(Burgos to Rabe de las Calzadaos to Hontanas to Castrojeriz)
Leaving Burgos, we enter on to the plains known as the Meseta. These are sparsely populated farmlands with few towns, less people, no trees for shade and little water (don´t forget to bring your own). People who cross this section remember the lonesome sound of the winds as they walk. The meseta is a cereal-producing area. Wheat is grown on the rich soils of the lowlands, oats and barley on the poorer hillside soils. It has been raining in Spain since Pamplona, hard on the crops which now lie beneath a layer of water, and hard on pilgrims whose days have been muddy and cold. But this day, the sun comes through and the road is dry and hard. We are expecting an easy walk. Outside of the town of Tardajos, we begin to cross a vast wheat field. We notice that the pilgrims up ahead are behaving strangely. Usually, there seems to be a line of walkers, like richly colored beads on a string, who we can watch to mark out our route. But today, the line is broken. The pilgrims have stopped. Some are back-tracking and others are walking off on paths of their own. When we finally reach this spot, we discover that the river Arlanzon has breached its banks and is flooding the field. During our 3 days in Burgos, this river was only a few feet from our hotel and we would walk out on to one of the city´s many bridges to watch its flow becoming more violent and the river growing wider almost before our eyes. In August of 1936, during the Civil War, bodies of murdered Republicans were found every day floating in the Arlanzon and it is hard to look at the olive waters without thinking of those bodies.
Right now, in the wheat field, the river´s water is up to my ankles and then up to my boot tops and it is advancing. I have visions of myself as Ophelia, floating and dying in a sea of grass. (Was she wearing a backpack with her underwear floating behind her? I believe she was singing but Rub A Dub Dub is all that comes to mind.)
Before and after us, the camino route has disappeared. Pilgrims are moving left and right trying to find a path. A Spanish woman strikes out across the wheat. Much of the way is already under water but little by little, everyone begins to follow her. She cuts across and up an embankment on to the highway. Those behind her, she helps up using her pole to haul them up through the mud. We are now on a major highway and we dart across (no running with a backpack on), climbing over guardrails until we refind our yellow way markers and the camino.
The sun is still shining brightly and Tardajos lies ahead. Beyond that is Rabe and we look forward to this day´s end. It will have more twists and turns.
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