Day 23, Calzadilla de la Cueza to Sahagún

So I was a little enthusiastic this morning. Breakfast was earlier than usual at 7am and I had listened to others talking about how it was going to be hot and they wanted to get the distance done before it got too hot. Forgetting myself, I got swept up and headed out as soon as I finished my breakfast which meant that I was on my way just before 7.30am. It was still dark! Note to self, it is no fun walking in the dark and I walk faster than others too so there is absolutely no need to leave before 8am if not 8.30am. 

This morning, not only was it dark but it was damp and misty. This damp mist lasted until about 10.30am when the sun did burn through. 

I reached the first town with coffee just before 9am!! Kari had already arrived and ordered her coffee. When I headed in for mine it took a while as the guy serving was busy doing shots with a group of local men! It is a different world. Anyhow after toasting and downing his shot (apparently a local coffee liqueur) he got my coffee before returning to his mates. John and Vivian arrived just as Kari was leaving so we had a brief chat before I headed on.

As a reached the very small town that Andy and Sian had stayed in I saw a local church. It was closed, but it has been a day and a half since I have seen a church and given that we are in Spain that is a record, usually every small village has at least one. Normal service resumed!

It was still misty when I found another stop. By this stage I was ahead of both Kari and John and Vivian, they arrived just as I was heading out so I agreed to see them later. The sun was just starting to burn through.

Leaving the village I spotted some hobbit houses. I was disappointed to learn that in fact these are not hobbit houses but Bodegas. They were used to store and make wine and store food. Families in the village would make enough wine for their families and store it here. Nowadays they are used for parties and still occasionally to store food. How cool is that?

I headed on, after running back to the cafe for my walking poles. Second time I have left these behind!!

Today, I have passed the half way point between St Jean Pied de Port and Santiago, I can’t believe it! I am only a few days outside of Leon and have just entered the province.

I enjoyed the walking today and made it into town around 1pm, to be honest far too early really, reiterating that I should leave a little later. However, there are some pluses to being early. I asked at the hostal about a laundry in town, and the owner said she would do my laundry for €8 and have it back within 2 hours!! Result, same price as taking it to a launderette myself but I only had to hand her my bag of stinky laundry!!

I then dropped Dawn a note to see how she was doing. She was on her way back from the physio and raving about feeling better already! Apparently all her pain is down to very tight ligaments after days of heavy walking, so no permanent issues and after a painful massage she is in a better space which is great news. I decided that it would not hurt for a little more treatment since there is someone good in town so I now have an appointment for 4pm. A physio here is €25 so worth another quick treatment.

City gate in Sahagún

I have to say though that I feel way better today. Yesterday I was reserving judgement on the taping as my knee was screaming at me after a flat 18km. However today was 22km and whilst sore, I definitely could have kept going and it is not yet screaming. Hopefully another treatment and I will be well on my way.

Having arrived in Sahagún, I am staying in the same place for 2 nights. Tomorrow there was no room in town so I am being bused back to this hotel after walking tomorrow and then bused back the following morning. Anyhow the plus is that I don’t have to pack up my bag tomorrow morning which is very nice.

I am now sitting in the square having sorted my physio appointment and celebrating with a beer. John and Vivian have just gone by, they seem to manage to just keep going. Tonight, I think we are all in the same town but different places. Dawn and I are both in the same spot, and plans have been made for a dinner all together in Leon and then Astorga which will be great.

I have to say I am loving the weather. Once the sun breaks through it is just clear blue skies and a very pleasant 26 degrees. Just wonderful I could get used to this.

Day 22, Carrión de los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza

So last night, we had an amazing dinner. It was the first time we have not had a Pilgrim menu and the food was lovely, there was so much choice. The location was so special and the food in the restaurant is known to be great.   Sian and George walked up to the monastery to join us, Dawn, Andy, myself and Vivian and John were all staying there.

Before dinner I had gone for a short stroll round the town, it is fascinating how in a weekend particularly Saturday afternoon and Sunday the towns are so quiet, all the shops and shut and it feels very odd. I don’t know what the Spanish do, but they must all be home.

This morning I had a very lazy morning. I did not start walking until just before 9am, I think that is the latest ever for me. However today was only 18km which is the shortest day we have done, and since the hotel was so lovely I decided to relax over breakfast.

My bedroom in the monastery!

