The meseta messes with your mind.
Micaiah said today that he had thought it was one big plain – that one we saw from the top of the hill yesterday. But it turns out it’s lots of big plains on differing levels, some of them down in “bowls of valley”. Based on the report from Mr Blue T-shirt last time we walked that it “goes on and on and it’s 40 degrees in the shade, only there is no shade”, Micki also expected it to be treeless. But today there were both varying levels of plain and fairly frequent trees.
The meseta messes with your mind in other ways too. One minute you’re walking along marvelling at the stork parading in a field of wheat, noticing the great clumps of soil in the newly ploughed field, admiring the flowers…..five kilometres later you’re absorbed in a feeling of complete mundaneness and realise you have not even looked up from the white gravelly path for….forever!
I tell you, the meseta really does things to you!
We had got off to a great start – the breakfast would have been romantic had it not been so freezing. In fact the first question asked a few times this morning as we bumped into acquaintances was, “Did you freeze last night?” We didn’t, because we were wearing thermals, merino tops, socks and gloves…and were cocooned inside silk sleeping bag liners, a sleeping bag and under a very heavy scratchy brown monastic blanket. Exposed noses were cold, and getting up was hard! But get up we had to – even before the sun. In fact, as we ate breakfast, one of the hospitaleros came in and declared, “The sun is now here!” – and indeed, it had just peeked over the hill. Not long after, we were off.
The path was flat. And straight. Time and miles flew by as Doctor Colin’s wife, Mrs Pink Skirt (an English couple who live in Boston) introduced a murder mystery for us to solve:
“The music stopped. The lady died.”
The boys replied with their own gruesome scenario.
The path took a turn alongside a canal. A lesson in reasoning followed the observation “they obviously do their crayfish traps here on Sundays”.
One thing we do know about Sundays for sure is that shops close early and so we decided to pick up food to carry, not being certain where we would end the day. The supermercado didn’t open at all and so we were limited to the panaderia. With bread, cheese, salami and soup on the menu for dinner, we indulged in a sweet treat for lunch (I told you the meseta messes with your mind – and the sweetness was too much for all of us!)
We had two possible destinations for the day. One was Poblacion de Campos, a modest 19km. A further 6.4km on was Villamentero de Campos. We had agreed to make the decision about where to stop based on how we were feeling at the time. When we reached the first village, we had no intention of stopping, and it was noticed that Villalcazar de Sirga would be only another six and it would mean making 30km. Now I do not blame the meseta for inciting silbling rivalry about distances covered, but it was there, even if unspoken, and if the girls were ever going to “catch up” to the boys, this would be the place to do it! However, I suspected the reality of 30km might become more apparent, the closer we got to it, so I suggested leaving the final decision until we reached the last place we could stop before committing ourselves to the long day.
The path continued. Flat. Straight.
We got to the Deciding Point and everyone was walking strongly. BUT….there was a really comfortable-looking albergue, there was a tree with a swing, there was grass, and there were some of our friends including Theo, the donkey who has walked from France and who we met for the first time last night at San Nicolas.
Everyone faltered and I inwardly rejoiced. Then the meseta-magic took over and the Little Legs said, “I want to go on.” Everyone agreed. Then changed their minds and they spent a good five minutes wavering. The brisk wind that made an otherwise idyllic setting less than pleasant helped with the final call and we moved on.
Unfortunately the mind-changing accompanied us with dragging heels. I wondered about turning back, but the meseta had removed my powers of reasoning and when you get to the point that it is further to go back than to go on, there is definitely no turning back.
And so for perhaps 3km the Decision Maker shouted her thoughts to the wind and dragged a hiking pole defiantly through the stones.
It was such a disappointing end to what had been a wonderful day of walking. Next time, I will make the call that we stop while we’re ahead. I will not entertain crazy ideas from children, ideas that I would not have thought up on my own. And I will be wary of the meseta madness.
Destination: Villacazar de Sirga
Cumulative Distance: 634km
366km to go
Weather: 19 degrees, gentle wind blowing from behind over right shoulder
Dinner: fake mushroom soup, fake cheese slices, real jamon, real crusty bread and a bar of chocolate