Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 6. Fromista to Sahagun (58 km)

We had a slow start, probably because both of us slept the sleep of the tired and didn’t wake up until 7 am. The hostel was as cold as only a stone building can get, but a good breakfast and the friendly chat of our hospitaleros was all that was needed to energize us for the day ahead. The air was crisp but the sun was shining on a blue sky, so it should be a good day.

Our first stop was Carrión de los Condes (18 km), of dark memory because this was the estate of the two counts who married the daughters of El Cid. They are mentioned in the saga because they behaved very badly with their wives, and ended leaving them for dead tied to a tree. But even if the counts were real bastards, the place was a prominent one, and the Knights Templar erected in it an enormous temple. A friendly native told us stories about the time when the meson was the most popular stop in El Camino, and the best place to eat lechazo churro (an intelligence that was totally obscure to us, because we didn’t recognize any of the words).

Coming out of Carrión de los Condes we stopped to visit the cloister of San Zoilo, and then took a very straight and flat road across the plain of Palencia. This is a dreaded stretch by the pilgrims on foot, because you have the impression of getting nowhere, but we bicigrinos had a good time enjoying both the agricultural richness of the plain and the sight of the Picos de Europa, the name given to the highest, snow-clad peaks of the Cantabric Mountains to the north. I felt at home, because that is the feeling I have when I drive through the Central Valley of California and turn east to gaze on the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada.

For lack of something more exciting to tell, let me describe the ordeal that is going to the bathroom when you are clad as a bike rider: First I have to take off my vest, then my shirt, then the suspenders of my biking shorts, then my shorts, and finally I can drop the biking shorts so I can do my thing. It is a very vulnerable position, which could be construed as indecent exposure by anyone not familiar with the stupid biking attire. Speaking of which, I have to say the biking shorts, with their padded bottoms, are the least becoming of attires on an elderly gentleman with the shape of a pear. Besides, they feel as if I were wearing a diaper. Definitely not my favorite piece of attire.

Finally we reached the end of the plain, at Moratinos (50 km), and all of a sudden I felt totally spent. Maybe it was because there was no sign on the distance of our destination. Raúl, good friend that he is, slowed down so we could move at a steady pace, but after another couple of klicks he also ran out of steam.

We finally dragged ourselves into Sahagún, very tired and hungry, and after a couple of false starts we finally settled on a nice hotel and were able to relax. The term “relax” is a misnomer, because the pilgrim has to wash clothes every day (we only carry two shirst, two pieces of underwear, two biking shorts, two pairs of socks, etc.), take a shower, and then go find a place to eat. Unfortunately most establishments serve dinner from 2 to 4 pm, then close, and do not open again until supper, from 8 to 10 pm, so we had to go roaming until we found a place that would agree to make us a bocadillo. Now, Spain has the most delicious food in the world, but they really need to learn from the Mexicanos how to prepare a torta. You know, they could put some frijolitos on one half of the loaf and some crema on the other, plus a bit of aguacate and tomato so the bocadillo is moist and delicious. Instead they simply slice the loaf and just put the chorizo inside, slapping the two halves shut as if the delicious sausage would like to escape from this desecration.

So, this city of Sahagún is no other but the birthplace of Fray Bernardino de Sahagún (1499-1590), who did so much for the natives of New Spain at the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, and who is rightfully considered the founder of the study of anthropology in the New World. Fray Bernardino died at the ripe age of 91 years in his beloved New Spain.

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