18 December 2015

Camino de Santiago--Burgos to Leon

16 OCT 2015
Leaving Burgos marked a new stage  in the camino for several reasons.  First, Burgos was sort of the end of the beginning of the Camino.  Second, as would happen in every city along the camino, as people took rest days, etc., Burgos sort of "re-shuffled the deck" in terms of who I would see every day:  several people that I saw several times a day before Burgos I would either never see again at all, or only see again at the very end of the trip in Santiago.  Third, leaving Burgos marked the beginning of the Meseta, a high flat plain in Spain that meant radically different (and flatter!) terrain.

It had been very cold in Burgos--about freezing.  Leaving Burgos was the coldest morning of the whole trip.  Since I hadn't seen anyone while in Burgos, I was hoping to meet some of my pilgrim buddies along the way; sure enough when I stopped for coffee on the outskirts of Burgos, Ross came by while I was there.

Actually Ross was the last person I knew that I saw all day; I don't know if it was an influx of new people or what, but I saw hundreds of people on this day, but I didn't recognize any of them...it was pretty weird.

Anyway, here are some pix of the Meseta:

I'd agreed with Ross to meet in a town called Hontanas, which was more than 31 km from Burgos.

It was kind of a long hike, and I was definitely ready for it to end...Hontanas, however, is located in a big bowl or dip in the Meseta, so it is not visible until you are literally right on top of it.

Anyway, this was a very nice town and a nice hostel, and was one of my favorites evenings from the camino.  Our hostel had a bar where some locals were also hanging out, and several pilgrims from a neighboring hostel came over, and we chatted and drank until late in the evening.  Here are some pix of Hontanas:

Here are some of the pilgrims, from left to right: Canadian Alex, Irish Donall, Russian Sasha, American Derek, Australian Chloe, American Kevin:

Here is the hike:

17 OCT 2015
After a nice night in Hontanas, it was time to push on, this time to Boadilla del Camino, about 29 km from Hontanas.  Although the Meseta is supposedly flat, there was a ginormous hill in the middle of today's hike, and of course we had to go right up it.  Here are some pix:

After descending this hill, we walked through some of the flat stuff you can see, and were swarmed by clouds of gnats for hours.  It was miserable.

I saw Satia on the top of the big hill shown in the pix above, and bumped into her again as I entered Boadilla del Camino.  The town looked pretty grim, but I'd read about the hostels in one of the guidebooks and was able to find the one that looked most promising.   Indeed, it was very nice, with a big garden, and a great dinner.  Here are some pix from the garden:

Here is the hike:

18 OCT 2015
I left early in the morning with Ross and Satia; here is a picture of an old pillory, decorated with the pilgrim shells, in front of the hostel:
Today's destination was Carrion de los Condes, about 25.6 km from Boadilla.  Not too much to remember from this day, but again we were plagued by gnats, there were really terrible.  Here are some shots from the hike:

As you can see, pretty boring terrain!  In Carrion de los Condes we stayed in stayed in old monastery; it was nothing special.  I had some beers with Ross and then had some beers with California Kevin and some other people.  The bells in town went on for a long time and were so loud you couldn't hear yourself think.

Here is the hike:

19 OCT 2015
As usual I left kinda early with Satia and Ross and we got breakfast at a cafe.  Today's destination was Terradillos de los Templarios, about 27 km away.

I don't recall much from this day and don't even have any pix, but I do remember that it was one of the hardest days for me, because my feet were really hurting...by the end I was actually dragging my walking stick behind me I was so beat.

We stayed in a hostel called Jacques Molay, after the head of the Templar Knights who was burned at the stake.  The hostel was pretty nice and they had a decent garden and restaurant, so it was a relaxing evening. I soaked my feet for a while and it helped a bit.

Here is the hike:

20 OCT 2015
Today would be a tough one--almost 35 km to El Burgo Ranero.  As usual I set out with Ross and Satia, but they soon walked ahead.  Today was one of the more adventurous days on the camino, because I went "off camino" for a good part of the day.

The hike started out pretty normally, but the path seemed to zig and zag more than normal, and in particular when zigging and zagging wasn't necessary--there was a straighter path available.

