Today almost all of our walk was on a gravel/dirt path parallel to a two lane, lightly traveled highway.
We walked through the villages of Población de Campo (pop. 140):
Revenga de Campos (pop.179):
Villarmentero de Campos (pop. 11)):
and Villalcazar de Sirga (pop.174):
They were all spaced 2-3 miles apart and few if any services were available in each village. It usually took less than 5 minutes to pass through each village. In between the villages were flat, fields as far as you could see in all directions.
This is the meseta. Many guidebooks and other writings describe the meseta as dull, monotonous, repetitive, bleak, hot, cold, uninteresting, etc. We’ve known many pilgrims who skip it altogether by taking a bus. Many walk to Burgos and stop. Others begin in Leon and walk to Santiago.
We love the meseta. The endless fields and frontier-like villages scattered along the Way, because of their simplicity, are actually soothing, proving time for reflective thinking or non-thinking (meditation) while you walk without distraction or stimulus, other than the breeze, the sun, the sky, the endless fields and what you are feeling physically and/emotionally.
Today was a great day. We felt good both during and after what was our longest and fastest walk so far…averaging 3 miles an hour for almost 12 miles!
We walked straight to our Hotel Santiago in Carrión de Los Condes (pop.2221) and were warmly received by the owner who happens to be the grandson of the owner of the hotel we stayed in two nights ago.
Our habitacion con bano (40€) is one of the nicest, spacious we have occupied so far.
After completing our chores we had lunch at a nice restaurant a few blocks away. We had two delicious meals and will definitely snack for dinner.
Tonight we attended a mass at the Iglesia de Santa María del Camino for Peregrinos, which we attended passively as it was all in Spanish and we didn’t recognize any of the songs, ritual or responsive readings. At the end of the service the 50-60 pilgrims attending came down to the front of the church to be recognized by country (we were the only Americans). The priest gave a personal blessing to each of us. Also we were each presented a handmade star to carry with us, representing the blessing for a good Camino and a good life afterwards.
The first 5 miles this morning from Itero de la Vega to Boadilla del Camino was an uneventful walk on a dirt path surrounded by fields of recently cut wheat and an occasional smaller field of unrecognized green leafy plants and some field corn (not to eat).
Two pilgrims walked about 500 yards ahead us most of the way with no other pilgrims in sight.
We stopped for breakfast in Boadilla at an albergue and again, the only person besides us was the owner.
Just outside of Boadilla del Camino the path was lined with tall trees, providing shade to go along with a light breeze and low 60’s temperature… perfect for walking.
A mile later the path made a sharp right turn and soon after we began walking along the Canal de Castilla for the remainder of the morning into Frómista.
We zig-zagged through town and at 11:20 found (uniquely named), Hotel Camino de Santiago(48€), a very nice “Top Rural” hotel.
The hotel didn’t open until 1:30, but we rang the doorbell anyway and the owner acknowledged our reservation and hustled us up to our room, indicating we could do the checkin later.
By 1:00 we had settled in and completed our routine tasks, so we ventured out into the neighborhood to scout out anything we wanted to see later, had lunch and returned shortly after 2 to check-in.
The rest of the afternoon was devoted to reading and naps (Jim procrastinated on the blog) and visiting a church or two and making sure we knew the way from our hotel back to the Camino for tomorrow morning.
Iglesia de San Pedro
Iglesia de San Martín
A thunderstorm threatened our normal plans for supper at a nearby restaurant, so we grabbed sandwiches and returned to the hotel and had dinner in our parlor. We’ve only seen one other occupant in our hotel, a couple from Ireland who is doing the Camino a week at a time, starting this time in Burgos and going as far as they can by Friday.
Tomorrow will be a long one, so we got to bed early.
Day was just breaking as we left Meson de Castrojeriz at 7:15 and walked the remaining 0.7 mile through the town. We crossed the main road and onto a Roman road.
