Camino Frances 2017 – Day 9 – Villavante to Santibañez de Valdeiglesias

Camino 2017 – Day 9 – Villavante to Santibañez de Valdeiglesias – September 13th
Penultimate day from one small town to another..

Second to last day of walking. It would be a short day as well. I had already began thinking of returning to work, which is a no-no while on Camino. Sigh. Anyway, moving on. I had yet to reach one of my favourite towns, Astorga, and of course, make my journey to Santiago.

The evening before I had no idea where the following day would end. Hospital de Orbigo was only 5km away. The next town after, Villares de Órbigo is just 8km while Astorga is a whopping 24km. Note my sarcasm there 🙂 So I would walk until my feet told me not to.

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I woke in Santa Lucia at 6.30am…a late start for me! I left the albergue at 7am, after some breakfast. Last night’s sleep was poor. I woke a number of times and at one stage, someone had the cheek to pinch my 5th toe, possibly due to my snoring. The one toe that had a blister on it! The blister didn’t cause me any bother walking however. I was joined by a German couple on leaving the albergue and despite their lack of English (or my lack of German) we still managed a conversation. The sun was rising as we left the small village and aimed for Hospital de Orbigo. En route to Orbigo, you cross train tracks, walk over a motorway before seeing the water tower at the entrance of the town. It was quiet enough at this time of the morning, however. I said goodbye to the German couple here as I wanted to see more of the town. Nothing was open, as expected. Even Albergue Verde, one place that was on my list of must-sees. Another time. I crossed the bridge and moved through the town. It is one long road but seems to go on forever. I’ve walked through here on three occasions; 2012, 2015 and this year. It never changes, that’s the beauty of it.

I arrived at the exit of Orbigo and saw Robert from Germany who I first met in Arcahueja. It was a surprise to see him again however I knew he was having shin-splint problems. I was quite happy to walk at his pace for the day. We chose to take the road to the right, avoiding the main road. Now, we were back on a meseta-type trail until arriving at Astorga. We arrived at Villares de Órbigo at 8.30am and were greeted by a Danish lady who had started her Camino in St Jean. All three of us continued slowly to Santibañez and arrived at 9am. We stopped for a cafe con leche and took in the morning until Robert and our new friend parted company. Their destination this day was Astorga. My destination would be the albergue attached to this bar I was resting at – Albergue Camino Frances, with 14 beds. €20 with 3 course meal included. It wouldn’t open until 11am however so I had another hour to spare. It made sense to stop here. If I continued to Astorga, I would need to find a bed for an extra night as my bus to Santiago was to leave the following day.

This albergue was one of the smaller albergues I have stayed in, but well run. It looked like it was family-run. While waiting for it to open, Riley from the US and her friend from South Africa passed by. I was delighted to see them again. They were also aiming for Astorga and were looking forward to the change of scenery after the meseta.

Checking in was quick and I had my clothes washed and hung out to dry in no time. With temps of 25c, it was a perfect time for it. Dinner was at 7pm and I ate by myself, although I had been keeping in touch with a number of pilgrim friends by email. I was looked forward to moving on the following day.

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Camino Frances 2017 – Day 8 – León to Villavante

Camino 2017 – Day 8 – León to Villavante – September 12th
One last long day..and walking by myself again.

I had a good sleep in Hostal Madriguera. It’s somewhere I recommend if you want a good rest, and I did. The owner, Alba, who has walked the Camino, is very helpful and the hostel is situated pretty close to the main square. Give it a look-up. However, that said, I should have stopped by the albergue. The previous day would be the last time I would see the majority of those I had met. I would walk alone the next day. But that’s not a bad thing sometimes. I know most of whom I had met were aiming for Hospital de Orbigo, a 30+km day. If I could manage it, well and good – I would see my pilgrim buddies again. If not, so be it. There were plenty of pilgrims on the trail…even in mid-September.

