Spain – Camino de Santiago

Sept 2015

Burgos to Leon 190.2kms

Well rested we were up early and eager to tuck a few more kms under the belt.  The brisk morning air beckoned us to begin the days walk to Hornillos.

Leaving Burgos we ambled past the cathedral marveling at the elaborate pillars and spires of the building, being testament to the skills of craftsman handed down through the generations. The cobblestone path that we trod lead us to the stone archway in the ruins of the fortified wall that protected the city during medieval battles.

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Once out of the city boundary much of the walking was along gravel roads through fallowed paddocks. Entering the ‘meseta’ which is considered the baron section we weren’t expecting any scenery wow moments.

Taking a break from walking we pulled up at a cafe to enjoy some delicious food. One thing is for sure on the Camino, you are never going to go hungry! It’s here we meet Hans and his partner Hannah. Hans was eager to chat over coffee but as for Hannah she was eager to keep walking. With a few gulps of coffee Hans scurried off.

On arrival into Hornillos we discovered our accommodation was a few kms out of town. A phone call to the host had him driving into town without delay to pick us up. The village was small with only the accommodation and a church. Once settled into the room we enjoyed cool drinks on the balcony overlooking the village with the cool breeze passing over us. The host was kept busy as he was back and forth collecting other guests.

With 5pm ticking around a local resident invited everyone on a tour of the parish church. After a delicious home cooked dinner  we wandered around the village in the cool of the evening. Coming across some underground dugouts we were unable to establish there purpose and with the doors locked we weren’t able to enter and explore.

After a solid nights sleep and breakfast finished the host drove us back into town. With the droves of Camino walkers passing by no doubt this routine would be repeated day after day.

Following along gravel country roads with dried crop stubble either side, Ian reminisced about his quail hunting days. I’m sure he would have loved to have ‘put up a quail’ but no such luck just plenty of rocks!!!

Crossing into another range we found ourselves passing by lush green crops that were being irrigated. Seeing the large irrigation pipes with water spraying out took me back to my childhood. Many a day was spent with my father and sisters laying the irrigation pipes. Once the water was pumping through the pipes we jumped in and out of the spraying water. Needless to say we would go home drenched. Walking along the Camino path certainly stirred up many memories for both of us.

Continuing on, the ruins of San Anton Convent came into view. Drawing closer we observed a bitumen road that had been constructed in recent times through the archway of the ruins. Originally this was a hospital for foreigners or pilgrims seeking medical attention. It was renowned for the treatment of St Anthony’s Fire being a skin condition. At some stage the hospital was converted into a convent with today it being basic accommodation for the modern day pilgrim.

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With the long haul into Castrogeriz we were distracted by the castle ruins looming above the town. Arriving in the town we dawdled along stopping at the local cafe before browsing through the few shops.IMG_2033

Weaving our way through the narrow streets we eventually located the accommodation. Taking a break from the heat of the day the cool breeze drifted through the opened window into the room reviving our weary bodies.

Wandering off to discover what the town had to offer we bumped into Heidi. Being unwell she had taken a few days off walking and to keep her schedule she had traveled by bus.

The afternoon was spent off in search of the castle ruins. With a substantial climb we enjoyed scrambling through the ruins and viewing the town below. The castle was built in the 9th century during skirmishes with the Muslim forces.

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Sometimes leaving the towns created confusion but there was always a local ready to point walkers in the right direction. Yes on this particular morning we needed pointing in the right direction as we pondered left, right or straight ahead.

Zig zagging our way up the 900m ascent to Alto de Mostelares we paused to turn around and enjoy the views. A mobile cafe was set up on the summit serving hot beverages and eats, smart!  Being very exposed we were subjected to a howling wind blowing us about as we commenced the steep descent.

Crossing an ancient arched stone bridge we made our way into the village of Itero de la Vega. Being in a valley the blustering wind had dropped off but it certainly was cold enough to glove and beanie up. Wasn’t long before the heavens opened up and we were rummaging through our packs for the wet weather gear, getting saturated in the meantime.

Following along the fast flowing channel waters we eventually arrived in Fromista with other walkers also looking forward to being out of the inclement weather. The host at our accommodation was amazing as she ushered us in to our room regardless of water dripping off us onto the floor. Once showered and into warm dry clothes the host served hot drinks and eats to all the guests. With the continuing rain we didn’t venture out to discover the town but rather after an enjoyable hot meal took advantage of the situation and had an early night.

Peering out the window it was obvious the rain had cleared and the sun was shining. With Carrion being our destination we opted to take the scenic route which was along a river. Far more scenic than the route along the busy highway. Despite the shining sun it was a cool day. Once back on the main track we encountered a few cyclists who weren’t allowing the thick gravel to slow them down.

Strolling along the vibrant yellow sunflowers captivated my attention as they swayed in the breeze creating a colorful backdrop. Arriving at Carrion we discovered a busy town not only with walkers but locals. Booking into the accommodation we showered and sent our washing off to the laundry then headed off to wander the streets. Lulling in the beautiful warm afternoon sun we watched a woman walk into town leading a donkey. Three energetic boys soon appeared. Being school holidays they were walking a section of the Camino. After dinner we enjoyed chatting to others, all enthusiastically sharing our experience on the Camino.