Looking back at Castrojeriz, the emerging sun silhouetted the strategically placed town and San Esteban Castillo, and in mere minutes evolved into a magnificently blazing sky.
The road continued as we looked apprehensively at the imposing mountain in front of us and the barely visible pathway that worked its way up to the pinnacle .
The 2000 year old road became a Roman causeway made from thousands of tons of stone brought here by the Romans to cross a swampy area with their chariots and wagons, transporting gold and other minerals over 2000 years ago. The remains of Roman mines could also be seen to the right as well as a seam of mica running up the hill.
The path then climbed steeply up a 12% grade over 500 ft to the Alto de Mostelares. At the top we paused a few minutes to catch our breath in a small shelter created for shade. ￼
We walked on the flat mountain top, viewing other mesas around us for a few hundred yards then plunged downhill another 500 ft over a path that had been paved in cement and reached a grade of 18%! The going down was about as slow as the climbing up.
At the bottom, the path became dirt/gravel again and continued through shadeless wheat fields. We paused a few minutes more after 4.5 miles into our walk at Fuente al Pioja (flea’s fountain) where local fellows regularly offer coffee, fruit and other snacks along a shady picnic area. A natural spring offers untreated water, though locals say it is safe to drink. No locals were there this morning and we didn’t want to test the water and we’re no fan of fleas, so we moved on and joined a paved road for a few minutes then followed the Camino marker onto a dirt path that took us past San Nicolás Chapel.
The friendly San Nicolás chapel, a 13th century church restored and run by an Italian Confraternity, is a primitive albergue with communal meals and no electricity and practices footwashing for pilgrims that stay overnight.
After San Nicolás we crossed over the Río Pisuerga on a paved bridge and passed the welcome sign to Palencia (river is the border between Burgos and Palencia provinces). A pilgrim bridge was first commissioned here in the 11th century by Alfonso VI to unify the territories of Castile and León.
We walked along the river for just under a mile before entering Itero de la Vega (pop. 177), our destination for the day.
Albergue Puente de Fitero (40€) has a bar and pilgrim type meals so it’s a very convenient stop. We have a habitacion con bano which is comfortable, clean and has plenty of space to put our stuff.
Our room overlooks the Camino and a large patio with plenty of seating, so if we choose, we can watch Pilgrim’s stop for a rest and then walk on, as most do. The albergue also has plenty of
closeslines and clothespins for drying clothes and a washing machine and dryer, if needed.
We almost have the albergue to ourselves today, perhaps because many pilgrims are in a hurry to get to Santiago before summer’s end and Itero is not a typical stopping point.
Arriving this morning at 10:30 and being able to check in immediately after a late breakfast has given us plenty of time to complete our routine chores, rest, shop for bottled water and snacks and relax.
One valuable aspect of the Camino is the time it allows for reflection. Today we were apprehensive about crossing the mountain. Once we began climbing, it didn’t help to have 20-30 something pilgrims pass us one by one on the way up. But we put one foot in front of the other, trying to avoid negative thoughts, being thankful that we are here and able to take on this and other Camino challenges and pausing to both catch our breath, rest our legs and knees and look back and around us to register and revel in our progress. When we reached the top and also when we reached the bottom, the satisfaction was priceless and gave us renewed strength and courage to continue this wonderful journey.
We “slept-in” this morning, not leaving El Pundito albergue until 7:30. Rain is expected so we decided to try to miss it by using our hour-by-hour forecast app.
In 2014 when we walked this section of Camino we had walked over 12 miles the previous day in extreme heat and were exhausted when we got to Hontanas. The next morning we got up very early, still recoverying from the day before. As we left the village in the dark we followed a road which we assumed was the Camino. After about a half-mile, six pilgrims were walking toward us, visible only by their headlamps. They stopped us and after overcoming typical language barriers, we realized they thought they had missed the Camino. Jim consulted his guidebook in more detail and found that for a 4km section there were actually two Camino routes, one that went partially back up to the meseta and the other which continued along the road we were on, both merging after 4 km (2.5 miles)… since the next town was in the same valley as Hontanas. We decided, after our previous day experience and 3 nano-seconds of consideration, we would continue on the road. Four of the six pilgrims took the dirt path route, the other two came with us.
