Camino Frances 2017 – Day 1 – Burgos to Hontanas

Camino 2017 – Day 1 – Burgos to Hontanas – September 5th
An early start..and hot!

I asked the owner of Hostal Evolucion the evening before if it was possible to leave early in the morning. She said, in broken English, that there was no problem, but I needed to ring a little bell at the front desk. Hmm…I wonder if this was going to work in practice? Time will tell.

DayOne

DayOne2I had an amazing sleep and woke at 5am. Right on cue. My bag was ready, I had a few snacks for breakfast. All I needed was to find the first arrow. I rang the bell as agreed and at 5.30am, I was on the road with pack on bag and pole in hand. I walked toward the bridge over the River Arlanzon, in search of the first arrow, although I had an idea of the right way. My previous two times in Burgos had been brief but I felt I had seen the city in it’s glory, thanks to Patricia. My head was a little dull due to the vino de ribeiro, but a little walk would shake that off.

The walk out of Burgos is along the river and at this time, it was pitch black. I kept an eye out for the Universidad de Burgos so I knew I was on the right track. On seeing the first arrow, white and not yellow, my heart jumped. Onwards I walked until the road turned and the arrows were no more. A passer by shouted at me “¿Estás buscando el camino?”. I said “Si!!” with positivity and he directed me to a turn off 10 metres behind me. This was the way to Villalbilla de Burgos, and I saw arrows again. I was leaving Burgos and heading for the first village, Tardajos. There was no stopping me. My feet were dancing and I was eager to meet fellow pilgrims – but not at this hour, I laughed to myself!

It was pretty flat, and I was alone so far. The sun was beginning to rise at my back and I stopped for a few moments to take it in. It wouldn’t be the last sun rise I would witness but each one is special. You can immediately feel the heat at your back as the sun creeps over the horizon. “Beautiful”, I thought to myself. I arrived into Tardajos around 7am and had Cafe con leche y tostada con queso, my normal breakfast on the Camino. I bought some fruit to keep me going until at least Hornillos. Tardajos is a smashing town with a great albergue so there is an option if you want to bypass the hustle and bustle of Burgos. It is a further 10km however.

Rabe de Calzadas is a further 2km away and the entrance to the meseta. Another quiet village with a recommended albergue. After this point, you need to have enough water as you are in no-man’s land. It is another 8km to Hornillos del Camino and today the temps were rising. It is in the mid-20s at this stage and only morning. And I needed sun cream!!

Onwards I walked into the meseta and towards Hornillos. I never had much of a love for this town and have always walked toward Hontanas, a further 10km. I had my heart set on Hontanas again but it depended on how hot it got. I arrived at Alto de Meseta, a 150 metre climb and could see the next few hours ahead of me, most notably Hornillos, a barren town, but growing in size. It was two early so I decided to stop for a while and walk on. The last building at the end of town caught my eye. I walked in and asked for an Aquarius. The woman behind the bar asked me where I am from. I naturally say Dublin and she asks which part. She is also from Dublin and in the last few weeks has taken over the running of a Korean restaurant in Hornillos. It’s name is Neson. I could not believe it. Another Dublin man was there chilling out with a ukelele trying to sing “Fix You” by Coldplay. I give it a go but playing a ukelele is different to playing a guitar. I stay here for a half an hour chilling out and talking about our love of the Camino. She was brought here because of love and has a child now. I say my goodbyes and promise to look them up the next time I pass through. As I leave, I’m warned to carry lots of water as the next few hours will be tough going. They are right as temps were in the 30s until I reached Hontanas.

I feel like I made a mistake moving on to the next town. After Hornillos, there is a gradual climb and there is no shade. I stop three times out of breath and consider turning back. Somehow I gather the energy to move on, while brushing the dozens of flies from my face.

I meet two English pilgrims ahead of me – Adam and Robert. They had been chilling out in Hornillos and I had said hi to them then. I walked with both until we reached Hontanas and I am so glad I did. They gave me the energy to reach my destination and proved that conversation is a great distraction. We walked with purpose past the great San Bol Albergue in the middle of nowhere, and then on to Hontanas. Well…we first needed to find Hontanas. It is built in a valley and the first you see of this pilgrim town is the large steeple of it’s church. We wait for it to pop over the hill and boom! we descend into the village.

I decided to check into Albergue El Puntido, while Adam wants to keep walking to the refugio at San Anton 5 km further on. I was one of the first here and got my washing done. The sun would dry my clothes in no time. A community dinner was not until 7pm so I decided to rest until then.

