Left the Parador in Santo Domingo and reached the famous bridge, that is now very modern, a little before eight. It was cloudy but not raining. By the time we had walked a kilometer there were light sprinkles. We put on the parkas primarily to get some help with the biting wind. The prevailing wind in this part of Spain is from the west. Therefore pilgrims walk into it. Never really rained all day.
The climbs were gentle but totaled around a thousand feet. They are nothing like some of our other hiking experiences. They still take it out of you but gently. Stopped for breakfast at a bar about 6 Kms out and had coffee and a pastry. Dozens of pilgrims on a similar pace. We just kept going and reached Belarado around 12:30. Not bad for 22 Kms with the wind in our face. It never rained but we only saw a couple of patches of blue that quickly disappeared.
The trail lacked interest as it ran parallel to a highway and we were accompanied by trucks most of the way. They occasionally honk for pilgrims. In the small towns with the 12th Century baptismal fonts, the churches were all locked up. We did encounter an open tourist office right on the Camino with WCs. That was a first. Did not see many of our comrades. Many English speaking folks.
Time for another comment about the Spanish Camino. It is a business for the Spanish. It has been for a thousand years. With over 100,000 hikers a year, it has become a significant business. Today a guy drove down the gravel road we were hiking on handing our water bottles with the name of the Aubergue he was promoting on the bottle. Signage becomes a big thing. The place where we are staying has a couple dozen big national flags and huge metal cut outs of modern day hikers dressed in shorts and t-shirts. Cute but troubling. Gites in France are also a business but there is a subtlety about it. It is OK. The showers are warm and the food is filling but it certainly lack French style and taste.
One thing that I have noticed is that in Spain you can kind of almost enter a trance while hiking. The trails are so regular and obstacle free. Much different than France where you need to keep focused on the mud and terrain changes. We are a few days away from the Meseta that is famous for straight and almost level ground. Stuff I dreamed about in France might not be so great after all. We will see. Everyday is different.
Had a good conversation with an English couple that stayed at the Parador last night. They are also getting tired of English weather in Spain. Probably will run into them at dinner. Compared notes on hiking and the usual patter.