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.
As most of the guide books indicate, the traditional Camino goes through an industrial section for the walk into Burgos and many recommend talking an alternative route along the river or taking a bus into town, which incidently picks up at Hotel Buenos Aires.
However, we planned to walk the traditional Camino, so this morning we left the hotel at 6:55 and immediately began passing through what turned out to be a very well organized and maintained industrial area for about 2 miles.
The sidewalk was wide, unobstructed and well lighted and consequently, wasn’t that objectionable to us. There were some unoccupied buildings but most had activity of workers entering the buildings and trucks loading and unloading goods. For us it meant jobs and a positive economic impact on the total community, directly or indirectly and we were thankful to see it and delighted to experience this aspect of the Camino Frances as well.
The final 1/4 mile we walked along a huge Bridgestone manufacturing factory, probably car and truck tires with hundreds of workers entering the facility as we passed by just before 8:00.
The industrial area abruptly changed into a high rise residential area for another mile or so before we stopped at a bar for breakfast.
As we continued toward town center, the lack of signage for the Camino concerned us that we might be straying off path. We’re staying at the Hotel Meson del Cid (79€) which is on the Camino and very close to the Catedral, so Jim searched “Burgos Catedral” with his google earth app and the walking directions took us right to our destination while passing through some lovely parks and pedestrian walkways, creating a very favorable impression of city center on our way in.
The Burgos Catedral or Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Santa María de Burgos was consecrated in 1260 and has undergone numerous modifications and additions in the centuries that followed.
It is the most incredible house of worship we have ever seen. The exterior is breathtaking but is matched by the extraordinary size, beauty and variety of chapels, art work and historical relics inside. And it is the final resting place of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid, the “Master”, and the national hero of Castillo.
… and our hotel is just a few steps away and do we have a room with a view?
We got to the hotel at 10:00 and were advised that it would be at least another hour before our room would be ready. They stored our packs for us and we set out to complete our shopping list while in the big city of Burgos (pop. 178,500).
First we found an ATM and refilled our € stash. Next we found a farmacia to buy some extra bandaids, sunscreen and toothpaste. Finally, Linda has been having a few too many blisters with her walking shoes so she wanted to try some new walking sandals that have been recommended by several pilgrims along the way.
They are a British brand, Quechua, and so we stopped at several shoe stores nearby with no luck but finally got directions to a French owned sports store called Decathlon, similar to our Academy Sports store in Greenville, but several miles on the outskirts of Burgos. Having already completed our stroll for the day, we asked the store owner to call a taxi and 7€ and 15 minutes later we were trying on and finding new sandals for Linda. The Decathlon clerk who helped us, kindly called another cab and another 7€ and 15 minutes later we were back at Meson del Cid, entering our room.
Oh, our room with a view..
When we weren’t shopping, we spent time outdoors in the plazas around the Catedral, still awestruck and having OJ when we arrived, a pizza lunch and a pasta dinner… at 1:30 and at 6:30!
We also made a quick visit to the Iglesia de San Nicolas, located between our hotel and the Catedral.
San Nicolas de Bari (270-343AD) was a 4th century Saint and Greek Bishop of Myra (present day Turkey). He was a very rich man because his very wealthy parents died when he was very young. He spent his life helping the needy and performed numerous miracles as well as giving gifts to others anonymously. He also performed many miracles protecting and reviving sailors and is considered the Patron Saint of sailors.
His remains were transported by Italian sailors to Bari in 1087, hence the origin of his name.
As we discovered during our pilgrimage the past week, San Juan de Ortega’s dedication to pilgrims en route to Santiago is a direct result of his own pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During his return journey, his ship was wrecked, and a promise was made by Juan to San Nicolas de Bari. Juan would, in exchange for safety, devote himself to pilgrims and to make good on his prayer and promise to the Saint, became a disciple of Santo Domingo.
As a result, awareness of San Nicolas spread to the west bolstered by Juan’s devotion to him. Juan was originally from a village near Burgos and died in 1163. Coincidentally in 1163, Pope Alexander III named a new church in Burgos, San Nicolas.
And if you haven’t guessed it by now, San Nicolas and Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus are one in the same.
Our day in Burgos has been a real treat and we could easily stay much longer and still not begin to take in all this beautiful city has to offer. That’s one more extraordinary day on the Camino Frances.
It was dark when we began walking this morning at 6:20 with a cool 55 degrees and a slight breeze. Headlamps were critical as we followed a footpath up the side of the mountain with hints of farmland on the right and an army base bordered with rusty, coiled, barbed wire and no trespassing signs on the left. The last half mile or so the path got very rocky making walking quite difficult.
First light appeared when we had climbed up some 400 ft and were arriving at the top (3500 ft).
All alone on the barren rocky surface at the mountain pentacle stood a simple, tall cross surrounded by a mound of stones and other items placed there by passing pilgrims.
Before beginning our descent we looked back and paused to gaze at the beautiful image of the silhouette of the cross overlaid on the emerging sunrise.
We then turned around and could now see in the distance the lights of Burgos and for the first time, the flat terrain beginning at Burgos known as the Meseta.
The path down the mountain was about as steep as the assent, but even though it was less rocky it was enough to compel these two pilgrims to take it slow and easy to prevent unpleasant knee and ankle issues. The path eventually became a farm road with a more gradual slope then joined a paved farm road and then a secondary road leading toward Villafria.