So today as we left Hontanas, to commemorate our good fortunes in 2014 and since, we once again took the easier section of Camino.
After about 3 miles we passed the ruins of San Antón church complex, started by the Order of St. Anthony, a 11th-century order devoted to the 3rd-century Egyptian hermit, whose relics it held and dedicated to helping pilgrims.
In the Middle Ages, a pilgrim brought his stricken daughter to the relics and she was healed of a particularly pernicious disease reminiscent of leprosy. This disease spread in the Middle Ages and became known as St. Anthony’s Fire, which caused a terrible burning feeling, loss of circulation and eventually gangrene. This disease was in fact likely ergotism, caused by a fungus that grows on rye bread.
The order developed a reputation for healing this disease, though serendipitously, pilgrimage was an excellent antidote to the disease as vigorous exercise and plenty of wine helped to overcome it. Also, St. Antón is the patron saint of animals, and across Spain people bring their pets to be blessed on his saint’s day.
An unusual but beloved albergue has existed since 2002 in the ruins of convent, consisting of communal meals by candlelight, no electricity or hot water: a very basic, but unique experience for some.
Shortly after we cleared the bend in the road at San Antón, the road straightened again and we could see Castrojeriz (pop.873) in the distance.
Towering above the town is Castillo de San Esteban. The Romans used the castle, said to be founded by Julius Caesar, to protect the roads to Galicia’s lucrative gold mines. The city changed hands frequently until coming under Christian rule in the 10th century. The charter for the city was progressive for its day—the punishment for killing a Jew was the same as for killing a Christian. Franks and Jews settled in the town, which became a way station on the pilgrimage road with five churches and seven pilgrim hospitals along the “long road” through the city.
Also prominent upon entering the town is the 14th century Iglesia de Santa María del Manzano (“apple tree”). Legend has it that Mary appeared to St. James from an apple tree and he was so startled that his horse reared up and came down heavily, leaving hoofprints in the stone outside the entrance.
We stopped at Bar Manzano for breakfast, then walked hurriedly another mile to the other side of town as the inevitable rain closed in.
Arriving at Meson de Castrojeriz (36€), at 10:30, we were warmly received and the housekeeper quickly prepared our room & home for the afternoon and evening.
We were very pleasantly surprised at the general ambiance, hospitality and relative elegance of this Hotel Rural (HR).
After we got settled in our room we had a nice salad for lunch in the hotel restaurant, sat a while in the cozy living area, then returned to the our room, where we spent a pleasant, relaxing afternoon while the windy, gray, rain continued outside.
At 7:00, our hotel restaurant opened for cena (dinner) and we had a routine pilgrim dinner. We asked if they could prepare us one ham and cheese bocadillo (sandwich) to take with us and share for tomorrow morning as there will be no place to get food for the entire walk. When we had completed our meal the waitress brought us a bag with a ham & cheese baguette sandwich as requested plus a small bottle of orange juice, a small bottle of water, a yogurt, a plastic spoon, a banana and four packaged cookies for 5€!!!
We paid the remainder of our dinner bill including a bottle of wine (20€) and retired to our room to complete day #30 for Camino 2017. We love Spain and we love the Camino!
At 6:10 we walked out the door into the dark. A few steps after the pavement stopped and we began walking on dirt, the wind picked up and we saw lightning on the horizon up ahead. It was actually kind of spooky, especially in the dark.
We stopped and checked the weather and discovered the forecast was 80% precipitation for the next 3 hours. We paused, but then decided to go on. But we also put on our back pack covers and ponchos so we would be prepared for a storm and as a deterrent in much the way we sometimes carry an umbrella to keep it from raining.