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In 2015, I stayed in Albergue Santa Lucia in Villavante and fell in love with it. The hospitality, the owner going out of her way for you, but I need to mention Coco the parrot! She would put a smile on your face if she squawked while you washed your dirty clothes. I remember not being allowed to take photos so that was a little disappointing. So..I would aim for Orbigo but if all else fails, Villavante was there to welcome me. This means taking the less travelled alternative route on leaving León. You have two options: walk along the road passing through small towns en route to Orbigo, or walk on a meseta-type trail through two towns. This was my meseta-Camino, so I’d do what I could to draw it out. Not many walk the alternative route, but I encourage it. It’s quiet, there is a town to stop after 21km – Vilar de Mazarife with it’s 3 albergues and if you feel up to it, there is Villavante after 30km. I felt up to it today. Being alone, I wanted to record some video, and I did (below)

I left León after 5.30am. The darkness engulfed the city, just the way I like it. I stood in front of the cathedral saying my goodbyes knowing that it would be some time before I saw it again. I walked on..alone. It was cold this morning and predictions of rain abounded, but it was dry for the time being. I felt good but thoughts of an ending Camino weren’t too far away. It would be 2 further days before I arrived in Astorga, only hop-skip and jump down the road. I was going to stretch these two final days out – records will be broken. But first, one last long day.

There is nothing interesting to see as you leave León however you climb for a bit and reach a number of bodegas at Trobajo del Camino. Make sure you turn back here and watch the sun rise over the city behind you. I said my goodbyes and moved on into the new morning. The locals were waking up and going to work, I wished each a Buenos Días as I passed. There was no music today, just me and my thoughts. Thinking – it can be bad, but it can be good. Too much of it is a bad thing – I’d argue against that if you are on the Camino. Promises can be made and there were a few promises I made to myself since I left Burgos. I won’t go into them now. I reached Virgen del Camino and stopped for a breakfast coffee and tostado – a regular occurrence at this stage. The cafe was just opening and I chatted in broken Spanish to the owner. A few metres down the main road is the church – Santuario De La Virgen Del Camino. I spent a few minutes here to enjoy its design before I crossed the road and found the start of the alternative route.

It was still dark by 7am. My phone’s torch was brought to the rescue as I worked out where was where. Once I saw an arrow I was where I needed to be. I made my way across a main road and I was on meseta-like trail again. Perfect walking ground. I seemed to pass Chozas de Abajo and Oncina in no time. I arrived at Vilar de Mazarife at 9.30am. There was nothing open, as I expected. I didn’t seem to mind. I took off my pack and found a seat to lie back on. Fruit, a yoghurt and a drink – heaven! Simple pleasures. I had two choices – stay here for an hour or so until the albergue opened or walk 8km to Villavante. The answer was plain to me. Villavante it was.

The 8km walk was slow but not arduous. There was a deliberate lack of pace. I mean, I could aim for Orbigo, but what’s the point? It would make my next two days even more difficult 🙂 I kept looking behind me for pilgrims, but I didn’t see one. This is a great alternative to the busy road after Virgen del Camino. I enjoyed it. Many wouldn’t. I arrived at Villavante at 11am. I took a bottom bunk beside the window and waited for company. It wasn’t long before I was joined by Ian, from New Zealand. He was closely followed by two girls from the US and South Africa. We had dinner at 7pm and a drink after. The parrot got the last laugh however as my request for a photograph was again denied. Hmmph!

I had no idea what I would do the following day. Orbigo maybe? 5km? Records will again be broken.

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Camino Frances 2017 – Day 7 – Arcahueja to Leon

Camino 2017 – Day 7 – Arcahueja to Leon – September 11th
A short stroll to Leon

The shortest day I have walked on any Camino. Barely 8 km was walked before we reached the walls of Leon. But I wasn’t alone. Aga and the Australian women strolled along with me, and boy! did we take our time.