Andy left early as he is walking on and had a long day. I handed out lambs wool at breakfast to John whose feet are a total mess, I don’t know how he is still walking. Hopefully it makes a difference. Dawn is still struggling too and is taking a taxi again today, she is hoping to get a physio apt on Monday. Fingers crossed they can sort her knees out, she can hardly walk.

Last view of the monastery entrance

After my leisurely breakfast I headed off and about 15 minutes later caught up with George. He had already been walking for an extra 20 mins having stayed the other end of the town. We had a quick chat and I headed on pretty sure we would meet later.

Today’s walking was very very simple pretty much straight the whole way and flat fields. Bathroom stops were very tricky there was practically no shelter at all, and not a single cafe with a toilet, fields only. I have this down to a fine art now, I don’t take my pack off, I use my sticks to check for snakes (Sian says that is what the sticks are for) and then I am done in about 20 seconds flat!! There are now almost daily snake sightings so I am in high alert! Fortunately I haven’t see any more, but everyone is talking about them or sharing pictures, why they hang about to get a photo I have no idea.

About 9km into my walk I caught up with John and Vivian, so I walked with them for a short while. I still don’t know how John keeps walking, but he never complains. Whilst he is retired he runs an online training course for Canadian teachers. He has written a number of courses which he keeps up to date and he spends a couple of hours online each day (usually very early in the morning) advising and providing additional online support to adults doing the courses. It means as he says, he can be anywhere in the world and still work, his students have no idea where he is, and it pays for all his and Vivian’s travelling. Sian also works remotely providing coaching via skype, so again she can work wherever she is. It is a very appealing concept.

I headed on to find the only coffee break for today, it was a shed at the side of the field, no facilities at all, but there was a coffee, and in fairness hot dogs on a bbq, although I didn’t see anyone have one. I found seats for when John and Vivian arrived, George arrived after about 20 minutes. I can’t believe he is 72, he is very fit. He is walking the camino since his agent told him he needed to lose weight for his next acting role! I am not convinced that the camino is really very successful for losing weight, but I met this thought to myself. George is taking it very seriously and is not drinking between Burgos and León, he has been very good. Although he is saying he is going to make up for it once he gets to León, and certainly prior to Burgos he could down a few large beers after the walk.

I headed on into our next spot. As I approached the hostel it was only 12.30pm, Dawn had just arrived by taxi! Kari arrived 5 mins later so we got a space in the sun and ordered the beers, John, Vivian and George arrived about 50 minutes later, and we then arranged lunch. I think we are a fairly loud group which means everyone else starts to chat too. I met a couple from New Zealand who had helped the 3 Canadian’s I had dinner with in Akerreta. Terri had told me over dinner how she had slipped into a river and ended up like a turtle unable to get up and that a Canadian couple had hauled her out! It is so funny how stories of people you have never met are told and then you meet the people you have heard about. 

They were walking on and were very envious when we said that we were all staying at the hostel! Jim had been impressed that we looked so settled with our beers so early in the day, however it was the end of our walking day!!

View from my bedroom tonight

This hostel and an Albergue are pretty much the only things in town, we are really just alongside a field! It should be another quiet night. The hostel owner owns both the hostel and the Albergue and he has walked the camino many times.

Day 21, Frómista to Carrión de les Condes

Well last nights dinner was unusual, it had mixed reviews, I think I chose well. 6 of us from different places got together for dinner. It is starting to feel like a little camino family. I had a salad to start, with tuna fish of course (all salads come with tuna for some odd reason), then I had a spinach lasagna. It was so nice to have a vegetable, even one covered in cream sauce with pasta, there was loads of spinach, and for desert I had poached pear in red wine. I really enjoyed the dinners. Others chose fish and got a tiny portion with nothing on the side, the restaurant reviews from the group ranged from best to worst!

Dawn today is having such trouble with her knees she had to taxi today, she was devastated, but I think it was the right choice for her. Others have taken taxis for sections too, and it is worth it to make sure she can do the rest. It was tough to see her so down though.

She picked a good day to skip though. The walk today was 20km all alongside a road!! We did take the scenic detour which meant that about half was along a path further off the road and close to a river, still not very scenic but at least a little better.

I don’t know how the storks balance in the wind

Given that is was a short day and everyone seems to be struggling with knees we stopped twice for coffee along the way, so it was a slow social day.

