Camino Frances 2018 – Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado

September 17th, 2018 – Day 6
Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado, 24km

Not much sleep was had in the Cofradia in Santo Domingo. The bunks make enough noise to wake the dead. But I was looking forward to this day. Belorado is a place I have been to many a time and one I will hope to return to again. The albergue Cuatro Cantones is a special place run by Jana and her family. Do stay if you get the chance. I decided to stay this year.

I gathered my backpack and slowly walked to the kitchen in the Cofradia. There were a few pilgrims asleep on the sofas nearby – tired of the snoring maybe? After a quick cafe con leche and some fruit, I was ready to head out but I saw Karsten. I decided to wait. The forecast for the day was good with a slight chance of rain in the afternoon, but there was much talk of the swimming pool in Cuatro Cantones over the pilgrim meal the evening before. I have not yet seen the swimming pool in action so there is a first for everything.

We were on the road by 6.30am. Leaving Santo Domingo is nothing special. You walk along the main road until you arrive at Granon and it’s tall steeple church. We stop for another breakfast at the cafe “My Way Frances”. It has a very active presence on Instagram so it was nice to say hello and thank them for doing what they do. A short while later, we walk on.

 

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It was also the day we left the La Rioja region and entered Castilla y Leon. Just after Granon, you arrive at a large sign which sets out your path for the next week or more. It was nice to see that again. We bumped into Andrew again and just enjoyed naming off some of the towns the gang will be walking through soon. I sat back and took a photo.

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The scenery was gradually changing too. The vineyards of La Rioja were no more, only to be replaced by sunflowers, We speculated how the price of wine will be affected!

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On our travels and somewhere before Belorado, we saw a chap in front of us with earphones plugged in, presumably listening to music. He was zoned out. However, a large truck was coming his way. Karsten ran toward him to warn him. Our newly-met pilgrim (Jim from the US) couldn’t thank us enough. We walked together to Belorado.

Onwards. Conversation makes time and kilometres shorter until we arrive at Belorado. Albergue A Santiago is all bells and whistles and opens at midday, however, Cuatro Cantones is situated in the centre of the town. We have another 30 minutes to wait. A queue is beginning to form already, and I expected that too. It is a popular albergue.  We walk to the main plaza where it is market day. We buy some fruit for tomorrow morning. I see Andrew also. He is walking to Villafranca Montes de Oca, a further 12km. I wouldn’t see him again.

 

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After checking in, I grab a shower. The swimming pool is open with the temp being in the mid-20s. The sun doesn’t look like leaving us. There is a yoga session planned for before dinner so I decided to join that. First time for everything. Until then, we are relaxing in the back garden. I get called from another Irish pilgrim “David, come on in, the water is perfect”. The thing is I can’t swim, so that’s my excuse. I can paddle though!

I take off my zip offs and paddle like the best 5-year-old child. An hour passes and the rain that was promised arrives. I quickly jump from the pool and run for the washing line to gather my clothes. I just hope they dry for tomorrow morning. My zip off leggings are still in Belorado.

Camino Frances 2018 – Ventosa to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

September 16th, 2018 – Day 5
Ventosa to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, 32km

A long day, but a day I met and walked with new faces. It was expected to be a hot day again, so I was prepared. It was a Sunday also. So we were prepared for that too. Sunday’s on the Camino are a different kettle of fish.

Patricia, from Logrono, and Karsten, from Germany, left Albergue San Saturnino in Ventosa after 6am after some breakfast. Well, some fruit and coffee, until Najera. We had 11kms to conquer before reaching the River Najerilla and it’s many cafes and albergues. Not that we had planned to stay there. My two companions had open minds, while I had my heart set on Santo Domingo and her two hens! Patricia had taken some time off from work to walk part of the Camino and hoped to walk to Burgos. So she was in no rush. From the off, I could see she was having great difficulty with her pack. Its settings were not right and its weight was on her lower back. And this was her 2nd day. We talked about her summer spent in Ireland while studying English, which seems to be the place to be if you are a Spanish student during the summer months. She had fun, but she did tell me that not a lot of English was learned! Karsten had walked part of the Camino, from Leon, so he knew the score. He liked the silence and only spoke when spoken to. But I enjoyed his sense of humour. This is strange for a German, right? However, we would walk together to Burgos. Little did I know that he had something in common with me and it was great to chat with him about it.