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We left Albergue La Torre just before 7am. The sun was rising behind us as we sauntered into the city. We started to climb for a kilometre or two before it was all descent into Leon. We reached a large bridge and on crossing, you can see the cathedral in the city. We kind of knew that it wasn’t long before we reached the town.

The main albergue wasn’t due to open until 10.30am however I had arranged to stay in La Madriguera hostel about 5 minutes from the Cathedral. We had plenty of time on our hands so we decided on having some breakfast before parting ways. The Australian women were so much fun. I had met them initially in Boadilla del Camino but had bumped into them on and off until the previous night. I got to know them a little bit better over the evening beforehand. Aga, I had met in Boadilla also and it wouldn’t be the last I would see of her.

On reaching Leon, it was 10am, and the church bells were ringing from the Cathedral. We took in the atmosphere and aimed for Cafe Valor. I ordered Churros and Chocolate and it was delicious. Along came June also, who received my message that we had arrived. She was staying in the municipal albergue and was allowed to stay for one more night. We also met Robert and Rosa from the previous night in Arcahueja and a number of others who had met along the way. It was a great morning and plenty of hugs were exchanged.

11am came and some decided to make way to the Albergue. It is a popular albergue and fills up quick. I had received an email that my bed would not be ready until midday so I stuck around with Robert and Rosa who had decided to walk to La Virgen del Camino, the next town. June stayed also. I wanted to buy a few bits and pieces for lunch back in the hostel and went to shop across from Cafe Valor.

12am came and I decided to walk across to the hostal. I realised that I wouldn’t see many again, but I didn’t say goodbye. I simply said “See you on the trail”. I would email June later in the day to see if she would like to walk the following day.

La Madriguera is a fine hostel and I was greeted by Alba who has previously walked the Camino Frances to Finistere. Proof is hanging on the wall upstairs. She has the interests of pilgrims at heart so I would recommend this hostel if you would like a private room.

The rest of the day was spent sleeping and debating where I would stop the following day. I didn’t have alot of kms to walk before Astorga however I had a good few days.

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Camino Frances 2017 – Day 6 – El Burgo Ranero to Arcahueja

Camino 2017 – Day 6 – El Burgo Ranero to Arcahueja – September 10th
A long straight walk, another goodbye and a meeting of new friends…

Another day on the meseta, although we were nearing the end. Many of our fellow pilgrims were talking of walking a big walk today to reach Leon. Many whom I had met had walked longer days previously. From then on in, the terrain gets a little more varied. For me however, I was coming to the end of my Camino for this year and wanted to make the most of my time until I reached Astorga, my end point.

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DaySix

It was an early morning and before leaving the albergue in El Burgo Ranero, June had made some lunch to keep us going for the day ahead. You genuinely meet good people on the Camino. June was one of them. To start the day, we had a 12 km walk to the next town, Reliegos, but we were in good spirits and we talked about what we would do on reaching Leon. That said, I didn’t think I would make it that far but chose to keep that to myself. 39km is a little too much for one day and I was in no rush. June on the other hand was eager to reach Santiago in 10 days. We were different in some ways. The walk out of El Burgo is long and straight and there is no much to inspire you. We chose to walk on the road rather than on the uneven senda, however the odd car would pass at speed. We were careful however deciding to use our torches on our phones to make the drivers aware of our existence. Within 2 and a half hours we had reached Reliegos, a small town close to Leon. I had stayed here in 2015 but there is not much to write home about, however Bar Elvis is still here. It was closed as we passed, choosing to stop for a few moments to take a photo. I told June about his quirkiness and his liking of Elvis music. A quirky man for a quirky town. A lot of pilgrims tend to walk on by here and aim for the much larger Mansilla de las Mulas. And we did too.