I did have great chat with Sian. She and I have been on similar journeys and were comparing stories and insights. She is a very strong person and Has such an interesting story. It was a really nice to chat. I also have the offer to go and stay in San Diego, so maybe that is a plan for the future.

Nice walk …

We stopped at the start of town for a beer and tortilla on arrival. It was actually very funny. As is now the tradition the first in, stops and waits for everyone else. I am not sure whether Andy or Kari were first but they were both settled when I arrived, next was Sian and then George, followed by John and Vivian, then the Spanish guy who we met a few days ago, then Sarah who joined us for dinner last night. We also waved and caught up with other known faces. It is quite amazing how many people you start to recognise.

After an impromptu lunch and making plans for dinner, those of us staying at the monastery on the outskirts of town headed on.

The hotel has been build in part of the monastery, it is incredible. My room is actually a suite with a double bed…I wish I had a few more nights here, I need to make the most of this!! The menu for tonight is not a Pilgrim menu but A la Carte and it looks great. We have just arranged for those not staying here to join us for dinner.

My room is just off here…

It will be a little odd as our group will split again tomorrow, that is life on the Camino, you meet people for a short time and then move on. A number of us have a slightly shorter scenic route for a few days, others have longer road routes. The net result is that we will end up a day apart, although most of us are planning a rest day in Leon so I can see dinner plans being arrange over the next few days.

I seem to be with the majority, but Andy goes on and so does Sian. I have enjoyed both of their company, but no doubt we will catch up at future points, both are planning to go all the way to Santiago.

I now have joined the majority on the camino being held together with tape!! Apparently walking this distance with a partially torn ACL means there is more instability and strain than there should be. This does actually make sense and perhaps I should have thought about this before coming, but since I have never really had issues, it didn’t cross my mind. The advice is to have this fixed before my next camino!! In the meantime there is tape. Hopefully this makes a difference tomorrow. Still my next few days are quite light so I am planning to make the most of this and get more treatment in Leon if needed. There are so many specialists here to tape you together and get you walking again whether it is knees, ankles, backs, feet you name it they can tape it!!

I have just met up with Dawn for a quick tour of our monastery, it feels really special to be staying here. It was connected with the Order of Cluny dating from the 11th century, the cloisters are incredible and my room is off the second floor cloister! Dawn is still really struggling to walk and she can’t see a physio until Monday, so she may have to taxi again tomorrow but she seems more positive and hopeful which is good.

Day 20, Castrojeriz to Frómista

Last night we were a group of 7 for dinner, the same 5 from last night plus the Canadians John and Vivien.

Food was ok, large portions as usual, I had a garlic soup to start, it was good but not as nice as the one in Roncesvalles! This was followed by a beef stew with chips and creme caramel for desert and plenty of red wine. As good fun evening. No one had made it up to see the castle, whilst this is the mental section, bodies are still feeling the impact!

Tomorrow John and Vivien are stopping in a town before us so we won’t see them tomorrow evening but might at coffee stops and breakfast. George and Karie both took their breakfast to go as they walk slower and since today is a 26km they wanted to get started earlier. Andy, Dawn and I are all walking 26km and staying in the same place.

The walk today started with a good hike 4km ish up a fairly steep hill, I have to say, I put my headphones on for one of the first times and powered up the hill, I quite enjoyed it.

Hill coming up

At the top of the hill I bumped into Andy and Sian, so we walked the next section together. However, what goes up must come down, there was a pretty steep decline, down concrete though which was better than the usual shale. My knee was definitely unimpressed though, so I used the slalom method down, which I think helped a little. Up ahead Andy was trying the walk backwards technique which he also said helped. It is very funny to watch all the different ways everyone tries to get downhill. 

The top…
Heading back down

Once downhill, the three of us walked the next 5km ish to the first coffee shop. It was nice having another female  to walk with as we both took turns whilst the other tried to use the reeds at the side of the fields for shelter and the bathroom. This Meseta section is tricky, it is so open, that bathroom stops are very sparse.

Picos mountain range in the distance

As we reached about 11km we arrived into the town and our coffee stop. George and Karie were both there having left earlier. Again, there are so few breaks in this section, it is really nice to stop when there is one. 

That was the only stop of the day, the next 15km were pretty continuous. Andy had already headed on and I left Sian thinking that I would see her at the next stop in about 9km but there was nowhere.

