Day 14 Atapuerca to Burgos

Posted from Burgos, Castile and León, Spain.

I got up this morning with no food in the pack and no breakfast at the albergue…..poor planning. However, the small tienda was open and I got a fresh zumo, coffee con leche and tortilla. Quiet good and the energy I needed. As I left town there was another nice art piece representing the camino. It’s really nice how many of these there are along the way.

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The trail climbed up through nice rolling hills as them ironing light grew. I often look for the “alternate” less traveled paths and there was one today. It went through rolling pastures and fields. At one point I startled two deer that seemed cry panicked and ran with no cover off into the distance.

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The path into the city was long but I followed 2 Spanish and 2 French pilgrims and found since path along a river that was shaded. The city is very big and it was disorienting to try an find my way. I found the small albergue (the municipal one is very large) that has only 16 beds and is located above an old church. This is definitely a younger crowd but I notice they seem as tired as me and take longer naps in the afternoon.

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I went out for lunch and succumbed to the desire for a hamburger. Trying to keep it somewhat local I ordered the Eaplanola good but not a Texas burger.

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I went to the cathedral which looks amazing. I will visit it tomorrow.

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I found a great little street packed with amazing tapas bars. In the first one I found the lady from Zimbabwe, 2 Australians and the most obnoxious American from NY (born in Tulsa). After a very good tapa and wine I moved on to the next place (and to get away from the American). My new good friends Martin and Jane were there. These tapas were outstanding. I had a couple of glasses of wine and a great salmon tapa and a seafood stuffed pepper. Dinner!!!!

I have decided to get a hotel room tomorrow and check out more of Burgos (and rest my tired feet). I’ll visit the cathedral, castle and tapas bar.

As we’re getting ready for lights out (10:30, really late) the hospitelero sang great Spanish songs.

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Day 13 Villafranca to Atapuerca

Posted from Arlanzón, Castile and León, Spain.

Last nights albergue was at the back of a nice hotel. When checking in we had to go into the lobby and it was like the Beverley hillbillys going in. Instead of the usual local showing you where everything was a nicely dressed receptionist showed us around back. This morning I splurged and had the buffet breakfast at the hotel. Eggs, sausages, breads, juice, fruit, cereal, yogurt and coffee. I left stuffed and with my pockets full for a snack later.

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There had been a little rain in the afternoon yesterday which caused a mist this morning. The walk was very pretty. The terrain was different, less farming and more trees.

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I had decided to take two shorter days heading into Borgos so I arrived early…actually first at this private albergue. I rested, walked about, had a few beers with the gang and had a can of bean soup with added onion ad chorizo. Tomorrow into Borgos a rather large city.

18.5 km
38474 steps

Day 12 – Graños to Villafranca

Posted from Villafranca Montes de Oca, Castile and León, Spain.

I’ll start by telling about last night. At 6:30 everyone (about 40 people) assembled to start preparing dinner. I chopped red peppers and tomatoes for the salads.

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Once prep was done it was off to mass. About 25 pilgrims went and there were about 15 old Spanish ladies. It was all in Spanish except for one phrase “when you get to Santiago pray for us”. At the end the priest called all of the pilgrims to the front to bless us. He them led us into the back of the church and showed us the churches treasures, an old ivory cross from the Philippians and some huge handwritten parchment books of chants.

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We then went to the local bakery where we had to sing for our desert. Each group sang in their language, English sang You are my Sunshine. Desert was then paraded back to the albergue.

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We then had a great dinner of salad, lentil soup with chorizo, bread, wine and baked apples then everyone helped clean up.

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During dinner I say by a young woman from England, when I asked what part she said you won’t know it, it’s called Leeds. Well imagine her surprise when I was able to talk about places in Leeds.
Afterward they had said there would be a prayer in our sleeping area. I figured I’d sit on my pallet and listen. The head guy came in and motioned people to follow. He opened a door in the room and went in, people followed. Of course I couldn’t be left out. I followed and we went down a short corridor and were in the choir of the church. The church was dark except the huge gold alter in the front, the choir was illuminated in candles. It looked amazing. The leader said a short prayer about the pilgrims before and the pilgrims ahead. Then everyone have each other big bear hugs and said Buen camino. It was pretty cool.

For being on a mat on the floor 9 inches from the person next to me I slept really well. I had a nice breakfast and set off about 7:30. At the end of the village I could see the path winding off.