It was getting brighter and I felt good. The sun had made its daily appearance and I felt it on my head, having lost my cap a few days ago. I also lost my buff the previous day. I still had my wooden pole however, but I had lost the metal tip at the base of the pole. I grew to like its company over the days, no matter how battered it was. It is the small things that give you joy on the Camino. Another 6 km to Mansilla de las Mulas and you could sense that you were leaving the meseta…a motorway, more junctions, cars, industrial estates, it was busier. We stopped off at the first albergue in Mansilla for some breakfast..”El Jardin”. June wanted to buy me cafe. We had our sandwiches that she had made and just took in the morning. Mansilla was quiet. The albergue were opening up and we were met by many cyclists taking a pitstop.

The statue of the weary pilgrims is across the street before you enter the town of Mansilla. It is well known to those who have walked the Camino and depicts three tired pilgrims having clearly walked more than they can manage. We rested for a while and took a few photos. Walking through a lane brings you into the town. It is large and there were many locals wearing t shirts with the town’s name across it. There were also streamers hanging from buildings as if there was a fiesta due. I later learned that that evening there was a fiesta that continued to the early hours of the next day! Leaving the town, you can see signs of Mansilla’s Roman history. It was a walled town and the majority of the wall is still there. Keep an eye out for it as you pass through.

I told June that I wouldn’t be able to walk to Leon and would stay in either of the next two towns – Villarente or Arcahueja. Both are tiny, blink-and-you-will-miss-them, towns. June was determined to reach Leon and I knew she would make it, she is such a strong walker. My memory didn’t serve me well as I knew little about these two towns, but from my 2015 Camino, I passed an albergue in Arcahueja, a tiny town 8 kms from Leon. I decided to aim for here. I had no idea now good / bad / indifferent it was – I didn’t care. But we had another 5 kms to go before arriving there. Villarente was busy. I told June of the unfortunate death on the main road and the decision to re-route the Camino around the town as a result. The Camino enters a wood for a km or so before you are brought back on the main road. We stopped at Albergue Delfin for a cold drink and a rest before veering off the main road and aiming for Arcahueja. I arrived at Albergue La Torre at 1pm. I had walked 30km and I needed to rest. The sun had made it a harder day than usual.

It would be the last day that I walked with June. I chose not to say goodbye to her as she would be taking a rest day in Leon. We promised to meet up the following day and I wished her well for her remaining 8 km. Albergue La Torre didn’t look eye-catching and usually I would walk by a town like this. Arriving outside, the owners were busy serving lunch and said the rooms are being cleaned. I had no problem waiting. I had another drink and at 2pm, I was invited in. It’s a smashing little albergue and I was pleasantly surprised and how I was treated. Dinner was at 7pm so I had some lunch and before long I was greeted by Aga from Poland and the 2 Australian women. I had company. I also met Robert from Germany and Rosa from Mexico. Robert was suffering in a bad way with tendonitis and wasn’t walking a great deal each day. Slow and steady wins the race however. We all had a few drinks outside in the terrace sharing stories under the sun and waited for dinner.

It was a great night and we looked forward to the 8km walk into Leon the following morning.

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Camino Frances 2017 – Day 3 – Boadilla del Camino to Carrion de los Condes

Camino 2017 – Day 3 – Boadilla del Camino to Carrion de los Condes – September 7th
A gentle breeze, a long senda and a blessing at night.

An amazing sleep was disturbed at 5pm by the zipping of sleeping bags. Another day on the Camino had started. I gathered up my things and headed for the bathroom. Breakfast was at 7am but I chose not to wait. I had some fruit and yoghurt from Day 1 left over. I looked out the door – darkness. I was not first on the trail this morning however. An Italian couple were up and ready and out by 5.30. I took it a little easier and started at 6am. It was still dark but I was used to it by this stage.

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Leaving Boadilla, I walked along the Canal de Castilla until Frómista, another 6km westward. It was an easy stroll, however my foot was still paining me after the previous day’s discovery of blister no. 1. My headlamp had failed me so I was using my phone to guide me while I waited for the sun to rise. All was quiet. I could hear small animals move in the reeds along the canal. My attention was then turned to the sky. It was clear. Not a cloud could be seen and the moon illuminated the sky. Ah..if only we could see the sky like this back in Dublin.

