Saturday, March 10, 2018

El Camino de Santiago - 2017

Day 20: Villares de Órbigo to Astorga

Michelle wrote:
26 Sept. Tuesday
We left the albergue at 7:30 am and began walking in the predawn light.  We couldn’t get a good picture of the end of the meseta because it was too dark.  We climbed a hill and looked out over the vast flatness and said, “Goodbye meseta!”  It is good to be back in the hills with vistas to look forward to.  A short 2.5 km walk brought us to second breakfast, or Santibanez de Valdeiglesia.  Then up and down the hills we went.  Near the top there is a man who lives on the camino and he offers fresh fruits to the pilgrims.  His house is right there and kind of open.  It is called La Casa de los Dioses (the Abode of the Gods).  He is a New Age/42nd Parallel kind of guy.  Just after passing his place we reached the top of the hill and could Astorga below.  That was nice to see where we would be at the end of the day.  As we came into the suburbs of Astorga we met a fun Irish couple that hike a part of the camino for 5 days every year.  They will probably finish this year.  Astorga is an ancient city up on a hill and surrounded by a big wall.  There are some ruins of a Roman home with a beautiful mosaic floor.  It is right in front of a church.  I am glad they are trying to preserve the ancient history here.  We check into a big 150+ bed albergue - Siervas de Maria, and were lucky to get a small room with just one bunk bed for 5 euros each.  The bathroom is across the hall:  3 showers, 3 sinks, and 3 toilet stalls.  All coed.  It is not quite as comfortable as other private rooms but costs 25-35 euros less.  Ironically, those mattresses on the bunkbeds were the most comfortable of all of the albergues we have stayed in!  The albergue is very clean and smells good, too.  The volunteers there were 3 Americans and a German.  We haven’t seen any other American volunteers on the camino.  We had to wait in a line to do our laundry because there were only 2 working washing machines.  After we hung up the clothes we walked through Astorga to the big beautiful cathedral.  We went into the gift shop, but didn’t take the cathedral tour.  Next to the cathedral is the Palacio Episcopal (Camino Museum now) built by Gaudi.  We took the tour of that fascinating and beautiful building.  I’m not sure if someone like an archbishop lived there or what, but it doesn’t look like a house to me!  It is very beautiful and ornate.  Now it is home to a lot of art that refers to St. James (Santiago).  High arched ceilings and stained glass windows that are different in each room.  Very impressive!  In the basement there were a lot of Roman artifacts, mostly stone.

We ate dinner at a bar that served pizza.  It tasted really good because it wasn’t a pilgrim meal!  We have to get an early start in the morning for a difficult day that is mostly uphill.  Curtis’s tow is still hurting, but he trying to tough it out for 3 more days.

El Camino de Santiago - 2017

Day 19: Villar de Mazarife to Villares de Órbigo

Michelle wrote:
25 Sept. Monday
We began our walk at 8:00 am and had a pleasantly cool, long, straight walk for almost 10 km from Vilar de Mazarife to Villavante.  The fields are now mostly corn and it was much more pleasant than the walk yesterday.  We are getting closer to the hills and mountains again and everything looks better.  We saw an Australian man pushing his handicapped daughter in a 3-wheeled wheelchair.  We’d seen him in Leon.  He is giving her a chance to experience this pilgrimage - very admirable.  He is quite popular on the camino because of his selfless love for his daughter.  And he is very friendly.  
The town of Hospital de Orbigo was not very impressive as we came into it.  When we got to an old, very long bridge our impression completely changed.  The bridge was built in the 13th century over an existing Roman bridge.  The river used to flood, hence the long span.  Then they dammed the river to provide irrigation water for the fields.  The river is now much smaller, but still beautiful.  There is a big field in the former floodplain and every year in June they have a jousting re-enactment there.  I’d like to see that sometime.  We ate lunch just across the river and enjoyed the walk through this side of town.  We then had a short 2 km walk to Vilar de Orbigo and passed a farmer harvesting his potato crop.  There was a tractor that turned up the dirt and sucked/scooped up the potatoes.  3 people were in a trailer behind the tractor and they seemed to be sifting the potatoes from the dirt.  It was interesting to watch for a few minutes.  We also saw a tractor carrying huge peppers in the shovel part of his tractor.  I’ve never seen such big peppers!
My blisters and sore tendon problem are pretty much gone now, but Curtis developed problems with his left foot.  His little toe was being pushed underneath the next toe and was becoming increasingly painful.  It looked like a blood blister was under the toenail.  A nice Australian couple at our albergue offered some salts for Curtis to use to soak his foot in hot water and then cold water, back and forth.  They also put a few drops of tea tree oil in the water.  They were very kind to offer some help. I took a picture and sent it in a text to Dr. Joshua Marshall in Albuquerque and he gave us some good advice on how to get through the last 4 days of the camino.  No need to run to a doctor here. It will heal.  Whew!
We weren’t able to wash our clothes last night because we got to Mazarife too late, so today we had even more clothes to wash.  We had to hand wash them in the courtyard but this place had a machine that spun the clothes to get most of the water out.  It was very helpful and we were amazed at how much water was spun out, even though we thought we had wrung them well.  I felt bad about using up so much room on the drying racks, so we hung our underclothes in between the bunks in our room (we had a “private” room with 2 bunkbeds, but we were the only ones in the room).  The other clothes are outside on the rack and we found another rack that we took out to the street in the full sun and wind.  They are drying very quickly now.   I sat on a bench enjoying the afternoon sun.  It is a nice peaceful town, but it also has some life.  The local men were in the bar across the street talking, drinking and playing games.  That was nice to see during siesta.  When siesta ended, 4:00 pm, we went to the Farmacia and the pharmacist suggested a gel type of wrap that slips over the toe and protects it.  She didn’t see any sign of infection, so the salt water baths helped with that because his toe looked better than it did when we first got to the albergue.   The pharmacists are like doctors here and have been very helpful to us.  