It was actually a lovely peaceful walk for the rest of the day and I arrived at our final destination just after 2pm which was earlier than I had expected. I had caught Karie up as we approached town so we helped each other to find our respective roads and then headed off since we are in different places tonight.

The hotel today is right opposite the church of San Martin. Normally I would have stopped in first and then had a beer but my knee was complaining today and when I saw that my room had a bath, I decided that was the priority for the day. I will pop out after to visit the Church.

Despite the discomfort from my knee, I really enjoyed today, hopefully a good nights sleep later and some red wine will sort it again for tomorrow! In the meantime I have loaded with bath with magnesium oil and lavender oil, bound to help!!

Day 19, Hornillos to Castrojeriz

Well, the place this evening was billed as a disaster, we knew it was the middle of nowhere and we had to be bused in. However never make a preconception, it was fab. Tiny place, correctly in the middle of nowhere. Group of old Spanish men playing cards and drinking all afternoon. They got booted out around 7pm when dinner was served. 

There were 6 of us staying. Myself, Andy, Dawn the Scottish school teacher (her friend left at Burgos) George the Greek actor who lives in Los Angeles. We have met him in so many different spots but never really chatted, Karie who just started in Burgos, Canadian (not American, oops!) and another guy who I don’t think really speaks English, he did not join us for dinner.

The 5 of us ate together in one table, food was amazing, one of the best dinners. A rather unusual tuna and potato soup, it sounded odd but tasted absolutely delicious, followed by pork loin and salad and then creme caramel. Have I mentioned that whilst I rarely eat pork it is pretty much a staple here! Every day at least one sometime 3 times a day, and no vegetables. Dawn is vegetarian which is very difficult in Northern Spain but her dish was a really tasty ratatouille with an egg, she said her best meal to date and I have to say it was lovely, she had so much that we all got to share some of her vegetables. 

It is back to expectation management, this place has surpassed all expectations but perhaps that is because we thought it would be dreadful. Another bonus, they don’t serve breakfast until 7.30am so we have a lie in!!

Handing out sheep’s wool again tomorrow. This has become the go to toe treatment for blisters. I have not needed it myself so far, but Andy is now selling this as the blister solution. It was a very good tip I had from a podiatrist before leaving. The natural lanolin creates almost a mould after a day of hot feet, and helps the blister recover. Very good for around toes where normal solutions are tricky!

After a breakfast all together, 6 of us piled into a car with 4 seats, bit of a squash, we then set off at quite a pace despite the fact that there way no way ‘Senor’ could see out of the fogged windscreen, but then he wasn’t actually trying to look he was too busy chatting to the Spanish chap next to him. The rest of us were in slightly hysterical giggles, revisiting a conversation from the night before since Karie had recounted the fact that she had looked up the number of deaths and reasons for death on the Camino before coming, I have no idea why, but we decided this might be a new category!! Fortunately after a slightly hairy 5 mins we arrived back at the bar we had been collected from yesterday.

So onwards today, we are now fully in the Meseta. It was actually a lovely day. The first 10km was really silent, just the sounds of birds and circadas and complete peace! 

After 10km I came across the town of Hontanas, as I entered the village there was a great bar, loud music, the waiter was dancing and singing, it was about 10am and reminded me of some Apres Ski bar of an evening. I spotted Sian and Andy so headed in for my morning coffee. 

Full caffeinated, I headed on, Sian had already gone and Andy was giving his knee more of a rest. I stopped in the Church on the way out of the village, which was lovely, bibles in every language possible and cushions to sit on to read!

Pilgrim dragging his belongings…and my long legs again

Today was a short day and a few km from the end I came across the ruins of a convent and hospital, most unexpected, rounding the corner, now on the road the town of CastroJeriz came into sight with the castle in the hill above the town.

As I approached the town the first thing was a huge Church which I stopped in to look at. It was really large, again not unusual in these Camino towns for there to be a disproportionate Church. As I left the guy in the Church was chatting to me , I was not entirely sure what he was saying but I made out that he wanted to know where I was sleeping that evening, after explaining, he beckoned me back into the Church to explain where the Posada was. I was very grateful else I might never have found it. For the first time the hotel was really hard to locate and google maps did not locate it, in fact they say it was another hour and 10 minutes on!

