Monday 1st May Castildelgado

We pushed the beds together and I slept with Alison again. It was nice – though neither of us slept so well; I lay awake appreciating having her next to me, and she tended to fall down the crack when the beds slid apart. But.... it was nice.

We left early – 6.45am – without breakfast. Too early for it and we were out of muesli. I was cold, with a clear sky, a quite heavy frost, and snow on nearby mountaintops. This meant we set off at a cracking pace. Uphill to Cirueña, getting steeper, where we arrived at 8.30 am. We went into the golf club cafe there for breakfast – coffee and a couple of filled rolls. It was warm inside, and a good breakfast. Then on again, mostly down, to the biggish town of Santo Domingo de Calzada. As so often, walking through the industrial outskirts before getting to the old town. We didn't go into the Cathedral to see the chooks there again (they charge to go in) but we did find a good supermarket open despite it being a public holiday for May Day.

So after a coffee (again) we headed off uphill (again) to the little town of Grañon. We didn't really contemplate staying here, so after a little rest continued to Redecilla del Camino. En route we talked to a German man (Roman) who had heard that the town beyond Redecilla had a very nice albergue. We looked at two albergues in Redecilla but were not so impressed – neither had any outside area.

So we walked on, just another kilometre, to the tiny village of Castildelgado with its really nice, clean, new Albergue Bideluze. So here we're staying, and eating here as well – there is no kitchen and nowhere else to eat in town.

I realised today that it takes time to get into the swing of the camino, and after a week and a bit I am getting there. I am much more content and happy than I was at the start – and my legs are in better condition as well! Just walking and not really knowing where you'll end up that night is such a nice way to live.

Tuesday 2nd May Villafranca Montes de Oca

Dinner last night was lovely in the Albergue; just the four of us (Us, Roman from Germany, and Aline from Brazil) and excellent food. We talked, chatted, and then went to bed. Just four of us in the 10-bed dormitory. As usual I had to open the windows.

Roman snored – but it was a reasonable sleep. We got up before the others, packed out in the hall, and walked out at 7.15am. We walked down to the truck stop on the highway, but there was nothing there attractive to have for breakfast. So we set off towards Belorado, expecting to find an open bar in a village en route. But this did not happen; most of the track was beside the road. Boring. 11 km later, at 9.30, we got to Belorado. We were very glad to see it; we walked into the main plaza and found a cafe. It was nice.

½ hour later we set out again. The track was better; away from the road though you could still hear the traffic. We walked through Toscarnos, then 2km further got to Villambistia where there was a cafe, where we had a second breakfast. Then on to our destination, Villafranca Montes de Oca. We were wondering where to stay; we stopped outside a hostel and the lady running it came up. She showed us a double room for €36.00, in a building with two kitchens. On the main road, which is very busy, but our window looks out the side. We took it.

Across the road is the little supermarket; we went and bought some food for lunch. Then had an excellent shower in the huge bathroom – together – and Alison lay down on the bed. Dangerous. I lay down too for a while; it was nice. But we forced ourselves up and went for a walk around the town; walked into the albergue at the hotel where we stayed last time. It was very full, with lots of familiar faces – including Christina from Azofra. We invited her back for a beer, and ended up having her for dinner as well. A yummy vegetable soup, and the food bag should be lighter tomorrow.

We went to bed early and got to know each other again. Sleeping apart for a week makes me appreciate how nice it is to sleep together.

Wednesday 3rd May Atapuerca

it was lovely sleepiing in a comfortable bed with Alison; but nonetheless I got up when the alarm went; but it was 7.20am before we were on the road again, after having a shower (!) and breakfast of a not very good muesli. The track went up quite steeply into the Montes de Oca; into forest; but not away from the noise of the road. This was because a major road ran quite close to the path; a road I don't remember. Is it new?

