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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Towns Along The Way – “H”

Onwards and upwards in the Camino alphabet we go. We must be near the end! The next letter we meet is H and there are a few. There are a number of towns under this letter; one in France, four in Castilla y Leon, and two in Galicia. Again, please comment if you have stayed in any of these towns. For more in this series, check out my Archive.

Honto / Huntto (map)

7494-134823I have seen many variations in the spelling of this place name, however, this is not so much a town but an area in the Saint Michel region of France. You will pass it within an hour of leaving St. Jean Pied de Port if you choose to walk the Napoleon route. While there are bars and accommodation in Honto (gronze.com), it’s probably best to keep focused on the climb ahead and celebrate when you reach Orrison a further 3km up the road. The road up to Honto is entirely on asphalt but it leaves the road shortly after and gets a lot steeper to Orrison. Enjoy the scenery also as the road gets higher!

Hornillos del Camino (map)

Hornillos is situated 20km from Burgos and is in the meseta region of 800px-Hornillos_del_CaminoSpain. The meseta is known for being flat, with roads lasting long into the distance. The towns are few and far between and often are unremarkable. Hornillos would be one of these unremarkable towns; it seems as if history left it behind. It has plenty of accommodation (gronze.com) however I prefer to stay in Hontanas, a further 10km up the road. The photo gives you an idea of how flat the landscape is, with Hornillos in the background. The picture was taken from Alto del Meseta some 2km away.

Hontanas (map)

2266053Hontanas is also situated in Castilla y Leon and a further 11km from Hornillos del Camino. The name is derived from a number of natural springs (fontanas) that can be found in the locality. If you choose to walk the 31km from Burgos (like I have), don’t let the flat landscape deter you but keep on walking. Hontanas is built in a depression so it is very difficult to spot the town until you are close up. Once you see the church spire pop up in the distance, you can think about your first cerveza! I have stayed in the Municipal albergue at the edge of town on both occasions that I have been here, but there are other albergues (gronze.com). El Puntido is a favourite of many.

Hospital de Órbigo (map)

There are number of towns that I passed through but wished to have stayed for longer. La Faba is one, Estella is two and Hospital de Orbigo is another. Situated between Leon and 2015-05-16 07.12.53Astorga, it is a major stopping point for many pilgrims. The town is home to the Puente de Orbigo, a long stone medieval bridge. There is also so much history behind the bridge and the town. There are just over 1000 people living in Hospital de Orbigo. You have quite a good selection of albergues here also (gronze.com) with Albergue Verde being one I would recommend. On leaving the town, the road splits in two. One takes you along the main road, while the other takes you off road through Villares de Orbigo.

Hospital da Cruz (map)

Hospital da Cruz (or O Hospital in Galician) is a rural hamlet located between Portomarin and Palas de Rei in Galicia. It is just over 80km from Santiago and has just under 50 people living there. The town has a municipal albergue (gronze.com) and a number of bars for a mid morning cerveza or cafe con leche!

Hospital da Condesa (map)

3060_hospital-da-condesaYet another town named Hospital. It’s getting difficult to distinguish between the three! Condesa is located just 6km from O Cebreiro. It has a population of just under 50 and again is a rural based hamlet. There is a municipal albergue (gronze.com) and bars with good reviews. While you pass through, you will notice the Church of San Xoan (Saint Joan in English). From here on, you have a steady ascent to Alto do Poio.

Las Herrerías de Valcarce (map)

And the final town starting with H is Las Herrerias de Valcarce. Las Herrerias is situated las Herreriasbetween Villafranca del Bierzo and O Cebriero. The placename means The Blacksmiths in English. Interesting. The town is right beside the Valcarce river and is the last stop before the road climbs to La Faba. There are about 39 people living here at present. Myself, I haven’t stayed here, preferring to pass through quickly in 2012. On my return in August, I may choose to stay here after walking from Villafranca. The next day I will have the climb plus an amazing sunrise to look forward to. There is an albergue here along with a number of pensions (gronze.com). Shortly after you leave Las Herrerias, you leave the asphalt road to La Faba. It’s a tough climb but it is well well worth it. Enjoy it!

My next post in this series will focus on Itero de la Vega, Linzoáin, Larrasoaña, Lorca, Los Arcos, Logroño, Lédigos and León. See you then!