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I walked a ways and stopped for a snack in s small village square. I had 2 small kittens climbing on my stuff hoping for a treat, none was forthcoming.

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It was a long walk today and I got into Villafranche about 1:00. As I arrived I saw Martin and Jane who I hadn’t seen in 4 days and several other people I knew. It was like a big reunion. After the cleanup routine I met them downstairs at the pub for beer. We spent the afternoon talking and having beer. At 8:00 we went upstairs and ate food we had in our packs and drank some wine. Around 9:45 I tried to call Kathleen but had trouble with the connection. Suddenly a parade of pilgrims marched by saying they’re locking the doors…bedtime. I followed and sure enough the guy was waiting to close the doors. Oh well 10:00 bedtime.

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27.6km
43187 steps

Day 11 Cañas to Grañon

Posted from Villarta, La Rioja, Spain.

I slept late this morning and then stayed in bed until 7:45. I headed down for my 8:00 breakfast. One table was set…for me. The bar was closed and the same lady that took my beer order in the afternoon, took my dinner order in the evening and cooked my dinner was in the kitchen. I took my seat. There were peaches, apples, oranges and grapes. She brought cheese, meat, bread, jam, juice and the most wonderful coffee con leche. It was wonderful. I had the place to myself!!

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I went back upstairs packed and went down to check out. She wrote up the bill for the room, dinner with a bottle of wine and breakfast…..total €34.00. A bargain. She stamped my credential (pilgrim passport) walked me to the door with a big smiles said Buen Camino. It made me realize I hadn’t left the camino at all, I’d only left the marked path. The camino is not the path but the way.

The vineyards are now gone and I walked through farmland and reconnected with the path.

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As I passed through the town of Santo Domingo I saw several nice piece of art representing the camino.

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After the town I met up with 3 ladies, 2 I’d met before. I walk with them for the next few km. The young woman, Halley was from Canada. She worked to monitor the reclamation of oil fields after they were finished. She was very interested in immigration in Texas. We got to Grañon, they continued, I decided to stop. The albergue here is in the church up in the attic. Instead of beds we have pallets on the floor. The price is donativo (by donation) and includes a communal dinner (that we help cook) and breakfast. We make dinner, go to mass, eat, have a prayer and go to bed. Sounds like a blast. If I don’t get to tell the details tonight I’ll do it tomorrow.

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Day 10 Ventosa to Cañas

Posted from Villarejo, La Rioja, Spain.

The good news (I hope) is have a charger and I’m still online.

Before I start today I have one more thing from yesterday. As I sat out in the very nice garden behind the albergue enjoying my wine a group across the way called out for me to come play a card game. I figured why not. It was an Israeli physical therapist, an Italian nanny and an American guy that looked like Jesus, he was a mathematician that had come on the walk because he didn’t like teaching college calculus to students that were required to take the course. An amusing group. It was the Israeli girls game that consisted of colored cards with animals. You had to match colors and animals as the play went around. However you also had to make the sound of the animal as you played and when you had to draw you had to say a word that supposedly was a very inappropriate reference to someone’s mother (in Hebrew). I lost big time the first round but when I shuffled they all thought I must be a Las Vegas dealer. I think I psyched them out and won the next 3 games.

On to today…..

I must be getting used to sleeping with 20 people, I slept we’ll through the night and got up around 7:00. I walked down to the bar for a coffee and tortilla (egg, potato casserole) and was on the path by 7:30. As I looked back the sun was rising behind the town.

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The colors were great in the vineyards and along the path.

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I arrived in Najera with a shopping list. iPhone charger, compeed (plasters for blisters) and an ATM. Well the chineese electronics place I’d heard about was out of business. So I went to the pharmacy and found the compeed. The Pharmacy girl sent me across the street to an “electronics” place that looked to specialize in cooking equipment. I waited about 15 minutes for it to open. The lady looked hopeful but didn’t have what I needed. She sent me down the street to another pharmacy (maybe with a mobile phone center). On the way I passed a place with Apple equipment in the window. I stood there looking at it when a man came up and opened the shop. I pointed at what I wanted. He had the plug part but no cable. He talked a lot but I said no comprendo. He suddenly left, went upstairs and came back with an unpackaged cable that looked right. We plugged it in and it worked. So I’m back in the iPhone business.
Down the street I found an ATM, so I was 3 for 3!!