This was followed by a very broad dirt road – the width of two or three roads. To bring in heavy machinery? Not as nice to walk on as a narrow forest track, but at least it led away from the road noise. It went on for a long time till we eventually got into St. Juan de Ortega, and its bar.

It was sunny and warm. The three Germans we seem to be with most nights were all wearing shorts! We had a coffee and empenada (not very nice) and continued to the bigger village of Ages. This track ran through forest and was very pleasant, then opening out into farmland with cows. We went straight through Ages (a very pretty village) and the track ran beside / on the road to Atapuerca.

Coming into Atapuerca, we passed the excavation area of the early hominids. Should we stop here and see this? It was midday – we thought we should. So we left our packs at the albergue (not open till 1pm) and went and had a coffee and some pastries outside the nice panaderia. Bebe was playing on the radio in there; I commented on it to the lady. She likes her too.

We booked into the albergue and did our washing – including shorts; it's early, and a warm sunny day with a bit of a breeze.

We found we could go on a tour of the Railway Trench where the remains of prehistoric man were found when an English company was putting through a cutting ~100 years ago. But the details were vague. We walked to the Cantina at 5.10pm to get on a bus. An unmarked bus came; it was correct when we asked; we got on. Some other peregrinos got on as well. The bus drove back to Ages to get more peregrinos, but there were none; then to the interpretation centre, where we all got off, went in and paid our entry to a lady who seemed to have no idea about what was happening; but then again, neither did we! Then back on the bus with a lot of Spanish who were inside the centre, and we drove for 15 minutes to the Trench. There was a guided tour – all in rapid colloquial and nearly incomprehensible Spanish. Well......

We drove back and made dinner in the albergue, and ate outside in the late evening sunshine. We had a bottle of wine. It was nice. Then to bed.

Thursday 4th May Trabajos

There were only 6 bunks in our room, but there was a lot of snoring. Not a good sleep. This meant we got up at 5.30am, and after breakfast in the kitchen we were walking out of Atapuerca before dawn. It was really nice. The light came in quite soon, by the time we had reached the top of the ridge over which you could see Burgos.

Down the other side. The guidebook described an alternative scenic route to Burgos, and we tried to take it. I think we succeeded – at any rate we had a very scenic route along the top of a ridge before dropping down to the village of Orbaneja. We stopped for some water and a biscuit at the fountain, and continued.

This part was not so scenic. Far from it. We got to a bridge over the freeway, then turned left and walked for a long way on the airport perimeter on a gravel road, listening to and looking for the skylarks above us; then finally walked through some suburbs, devoid of open bars. Then a long walk along the park beside the river until we finally got to a bridge over to the city.

We followed the arrows through the city; I was heading for the square where the albergue was, Alison wanted to stop at a bar for a coffee. The albergue was quite a long walk; the cafe outside was yucky. So we were not well in agreement. We walked up to the riverfront, and had a coffee in a bar there. It was not good at all. Alison remembered that it was hard to find a good coffee around there; so we went and had an icecream at a place we remembered instead.

What now? It was 12.30pm; we'd walked >20km. Alison had thoughts that we should appreciate being in Burgos, but we didn't much like it. So – walk on. The next albergue is in Tardajos, > 10km away – but maybe we'll find something sooner?

We walked past the University on the way out of town, and did find a good coffee and cake shop. This was a good find. And, rejuvenated, we continued. But we didn't find anything sooner.

The track was not good – mostly gravel track going over main roads, under freeways, winding here and there to get through all the roads. It went on and on, but eventually, after 3pm, we got into the little town of Tardajos, and headed to the municipal albergue. We were the first there. The nice hospitalero, Fernando, put us in a four-bunk room where we have window control.

Shower; wash; talk. We went for a walk, bought some money, went up to the bar – and found Cecilia of the sore knee, waiting for a bus! We talked for a while; I left her with Alison and came and wrote my journal.

Today was too much walking, but that's what I thought would be the case. It is much better being here than back in Burgos, and tomorrow? It should be less walking.