Camino 2015 – Day 4 – Hontanas to Boadilla del Camino

What a day! 10 out of 10 from start to finish. I adore the meseta and you can really get a feel for it on this stage. The fields were lush green for miles on end and the views went on for miles. If you have a problem with wide open spaces, maybe the meseta isn’t for you. I never experienced anything like it before 2013 anyway.
Anyway, I started out after 6.30am which I considered late. I put in my ear plugs the night before to block out the coughing but missed the alarm clock on my phone. I left at around 6.45am but my plan to be on to of the Alto de Mostalares to view the sun rising was gone. I passed San Anton again. An albergue has opened there since I passed it last but there was no movement. The sun rose behind me as I walked on, however not as at the same pace as the previous days. I reached Castrojeriz at 7.30am and have some breakfast. There I meet my Dutch friend Jay who had left at 5.30. He was aiming for Boadilla or Fromista.
After 30 minutes, I move on and reach the base of Alto de Mostalares. It is 350m in height and took a lot out of me last time. Up I went and again it took a lot out of me. Nothing learned!! It’s a beast, but going down it is something I enjoyed. You can see for miles as you look down. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and by the time I reached Itero de Vega I was a ball of sweat.
I met Jose from Toledo who had started in Estella and was aiming for Santiago. His English is perfect and had previously worked and studied in Dublin for 2 years. So I walked with him for a bit until Boadilla. The Irish were out in force too. I met a trio who were taking a break at Itero de Vega. It’s always great to meet fellow Irish here.
I reached the albergue just after 12 and was greeted by Eduardo. He didn’t ask for any money but first brought me to my bunk and told me I could pay when I wanted to. I’ve been here before and loved it and wouldn’t by pass it again. The next person to come in was Michael from Kinsale whom I had been passing by all day. I just assumed he was Dutch or German. Anyway. I also met a fellow blogger Jennifer who pens under the name of postcard traveller. I had the pleasure of meeting someone I follow back in 2013 and for it to happen again is fantastic. We have both been following each others’ blogs so it was great to meet.
Later that evening there was a meal and headed to bed early hoping to be refreshed for the next day.

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Camino 2015 – Day 3 – Burgos to Hontanas

Deary me!

One of the longer days on the Camino (31km) and the official start of the meseta; a 200km stretch of grassland with nothing save for the unrelenting heat of the sun. It was easy going on me today however with constant cloud cover which kept the temperatures down. It also kept the winds high so I was blown off my feet during sections of this day.
I left Burgos just after 6.30 which is the earliest you can leave from the Municipal albergue. I said goodbye to Lisa from Germany who was having some breakfast, I hoped I would meet her again in Hontanas. The walk out from Burgos can best be described in one word: ugly. Over three hours of industrial work destroyed the views until I reached Tardajos. I stopped here for a coffee. A steady stream of pilgrims joined me as I relaxed. I moved on a reached Rabe de Las Calzades afterwards. Another cafe con leche later, I moved on and aimed for Hornillos del Camino. However before you reach that you need to ascend Alto del Meseta. It took a while to reach it but when I did you could see the meseta laid out in its glory. Hornillos can be seen from the height also and another 4km I reached it. It was just 11am at this stage and was a little a worried about the albergue situation in Hontanas.
I pushed on knowing I had 11km left and eventually after 1pm. My feet are beginning to pain me now which means I need to slow down. Let’s see how tomorrow goes. I met Dan in the Municipal albergue who hails from Australia and had a fab menu del peregrino. Sleep was poor however as he has a real bad cough which resulted in him having coughing fits at regular intervals.

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Camino 2013 – Day 7 – Hontanas to Boadilla del Camino