The dinner was super. I ate with Denis and his wife from Florida who had walked from St Jean Pied de Port and were taking it nice and slow. 20kms a day is their maximum. I also met Tara from Salt Lake City who gave me the ultimate compliment and praised my Irish accent. She also gave me a bottle of sunscreen, proving that the Camino does provide. The only shop in this town had after sun which was of no help to me. I slept well here, even though the church bell would chime on the hour every hour throughout the night.

There was music in the form of a small guitar outside the albergue and we stayed out until close to 9pm. I was tired however and wanted another early start the next day. This day, I walked over 30 km..the following day, I hoped to reach Boadilla del Camino and Eduardo’s En El Camino Albergue. We expected sun and we expected to meet new pilgrims. It was going to be a fun day.

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Camino 2017 – Day 0 – Dublin to Burgos

September 4th 2017 – Day 0
Dublin to Burgos via Madrid

A beautiful day in which I passed through 2 large cities. My flight was to leave at 6.30am. Yawning, I woke at 4am with an eagerness I had not seen since last September. My pack was barely 7kg light and I was out the door after a quick breakfast and my last cup of tea for two weeks.

Dublin Airport Terminal 1 was bustling, even for this time of the morning. Many were still wearing GAA jerseys after the All Ireland Hurling final the evening before. I checked my pack in and headed for the gate, eager to get on the plane and reach Spain. My Camino had begun with gusto.

The flight took off and within 2 and a half hours I had arrived at Madrid Barajas Airport – a sprawling metropolis of 4 terminals compared to Dublin’s 2. I collected my baggage and headed for the feeder bus. This little nipper arrives every 5 minutes and carries passengers from Terminal 1 to 4 within 20 minutes. It’s a joy to ride on, compared to walking. I was in T4 in no time waiting for the Alsa bus for Burgos. Luckily enough, the bus station in T4 is just adjacent to a cafe (and a McDonalds). I had a quick snack while waiting for the bus arriving at 11.15 Spanish time. The sun was shining bright and I was glad to be in the shade while waiting.

The bus arrived on time and a gruff Spanish driver ticked my name off a rugged piece of paper. “Dahveed?”..”Si”, I replied, as he opened the baggage door at the side of the large bus. The bus was full in no time. Burgos was not it’s only stop today, as it would make it’s way for Irun. I sat beside the window hoping that I would sleep but before I knew it, a tall gentleman sat beside me. He was also wearing cargo-pants, instantly identifying himself as a pilgrim.

“Are you on the way the Camino?”, I asked.

“Yes indeed, Burgos”, he replied.

“Excellent!, where have you come from?”…I asked, keen to strike up a conversation with anyone headed to the French Way.

He had come from Salt Lake City, via Newark Airport. His accent gave his origin away to be fair but the question was the ideal icebreaker. Robert, was just retired from the military and was keen to experience at least 10 days from Burgos. We talked for the majority of the trip, mainly about trails in Ireland and in the US. He looked super-fit so I didn’t think the Camino would be a problem for him, however, he was going to take it slow and steady from the start. A wise decision. I had hoped to see Robert again, but this was to be the only time I would see him, and on reaching Burgos, I wished him a Buen Camino. I made the point of saying “I won’t say goodbye, but I’ll see you on the way”.

At 1.30pm, we reached the Estación de Autobuses in Burgos on Calle Miranda, about 5 minutes away from the Catedral de Burgos. I was glad to be here and walked to my hostel that I had booked – Hostal Evolución. At €35, it wasn’t bad for a one bed room, including shower. I had plans for the evening so I decided that 2 hours or so sleep would be wise. A friend of mine told me that he has a friend living in Burgos who would be happy to show me around and have some tapas. Now, I’m not going to say no to tapas! So, sleep, refresh and tapas…sounds like a good plan!

Later on, I met Patricia outside the hostal after 6pm, just when the town was waking up from siesta. We walked over the Río Arlanzón and under the Arco del Cid to reveal Burgos Cathedral standing tall. She looked better than I saw her last in 2015. We walked around it, past the Albergue and on to our first tapas bar. One vino de ribeiro and a tapa, por favor! After 7pm, Burgos turns into a rich tapestry of bars and restaurants. The Plaza Mayor was full of families and kids giving their best shot at being Messi or Ronaldo. It was a joy!

After our 3rd vino de ribeiro, Patricia saw her mother and we decided to take a seat at one of the many bars. I tried another tapa – some bread with an anchovy drenched in oil. Beautiful. Her mother had no English and I had little Spanish and it was funny as Patricia was translating our conversation. It took time!

But time flew and 8pm became 9pm. I wanted to make an early start the next morning so I said my goodbyes. It was a great evening and I promised to say hello to everyone the next time I was in Burgos. While walking back to the hostal, I bought a walking pole to keep me company for the 10 or so days. I arrived at the hostal and got ready for the next morning. I hoped to reach Hontanas, but it was promised to be warm.