We went out to dinner with Sophia and Magnus, from Denmark, who started on the Camino today. There was a lot of advice to give them.

Back to our four bunk room. No-one else in it! A good sleep.

Friday 5th May Hontanas

The alarm woke me at 6am. The delight of a “private” room. So up we got and turned on the light, and thus packing up was painless; and we were down for breakfast a little before the scheduled 7am time.

And we were on our way at 7.30am. Through another village in 2km, then up onto the meseta; down into Hornillos where we had second breakfast at the bar of a hotel. It was full of cyclists and day walkers; not a nice ambience, but.....

Then it was up the gravel road onto the meseta again. At one stage I counted over 60 wind turbines I could see looking forwards – and more were behind me! Poor Australia. We stopped for water and a biscuit just before the turnoff to San Bol, and continued on into Hontanas – arriving a little after midday. Where to stay? We ran into one of the German girls just before we got into town, and she said the first albergue had a good write-up in her (German) guide book. So here we are, in a 6-bed room.

It has been threatening the predicted rain on and off all day. Twice this morning we put our ponchos on, to have the rain stop. We did our washing but need to keep an eye on the weather.

It is quite cold. We've had a little walk around town, looking for other peregrinos; there are many of us in this little town, but they are all hiding, it seems. I've tried to download our email but the internet here is dreadfully slow (as it was yesterday in Tardajos) and it just times out.

And it has started raining. Hard.

We went for a “community dinner” which was limited to a maximum of 12 persons. It was excellent! Ensalada mixta, followed by a huge paella to share, and ice cream. We talked a lot to a Swede who is cycling around Spain, and to Melissa from the US whom we met on the road about a week ago. Then, it was bedtime; I spoke to the others in the room and all are happy to get going at 6am. So we won't have to try to do things quietly.

Saturday 6th May Boadilla

There was no snoring at all last night; but I put in ear plugs because of street noise in the evening. This meant that I could not hear the alarm; but I did hear the chusch bells ringing six times, pulled out my ear plugs, and heard the alarm going.

The rain had stopped; a clear sky. We were off by 6.50am, walking mostly on a track to and past the ruin of the convent of St. Anton, and then into Castrojeriz. Our memories of this town were bad; walking through on a Sunday, finding nowhere to buy any food – and no sign of life at all. This time was slightly better, though no a lot; an open bar as we walked into town, and then – Alison noted a couple of other bars open, but I didn't; as there was little sign of life. So it was water and a biscuit and we said “good riddance” and walked on. I think Castrojeriz would clearly win our “worst town on the camino” award.

It was then up onto the meseta again, (this time counting over 100 wind turbines ahead of us) then steeply down off it and along till we crossed a river into Palencia, and shortly after got to the town of Italo de Vega. Open bar. We stopped, and had some eggs and chorizo as well as coffee; then it was on another 8km to Boadilla. We remembered the albergue here fondly; they put us up on the dining room floor after dinner. But this time, we were much earlier – 1pm – so we just got a usual bunk in the albergue. Well – a double upper bunk with window control.

I tried the internet again; it was marginally better than last night. But only marginally; I gave up. I went for a walk around town – it is very little. Alison had been earlier. I Read. I lay on the grass. I found Alison inside writing her journal; we walked over to find out about dinner and ended up chatting to the man who runs the albergue and being given a glass of wine – because we'd told him of our previous experience here.

It hasn't rained today, though it has threatened; but it is cold. We'd like it to warm up a bit.

We had dinner at the albergue, and it was just as good as it was six years ago; chatting to two German girls whose names we don't know.

Sunday 7th May Carrion de las Condes

People starting getting up before 6am, so we joined them; and as there is no kitchen in this albergue, we didn't have any breakfast; so we were walking before 6.30 am, looking hard for arrows in the dark.

