We left Castojeriz enveloped in a cool early morning fog, soon shot through with long shadows cast by the rising sun as we climb a steep slope to the Meseta plateau. This was the start of our 25-kilometre walk across flat land and deep blue skies towards Frómista.
We had heard from fellow pilgrims that the Meseta was a cruel, unrelenting and boring place to cross. A number contemplated bypassing it by bus or taxi. To us, this was inconceivable. Here was an opportunity to tramp across a prairie environment not unlike our own prairie home in Manitoba.
The difference here is the existence of an organized pedestrian-oriented pathway. Today’s walk was almost entirely on earthen paths separate from vehicular roads. Along the way are humble villages spaced 10 kilometers apart, more-or-less, and offering a place for a bocadillo (sandwich) and a cafe con leche, or a glass of rosado to wash it down. And then, at the end of a long day, there is always a town with a comfortable place to stay.
The Canadian prairies are not organized around the needs of pilgrims and despite the development of the Trans Canada Trail over Canada, the path across Manitoba would require lots of travel alongside busy highways. Nor is there reliable infrastructure of accommodations or places to drop in for a bite to eat. It is a place best (and deservedly) explored by car.
Today, we slowly glide across this big land, the most abundant grain-growing area in Spain, and reflect on our so-similar Manitoba landscape.
Frómista is a pleasant small town of 800 with a very significant church at its centre. The Iglesia de San Martin had its start in 1066. It was meant to be a Camino-worthy place of worship and its architect, inspired by the Jaca Cathedral, definitely met that goal. Although arguably over-restored (there is a model of its pre-1896 appearance in the church), it remains one of the best examples of the regional Jaca-style Romanesque. It is a sturdy block, illuminated with delicate Romanesque features inside and out. And, in our case, illuminated by the flowing white gauzy sweep of a newly wed couple, exiting the church to begin their new life.