Hontanas to Fromista.
We plan to meet Ray, who is coming to walk with us for a while, tomorrow in Fromista. The albergue offers breakfast from 0600 and a short day of 22km is planned. In spite of this we are off at 0630 in the dark, It’s cold! This is Spain? Yes but we are at 3,000ft. We have on fleeces and soon stop to fumble in rucksacks for gloves. Head torches are only needed for a short time and no deviations from the route are experienced, once is enough we are more careful now. In spite of this we do not see sunshine till around 1000 due to a combination of eastern hills and some early low cloud behind us so it stays cool and we walk faster than planned.
We walk down the valley and along a metalled road for a while it passes through the ruins of the monastery of the order of St Anton there are niches in the ancient walls where bread was left for pilgrims, a closed order whose blessing was supposed to heal the medieval gangrene of St Anton’s Fire (don’t know what this was but it sounds unpleasant). As we approach Castrojeriz the sun starts to appear, lighting the ruins on the hill first and then creeping down to the church at the start of the town that is strung along the bottom of the hill.
We climb a steep escarpment and look back at the rising sun, and then soon descent towards a field of sunflowers standing out among the harvested fields of grain. To the north we can see mountains along way across the flat plains, they are the Cordillera Cantabrica and the Picos de Europa about 70 miles away. The way seems to go on forever with stubble stretching across to a host of wind turbines, reminders of Don Quixote and his travels around this region.
We eventually reach the Rio Pisuerga and the border of the Province of Palencia where a Spanish pilgrim asks us to take his photo by the border sign. He seems very pleased, but we don’t know why.
Suddenly we climb a bank of about 10feet and are on a canal tow path. It is just like the first day of Tim’s walk from home in England. We said earlier that the word canal in Spanish on our maps meant valley. We were wrong as it does mean canal, although mainly for irrigation purposes and indeed some of them are underground explaining our confusion. This one is the Canal Castilla and we follow its green contrast through the yellow fields to Fromista. From here south it appears to be navigable (or at least has been in the past), as a flight of decommissioned lock gates drop the canal 50 feet or so into the valley. Once again we walked too fast and failed to stop as planned at our original destination. At 1230 we have walked 34km. Ray will have to follow tomorrow when he arrives in Fromista.
Just outside the Aubergue there is the 11th century church of San Marin which is undergoing restoration. Under the eaves are a frieze of 315 carved animals, humans, flowers and monsters. These are in excellent condition after 1000 years and quite rightly the building is now a national monument.
One of the other churches in town has nesting on its roof 3 storks. Many churches and towers in the area appear to have storks nesting and they are obviously tolerated by the locals. It can be a bit disconcerting however when you hear a stork clacking its beak together some way above you when you are walking past.