Frómista was within sight after an hour and I felt peckish. I stopped by Bar El Manchego and ordered a café con leche and a tostada con queso – my customary desayuno these days. It got cold as I was eating and I was eager to get moving again. Frómista is a large town but it is not one I have stayed in before. Boadilla has won my heart. When I had finished, I wished the bar owner a healthy Buenos Dias and gathered my hat and pole. Adelante!

It wasn’t long until I reached the main highway and crossroads. I became a little lost at this point, mainly due to the lack of light however once I saw the cut out statue on the overpass, I was sure of the right way. The sun was peaking over the horizon and it became brighter. I reached Poblacion del Camino and it was sleeping while I walked through. It was then that I met my old foe – the P-980 and the Senda del Peregrino. For the next 18kms, I would be walking along the side of a busy road. Hardly ideal, but you take the good with the bad. On the whole, the road was quiet but every so often, a large truck or lorry would speed by disturbing my train of thought. Peaceful, it wasn’t. I had the option of taking a diversion through Villovieco to Villalcazar de Sirga but this made the day longer. The road would be my companion for the day. I had not met any other pilgrims. no matter how slow I walked. My Buen Caminos were given to cyclists as they sped past. I had not decided where I was to stop this evening – Villalcazar de Sirga with it’s large church or the pilgrim town of Carrion de los Condes. Stopping at Villalcazar meant I had walked 19km while ending in Carrion made it a 26km day. My feet felt good and it was only 10.30. So I decided to leave the decision to Villalcazar and a cold glass of Coke, con hielo of course.

Arriving in Villalcazar brought back some good memories. I had stayed here in 2015 with some good people. I was really tempted to stop here so I had a drink and a think but ultimately decided it was too early.  I stopped by the Iglesia de Santa Maria la Blanca but it was closed. Onwards to Carrión de los Condes so.

I had 6kms more along the road before I reached the largest town on the Camino since Burgos. Carrion de los Condes has 3 large albergues – all run by religious orders. There are many pensions and hotels here as well. The Church of Santa Maria in Carrion could be seen from 3km outside the town. The albergue I was aiming for is conjoined to it and is normally run by nuns. However, the Albergue de Santa Maria’s nuns were on leave for the first 2 weeks of September and were replaced by volunteers. It was not open until midday and I arrived to a queue of backpacks at 11.30. I tried to sit down but it was futile. I wasn’t in pain, I just needed to stretch first. A group of Brazilians headed the queue, speaking Portuguese much to my dismay. Next in line was a Galician, who had worked for a number of Irish firms in Cork. He just didn’t know English. And after him was a pale sore Irishman – me. I was joined then by June from San Diego who offered me an apple that she bought in the local market. I would get to become friends with her over the next few days.

I knew others who arrived later – the German sister and brother, 2 friends from the US and a large Korean contingent. When checking in, the hospitalero told us that at 7pm we were invited to sing, at 8pm, we were invited to mass next door and finally at 9pm, there would be a community meal. We were asked to go to the supermarket and buy what we wished. The volunteers would then make a meal with what was provided. It was strange, but I was looking forward to it. I loved it here from the off.

While looking for an ATM machine, I met Jo-Jo again and asked how she was getting on. I saw one of the Swedish girls also who was staying in another albergue. She told me that her friend had caught a bus to Leon and was going home. It would be the last time I saw them. I remember fondly the fun we had in Boadilla. I went to the local Dia supermercado and bought a few odds and ends – anything nutritious for dinner. I then bought some lunch as I was in no mood to wait until 9pm for dinner! Back in the albergue, I managed to catch some rest and tend to my feet. I also saw Adam from my first day who arrived to a full albergue. He was granted a mattress on a floor. A lucky man, as the next town is 17km away.