After 3.5 miles, the road began to level out and shortly after, we stopped at a popular pilgrim bar/albergue/rest area for breakfast as we entered the village of Cardeñuela de Riopico (pop. 111).
A feet rest and breakfast completed, we began the final several miles on pavement into Villafria. The hard surface was predictably tiring, but traffic was not an issue and the morning clouds were hanging around, keeping the temperature tolerable and the breeze cool.
The last mile, we walked around a fence providing security for the east half of the Burgos airport, then shared a bridge with some large trucks crossing railway tracks and then entered the Burgos suburb of highly industrialized Villafria.
The Hotel Buenos Aires(40€) is an average hotel with restaurant/bar and nice size rooms and modern bathrooms.
Ironically it doesn’t have an easy way to dry hand washed clothes, because its clients are typical tourists and business people and not pilgrims, mostly due to the price range. So we minimized our hand washing and hanged items out in the room or out the window, securing them from blowing away from our 3rd floor room.
We had a tortilla lunch after we settled in and when we found out their restaurant didn’t open until 8:30, we also had a tortilla dinner.
The afternoon and after dinner was spent resting, updating the blog and did I say resting?
We had a rough start this morning. It was still dark when we dropped our key at the front desk at 6:15 and walked into the courtyard to exit through the medieval, 4 inch thick, 1 ton wooden door which was locked. We fiddled with all the old and new locking mechanisms. None of this would have occurred, had we left at 7:00, when the hotel staff was awake and there to serve us.
Finally, Jim found a heavy metal steel rod and forced open one of the latches and the door miraculously opened just as an awakened staff member was apparently coming to our aid. Jim returned the steel beam to its place and we left, hurriedly, to avoid potential retribution, waving to the staff member, and saying “gracias”!
No more than 5 paces outside the door we rejoined the Camino and with headlamps beaming, did our best to navigate a very steep, rocky, narrow path straight up the side of an Oca Mountain. This continued for about 3/4 mile until we merged with a slightly wider path with better footing and proceeded the climb to the top of the mountain … another mile.
A further test of our resolve occurred after 2 miles. It was a really big dip that began at a monument for 30 or so Franco supporters that were assassinated during the 1936-39 Spanish revolution that brought Franco into power.
The path went straight down abruptly for at least 200 feet to a small bridge over an insect infested creek and then immediately climbed straight up 200 feet. This spot of the Camino definitely warrants a long, level bridge!!
When we thankfully leveled off, we left the small path and joined a wide almost level 30-40 ft wide logging road that continued for at least another 5 miles.
The logging road was boring except for the constant buzzing of flies and other annoying insects. To make matters worse, there were no places for a rest stop or any other types of services.
After 7.4 miles and no break, we finally arrived at San Juan de Ortega, named for the disciple of Santo Domingo.
Juan Velásquez, was a young priest and disciple of Santo Domingo who was born near Burgos. San Juan helped Santo Domingo in the construction of bridges in Logroño, Santo Domingo and Nájera. After Domingo’s death, Juan went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On the journey, he was caught up in a shipwreck and prayed to San Nicolás de Bari to save him. When he survived, he returned to the Burgos area determined to serve pilgrims in the notoriously dangerous and difficult Oca mountains. He is attributed with developing the road from Villafranca to Burgos (from which he took his name de Ortega, “of the nettles”) as well as a hospice and monastery in the wilderness. Along with being considered the patron saint of innkeepers, San Juan also became known as the saint of fertility. Legend says that when his tomb was opened, the air was fragrant and a swarm of white bees flew out. Queen Isabel la Católica was perhaps the most famous barren woman to pray at his tomb. She visited twice and conceived two children, named Juan and Juana.
Continuing our fun morning, we had cafe con leche at the only bar in San Juan de Ortega, but there was no tostada available and no zuma naranja. We still rested our feet and after a brief visit to the Iglesia de San Juan De Ortega continued another 2.5 miles to Ages where we stopped for a zuma naranja, ummmm!
The sun was beginning to bare down so we finished our OJ and walked the final 1.2 miles to Atapuerca.
Just outside the village of Atapuerca is a still ongoing excavation campaign, rich in fossil deposits and stone tool assemblages discovered in the complex of local caves that are attributed to the earliest known hominin residents in Western Europe. The nearby Atapuerca Mountains, served as the preferred occupation site of Homo erectus, Homo antecessor (or Homo erectus antecessor) and Homo heidelbergensis communities. The earliest specimen yet unearthed and reliably dated confirm an age between 1.2 Million and 600,000 years.
We really like our place for tonight, Casa El Peregrino (35€). It appears to be relatively new and has given us a much needed haven to relax and recover from today’s walk.
Tonight we had a nice dinner at an nearby albergue, El Palomar.
After dinner Jim sat on the deck just outside our room trying to upload photos to the blog. Strangely, the only place we could get wifi was outside our unit, not inside. Several young Spanish pilgrims were using a karaoke app (words and notes only) on one of their cellphones and were accompanied by one pilgrim with a guitar as they all apparently were singing traditional songs. Jim gave up eventually on uploading but still enjoyed the nice “concert”.