Weekend Watch #50 – Burgos to Hontanas

I hope you are having a good weekend. I have finally reached 50 in this series. And I mark this occasion by posting a quick video about my favourite 30km stretch on the Camino Frances – from Burgos to Hontanas and the start of the meseta. This pilgrim even stopped at the same cafes as myself in the small towns of Tardajos and Hornillos del Camino. Check out the video.

Hontanas is not a big village, its population is less than 100 but at least you will find here three albergues. Some people prefer to walk over nine more kilometers to the bigger village of Castrojeríz as usually this stage is quite easy on the foot but most opt to stay overnight in Hontanas. My favourite albergue is the municipal at the end of the village and have always been given a warm welcome here. The main feature of the town is its church tower whose bells ring every hour on the hour. Happy sleeping.

For more Camino related videos, check out my Archives.

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.