Today was a hard day.
Not only were we walking another long day but the final 10k would be through meseta without a tree to take shelter. The temperatures were easily in the late 20s and lucky me..I had no sun cream. So I decided to wear a fleece and long pants.
I started the day with Michel. We usually walk at the same pace each morning. Franco and an Italian woman who had dinner with us the night before walked together. We usually have a small breakfast of tea, fruit and bread and bring chocolate, and sweets with us for the day ahead.
Once we started out from Hontanas, the sun rose and it was good to see if for the first time. I had a feeling it would make an appearance once we got past Burgos. The meseta is astounding. Fields and fields of grass, low hills and sun glaring down with no chance of escape. We reached San Anton which is a preserved ruin of an old hospital for pilgrims. I spent some time looking at its detailed design. There is an Albergue there also for those who want to sleep under the stars.
Anya joined us at this stage. She left the Albergue a long time after us but she has amazing pace and had caught up with us. She drived and was 100m ahead of me and Michel in the space of minutes.
I picked up my pace at this stage and wondered if I could get to talk to Anya for the first time. She is difficult to catch! I reach her at Castrojeriz and she was very happy to slow down and chat. Michel walked by himself for a while.
Castrojeriz is a gem of a town. It was built on the base of a mountain and it’s population is rising. It can be considered more than a town really. Once myself and Anya reach the end of the town, we notice a long path over a large hill that we need to ‘climb’. It was the first time I thought to myself that I’ll never do this. The legs hurt and once we got to the top, the views were unbelievable. Castrojeriz can be seen in all it’s glory. We stayed there for a while, took photos and laughed at the drawing board that said ‘fuck you hill’ !!
Next was a good descent into the next town Itero de la Vega. Amazing views around the terrain, the meseta in all it’s beauty.
The hardest part of the day was the 12km trek from Itero de la Vega to Boadilla del Camino. I ran out of water at his stage and was hoping for a quicker finish to this day. Anya was far far ahead from me now as my pace dropped off. The heat had a big effect on me. We arrived at Boadilla closely after 12 and after a monster day, we were first in line when the ‘En El Camino’ Albergue opened. This was by far the best of albergues I have stayed in so far. A lot of people rave about it and swear on going there at the end of the day. However, my stomach didn’t react well to the starter I had for a meal. I didn’t get much sleep as a result.
Highlight of the day was meeting a BBC production team who were recording a series on the Camino. I wasn’t caught on camera but ill be mentioned in some shape or form. The programme is set for showing closely after Christmas.

Camino 2013 – Day 6 – Burgos to Hontanas

Today was a long day! My third 30+km day in 6 days. And the pace was fast..I will be slowing down from now on.
I woke after half 4am with rattling from the bunk next door. I got up at that stage as there was no way I was going to sleep again. When I got to the kitchen for some breakfast, I was greeted by Tanya, Femke, Michel, Franco and Somin from South Korea. After some coffee, we headed out. But the municipal albergue doesn’t open it’s doors until 6.30. That’s an hour and half of waiting to get out on the trail. No other Albergue had the same rule and I wondered what would happen in the event of a fire.

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We moved on cursing its concrete paving as we did so. There is a lot to see in Burgos but I wished I moved to the next town, away from the bright lights and nonchalant people.
I was eager to see the meseta also, the flatlands between Burgos and Leon. Miles and miles of nothing will greet us before we hit Hontanas, that’s the plan anyway. I walked with Femke to start with and our pace picked up without knowing. We left the rest of the crowd behind unawares, passing through Tardajos and Rabe de las Calzades. These again are quiet ‘blink and you’ll miss them’ towns. We top up our water and move on.
Michel and Franco somehow catch up and we walk together for a while. We venture into meseta country at this stage and notice the temperature getting warmer as we pass. The sun was shining down on us with very few clouds in the sky and I could feel the sun on my arms and neck. It was good to see the sun after so long wading through muck and bearing the rain. But was it too early to give out about the sun? I’ll give it a few days!
We then crest a very high hill and at the top, you can see the next three towns in the distance. It’s amazing how flat this land will become in the next few days. Hornillos del Camino was the next town and while we wanted to finish up, 11am and 21km is too soon to end the day. Onwards we go to Hontanas, another 11km away. The name always escapes me so I usually think of Pocahontas..it works!

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I started to get tired mentally and physically here. The legs hurt, my lower back was in pain and two or three blisters appeared. I think it is down to the road being flat than anything else.
Anyway, we arrived at Hontanas after 1pm and settled in at the Municipal Albergue. The main Albergue El Puntido was booked out well in advance.
I got to see the tiny Albergue San Bol which is 5km before Hontanas. Small, earthy and open to the elements. It is one recommended due to its community spirit.
Tomorrow I hope to walk to Boadilla del Camino, 28km away. Again, I will be walking on flat lands but I’m eager to see San Anton and Castrojeriz.