Finally I found a nearby bar that had been mentioned and popped in to ask. Turns out I needed to check in at the bar anyhow! None of that was in my instructions. I sent advice back to Andy and Dawn both of whom were behind me. Turned out to be a good thing since neither had been in the church and both said that they would not have found it, in fact Dawn met me in a bar and then followed me back!

I think I will know at least 6 residents here tonight and dinner (and breakfast) is at the local bar round the corner so it looks like another social evening.

I have decided that my staple diet in Spain consists of Pork (which I previously never ate), bread (which I ate rarely) and red wine (previously regularly consumed) so at least there is some consistency in my diet. However vegetables which I previously ate loads of remain a rarity!!

Having checked into the hotel I headed out to find a bar for a beer and to collect people as they entered town. Andy was first in, then Sian and finally Dawn. After a small pintxos of tortilla (eggs are also relatively common) and a few beers I have headed back to the hotel for a bath and a shower and a rest before dinner at 7pm 

I had intended to walk up to the castle above town but for some reason my left knee has started to play up the last couple of days. I have obviously been too confident in feeling good and having no injuries. I have no idea what I have done but it does not like downhills at all so I decided to skip the castle hill climb.

I have also just had confirmation that the change I wanted for the end of my trip has been sorted. Now rather than two nights and a rest day in Finesterre I am going to use my second day to walk into Muxia (29km) for the last day before returning to Santiago for a final couple of days. I am very pleased, I had felt like my trip might be incomplete if I didn’t see both coastal locations. A guide I met at San Juan de Ortega had recommended a hotel and confirmed that I could walk between the two in one day. Now sorted. Home the same day but a small change, very pleased.

Till tomorrow 

Day 18, Burgos to Hornillos

Well, my research paid off. The taxi I had booked turned up, lovely Spanish guy, he did check 3 times that I really wanted to go to the monastery in Santo Domingo de Silas which made me very nervous. Having said that after 50mins of driving through some really beautiful countryside we arrived. 

The town is just picturesque. So many of the towns and villages in Spain have a number of buildings which look like they might fall down any minute and with loads of buildings for sale. Clearly the monastery brings in lots of money as none of that is evident here.

I toured the monastery and cloisters which are fascinating. The monastery started in the 7th century and was full of life and really active from the beginning of the 10th century. Santo Domingo arrived in Silos in 1041 and acted as Abbot until 1073.

The whole town has an air of tranquility, the backdrop to the town are mountains just East of the Tabladillo Valley.

The church bells started to ring with 10 minutes until Vespers. Most of the Mass services I have been to have been attended by about 50 people, tonight was more like 200.

The service was quite magical, very hard to describe to be honest, but overall I would not have missed it and it was totally worth the trip.

Back to Burgos now to get ready to head off again tomorrow. 

Today started with the test of navigating the outskirts of Burgos. As usual, not that exciting but Logrono was worse. The outskirts lasted a few km and then the route passed through paths and a couple of small villages before the Meseta really started. I stopped for coffee in the final village before the Meseta.

Both the Churches passed this morning were closed but just after the leaving my coffee stop I passed a small chapel, it was beautiful and very simple, many are unmanned but this one had a nun who, in Spanish, told a whole legend of a link with Paris. She gave me a metal necklace with an imprint of the Blessed Virgin who intercedes for those on pilgrimage on this earth. This gift of metal is to protect and accompany us on the WAY. She then gave me two kisses and wished me “buen camino”. I assumed that everyone got kisses but Andy later said he got slaps on the cheeks so perhaps she picks and chooses!! 

As I left the chapel the scenery changed to that typical of the Meseta area and the paths wove out in front of me. I have to say some of the shadows do make me laugh, I would love to know how I got these legs!

I was passed on my route today by this Pilgrim, travelling the route on a unicycle!! Rather him than me, he is German and has travelled from the start of Spain (not over the Pyrenees, understandably).

The following saying resonated with me today, perhaps this is my message for the day.

Andy caught up with me just as we arrived into Hornillos, I am sure he was just making sure I didn’t eat all the lunch. We were shortly joined by Dawn, Scottish teacher and then a lady from the US who just started in Burgos. She did the first two weeks last year.

There are very few places to stay in Hornillos so we were all picked up in a car and driven a few km off the route to our hostel. They drop us back at the same spot in the morning! It is safe to say it is in the middle of nowhere though, so I have a few hours to occupy before dinner.

