I was on the verge of tears all morning after I had made the decision the night before to stop walking. Not only was it a personal disappointment, but all of my friends would continue to walk, which meant that I didn’t know if I would ever see any of them again. I hugged everyone goodbye with a heavy heart.
I asked the girl who worked at the hostel bar where I would go to get a bus. Except there is no bus from Hontanas. Great. I could take a taxi to the next town… which also doesn’t have a bus. I would have to take a taxi all the way past the next Camino “stop” of Castrojeriz to Frómista, which has both train and bus service. Expensive, yes, but I really didn’t have any alternative.
As the taxi pulled up in front of the hostel, a Canadian pilgrim couple who had been sitting at the cafe tables outside drinking coffee asked me, “Where are you going?” “Frómista,” I answered. The husband turned to his wife: “Do you want to take a cab to Frómista?” “Sure,” she replied. They picked up their packs and threw them into the trunk of the cab. Sweet! My cab fare had just gone down from 45 to 15 Euro.
The cab driver, who looked like a Spanish Robert de Niro in sunglasses, was accustomed to talking to pilgrims and so spoke in a very clear Spanish that I could understand well. We flew down the road. I hadn’t been in a car in three weeks. Cars go so fast when you’re used to walking everywhere. My heart broke as we sped past both Chris and Jasmine along the road. It hurt even more as we rounded the corner and started to approach Castrojeriz: a gorgeous tree-lined road leads up to the town, where a castle on a cliff overlooks the cathedral of the old town. It was a clear sunny day, perfect for walking. I groaned in disappointment.
“Yes,” Manuel the taxi driver responded in Spanish, “but then you would also have to walk over that,” indicating past the town to a steep hill with an even steeper descent. “I’m OK being in a taxi!” I agreed.
We were dropped off in Frómista about 25 minutes later. I had just gone a distance that normally would have taken me two days walking in just under half an hour. Unreal.
None of the albergues opened until 1pm, so I killed time sitting at a local cafe/bar (which soon became the activity de rigueur in Frómista during hostel lock-out time: order coffee; use bar wifi for two hours until it becomes painfully obvious that you are loitering for internet access; find new cafe; repeat). There was another injured pilgrim sitting there: Jackie had been in Frómista for two days with terrible leg pain. She had been going for twice-daily sessions with a local massage therapist and provided me with the phone number there. She also recommended a specific albergue in town because of its negligible walking distance from a cafe, restaurant, and two bars (all with wifi). Advice from the expert!
I checked into the albergue just after 1pm, but a line of pilgrims had already formed in front of me. I told the hospitalero that I was having leg problems and asked if I could both 1) stay an extra night to rest, and 2) get a lower bunk so that I wouldn’t have to strain anything by climbing. When I entered my dorm room, I saw that all of the lower beds were taken. Almost desperate, I explained in Spanish that I was hurt and asked if anyone would be willing to trade me for a lower bunk. Some people were either injured themselves or elderly and so understandably didn’t offer, but one obviously healthy pilgrim wearing a beret and way too much makeup glared at me and flatly shook her head no. “Wow, guys. Thanks. Nice Camino spirit there,” I grumbled. I then asked again at the front desk and was transferred to a small unlabeled room with only two bunks, where I had my choice of either lower bed. HA! It pays to ask.
The weather in Frómista was beautiful and warm for a change. It was the first time in a long time that I could remember being able to (more or less) sit comfortably outside in short sleeves. At Jackie’s recommendation, I joined Sarah and Eveline from Germany at the corner restaurant for dinner, where the pilgrim menu did not look like a pilgrim menu. Again, for the first time in ages, I had a nice vegetable salad, spinach lasagna, and wine. No French fries in sight! The restaurant that Sunday evening was full of young couples with their smaill children enjoying the weekend. Not that I’m normally a huge fan, but Rod Stewart’s Great American Songbook was playing overhead, and a pilgrim couple had stood up to slow dance. It felt really… civilized. Almost like I wasn’t wearing wool hiking socks along with Teva sandals. Almost :).
I went to my first massage session on Monday morning. It was not comfortable for my hip, but I hadn’t really expected it to be. The therapist recommended that I return twice, once in the evening and once the following morning. By the time Monday evening rolled around, I realized that I didn’t need several more massages as much as I needed more time to rest. And in a town bigger than Fromista.
The next morning, I was waiting around the corner for the bus. I was biting the bullet and traveling ahead to Leon.