7pm arrived and about 20 pilgrims gathered tentatively in the courtyard. One of the volunteers had a guitar while others had bongos and shakers. Handouts were given to each pilgrim with spanish and english lyrics of well known songs. The first song was sung and we were urged to clap to the chorus (below). We were then asked one by one to introduce ourselves and say why we are walking the Camino. Now..bear in mind that those of us sitting here spoke English, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, German. You can imagine how long it took to translate! 🙂 It was a fun get together however and we got to know each other a little more. I got talking to Patricia from the US afterward. She had met an Irish man who wrote a Camino song to the tune of Molly Malone. At the time of talking to her, he had sung it in Orisson and Roncesvalles. I await for Patricia to complete her Camino when she will send me video of him singing it.

We attended mass shortly after, spoken in Spanish. My second mass of this Camino. At the end of the mass, the priest called all pilgrims to the altar, which is standard. He proceeded to ask if anyone was from Spain? from Italy? from USA? and so on. When I heard, “¿Hay alguien de Irlanda?”, my arm raised up slowly and I looked around to see if there were others. Unfortunately not. Adam, from the UK, was the nearest to my home. We all got a blessing and were given a small paper star given to symbolise our time in this albergue. I will cherish it. It was a pretty special few moments and I’ll make sure to visit this albergue next time. After mass, we attended dinner in the courtyard. I was taken aback by how much food was bought by those staying in the albergue. Pasta, meats, fish, tuna, fruits, wine, ice cream – it all made a filling meal.

It was 10pm and late for us pilgrims, I gathered my things and thought about the next day. June had asked me earlier if we could walk together. I said sure! She had no one place in mind but I was hoping to reach either Ledigos or Terradillos de los Templarios, which has very little evidence of the Templars left. A 24km or 27km day so. Today was a special day, I wonder if tomorrow would be the same.

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Camino Frances 2017 – Day 2 – Hontanas to Boadilla del Camino

Camino 2017 – Day 2 – Hontanas to Boadilla del Camino – September 6th
Still hot…and onto an oasis!

Most pilgrims don’t know where their day (or feet) will take them, but I knew from the off that today would lead me to a small town in the meseta called Boadilla del Camino. The town might not have much to offer but one of its albergues (En El Camino) is enough reason to walk a whole Camino. I’ve stayed there a few times before and Eduardo provides all you seek in a hospitalero. It is a mini-oasis.

But anyway..back to the start of the day. It was promised to be hot today so I woke early and gathered my things. It took a while to find the door in El Puntido but after much searching, I discovered it at the back of the albergue. After some fruit, juice and a breakfast snack, I was on my way. The albergue was starting to rise by the time I left, however I was the first to leave. This tended to be a common theme throughout this year’s Camino! This morning was cold as the sun was not up and my fleece and buff helped me warm up for a few hours. I said goodbye to Hontanas for another year and made my way off road, along a trail to the right of the road. It leads up a hill and away from the road but all I had was a torch to guide me. This would be my Way for the next hour or so. I didn’t meet a soul but I did see some lights flickering behind me – other pilgrims.

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DayTwo

The sky was clear and the moon was almost full. The moon hung in the sky like a pale disc showing me the right direction. GPS is over-rated, right? It wasn’t long before I was back on the road and approaching the ruins of the San Antón hospital. I have passed these ruins a number of times before and each time it was daylight. It was a pity that there was no light to see such beauty. A refugio has been re-opened in the last few years and I kept an eye out for Adam in the event that he stayed there the night previous. There was no movement, so I marched on to Castrojeriz, the next town. I might see him again somewhere down the Camino. Castrojeriz is another town that needs light to fully appreciate it, as it is based on the side of a hill. There were no cafes open as I passed through it, however many pilgrims were leaving their albergues. I took a rest and some water before leaving the town. The sun was peaking over the horizon so I threw my pack over my shoulder as I wanted to be at the top of the upcoming Alto de Mostalares to watch the sun rise over the town of Castrojeriz.