As I happily left town the view reminded me of Durango Colorado with the red sandstone rocks behind the town. This is actually the red clay ground that makes the great La Rioja wines of this region.

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I had decided that I would head off the camino today. It was a two fold purpose. It was first to see a Cistercian Abby that was about 6km away and second to reward myself for 10 days of walking and stay in a hotel (a room to myself). Once in Azofra I broke rank and headed down the highway away from the camino. I feared sirens might sound like a prison break but nothing happened. I walked along a two lane highway with the occasional car speeding by at 60mph. It made me appreciate how the camino avoids walking on a road. Finally I could see the Abby in the distance.

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The Abby is famous for it’s alabaster windows that make the inside very bright. The village is very small but it has a hotel/restaurant right across the street.

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I wandered into the bar getting odd looks from the 3 old guys there. I told the woman behind the bar I’d like a room. She pulled out a book flipped through the pages and said she thought they could accommodate me (I don’t think anyone else is staying here). I got a small room for €22. After a short rest I went and toured the Abby. It was all very interesting. I spent about 90 minutes and was literally the only person there. The worker lady kept running ahead of me to open doors and turn on lights.

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At 8:00 I went down for dinner. Again the bar lady switched on the lights and I took a seat, she became the waitress and cook. Instead of a menu she brought a page of food translations and we worked through making my selections. It was pretty funny. I ordered a bottle of wine and a nice dinner. Mixed salad, carne guisada and a tart.

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I’m now laying in my bed, drinking the remainder of my wine, it’s after 10:00 and the lights are on!! I’m living on the edge. I’ve told them I’d be down for breakfast at 8:00. Then I’ll make my way on to rejoin the camino. I hope I haven’t caused a rift in my camino karma. It’s been a nice day but I think I miss the way.

22.9 km
34631 steps

Day 9 – Logrono to Ventosa

Posted from .

I’ll keep it short today. I lost (left) my iPhone charger so power is now precious. I borrowed a charger today when I arrived so got a full charge and can hopefully buy a replacement tomorrow. Today started in the city and went through the city streets to the outskirts. I had trouble at times finding the markers. The path went through many parks and by a lake where I stopped for coffee. Next came the countryside walking through the vineyards of La Rioja. I met several interesting people today including a young Spanish fellow that was an airplane jet mechanic. I decided on a shorter walk today and stopped in Ventosa at a cute albergue. It is all new people that I don’t know from all over the place. I’ve bought bread, cheese, olives, soup and wine to eat in tonight. The albergue has a kitchen. It was a great day and the little village is a nice change after Logrono. As I walk around I saw an old couple roasting red peppers, an old guy shucking walnuts (they have a green hull around the shell) and another old guy spreading out almonds (still in the husk) to dry in the sun. This was about all the activity in this small town. It was very nice. Hopefully I’ll find a charger tomorrow (the lady at the albergue said there was a Chinese store in the next town with everything). If I go dark for a few days don’t worry.

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20.3 km
36003 steps

Day 8 – Los Arcos to Logrono

Posted from .

Though the room was small I had my best sleep yet. And a bonus was the albergue provided a great breakfast. Coffee, hard boiled eggs, juice, cereal with bananas, bread with jam and Nutella and homemade coffee cake. I ate well unlike yesterday. I set off at 7:30, my new favorite time. There were a few pilgrims out but not many. The morning was cool and the sun was rising.

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The path moved through gently rolling farm land. At one point I came upon some men spreading nets under trees to harvest something. I thought it was olives but it turned out to be almonds.

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The path continued. It was really a nice day. The sky was clear but it was cool with a light breeze. I used my gps to learn how long it took me to walk one km (I’m trying to move beyond miles). I walk a mm in about 11 minutes or 1250 steps. As I walked I came to an area where pilgrims and made little rock cairns with messages and mementos.

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The walk was long today and I walked through the suburbs for a while before arriving in the city. The path is well done to avoid to much roadway, somehow winding through pathways and delivering me to the old city. The municipal albergue is 3 stories with several rooms of 24 beds each.

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At 4:00 I walked around the old town, it was dead like something from an apocalypse movie. I went back and rested. At 6:45 I went again, the streets were alive. People walking, street performers, food stalls … The place had come alive, the Spanish take there siesta time very seriously.

Walked 28.9 km
51903 stepsa

Day 7 – Ayegui to Los Arcos

Posted from .

