One big problem I faced on the Camino Aragones was my tendency to get lost. It wasn’t that the path was tough to find; in fact, it was well marked. It was just that, at times, it — and the Chemin d’Arles, for that matter — was a “choose your own adventure” type of trail. I had a tendency to choose the path less traveled (and highly recommended by my less-than-useful guidebook) and end up wandering around in some field. Such was the case on my last day of the Camino Aragones.
After a sleepless night in the albergue of Izco, where the entire 30-person town seemed to be up until the wee hours of the morning very loudly celebrating an occasion that those of us not from the town knew nothing about, I woke up early and attempted to hit the trail just as the other pilgrims were waking up. One problem: The albergue’s door had been closed from the outside and was nearly shuttered up by a metal overhead door. The door hadn’t been pulled to the ground, so — at the encouragement of the Spanish pilgrims — I slid under the door and out into the cool morning air.
The night had been stormy, and the morning was filled with the dramatic light of a cloudy sky. The wind whipped around me, and I zipped up my fleece to my chin. Walking down the gravel track, I enjoyed watching the sun slowly climb through the clouds, creating a spectacular and ever-changing array of colors, light, and shadows. I wished I had some wool with me; I’d have done some plein air felting!
As the day went on, I found that I seemed to arrive in sleepy hamlets just as the church bells were ringing, marking either the hour or the half-hour. In the United States, it’s my experience that there are usually at least 10 miles separating adjacent towns. In northern Spain, it wasn’t unusual to find villages just a kilometer or two apart, with farmland in between. Each named village generally had its own place of worship, and each village was laid out in its own way. It astonished me that more of the villages hadn’t grown and melted into one another in the centuries since their establishment.
In the afternoon, I walked into Tiebas, a tiny town that looked as though it would be bustling, if I hadn’t arrived during siesta. Instead, I found almost-eerily vacant streets under a sky still threatening more rain. The only person I saw in Tiebas was driving a big white van around and around the town. The van had a megaphone on its roof and was blaring on loop a message for women; whether the message was political or commercial or something else entirely was beyond my comprehension.
Because of the praise the guidebook extolled on a route to Eneriz, I decided to follow its advice and leave the Camino. I exited the town under an overpass, where warnings about “zoombies” had been graffitied. I walked along railroad tracks, heading toward the factory that I was supposed to pass before finding myself in farm country. Next to the factory was an overgrown field, beyond which, it appeared to my nearsighted eyes, people were walking on a quiet road. Certain that the road must be the one mentioned in the guide, I began traversing the edge of the field to get to it.
Fifteen minutes later, all I had found were two shoefulls of grass awls and a bit of frustration. Perhaps, in the land of Don Quixote, I had seen some mirages of my own.
An hour after I’d begun my detour, I checked myself for ticks at the railroad tracks, passed the “zoombies” warning again, and headed back to Tiebas, prepared to discard my guidebook at the next recycling bin I came to.
To be continued…