- Distance today: 6.6 mi
- Distance Camino 2017: 218.5 mi
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.