Here are a few pix from the first part of the day:

So at one point the path zigged left, but my app seemed to show that there was a way to go straight, so I decided to keep going straight along a road through some fields.  Some Spanish guy tried to tell me that there was no way through ahead, and that I had to turn back around and take the turn, but I told him I'd figure it out.  He got a little insistent, but I still ignored him and kept going; worst case there appeared to be a road off to my right which led to El Burgo Ranero, so I could just follow that.

Anyway, I cut across a few fields to get to the road, and it turns out that it was not a road, but a railroad, so not really possible to walk along it.  No big deal for a while, I followed a path through some nice woods and fields along the rails...  Then the path ran out, and I had to walk through some overgrown fields...  Then the overgrown fields ran out and I had to walk through some plowed fields...  Then I came to a large stream, with the only way around it over some very steep, almost cliff-like incline.  Finally, after all that, I came back on to a dirt road and followed that for several kilometers (without seeing any other pilgrims, of course) before rejoining the camino a few kilometers before Ranero.  I was pretty beat, and was one of the last to make it to town, so this was the only time the whole trip when the first hostel I went to was full; a couple of others were either full or too expensive, so I went a bit further and found one that was empty and cheap, so took a bed there. The girls from Alaska were also there, so there was someone to chat with.

I went and had some beers and a pizza, then it was some Spanish guy's birthday, so we went and had some cake and weird, disgusting home-brew walnut (?) liquor in his hostel.

Here is today's hike:

21 OCT 2015
I left early in the morning again, while it was still dark, and got a decent shot of the sunrise:
Today's camino was to Villarente, about 27 km from Ranero, I was supposed to meet Ross, Satia, and Tish there.  Villarente is only about 13.5 km from Leon, but I was not up for a 40 km hike, so I figured I'd stop at Villarente and have a short hike in the morning.

The hike was pretty uneventful; here is a hippy-looking cafe along the way:
I saw a bunch of people I knew today, including at the hippy cafe, but  when I arrived in Villarente I was by myself and couldn't find anybody I knew.  There I only found one hostel, and Tish, Ross, and Satia weren't there, so I went to the far edge of town, another couple of kilometers, but couldn't find another hostel or Tish, Ross, or Satia, so I went back to the beginning of town and bumped into Derek, and we went back to the first hostel together, where I bumped into Tish...  It turned out that Ross and Satia had continued on to Leon, and Tish had checked into the hostel, but they had her name wrong, so I didn't recognize it.  The three Alaska girls also showed up...

Anyway, there wasn't much going on in town, so I had dinner at the hostel with a bunch of pilgrims staying there; didn't know most of them and generally don't like group events, so I was eager for dinner to end.

Here is today's camino:

22 OCT 2015
I left really early again and got to Leon by about 11:00, because it was a short day, only 13.5 km.  Walking into Leon, I could tell that I would like it more than Burgos for some reason, and as it turned out, Leon was my favorite city along the camino.

I decided to get a room at the first decent looking hotel I saw near the main plaza, and it turns out that Ross and Satia were also staying there...it was a pretty decent hotel with a great "aqua-spa" pool (with all sorts of weird water jets, etc.|) and a sauna.  It felt very nice!

Since Ross and Satia had already spent one night in Leon and were having their rest day the day that I arrived, if I took a full rest day I would fall behind the group, which I didn't really want.  So since I arrived at 11:00, I figured that was close enough to a rest day for me, and that I'd leave in the morning.

But there was a lot to do in one day then, including walking around town, seeing the cathedral, going to the hotel pool, etc.  Here are some pix of the cathedral, which was my favorite along the camino--absolutely beautiful stained glass windows:

I arranged to meet Ross and Satia for dinner, and then started walking around town. At the appointed time I met them at the hotel for dinner and we walked around quite a bit; both of them planned to go to some kind of classical music concert (Mozart) in the cathedral, so ultimately we had a kind of lousy and rushed dinner at a bad American-style diner.  Tish also appeared with her older sister, who had joined her for the rest of the hike.

After the concert a bunch of us went to a bar for some drinks, it was fun, one of the few times on the camino where a big group went out.  I went back pretty early, about 11:00, but some others stayed out basically all night.

Here is the walk into Leon:

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