Two things from yesterday: First we crossed a bridge that marked the 100km mark.

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Second there was a bodega that provides a free wine tap to pilgrims. Martin and I passed it in the evening but it was dry. So this morning at 8:00 I passed again and partook in a bit.

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The albergue last night was different. It was after the other places and was in a community center complete with a euro handball court. The bunks were downstairs and not very full. I snagged a bed in the corner with no one around. I slept pretty good. I left about 7:30 but there was no coffee and no towns near. It was my first coffee free day in a long time. I took another alternate path that went higher for great views with very few pilgrims. Once rejoining the other path we continued through rolling pastures and vineyards. It was a great walk. The weather was overcast , cool with a nice breeze.

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After a relatively short day I arrived at Los Arcos, a cute small village.

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I selected a private albergue with 3 bunks in each small room (but they provide a breakfast!!).

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I’ve been craving fresh vegetables so I went to the small square and had a great salad.

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While sitting there I saw other pilgrims that would stop to chat. I skipped dinner tonight and visited with one of the crazy Irishmen from a few nights ago. The weather seems to have turned cool. I had to put the legs back on my shorts and break out my light jacket. The night was clear so tomorrow may be sunny and hot. All is well.

20.4 km
32185 steps

Day 6 – Obanos to Ayegui

Posted from .

During the night I woke and saw lightening and heard the rain. In the morning it was still raining so it was time to prepare for wet. I have a rain jacket and a cover for my pack. The rain was a steady drizzle. Left about 7:30 and started walking. The air was cool and as the started it was gray and wet. I walked to the next town and went through a great old town and crossed a bridge across the river.

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The path went through small villages, farm land, vineyards, and olive groves.

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I met up with Martin and Jane from the UK and with Halley from Edmonton Canada. We walk for a while talking then stop in a small village for a light lunch.

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I left and walked alone for awhile. It was still cloudy but no rain. It was cool and walking felt good, unlike yesterday when the warm temperature made me tired. I decided to take a detour from the path that went up to the ruins of an alburgue from the 1500’s. As I was stopping for a drink Martin, Jane and Halley came up. Martin asked if he could go and we detoured away sending Jane and Halley forward to meet up later at an albergue. Once off the main path there were no other pilgrims. Martin and I told each other about our journeys until we got to ruins.

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It was very cool to think that pilgrims had stayed here hundreds of years ago.

Day 5 – Pamplona to Obano

Posted from Obanos, Navarre, Spain.

I slept great in my little pod. There was a decent breakfast and no rush to leave. I rolled out about 8:30. The streets were empty.

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I walked up to the cathedral before leaving.

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As I walked from town I passed two elderly woman pilgrims that commented on my long legs. We laughed about my speed and I continued on. There were markers on the sidewalk showing the way. After a bit I realized I wasn’t seeing markers, I was off track. I spun around looking for pilgrims and saw some off in the distance. I turned and headed toward them. Back on track but then I had to pass the two women who chuckled that I was not making as good of time after all. Very quickly the city sidewalks gave way to paths through farmland. In the distance huge windmills were on the horizon. From my book I knew this was the halfway mark for the day (zoom in on the picture to see them).

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As I continued I saw what looked like huge buildings but were actually stacks of hay bales. It reminded me of the scene in The Way where they meet the Irishman.

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The trail continued to climb with the windmills getting closer.

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Finally I reached the top of Alto de Pedrón. There is a art piece there representing pilgrims.

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But don’t think I was there alone. It was Sunday afternoon and it was a popular place.

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Down the other side the trail continued through farmland. I took a detour to an old church out in the country. It had a octagonal cloister around it.

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I then walked into the next small town and found an albergue for the night. 18 bunks in one room.

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I had a beer with an interesting British couple. The woman is retired from IBM and the man is self employed. We went to a pilgrims dinner and the table was very fun. A mother/daughter from Edmonton Canada, the British couple, two elderly French guys, and a graduate student from Montreal. We had a barley broth, a good bean and vegetable soup, fish in a good tomato sauce, potatoes, cake and wine. All good for 12€. The French guy kept referring to how big I was and seemed to be saying I had been well fed as a child (which I guess is right). I get breakfast in the morning and I’ll try to leave around 7:30 when it is cool. Today was rather hot by 3:00 so maybe I can stop earlier tomorrow.