Pick up point!

Tomorrow is another short day which is nice, although it is forcing a relaxed pace since most of the afternoon is free.

Day 17, sightseeing in Burgos

So laundry is done. It was interesting this afternoon. Burgos is a large town but, my first stop was the launderette, I met 4 people and knew them all! I then wandered into the historic part of town and bumped into a group who I knew and then who was in front of the cathedral but Eric, Andy, Frank and Marie. Then Gladys and Freya turned up. I went for a beer with Frank and Marie, Gladys and Freya.

I made it back to the hotel around 6.45pm to drop off my clean laundry before meeting for dinner. It is Eric’s last night so we had a quick pre dinner drink and then found an amazing spot for dinner. We had just sat down and the rest of the camino crew turned up. How is that possible, no discussion other than about different places we had planned to go!! Great night.

The menu tonight was a €14 fixed price 3 course meal including bread, bottle of wine and water. I started with fresh prawns, garlic butter and salad, followed by a slow cooked leg of lamb, then ice cream (that was all I could fit in!). Such good value and amazing food. Have I mentioned gaining weight!!

This was as big as it looks

Not only does Eric leave tomorrow (I will miss him) but so do Frank and Marie who have decided to bus into Lyon, as has the lady I met in the launderette. We will see who is still walking beyond Burgos. It is certainly a popular spot to to transfer from.

This morning was a morning of sightseeing. Even the city gate is stunning. Burgos cathedral is breathtaking. It is absolutely huge and full of history.

I started by attending mass at 10am in one of the chapels within the cathedral and then moved on to start a full tour. There was so much to take in, it was absolutely fascinating. I will just share a few of my pictures but needless to say I have loads from my hour and a half tour.

Whilst essentially gothic, within each chapel there can be a different style due to various architects and builders over the years. It is impossible not to be impressed.

After the cathedral I headed up to the castle ruins. This not only allows a feel of the height and scale of the castle but also gives an amazing view back over the cathedral and Burgos.

Amidst the historical centre of Burgos is a big city with all the normal shops and amenities that you would expect in a big City.

It does not feel as relaxed as friendly as Pamplona but it is just teeming with history and is so beautiful.

Eric had toured with me this morning but at lunchtime it was time to say goodbye. He heads off to catch a flight back home this afternoon, and I headed off to buy some water and some more toothpaste before getting ready for my afternoon/evening excursion to Santo Domingo de Silas, fingers crossed I have managed the logistics correctly!

Day 16, San Juan de Ortega to Burgos

Yesterday afternoon was a lesson in relaxation, there was nothing to do except sit in the veranda with a drink and relax. Not too much of a hardship!

At about 6.50pm there was a mass exodus to the church, twice a year the timing works such that the sun comes in through a church window and lights up the relief work on a pillar. It occurs around 7pm if the sun is out and lasts about 10 minutes. It is obviously a spectacle as locals were turning up in the car load with tripods and cameras.

I have to say, it was interesting, I am not sure that I would go as far to agree with the hotel description of a miracle but it was impressive.

After the sun moved on, I headed over to the bar for dinner. Limited options but fun since we all ate together, and I have to say that my cheese omelette and salad was very good. We then collected our breakfast picnic for the morning and headed back to the hotel.

The temperature here has dropped considerably, however, it was lovely to reach the room and find the radiator on.

This morning as we left the hotel at around 7.45am it was a very chilly 7 degrees, quite a shock, although we are up at 1,100m. Still for the first time I had trousers, a long sleeved top and my rain jacket and was pleased to be wearing this.

Still as we walked on, the weather warmed up and I shedded layers. Today was mainly a downhill 26km into Burgos. Not the most inter as the outskirts of the City are not great. However, we followed the scenic detour along the river (we did have to walk between an industrial concrete plant and an airport to get there though!).

No churches or chapels on the way today were open, but it felt like a sunflower walk today as the fields were full of them.

The arrival into Burgos marks the end of the phase of the Camino for the body. The next phase is for the mind. It is supposed to be reminiscent of an LSD trip, I have no comparison but apparently it will test me mentally!! Good job my body is now ready.

The trip has 3 phases, for the body, for the mind and for the spirit. I can’t believe I have just completed the first third.