Leaving Castrojeriz, you can see the upcoming climb and it is not easy. Slow and steady is the advice given. I’ve made this climb twice before and you would think that I know this stretch inside-out. I do. However, the urge is there to push forward. I meet Jo-Jo from the US. She is taking her time after her stay in Castrojeriz. Surprised after hearing I started in Hontanas, she asks what I had for breakfast!!! Just some fruit and energy, I tell her jokingly. I stay with her until we reach the top. Every minute or so, we turn back to watch the sun rise behind us and above Castrojeriz. What a sight! Ahead of me are pilgrims from Korea, France, Spain and Holland, all starting their day from Castrojeriz. The Alto de Mostelares was conquered..eventually and I stop for a few minutes to gather my thoughts and chomp down a donativo banana lying on a table with other fruit and drinks.

I say “see you on the trail” to Jo-Jo and walk on, with renewed energy. Now is the gradual descent from the Alto. Not as tough as the incline but me and descents don’t see eye-to-eye! I’m back to walking solo for an hour or so as we come close to the province of Palencia. The sun has risen and the temperatures are climbing at this stage. Either side of me are fields of sun flowers, with the odd haystack. All I do is put the head down and walk on with a smile on my face.

I meet Susan from Oregon. She was walking super-slow and I saw this as a chance to bring the pace down. I hadn’t had a good conversation since meeting Adam the day previous. She had plenty of time ahead and was in no rush. It was still morning and we passed Itero de la Vega talking about our respective lives. She was fun and had a dry wit about her. She loved the Spanish people but it was good to speak to someone with good English. It wasn’t long before the old chestnut question was asked. “What has you out on the Camino?”. I usually give a short and simple answer to that question, but for some unknown reason, I told her what I was hoping to gain from this Camino. I mentioned that I had a disappointing year and I had a few questions that needed answering. I went on to talk to her about my epilepsy and the option of surgery had been put on the table. This filled me with a lot of fear naturally. I wanted to be pointed in the right direction. The great thing about the Camino is you will get a straightforward answer from any person you meet – without judgement. She gave her opinion and what I should do, which I truly appreciate and lifted a lot of weight from my shoulders. I talked to Susan for one hour and never saw her again. But I will remember her for her honesty and humour. Buen Camino Susan. It was now time to pick up the pace.

It was close to 10.30 at this point and a long straight path was ahead of me before reaching the next town – Boadilla del Camino. There was nothing out of the ordinary to see – the meseta is pretty monotonous but I had time on my hands and I kept walking westward. The path was difficult to walk on however, with many stones and it was far from level. I felt pain toward the side of my heel. Whatever it was, it could hold out until I reached Boadilla. This was probably a bad decision in retrospect. I arrived at my end point – Albergue En El Camino at 11.30. I was delighted to be here after 29km and see the hospitalero, Eduardo, again. From the outside, it doesn’t look welcoming, but inside, the pool, bar and great food are enough reasons to stay.

After settling in and getting my clothes washed, I checked my heel. As feared, there was a large blister after forming. Out with the needle and thread, germoline and plaster. I should know better hmmph! I had no other problems to contend with I was happy to say.

I met quite a few fellow peregrinos today – 2 Irish guys from Co. Carlow. Both were travelling separately but were remaining in contact through Whatsapp. I also met a couple from Perth in Australia, a German brother and sister, 2 Swedish girls and one Australian girl who cracked me up many a time. Laughter is the best medicine eh? I saw Jo-Jo again after our chat on the Alto de Mostelares. It was really the first day I got to know many peregrinos. A community dinner was served at 7pm and I headed to the sleeping bag shortly after.

I can’t say enough good things about our host, Eduardo. He is never still and always has a smile, no matter how busy or stressed he is. I managed to get a selfie with him toward the end of the night. I hope to see him again soon but I hope to see some of my new friends sooner. Tomorrow was approaching and I was left with 2 choices – Villalcazar de Sirga or Carrion de los Condes. I will let the feet decide when I wake tomorrow.

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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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