The dawn soon came, as we walked the 6km into Fromista beside the Canal de Castille – which was very pretty, with mist rising from it. Despite it being early on a Sunday, there were bars open in Fromista; we had a very nice breakfast with two more German girls; one whom we've spoken to a lot, whose name we found was Sophia; the other we've just met, who was Erica.

6Km later, we got to Poblacion de Campos, a much smaller town; but they had a bar open too, so we had a second coffee. Invigorated, we set off. There was a choice of two routes here; one along the road, the other along the river and 900m longer. We took the river route, and it was a very good choice. Especially as when it finished, we walked into a town which we found was Villalcazar de Sirga, where we were going to stop for lunch. We had expected it to be still one town away!

We ate a yummy lunch in the plaza, in the shade – it was a very sunny day. Alison noticed an open shop, which sold cakes and things; we went and bought some almond biscuits. Very nice ones. Then we went into the church, which the Brierley guidebook said was worth seeing; we paid our €1.00 each and did not see what he saw in it.

Then we had 6km of walking in the sun beside the road into Carrion de los Condes. Quite a big town. We chose the albergue of Santa Clara, because it has a kitchen; it is OK, but a bit pokey; and in our room is a Korean family. The father spend all afternoon lying on his bunk and wanted the window closed! I insisted on some being open.

The area to dry clothes in is really confined but we seem to be likely to get it all dry, thanks to the sunny day. As for wi-fi, of which we haven't had anything workable for days – nothing. Ah well – tomorrow?

We went for a walk around town. There is a fair on, with some old restored cars and lots of stalls – but it mostly all over now. But... the town does not have such a nice feel; in general small towns are much more friendly. There are lots of “peregrino” shops. We came across a peregrino girl outside a church – waiting for a bus, because she has blisters. Some of those in the hostel have bags they've had transported.

It just doesn't gel well with me.

We did find a shop open to buy some food, so we could use the kitchen here and have dinner in, which was very nice. Pasta with peppers and zucchini and spices.

Monday 8th May Ledigos

Despite the not so good company in this parrochial albergue, and the noisy and mobile bunks, I slept well – being awoken at 5.45am by the Korean man from across the way doing a dreadful job of packing up quietly. I got up and took all my stuff out to the laundry to pack there.

After breakfast of the not very nice muesli we left the albergue at 6.45am, bought some bread, and headed out of Carrion de los Condes. Along with lots of others – sometimes we seem to walk with lots of others, sometimes alone. Today's stretch was one of the worst on the camino – a long section of 17km on a straight gravel road going through no towns. (And being Spain, this means no toilets either.) We came across a picnic ground after ~5km and stopped for more breakfast. It was nice. (There was, of course, no toilet – but a clump of bushes which was obviously used as one).

The road went on. And on. We got to a rise, which heralded arriving at a village – but at the top, it went on and on again. Eventually, after four hours of walking, we arrived at Calzadilla de la Cueza – a little village but with a very popular bar, not surprisingly. We sat down, took our boots off, and both had a cafe con hielo from the (Paraguayan) bar lady. Melissa turned up and we chatted for a while.

We didn't know where we should go to tonight. We continued on towards the next village, Ledigos, 5km away – taking the inland scenic route, which was a much better alternative to the main route along the road and much less busy. Most peregrinos used the road route. Why?

We had to walk by the road the last couple of km into Ledigos. It was after midday, and hot; but we both thought we'd walk on a bit further. We stopped at a bar to refill our water and have another cafe con hielo. While sitting in the shade there Barbara said hullo; she and Jorge are staying here, in a private room, for €20.00! Neither of us needed much persuading, and we booked into the room next door.

It is a hot sunny afternoon and it has been very nice being here; good outdoor space, better people staying here than last night – and good usable internet, at last!

I managed to find the shop (through a door off the bar) and we bought some food to enable us to cook dinner here. Which Alison and Barbara did, and we had a yummy meal of pasta together. And then the four of us went for a walk around town, up to the church, past the other albergue (which seems much more modern and not so nice) and then out to the big dovecote which marks our alternative scenic (and shorter!) route for tomorrow. Then to bed in our private room.

