shoes, you are going to start feeling much better. They are going to heal fast.” We were soon in the lobby. Our backpacks were labelled with their tags for their next stop. See you later, Champ! There was no breakfast available when we left at 5:30 a.m. The temperature was no more than seven degrees, and the sun was not yet to appear above the horizon. It was misty with fog. My soul guided and supported me every step of the way.
Wilma and I were in for a long day. Step by step, click-clack, click-clack. Luckily, our day started on a high note. We were enveloped in complete calmness and serenity as we watched another enchanted sunrise. The clarity of the Camino created simplicity. Morning dew glazed the surrounding fields and spider webs on bridges. Spiders were the tiny Grand architects.
Walking the Camino made me more observant and appreciative. Our lives were linked together, precisely like spiders’ web. I paid attention to the surroundings; there were weasels on tree branches, and eagles floated above us like guardian angels. We both welcomed this new day. I lifted my arms in the air with my sticks and thanked God for his blessings. The skies grew clear, although it was misty when we set out for the day. The beautiful day and surroundings inspired me to see things more precisely in my life. It was true all significant changes were preceded by chaos.
Calzadilla de Los Hermanillos was a town dedicated to agriculture and livestock throughout history. Local farmers cultivated wheat, barley, oats, and other cereal flours. They also grazed herds of sheep and cattle. The urbanization of this region spurred mass migration from rural Calzadilla starting in the 1950s. Yet former inhabitants and their families regularly returned for holidays and vacation. This trend of returning to holiday in these towns ran counter to other areas around the region; those areas remained mostly empty year-round.
The village of Calzadilla came to life for the feast day of San Bartolomé. Families returned for the special feast day, although the vast majority of the houses remained vacant in winter. The combination of pilgrims and tourists gave a tremendous economic boost to villages and towns along the Camino de Santiago. However, there was more than economics at play as the influx of pilgrims and tourists added new life to villages.
Soon after, it was rosary time. I felt lost if I did not take the time to pray the rosary. I long knew that praying gave strength, power, and determination, no matter what challenges I faced.
A sign that marked the fifteen kilometres snuck up on me; I had no recollection of walking so far. Wilma did not complain about her feet; the new shoes did their job. So far, so good. I felt much better. I hoped the hay fever would not return with a vengeance. Our first stop was at El Burgo Ranero. The town was bisected by the long straight Royal Street, an inheritance of the Camino de Santiago. We ate our bananas during a fifteen-minute break. Pilgrims passed us. I met Serge, a Franciscan brother, who walked from Belgium to Santiago and was now returning. I was amazed; may God bless him and be with him always. I asked him kindly to keep us in his prayers.
Soon after, we passed Bar Elvis, but it did not beckon. I was not sure why. I later learned the bar was also in The Way, a film I did not see before my Camino experience. I asked myself several times about the places I passed that did not interest me but attracted other pilgrims: what was the reason behind it? I regretted missing a few vital signs, notably after I returned to put this book together. Perhaps I did not listen carefully or did not look in the right direction. Or maybe I was merely distracted. I was wrapped up in my thoughts most of the time. I tended to disconnect to take time for myself during my journey on the Camino; I distanced myself from others to reflect on all I experienced, those who have shaped me, and those I love. I felt so detached from my current surroundings in those moments and connected to my life. I did not want to accept it, so I quickly shifted my thoughts, and I was back at the Field of Stars.
We walked among beautiful houses in Reliegos. The houses reminded me of Bekaakafra in the north of Lebanon. There were natural roofs to conserve heat in the winter and to keep spaces fresh in the summer. The Romans referred to Reliegos as Pallantia, and the town was of strategic significance, given it was the meeting point of three military roads. This village was now famous for its underground cellars. One day I would like to live with no TV or Wi-Fi in a small town, like Reliegos. It would be a wholly simple life!
We later stopped for a coffee and bought a few things to snack on in the smaller villages after Reliegos. I added two of my favourites: liquorice and Smarties. I needed sugar. I rarely ever ate sugar and sweets the way I did on the Camino. The sugar gave me an immense burst of energy, and yes, I did become more hyperactive. It was a plus! After a leisurely walk along with the roasted wheat fields, we passed a pilgrim area with a fountain and shade area. After nearly 6 kilometres, we arrived in Mansilla de Las Mulas, a village with city walls and towers. I snapped a photo with three pilgrims’ statues relaxing beneath the icon of the cross.