Our walk back up to the meseta was 2 miles compared to the 1.5 mile walk down to Hornillos yesterday. The difference was the walk out incline was much more gradual and there wasn’t a mule killing hill going up, thankfully.
We were on the meseta less than a mile when we headed down into a shallow valley (150 ft deep) and passed San Bol, a very primitive albergue located near the ruins of an 11th century Monastery, named after San Boadilla, a local saint.
A not-so-steep incline brought us back up to the meseta and we began the remaining 3 mile walk to Hontanas. A few minutes on the meseta and the wind picked up dramatically. The sky ahead looked brighter and Linda commented that it looked like the rain had moved on and Jim, observing the fast moving dark clouds moving to where we had been, agreed.
But the Camino, like Mother Nature does not like to be fooled (with). So within minutes, the drizzles we had weathered all morning became larger rain drops and with the ever increasing wind driving against us, we walked into a cold, stinging, horizontal, in-your-face gale for the next 15-20 minutes.
Finally the rain once again became a light, intermittent drizzle and the wind died down to a nice breeze, to which Linda commented,
“This is great, sure beats walking in the sun!”
When we thought we’d never get to Hontanas, several signs appeared along the path, advertising Hontanas albergues being less than a half-mile away, but all we could see was the just the meseta.
A few hundred yards later, we saw the domed steeple of the Iglesia de la Inmaculata Concepcíon emerging and then more village appeared as we got closer to the point where the Camino descended into Hontanas (pop.70).
We’re staying at the El Puntido (28€) albergue with a habitacion doble con bano compartido (private double room with shared bathroom).
It’s been raining off and on since we arrived at Hontanas. We washed and hung out clothes in an area designated for such things with a covered area that lets sun in while keeping water out (no clothes dryers available). At 3:00 with only short periods of sunlight, it will be interesting to see what happens.
We had a light lunch at 2:00 in the albergue dining room and reserved two places for the pilgrim dinner tonight at 7:00.
Later this afternoon it cleared up a bit and we took a walk around this very small village. We visited the 14th century Iglesia de la Inmaculada Concepción in Hontanas.
We also saw an interesting home on the edge of town with an equally interesting yard art/fountain.
The sun let us down on clothes drying today so we brought the socks that were still damp into the room and hung them in different places and they will probably be dry by morning.
There were 35 pilgrims at dinner tonight. Our main conversation was with two guys from the states, one from D.C., the other from Virginia Beach. They had walked 97 miles in last 4 days. We got tired just listening to them!
We witnessed a dramatic change in landscape today.
First we left our hotel at 6:45 in the dark and trying to get out of Tardajos, wandered through a maze of streets with direction changes at every intersection. There were arrows but some were on curbs, some on pavement, some on buildings and the faded yellow paint was impossible to see without a light beam pointed directly at it. If either Linda or I had been alone we would have taken a wrong turn for certain. Teamwork and good reconnaissance got us through.
Once free of the maze, we continued a mile or so to Rabé de las Calzadas (pop.221), a pueblo with a monastery and a church with a stork nest in the befrey and this morning at least one visible stork in the nest!
As we left the pueblo, passing Ermita de Nuestra Señora de Monasterios, the now dirt path began to gradually ascend over the next 3 miles until we reached the pentacle and gazed at the flatness and vastness of the meseta.
