Hiking Inn to Inn
After hiking the verdant foothills of the Pyrenese and through the lush vineyards of La Rioja, the Camino enters the meseta, flat tabletop land that covers 40% of Spain. For the next 120 miles the pilgrim ascends long mesas and descends into broad valleys. Wheat fields stretch for as far as the eye can see, now freshly harvested in early October. Rivers, lined with cottonwoods, meander through the plain. Small medieval villages along the rivers, break up the sameness of the terrains.
Like in so many developed countries, rural Spaniards are leaving the countryside for the cities. This is especially true on the meseta. The manager of the albergue in Caldadilla de la Cuesa told me that only four children live in the village. "It is sad," she said, "This would be such a great place to grow up." In many villages, most people you meet are elderly, walking with canes.
They say that if a pilgrim makes it as far as Burgos, (180 miles) she should be alright physically for the rest of the journey, but the meseta plays with the pilgrim´s mind. The first part is not exactly true. Pilgrims´feet are still breaking down after Burgos. So many must interupt or end their journey because of blisters that won´t heal or painful, swollen ankle ligaments. The meseta is cold and windy in the winter and brutally hot in the summer when most pilgrims make the journey. The heat and seemingly endless monotony can drive the pilgrim to dispair.
Hiking the meseta in Autumn has been beautiful, every day has been sunny with temperatures in the high 70s. Still the meseta is challenging. For three days the trail was totally flat, not even a small hill in sight. It was like hiking across North Dakota. My emotions would quickly flip from, "Why did I ever want to take this long hike?" to feelings of euphoria to be so free and hiking such beautiful country. Still, I look forward to reaching the big city ramble of Leon and the mountains of Galicia.