Najera, our first stop, is situated underneath a cliff face and there was an eerie silence about the place when we crossed the Najerilla. There is a great cafe to the left of the river and we stopped there for a 2nd breakfast. We met Jan, from Denmark and Andrew, from Scotland. They were both aiming for Santo Domingo. They were part of the 40k club. They could do big distances each day. I’m not sure I could join them. After our coffees had been finished and our tostadas had been eaten, we sauntered on. Azofra, 6km ahead, would be our next stop.

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Patricia & Karsten in Najera

The distance ahead was pretty straightforward but now the sun was front and centre.  The trail rambled over hills with rocks to one side and vineyards to the other. This is a winemakers heaven here! Plenty of arrows sprayed on the rocks, just in case we don’t take a wrong turn. Azofra is a one street town but it is pretty great. There are a number of cafes and we decided to stop for a bit because Patricia was struggling. I offered some bandage for a new blister. I told her about the municipal albergue here in Azofra, which has a swimming pool. She decided to stay at the cafe, when myself and Karsten reached for our packs. We didn’t meet again.

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It was now coming close to midday and having walked 17km, we had a further 15km to go to our destination. The sun was relentless and there was little shade. The trail now changed from one with a lot of turns, to none. A walk for a long as your eye can see. It was time to dig deep. Karsten pushed ahead, just the motivation I needed. We barely talked until Ciruena but if you need an example in ‘let’s just get through this’, Karsten had it.

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The long walk under the sun to Ciruena

Ciruena is in the unfortunate position to be beside a ghost town that was built beside a golf course. Both Karsten and I stopped for a cold drink here and we met my Irish buddy from the flight. His wife had picked up some nasty blisters and had taxied ahead. That’s the Camino unfortunately. I hoped to meet him later. Leaving Ciruena is like trying to escape from a bank. It can be tricky, to say the least. We eventually found the exit (even though I have passed through here before).

One long stretch, one hill, and one tricky descent before we could see Santo Domingo. I didn’t think I could make it. Karsten wanted to check into the albergue and see the two hens in the Catedral. I’m not sure the viewing of two hens is worth a couple of euro. I’m happier to meet other pilgrims.

With that, I saw Doug. He was talking to a Danish pilgrim who I hadn’t met before. I heard a loud shout “Irish Dave” across the hive of peregrinos – I think the Estrellas were talking! I knew I would catch up with him but not this early. There you go! I better check in and find a bed first.

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The municipal albergue hadn’t changed since I was in it first in 2013 – well, maybe the price! My bed was in “Azofra” on the 2nd floor – more steps to climb. While Karsten checked out the Catedral, I grabbed a mini siesta and then headed out for some money. I met Jan and Andrew whom we met in Najera, and they were with other folks. So I joined them. There were pilgrims from Australia, Sweden, Canada, Spain and another from Ireland. This Irish pilgrim was walking to Santiago and having a great time. Maybe one year, I’ll be able to do the same.

After numerous drinks and tapas, we started to think about a pilgrim meal. It was close to 7pm and everywhere looked full. Who is going to serve a group of 12? Luckily enough we found a great restaurant beside the Parador that provides pilgrim meals. It was a great evening but I have no photos to remember the night due to the battery dying. That is the Camino! Shout out to Andrew for organising the table!

As is the Camino, not everyone were going to walk the same distance the following day. I hoped to walk to Belorado and Cuatro Cantones albergue, while others hoped to walk to Villafranca and Tosantos. While this happens all the time, everyone meets up in the end and a big city like Burgos brings everyone back together again.

Until tomorrow.