The Meseta is not an autonomous region, but rather a geographical area within the region of Castilla y León—the largest region in Spain. This central high plateau makes up 40% of Spain, with elevation ranging from 400-1000m. There is a saying that the landscape of the meseta is not found in the land, but in the sky with its diverse colors and expansive clouds. Dreaded by some, relished by others, the Meseta has a distinct reputation for being boring, repetitive and bleak. However, the Meseta is also home to such vibrant cities as Burgos and León and there is a certain beauty and awe in the endless horizon and wide open space. Towns are often set down in shallow river valleys, practically invisible along the horizon until arrival. The lack of trees means little to no shade. Medieval pilgrim records often complain of becoming hopelessly disoriented and lost in the Meseta, though recent tree planting along the trail helps to keep pilgrims heading the right direction. The Meseta can be blistering hot in summer and quite cold in winter. The flat landscape glimmers with golden wheat and flocks of sheep ramble the area along ancient sheep paths known as cañadas.
We walked on the meseta for less than a half mile before seeing a large bowl shaped valley which appeared from nowhere. At the base was Hornillos del Camino, our destination for today.
But to get there we had to walk down a steep path known as the cuesta matamulas (“mule killing incline”). We dropped 300 feet in a half mile then continued the decline another mile into Hornillos.
We stopped at the first open bar and had breakfast, then knocked on the door at our albergue, called Meeting Point(45€) at 10:30. It was still being cleaned but the proprietor checked us in and we went to our room, which was clean, as it had not been occupied yesterday.
This is either a new or recently renovated albergue because the common areas and our habitacion doble con bano is modern, shows no signs of wear and is comfortable and spotless.
Hornillos del Camino is not a normal stopping point for pilgrims so there are not a lot of things to do or see, which made for a nice relaxing afternoon and evening to go with our not-overtaxing-walk this morning.
Great news!! Linda’s new Quechua walking sandals have now been worn nearly 15 miles without generating a single blister. And she began wearing them at Decathlon without any break-in wear. Equally important, they don’t rub against any of her older blisters. This lets the old ones completely heal without making new ones. For the remainder of Camino 2017, she will have alternate footwear to match the conditions and probably reduce future blisters.
Tonight we had a pilgrim dinner in the albergue’s dining area with a couple from New Mexico, a guy from Brazil and another guy from Luxembourg. We enjoyed each other’s company and had fun trying to communicate with each other.
Just before sunrise, after snapping one more photo of the Burgos Catedral, we rejoined the Camino right outside our hotel.
It took us nearly an hour and over 2 miles to get to the outskirts of Burgos and begin walking on a dirt path again.
The next couple of miles, we followed a winding path through recently mowed grain fields before crossing over major highways and then along them until eventually working our way back along a two lane (N-120) highway until entering the small town of Tardajos (pop. 856).
Having walked for 6 plus miles with no places to stop, we crashed at the first bar we saw in Tardajos and had breakfast.
We had a nice conversation with a German lady and her 12 year old son. We had hop-scotched with them most of the morning. They had started in SJPDP three weeks ago and had to return home to Munich on Monday as her son’s soccer practice was starting.
We parted after breakfast, they walking on to Hornillos del Camino planning to stop there for the day and we to albergue Casa de Beli (45€) here in Tradajos.
We waited in the albergue cafeteria until our room was ready at 11:30. It’s apparently a new albergue and our room is a good size with two twin beds, two arm chairs, beautiful hardwood floors and a full bath that’s bright and spacious.
Jim used the albergue’s washing machine to get all our clothes nice and clean after being hand-washed for the past 8 days and then hung them out to dry in the garden area of the albergue. The warm, wind had them fresh and bone dry in less than an hour.
We had lunch at the albergue’s bar, a delicious ensalada mixta. This fresh “mixed salad” included lettuce, hard boiled eggs, olives, corn, shredded carrots, white asparagus, tomatoes and tuna accompanied with freshly baked bread.
The remainder of the day we just relaxed, read, worked on blog, made reservations for the next two nights and had a simple pilgrim’s dinner in the hotel bar. An easy day following our busy day in Burgos.
If you haven’t already discovered it, at the top of our blog page is a menu and one menu item is “map”. This is a google map that lets you track our path across Spain and even get an idea of the terrain, etc. We try to keep this current as time and wifi permits. Hope you enjoy.