Tuesday 9th May Sahagun

So easy to pack up when one is in a room of one's own. No alarm, but after muesli and tea in the kitchen we were on our way by 7.10am. The alternative route was very good, and it was much cooler than yesterday. We came into the little town of Terradillos de los Templarios, then continued 3km to Moratinos. Here, we knew there was an Italian albergue; we stopped for a coffee. Expensive, and not good. When we continued, we found that it was not the Italian one. A pity. It meant that when, 5km later, we came to the next small town of San Nicholas we stopped for a coffee there too. This one was much better – and cheaper!

From here, our book described another scenic alternative route. This was unmarked, but we found it and had a pleasant quiet walk along a track not bordered by discarded tissues as the main camino often is. We rejoined the road shortly before Sahagun, and at 11am walked in.

Sahagun is a little big town. We stopped near its entrance to work out where to go, then walked to the albergue of Santa Cruz at the other end of town. No kitchen; otherwise OK with four-bunk rooms. So we tried another couple – a private one, and the municipal – but they were worse, so we returned and booked in. And who should we find here but Barbara and Jorge! So, as in Pamplona, we are all sharing a room again.

We were unusually early, so we washed our socks and then went out to the Dia supermarket for food – especially for lunch. It is a very big supermarket, and it made for a good lunch.

Then the usual shower and washing before going out for a walk around town, ending up at the very good cake shop the camino goes right past. We topped up our lunch on food less good for us while listening to other “peregrinos” discussing taking the bus, and not being sure if the place they'd had their bags forwarded to still existed. This is the modern camino.

We had booked in for dinner at the albergue, as there was no kichen. Beforehand, we went out to the supermarkets again – Lupo and Dia – and bought food for breakfast and dinner tomorrow. This meant we missed the blessing of the peregrinos by the mother abbess, with the elderly nuns singing; Barbara and Jorge went, and said it was dreadful.

Dinner was dreadful too. Nine of us; We talked, as did Barbara and Jorge, and a couple of French ladies (in French); the rest were quite uncommunicative, and the dinner was really skimpy and overpriced. A ripoff. It left us feeling bad about the place, a feeling compounded when we went to bed and found all the bunks sagged. A bit like sleeping in a hammock.

So this place was very much a loser on the camino. It is a pity they treat people like this.

Wednesday 10th May Calzadilla de los Hermanillos

We did sleep reasonably well. There was no alarm, but we were all awake at 6am so Barbara turned on the light. After breakfast in the dark quadrangle of yoghurt and muesli we were walking out of Sahagun at 7am. By 8.15 we were in the village of Calzada del Coto, where there was a bar open. We had a coffee. Then off on the green alternative route, which is used by a minority of peregrinos – most use the main route along the road, where there are more towns to stop in. So we saw far fewer people than usual, and hardly anyone with a day pack. It was very pleasant walking, along a wide gravel road between fields or forest; it was cool and overcast, but didn't rain.

Today is a very short day, only ~15km. So we arrived at Calzadilla de los Hermanillos at 10am. We stopped at the municipal albergue, recommended by CSJ, but of course not open yet; ;ooked at it, spoke to the volunteer hospitalera Susan; wondered what to do. It is so early! But going on is another 24km, and for what?

So we left our packs and retired to the restaurant at the private albergue down the road, sat with a coffee and then a hot chocolate, and spent two hours with both computers connected to wifi investigating and booking things for after our arrival in Santiago. It was very worthwhile and we now have a flight from Porto to Madrid booked, and a rental car for five days in Finland booked – and we've sort of worked out what we're doing.

We returned at 1pm when the albergue was open and booked in. So we had a good lunch and have walked around town, which is small but well maintained. There are none of the falling-down houses we've seen in a number of other small towns here.