I have a rest day tomorrow and I am just planning an outing outside of Burgos for tomorrow to the Abbey in Santo Domingo de Silos to hear the Benediction monks sing. That should help prepare me mentally I think. Hopefully I can get this arranged.

Check out the stork nest!

Now off the plan other visits and get my laundry done.

Day 15, Belorado to San Juan de Ortega

Well today was a little different. It was totally overcast and cloudy almost all day, I am sure that is not what the forecast said. To be honest though a little cloud was nice for a change.

I set off early today since everyone in the hotel I was staying in had left early and I had been listening the them depart. I headed out at about 7.30am. The lovely thing about a 7.30am start is that is is light enough to see but you do get to watch the sun come up.

I left just as a chap from Taiwan was trying to figure out where the path went. Safe to say that since he was near my hotel he was lost! Anyhow we found the path and set out.

Today was a beautiful walk mainly through woodland. It felt very remote and peaceful.

I passed the pipe smoking Danish couple who had taken a short cut and were concerned that they had missed the coffee stop. They are  in their 70’s and the wife smokes a curly pipe, the husband, as described by the Turkish girls, looks like Father Christmas!! Anyway, I was able to reassure them that they had not missed a coffee stop.

At the first coffee stop, it was still only about 8.30am so I just popped in to use the facilities but then headed on. As I left, the Danish couple were just heading in looking really relived to have found a coffee stop.

I had already decided to stop at the next spot which was just before the big climb of the day. I was looking forward to a coffee and a cake! I arrived at Villafranca Montes de Oca at about 10am. As usual I skipped the first spot since it looked like a bikers cafe in a car park and I headed on up the hill, however despite this being briefed as a larger town it soon became clear that there was no other cafe and I had already started the ascent! I had missed my coffee stop! I sent word back to the others so they knew to stop.

Still I was not about to run back down to hill for a coffee so onwards. As I started the climb, the afternoon was expected to be a fairly steep, I passed Sian who I have met a few times. She had not been able to get a bed in San Juan as it is pretty small, so she needed to walk in a further 6km today to the next town.

I carried on up the hill, for the next 80 minutes, it was not too steep actually but slow and gradual. The walk was relaxed and wooded and felt remote, lots of time to reflect. 

The path then started a gradual descent. About an hour outside of San Juan there was a lady with her dog and a table, she was providing tea and coffee and fruit for a donation. One of the best small cups of coffee offered!! 

Then I continued down into San Juan. This is essentially monastery with a bar and a small hotel and auberge. The population of the village is 20!! It was a quick day for me today I arrived about 12.50pm.

Options for the evening are somewhat limited. I checked into the hotel, the room was fine, no bath and no facilities at all, but there is a bed and a shower. It was explained that all meals are in the bar the other side of the church. The menu is omelette and salad or lamb chops, black pudding and salad. Same for lunch and dinner and if I want to have dinner I need to book a spot before 4pm!

I contemplated what to do but decided that I would book a spot since there was nothing else to do this evening and if I don’t book then they give the spaces away to those in the auberge.

After a shower I opted to go and have a sandwich and a beer. The sun has now come out! Andy, Eric and the Turkish girls joined shortly after, all a little shocked by the limited options. The Turkish girls needed to walk on to the next town as they had not managed to get a space.

Now off the explore the monastery and the church.

Day 14, Santo Domingo to Belorado

Eric and I met at 5pm to explore Santo Domingo, Andy decided he had seen enough towns and hung out in the garden of the hotel.

We set off to first visit the the Casa de la confraternity del Santo which was a disappointment since it was not even open and we had to look in through a glass window. There was however a great town hall and interesting Pilgrim water fountain. 

We then headed towards the Cathedral Santo Domingo de la Calzada (of the road). There were multiple viewing options for this site and since we wanted mass we opted for the full ticket. 

I absolutely wanted to see this cathedral as it has a significant legend based around it. 

The legend tells of a young Pilgrim boy travelling with his parents, he spurned the advances of a young girl so she put a silver cup in his bag and reported him for theft. He was hung for the theft. His parents in mourning continued into Santiago, on their return they found their son still alive. He said Santo Domingo had spared him and to go and tell the Mayor. When they told the major he exclaimed that the boy could no more be alive than the chickens he was having for dinner. At this the chickens are said to have come to life, spouted feathers and flew away. At this the major hurried to cut down the boy with a full pardon.