Waking earlier than usual we decided to get moving. It was still dark when we ventured out into the street with the street lights dimly lighting the way. Generally navigation wasn’t an issue but on this morning the road we took lead to a dead end!!! Eventually finding the right route leading out of town we were on our way for the day.

As daylight emerged a gloomy day was unveiled. Not long down the track the smell of cooking bacon wafted through the air luring us to discover its wherabouts. Pulling up at the mobile cafe, bacon and egg rolls were being served and I’m sure every walker stopped to partake.

Walking through small villages for most of the day, the weather deteriorated with heavy rain pelting down, certainly not our most favorite day. A variety of wet weather gear  was paraded as we pushed on through the inclement weather.

Walking into Calzadilla de la Cueza we took shelter with everyone else in a large cafe. Saturated dripping wet people packed the cafe. The owners didn’t seem fazed as the orders for pizza and paelo kept the cash register ticking over. Chatting to a couple from Ireland they disappointingly informed us it was time for them to pull out of the walk due to blisters. With no relief from the rain it simply was back into the wet weather gear and keep trudging, what a day to be walking 30kms plus.

Arriving at our pre booked accommodation the host was waiting to great us. He had it all down pat as he knew what drenched walkers needed, obviously he had been through this routine many times. It was so good to walk into the room with the heater already on and additional blankets. Wasn’t long before we were dry, warm and sipping on hot chocolate as we enjoyed a slice of homemade almond cake. The small village of  Moraninos only offered a hotel and an albergue. With the inclement weather there was no enticement to wander around the village, rather an early night was enjoyed.

With El Burgo Ranero being our destination we just had to bravely step out into the persisting rain. It wasn’t as heavy and our host had shed a glimmer of hope informing us that the rain eventually would cease. Which it did but the head on and side wind was howling and blowing us around making walking very difficult.

Arriving at the accommodation we discovered a hotel attached to a truckies roadhouse stop. There were huge rigs parked up, us and the truckies, what an interesting combination. The best part of staying at the truckies pitstop were the meals, we were fed well.

Unintentionally we slept in, must have been the hearty meal consumed!!!  With the sun shining and a drop in the wind walking conditions had improved as we commenced our trek to Mansilla de las Mulas. Clearly we were leaving the Meseta behind as we passed by an elm plantation and the paddocks displayed evidence of growing crops.

Down the road further a farmer was herding a large flock of sheep. Walkers ahead of us  scattered the sheep as they powered through. Being a farmers daughter I knew that would annoy the farmer so we took a roadside break until the sheep were off the road and into the paddock.

Arriving in the small town we eventually found the Casa in a laneway. Being a Casa we would be staying in the hosts house and could expect to be smothered with attention and served home cooked meals. By afternoon the day had warmed up nicely. Wandering around the town we popped into the church. You never know what lies behind the church doors. We have stepped into some very simple churches and elaborate ones.

Back at the Casa we enjoyed relaxing time before dinner in the sitting area. with Flicking through books, studying wall pictures and antiques had us well entertained before stepping out into the outdoor area. Basking in the warmth of the sun had us almost purring like cats!!! As expected the evening meal was superb, home cooking at its very best.
Leaving town next morning we crossed over the stone bridge and passed through the stone wall that circled the town, evidence of wartime of yesteryear. It was interesting pondering the 1000s of years of history compared to Australia’s 200 year European history.

We certainly had a spring in our step as Leon was just down the track.With a population  of 130,000 Leon was basically the half way point on the Camino. Being ahead of schedule we planned a three day break. Coming off the meseta where some villages only recorded 10 residents we were prepared to be overwhelmed by city life. The cities are such a vast contrast from the towns and villages. But before Leon we still had some walking to do through the countryside.

Leaving the countryside fade behind the city of Leon came into view. As we approached the city we were indeed overwhelmed by the traffic and congestion of buildings along with people bustling past. Having been in the countryside living life at a slower pace we needed to mentally prepare for this change of pace.
On the outskirts of the city a group of Camino volunteers were set up assisting walkers with accommodation and general information.

Venturing into the centre of the old city we located our apartment before heading off to devour lunch. Goodness so many retail shops, eateries and people. Looking forward  a few days off from walking we were eager to explore this city. The apartment was very comfortable complete with washing machine and dryer. Always a bonus if you don’t have to go off in search of a laundromat not to mention the time spent sitting and waiting for washing to be complete.

We grazed well at the many cafes/restaurants, wandered around the market, browsed through the shops and popped into the cathedral . A family community cycling event had a huge amount of people cycle through the narrow streets. Meeting up with Ken and Dorothy we enjoyed listening to one an others adventures. Everyone stops at different towns and you find you can be a day or so in front or behind but eventually you meet up somewhere down the track.

A surreal wave washed over us as we realized we had made it to Leon, approximately the half way point.

Continue to follow the yellow arrow

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Bernadette and Ian

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‘At the end of a hike there’s always a yarn to share’

 

 

 

 

 

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