Santo Domingo’s Lavanderia

A simple picture. For those who have not been there, it will not mean much, but it brings back a lot to me.

This picture was taken in Santo Domingo de la Calzada in 2013 after I had completed a grueling 24km walk from Najera through wind and rain. Muck was clinging to my trail shoes and the colour of my trousers had turned from black to a shade of gray. I was waiting for a washing machine to become available as they were in demand that day. What is strange about the Cofradia albergue is that there is no washer or dryer in it which is unlike other albergues. While waiting, I met 2 people from Ireland who are good friends to this day. I met more people from Ireland in the albergue who shared their dinner with me.

You can read my post from that day here.

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Weekend Watch #32 – Beyond the Way Episode 6

It’s just about time for another Weekend Watch; this time being the latest episode from Beyond the Way created by Andrew Suzuki. In the video, Andrew arrives at Santo Domingo de la Calzada and meets an group taking part in an ancient Mexican dance. We are reminded to become more connected to the world around us while on the Camino, rather than do as the title of video suggests “Walk, Eat, Sleep, Repeat”.

More details about his videos can be found at www.beyondtheway.net

Camino 2013 – Day 3 – Santo Domingo to Belorado

The most of today was wet and windy but the sun started to shine once we arrived at Belorado; my stop off point of the day. I heard alot about the Cuatro Cantones albergue here so I decided to get up at the break of dawn and head out. It was another night of little sleep with lots of shuffling and snoring done. My ear plugs didn’t even help. I moved on out close to 6am. I opened the door of the albergue only to see the rain pelting down. “Dammit” Out came the poncho and cover for my backpack. It was windy also as I left Santo Domingo and it was the first time I needed the light from my mobile phone. I met the friendly old German man again as he was leaving the Parador close to the albergue. He is great fun in a dry German kind of way. I walk with him for twenty minutes or so and moved on letting him be. He seemed to be happy by himself. My pace was a little slow to start with with the wind. There is a long walk along the main road as you leave the town and I had to double check where I was going as there aren’t many arrows around.

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Eventually I see Granon with its large church and tower. It’s a nice place and one of the treasures of the Camino. There was nothing open at that time of the morning (7am) so I moved on with a heavy heart. I have heard loads about the fab albergue there. I move on to Redecilla del Camino, another sleepy village. I stop for some breakfast and am greeted by the old German man as I sip on my cafe con leche. We chat about the weather and where he is going to walk to today. After twenty minutes I move on again in the wind and rain, pulling my poncho over my head.
I begin to have pains in the back of my legs at this stage. Nothing too serious but something I needed to be wary of. No blisters so far though.

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Not too long afer I leave Redecilla, I meet a Dutch girl called Femke. I greet her by asking her if she is Irish. Quite possibly the worst greeting ever! I would walk with her until Belorado, a further 12km. It’s amazing how fast time goes when you have someone to chat to. The first 10km I was walking by myself and it felt like forever but don’t get me wrong, I enjoy time by myself. All the tiny niggling pains I had notched up paled into insignificance and my pace picked up. We walked 12km in little over 2 hours!! There were another folks we met along the way and after a brief hello and how are you, we fired on to the next town. We passed Espinosa del Camino, Viloria de Rioja and Castidelgado before we reached Belorado. These towns only hold an albergue, a church, a few houses and a cafe. There is hardly any life and we passed through them in no time.

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Belorado is a fine large town, with winding streets, a central square and large church. The albergue Cuatro Cantones is closed when we arrive so we sit outside and wait. There are a few others there, including some of the Irish group. The remainder were en route at that time. There are 4 albergues in Belorado, each with their own traits. This holds 62 people over 3 floors and boasts a large back garden, chicken coup and swimming pool. Unfortunately, the pool is off limits today due to the weather. The opening time was 12.30 so we were pretty early. Over the next hour, we chatted about random things and rarely touched on anything of a serious nature. The queue for the Albergue grew and grew, with some people we knew from the previous 2 days.

