23 Tree Hill

Last night I stayed at the municipal albergue in Castlejeriz.  Catherine and Mike are here too, so after we’d done our chores we went in search of a cold beer and made plans to meet for dinner.   And at dinner we found a table for three but were soon joined by Theresa, Pam and Sherry and then a few others… and our table grew a lot… as is often the way!

So I enjoyed the company of great pilgrims, on a lovely terrace looking out at the big old hill we were to climb the next day.  And when we’d finished we said our goodnights and headed off to find our beds,  wandering our way back through the streets in the moonlight.


My online guide classed the hill outside of Castlejeriz as hard. The last time it said that was over the pyrenees so I was expecting the worst.

I left the albergue at 7.00am and headed off in the early morning light. All around was flat apart from one huge great hill in front of me.   Nothing for it than go for it… Up and flippin up!

My guide book classification needs some readjustment…

  • EASY…  really means you can do this without too much sweat and puff
  • MODERATE…  means this is far from easy and expect the worst
  • HARD…  for me meant this is really going to hurt  and it did!

So for 3km we went up and up and then it went flat for just a little bit and then of course it went down… Steep and hard on the knees… With toes pushed hard into the ends of my boots… And then… Miles and miles of flatish stuff.

At the start of the day there seemed to be pilgrims everywhere…  A veritable Pilgrim rush hour but as the day progressed we all spread out.

I have said before this journey is not religious or spiritual for me.   I am walking because I can.  I am not seeking any kind of special meaning or a sign or reaffirmation…  I really am just taking a walk.  Last night at dinner I said that my thoughts were totally random and if you had to draw me walking I would be like some kind of cartoon with random speech bubbles around me.

But today was different.   We walked through prairie landscape…  Wheat fields as far as you could see…  No wheat now of course in October but this is the bread basket of Spain.   So I walked towards what I have christened 23 tree hill.

I  could see it before me for ages, there really wasnt’t a lot else to see on the horizon… and after a while I was walking alone… Just me and the hill.   I don’t know at what point my thoughts changed but as I walked towards the top of that hill I thought of my life and events before my 15th birthday.  I started to think about things that happened so long ago I’d forgotten the memories existed.

Mandy can confirm that life for us was far from good…  Things changed for me just before my 15th birthday…  And as I approached that hill I just seemed to recall it all and I sobbed and I sobbed and I sobbed.

I  cried for all the years before my 15th birthday and I sobbed for the mother I never really knew.   I just sobbed, not a gentle tear but I cried and cried until I was a mess of tears and snot and sweat… just me, sat on the edge of the road beside those 23 trees.

No pilgrims came along for which I am very grateful.   I dont know really how long I was there but eventually I washed my face from my water bottle and I drew breath and I got back on the road.

I have no idea where that emotion came from but as I walked on towards our next stop I felt as though I had left something behind that I should have dropped many years ago… I felt OK… More than OK… I felt great.

As I entered Boadilla del Camino I saw Mike… I met him in Vianna and I’ve loved walking with this gentle German… but sadly he waved me goodbye today… I was walking on to Frómista and he was staying put… that is life on the Camino… sad nonetheless.

6 thoughts on “23 Tree Hill

  1. I cried when I read this my dear friend, So happy you feel it is now behind you. Am loving reading all about your experiences. Lots of love, Jan xxx


  2. You really are capturing the spirit of the camino for me. Endless paths stretching out to the horizon. Walking and walking till you see a new horizon and then walking and walking to that. Your photos are so evocative, recalling great moments and great times . And of course the groups at dinner or in the bar at the end of a hard days slog – all of them saying : “Well, we did that today!”

    I think your “spiritual” experience is very touching and memorable. Jen is quite right; the tiredness and the suffering release all your tensions and something has to come out of that.

    I had two/three moments like that on the camino and one of those I have never told anyone about. Maybe I will be able to share it with you one day and leave it all behind, not forgotten but not troubling me any more.


  3. You're doing well Colleen, keep going. The Meseta I found was really quite beautiful with those prairies that stretched for mile after mile. The canal walk was great as well. Gill / Cendrillon


  4. Colleen I cried with you and your steps will be lighter for your tears. Veteran pilgrims say that before Burgos you untie all emotional, spiritual or whatever baggage you have carried in life and the passage through the Meseta is where you leave it all behind. So courage!!! xxJen/Gemonimo


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