No dawdling today, I want to get on the road before the rain comes again. I have had a good, long night’s sleep and manage to get out of my lovely warm down cocoon when others start stirring around me. Poncho goes in the outside stretch pocket though, it might get put to good use again later.
First order of the day is That Hill. Doesn’t look much, but it does get the blood pumping. I do as Irish Frank taught me: Walk 30 steps, turn around and admire the view for ten breaths, then do another 30. Works well, and I never miss the view behind me. This morning the sun is warming the flat landscape around the hill, so I take lots of photos and get to say hi to lots of people.
And as the man said: What goes up, must come down. In the vast and flat meseta, the camino obviously has to go up and over the only hill for miles around. The trail is steep on both sides, and my knees protest at the downhill slope, even with Pacerpole handbrakes. But the views are as always worth the effort!
The promised rain stays off, luckily. About half-way I stop for a bit of food, drink and rest in the albergue Mochila in Itero de la Vega, where I see some faces from this morning and join them at their table in the green and graffitied outside space. The sun is heating up by now and moving on gets harder the longer I leave it … and I am not the only one going to Boadilla, one of my all time favourite albergues, so I best get going if I want a bed. (If I don’t get there in time, I have decided I will happily pay for the hotel next door and get my laundry done as a treat.)
At long last I arrive at tiny Boadilla and into the cool entrance of the albergue. Pilgrims and artworks are dotted around the lawn, and some are splashing in the pool. I find Eduardo and get myself one of the last beds, a top bunk right by the bathroom door. I don’t mind – I got in! I dump my pack and spread my sleeping bag on my bunk, then head out as I am to get a clara by the pool.
Then a quick shower, laundry, take the insoles out of my shoes and put them all outside to air off. Pilgrims gather in their finery (= clean set of clothes) before the main event – the communal meal. This is one I wouldn’t miss! First come the large bowls of ‘soup’ – one is mouth-watering garlic soup thickened with bread, the other basically a meat and potato stew, rich enough to be a main meal in itself. Then meat or fish – ooh, the choice. I go for the meat, hoping it will be ribs, which it is! The table is full of gorgeous food and constantly refilled bottles of wine, and the noise level is probably head-splitting, but who cares when everyone is chatting, laughing, communicating in all languages and none.
After dessert – more lemon yogurt – it is time to roll out of the dining room again to gather on the lawn and star watch. What a brilliant day, and what a brilliant albergue. If only every day on the camino could be like this! But the day has come to an end, and it is time to take my shoes in, get organised for tomorrow and head up to my bunk. But the chatting and laughter is still going strong around the pool … OK, then, just one more glass of wine!