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I got myself a bottom bunk and put the feet up. A communal meal is due shortly and I’m really looking forward to it. I also hope to check out the town after the meal to see if I can find a walking pole! Tomorrow is a long uphill slog but again I want to go further to avoid crowds. If you have Brierley’s Camino manual, you will know that a whole lot of people follow his route religiously. I’m trying to avoid these end towns so I can veer clear of the large crowds. There’s a reason Belorado has 4 hostals and a bunch of hotels…Brierley. If he changed the end town to another, the end result would be to close one or two due to the lack of demand. I’m hoping to move to the next town tomorrow, 27km in total, but again I’ll see how the weather is. Hopefully I won’t be walking alone at the start of the day.

Camino 2013 – Day 2 – Najera to Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Buenos Dias, one and all. I have finished for the day and as I type I’m in one of the nicer albergues of the Camino – Casa del Santo in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. It is modern, and large, it holds close to 180 people. So there is no chance of you not finding a place. There is a strong Irish contingent here, a few Germans, Spanish but I didn’t meet any of the people I met yesterday. But I have to say that the German pilgrims are loud!

Anyway, today was tough going. Not because of the length of the day, it was only 20km in distance which was less than yesterday. The return of the wet weather made it difficult to walk and for a time I was walking through piles of mud. But eventually the paths got more easy on the foot after 5-10km.

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I woke at 4am in Najera in the pension I had booked earlier. I had little sleep again last night and save for a few cereal bars, I had no breakfast. I decided to get ready and head out in the rain that had started not long beforehand. I put on my rain jacket and poncho and covered my backpack. There was no sun today, just cloud and rain. I left Najera with a elderly German man. I met him walking through the park in Logrono yesterday. He is a nice chap with a few words of English. He is walking to Burgos and staying in more plush accommodation. Sure why not? I moved on soon after. I may even meet him tomorrow.

After setting a good pace at the start, I met a lady called Angie who was walking with her family from the States. They commented that they had met plenty of Irish since they started in St Jean. Their daughter walked ahead listening to music. Angie smiled and said she was still asleep. She also commented on my boots and that they may give me some difficulty later on. Meh!
The conversation made the morning seem a little better, the rain was annoying but the views were amazing. A red path filled with pilgrims divided fields upon fiends of green. W arrived at a small village called Azofra soon after. This has a well known albergue, one of the best I have read. I stopped here and had a coffee con leche and croissant, while watching the rain fall heavily from the cafe’s window. It was really filling but eventually I put on the poncho and moved on.
I’ve met a good few people today, and some I’ve bumped into numerous times. Apart from Angie and her family, I met Louisa from Italy, a trio of French sisters whose names are lost on me and I also met a large amount of people from Ireland. UCD has one of its societies staying in the same Albergue tonight while they are walking to Burgos. I also met Christine and Jimmy from Limerick and Tipperary respectively. They were walking together and it was fun chatting to them. I hope to meet them again.

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After Azofra, I walked through a ghost town. Ciruena. It is a large estate built by the owners of a local golf course with the hope of attracting folks from urban areas. It was kind of eerie walking through it with no sign of life. All its’ windows were shut and there were no signs of life save for the local Albergue.

Onwards we go and at this stage, the rain had gotten heavier. The silt red clay had turned into thick mud and was sticking to everyone’s shoes. I didn’t own a stick and it was very hard to keep my balance. I got through it in the end. It was a long way yet to Santo Domingo but meeting Louisa made the hours quicker. She didn’t want to stay in this town and moved on further.

2013-05-27 12.34.26On reaching Santo Domingo, the sun came out and it made for a nice evening. It is a small tourist town built around a large cathedral and many many shops and restaurants litter the main road. But the Albergue is top of the class. One of the volunteers spoke a few words of Irish and seemed to know where Raheny is. Small world. I had dinner with the group from UCD this evening. It was fun chatting to them all.
Anyway I’ll finish off now. I hope to walk to Belorado tomorrow. I’ve heard lots about one of its’ albergues.