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Home..but still on the Way..

My feet are in Dublin but my mind has been left somewhere between Leon and Astorga on the dusty trail.

Sigh!

All who I have met, broke bread and shared stories with are close to Santiago at this stage. How I wish I had continued my journey with them. But alas!, I must return to reality. I have heaps to write about and I hope to do so over the next few weeks. I also have made plans for May 2018 so my way is still being walked. More of that to come. I am blessed to live so close to a treasure that is the Camino. Every year it gives me time to think, to switch off, to have time alone and share conundrums with total strangers. No judgement is made or received. I made some difficult decisions over these few weeks which can be hard to make in the midst of the noise of everyday life.

It’s difficult to sum up in a sentence what this particular Camino meant to me. Each morning, I would start walking in the dark with only a torch to guide me. I would listen to music until the sun climbed over the horizon. One particular song hit home. It is called “Scare away the dark” by Passenger. I listened to this most mornings, maybe twice or three times. Listen yourself to the lyrics, the words struck a chord for me. We should all live and love without fear or consequence. Our time on this blue dot is not long. Keep it simple, treat everyone the same as you would like to be treated yourself and most of all, do what makes you happy.

La vida es un Camino!

 

 

Writing from the Camino..

Hola!

I write to you in the Municipal Albergue in Astorga. I have walked for ten days and while this is not even a third of the full French Way, I have completed the time allotted to me this year. I started in Burgos what feels like months ago and after close to 240kms, I strolled into Astorga this morning.

This has been very much a solitary Camino. I have made friends but none will remain friends once I leave. This contrasts to previous Caminos when I made life-long friends. I have learned alot in these ten days. I have learned to accept more and some important questions have been answered. Time passes so quickly and the important things are not how your day in work is and bills but what is in your pack and what condition your feet are in.

I wish I had more time, I wish my feet didn’t hurt and I wish life could be this simple. But no, i must travel to Santiago to fly to Dublin. One day I will have time to walk for 5-6 weeks but it won’t be for some time. I return home on Saturday with a heavy heart and with sore feet knowing that my Camino continues at home and it won’t be long before I return to this great country. 

I will write in more detail when i return home. In the meantime, Buen Camino to one and all. 

The Countdown continues…

With 3 days before I board my flight to Madrid, I am filled with mixed emotions – happiness, trepidation, excitement – but this is all normal.

I have walked into Burgos twice before but have not had the chance to properly explore. This year I arrive between 1-2pm and I will make the most of this free time to not only visit the Cathedral but it’s Castle and the Museum of Human of Evolution. But all this may change. I remember in 2015 that I had very little energy on arriving at the albergue and skipped the opportunity of seeing the Cathedral – possibly the most beautiful one along the Camino, with the exception of Santiago.

Am I ready? Of course – I have been since September 2016. Am I prepared? – I hope I am. I will find out when I arrive. My pack weight is lighter than before at 7kg. The weather forecast has made me decide to carry a silk liner instead of a sleeping bag. New additions include rain pants and pacerpoles. I return to 1000 mile socks also.

This may be my last stroll on the Camino Frances for quite some time, as I have previously mentioned. A jaunt on the Celtic Camino from A Coruna has been planned in early May of 2018 with my younger brother. This will be first time I walk with a companion. He is a much faster walker to me – so I may still be walking alone. Either way, I look forward to this trip.

You can follow me on my meseta Camino from Monday on my Instagram and occasionally on my Facebook page. Please like both if you can. You won’t miss a footstep if you do.

Buen Camino!

Etapa 1 of the Celtic Camino (por segunda vez) – Bray, Co. Wicklow to St. James Church, Dublin

I had previously walked this route with my good friend, Oihana, back in June. However, the opportunity arose to walk it again and I couldn’t refuse as it is a smashing trail along the coast of Dublin…. 28km in total, although a few would argue that it is a little more in distance.

The Camino Society organises monthly walks and this month they had decided to take members and friends on one of the many recognised routes of the Celtic Camino. It is also the most accessible for those in Dublin. Those who walk any of the recognised routes will gain an Irish compostela provided they receive at least two sellos. When complete, pilgrims can continue their Celtic Camino in the city of A Coruna in northern Spain to Santiago. Today’s walk was well advertised and this morning close to 50 future pilgrims turned up to take on this challenging but beautiful walk. We all met at the Bandstand in Bray at 9am. The weather was just perfect, not too cold, not too hot and the forecast was good. I suppose I should have left the raingear at home, eh?