Since this day a hen and a cockerel have been kept in the church as a reminder of the legend and Santo Domingo.

“Santo Domingo of the way, Where the Roosters crow after being roasted.”

It was great to see the church and the cloister and we then headed off down the road to the monastery which was included in our ticket. We bumped into Frank and Marie twice, they had missed the hen and rooster so we sent our pictures.

The monastery had been converted onto a Parador, Santo Domingo actually has two Paradors which is unusual the other used to be the old hospital.

Since this is now a hotel we could only view certain exhibitions rather than the hotel, there was a slightly odd selection but one has some history of Santo Domingo, who not only build the cathedral but is also considered the engineer of the Camino. He was sent out to build bridges, paths, hospitals etc. to create the Pilgrim route of Saint James to Santiago.

As we started back to the hotel we felt the start of the rain of the expected storm that afternoon so we sped up to avoid having g to run. Eric has decided that despite having a 3 course lunch, it made sense to have the Pilgrim menu in the hotel for dinner…another 3 course menu…no wonder I am gaining weight. 

It was a quick dinner as Eric and I wanted to attend mass. Andy said that he would keep the wine warm for us. We just made it around 8pm just as the Pilgrim blessing outside the church started. The mass was wonderfully atmospheric. Despite not understanding the true meaning it is possible to understand when they are blessing the pilgrims which is lovely. I have also noticed that since attending catholic mass, both in France and Spain, at no point have I been offered ‘blood of christ’, this is blessed but not shared. Being Church of England I am surprised, I have asked two regular catholics if this is normal and been told not really but it does happen. Interesting. During the service the storm which had been brewing all afternoon really broke with thunder and lightning crashing through the Church. Amazing.

Once the mass finished about 8.30pm Eric and I were booked on a special evening tour of the cathedral. It soon became clear that it was just the two of us!! I could not believe it but I was so pleased that I had stayed, I almost left since we had been told that the tour was in Spanish, but Eric had convinced me to stay. It was incredible, one of the best tours I have ever had. We had the guide to ourselves he spent an hour and a half with us and Eric translated for me. We learnt just so much and were let into all the spots closed to the public. Even Eric, an Italian catholic said he learnt loads.

I think Andy thought that the two of us were not coming back, he texted just before 10pm to see where we were!

We arrived back to find Andy nursing a bottle of wine which of course we helped him with. Senor Florien (a complete character and the hotel owner) then announced that he was off for drinks with friends, we could man the hotel in his absence and he left us another bottle of wine as he departed.

Needless to say, last night was the latest night yet and the most messy.

After a good night sleep all is well again though, we were off around 8am. Breakfast was incredibly social, the benefit of a small and communal hotel. Today was supposed to be a boring but easy day. About 24km but on paths mainly along the main road.

However, it seemed like all Pilgrim left at the same time and it felt like we walked as crowd and stopped for coffee as a crowd. Great fun. We had met the two Scottish teachers who I first met a while back at Hotel Jamie, as well as two Turkish sisters who Andy met last night whilst Eric and I were being educated. 

We also bumped into Frank and Marie on route as well as Scott, from the US and Jarrett from Dublin. These are the only two remaining from the young group. I learn today that Jarrett has been in London for the last 10 years as part of a successful rock band, I can see this, they have just split and hence he is on the camino.

We also met up with Sian from Canada who is walking on her own. She was at breakfast but had treated herself last night as she usually stays in the auberges. Definitely a more social option.

The list of people we recognised went on and on.

The scenery was better than the guidebook had warned but still was a little dull as many of the paths were along a road. The other thing was that the towns we passed by were again deserted, even the Churches in the first 3 towns were closed. It is hard to see how towns which don’t have the income from the camino survive at all.

Below is a great sign although not to scale since I have actually covered about 240km, and on this map have not reached Burgos which looks like I have an awfully long way to go still.

We arrived in Belorado around 1.30pm. We arrived just in time to witness a massive bike convention leaving, with Spanish police escort!! 

After our beer we decided to try lunch again since neither my hotel nor Andy and Eric’s offer dinner. Lunch was actually great, I had turbot which was amazing, with red wine of course.

I am now catching up on 2 days of blog whilst in the bath!! Yesterday was so busy I did not have sufficient time to post so today I am posting both days. There is nothing else to see in town today. I suspect since it is so small, that we will meet a lot of people in the central bars of town later.