Itero de la Vega, Spain – March 11, 2017
“They won’t come up,” Daya says.
I peer down at the two cars below. Three kids spill out of the back seats. A mom’s voice calls out “cuidado” as they run toward the castle gates.
Daya and I are sitting at the top of the castle ruins overlooking Castrojeriz. A spire of rock and stone still stands above the crumbling walls, holding out against the endless siege of gravity and time. From the top the entire landscape is visible, an entire realm under the control of whichever ancient lord controlled these walls.
“Of course they will come up,” I say.
We bet a bottle of wine. I lean against a stone wall, at peace, listening to the echo of the children somewhere below. The Camino passes through the town underneath the hill. You can see the trickle of pilgrims strung out on the distant road. In high season it must look like a line of ants marching ever onward.
No one else will walk up today. There are too many tired feet, too many sore muscles. They will see the castle on the heights and pass under it. I don’t blame them. The Camino takes its toll, the allure of more miles calls. Walking up hills on side trails to climb castles is an option that doesn’t seem to exist in the overwhelming push towards Santiago. There is too much noise in the everyday miles, in the feet, in the gear. It is all coming too fast. It takes time for things to slow down enough to see castles on side trails as destinations, to give over to the child inside that doesn’t care so much about some distant city, but will always climb a castle.
I know I’ll win the bet, even before the first kid stumbles up the narrow tower staircase and blinks in the sunlight. I cheer him on as he stares out from the top of the tower, as his siblings appear behind him, dragging parents up in their wake. Kids will always want to climb a castle. They aren’t distracted by life yet. Their imaginations still run wild. They think that maybe they’ll find princes and princesses, dragons and wizards, some forgotten treasure. Even if they don’t believe it, not really, they still have to look just in case they’re wrong.
Or maybe that’s just why I climb them. Maybe I just got lucky. I flash Daya a victorious smile as the kids stomp from one side of the tower to the other, peering down at the kingdom below.
“So about that wine?” I say.