My brother came along with his Camino Society pilgrim passport bought for the occasion. He had received his first sello in St. James’ Church last week and was eager to get started. We have agreed to walk from A Coruna in either April or May next year, over 4 days – 75km. I’ve been entrusted with looking for accommodation and I will leave the decision to him whether he wishes to carry his baggage..not an important decision to make. However, it needs to be mentioned that he is a pilgrim now..everyone who has completed the walk today to St. James Church has started their journey to Santiago on the Celtic Camino. Many turned up to walk part of the route, with the intention of continuing another day…which is acceptable.

Back to today…

After a quick briefing, those who did not have pilgrim passports were offered one. There were three sellos to receive today to prove that we had walked the route. The first sello can be received in Sea Life Aquarium in Bray. The great thing about this stamp is it was made especially with this route in mind. I just love the large shell.

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Onwards we walked northbound, in the direction of Bray village and Shankill. We were away from the coast during this time but on arriving at Killiney, we saw the coast again, like a chink of light.

It wasn’t long before the group had split up with the faster walkers leading the pack and the more relaxed and easy-going further behind. I suppose I took on my natural pace and was at the front of the group for most of the day, and there was a large number of people I hadn’t met that I wish I did. Ah well, I will leave that until next time.

We walked through the beautiful town of Dalkey before reaching Sandycove and the James Joyce museum at the Martello tower. Sello number 2 (below) was waiting for us and we took a breather before saying our goodbyes.

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Myself and the brother took a rest stop at the port town of Dun Laoghaire, saying a temporary goodbye to those who we had been walking to. The benches looking out to the sea were perfect and we waited for a few other unfamiliar faces to pass us by so we could chat to them. Dun Laoghaire is the start of the annual Aware Harbour 2 Harbour walk and we are both familiar of what’s ahead of us…until Ringsend that is, but we will reach that point later on.

We keep close to the coast passing the towns of Monkstown, Blackrock, Booterstown and Sandymount, before we reached Ringsend. We were nearly home and dry, as this is the point we make inroads to Dublin city and James Street. I am a native of this great city all my life and I still don’t know Ringsend all that well. Shame on me! However, we made it to the docklands and crossed Samuel Beckett Bridge, one of the tallest bridges in Ireland. We were both accompanied by a woman, whose name escapes me, and she kept us entertained until we reached St. James’ Church. My back was causing me problems so she was great at distracting me. So nameless pilgrim – thank you!

We eventually reached St. James’ Church just after 3pm after leaving Bray just after 9am. The final sello was provided to us and we said our goodbyes.

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This is a tremendous walk and today was well organised. I look forward to the next walk. But first I must look forward to my wander across the meseta on the 4th of September. Rest is in order to ensure my back doesn’t cause me any problems while away. I hope to end this Camino in Rabanal del Camino before I set my focus on Etapa 2 of the Celtic Camino.

After walking this route twice, I would do it again at the drop of a hat. I would encourage you, dear reader, to do the same. Not drop your hat, but check out the below links and find out how to receive your Irish compostela and then your Celtic Camino compostela.

 

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Thoughts on 2018….and a departure.

Heh…I haven’t laid a step on the Camino this year but I’ve already been quietly putting plans together for 2018. It’s constantly on my mind.

Three things are for certain, one other, not so much.

I move into my new humble abode “Casa Herrero” on returning from my meseta Camino in mid-September. With the added responsibility of bills, mortgage etc, from living there, I can’t see walking for more than a week being the right thing to do. I have spent quite a bit on decoration and refurbishment there, so a 2-3 week Camino is not viable. I “could” do it, but it would be far far from wise. So a short few days, no more than a week, is on the cards. Also, after hearing so much about the excellent new Celtic Camino, walking from A Coruna is ideal. So that’s the number one certainty.

Another certainty is I won’t be alone. My brother has been talking about walking a few days on the Camino with me and I’ve been putting him off for quite a while. I suppose because I like to walk alone. But he is persistent 🙂 and rather than introducing him to the Camino at Sarria, starting in A Coruna fits the bill. Short and sweet, and I just know he would be put off from returning if he was to walk from Sarria. He has been gathering all the gear slowly and walks quite a bit…nearly as much as me! Now I wonder if he will carry his pack..hmm…even if he prefers not to, jacotrans is there.

I would love to see the coast again..so I haven’t decided if I will spend a few extra days and walk to Muxia. I need to run that question by my brother also.

Another certainty is, after my meseta Camino in September, I will say goodbye to the Camino Frances for the unforeseen. There is so much of Spain I haven’t seen and so many routes left unwalked. Now is the time to gather information about them. The Celtic Camino is a great start and I will gain my first compostela since 2011, however this one will mean much more! The Camino Frances is a beautiful trail and I have great love for it but it no longer offers surprises, I know what is around each corner.

So I suppose that is 2018…more thoughts later.

Buen Camino amigos y amigas!