We enjoyed a nice home-cooked communal dinner and enjoyed talking with the other pilgrims.  We especially enjoyed talking with a Canadian couple from Ontario.  They were very interesting people and conversed well on different topics.  

El Camino de Santiago - 2017

Day 18: Leon to Villar de Mazarife

Michelle wrote:
24 Sept. Sunday
Laundromat in Leon
We woke up at 8:00 am and got my backpack down to the neighboring albergue for pick up by Jacobtrans. We'd missed the pick up at the hotel. 30 minutes later we checked out of the hotel and saw my bag picked up and put on the van. Whew! Barely made it! We went to the nearby lanudromat and put our clothes in the washing machine.

Curtis went to find the church, which we knew was close by, and I stayed with the clothes.  I was starting to get concerned because the clothes were almost done and he had the money for the dryer and we needed to finish in time for church.  When he came back he said that the mission president was finishing an interview with a missionary just as Curtis walked into the church.  The mission president, Pres. Kevin Pack, used to live in the Collins Hill Ward!  They moved out in 1997, three years before we moved in.  His wife Cindy was the first RS president of the newly created Collins Hill Ward.  They are good friends with a lot of our good friends from that ward.  Small world once again.  
Curtis & Pres. Pack at
 the chapel in Leon

There was no Sacrament meeting that day because it was District Conference and it was held at a hotel just up the street a bit.  We got the clothes dried quickly (very efficient machines!) and walked to the hotel, which was on our way out of town anyway.  Perfect!  It was a good thing Curtis found out where the church was early, or we would have missed the conference.  It started 30 minutes earlier than Sacrament meeting would have started.  

After church we started the walk out of Leon.  I liked Leon.  We walked through the suburbs and industrial parts of the city.  We didn’t see hardly any pilgrims.  They’d either already passed through or were stopping in Leon for the day.  After 8 km of this, we realized that we hadn’t eaten lunch, so we stopped for a bocadillo and lemonade.  Things felt better after that!  

Plaza de Santo Domingo and facinating building we passed as we were leaving Leon

We took to the optional path that took us away from the highway.  The land has changed again and there aren’t very many plowed fields or any type of active agriculture.  We passed through 2 small villages and saw a total of 3 other pilgrims.  One was an interesting woman from Belgium who had a lot of flag patches of the counties she’s visited.  The 4 km brought us to Villar de Mazarife - a 21 km walk from our hotel in Leon.  We left Leon at 12:30 and made it to Mazarife at 5:30.  

We were happy that we were able to walk 21 km in 5 ½ hours!  I was worried that my leg wouldn’t hold up for that long and I’d have to slow down, but my leg didn’t tighten up at all!  A blessing for making church a priority today? Sure! I’ll take it!

Our albergue is called Tio Pepe’s and it is okay. It’s probably considered a good one, but we had just spent the night in a very nice hotel. It wasn’t fair to compare it to the hotel. It was still better than the dormitory rooms. The private rooms are nice but expensive. This one cost 50 euros. We had to repack our packs before going to bed. We plan to leave early in the morning.
Pres. Kevin Pack of the Spain Madrid Mission after District Conference in Leon 
Pres. Pack wrote the following on his Facebook post:
"This past Sunday I was able to attend a conference of my church in León, Spain. I always enjoy these gatherings and leave spiritually renewed as I gather with friends and fellow believers, and this was certainly the case on Sunday. In addition, about an hour before the conference began, I met a man named Curtis Whetten from Georgia who was walking the Camino De Santiago with his wife. As we spoke, we discovered that we had many friends in common back in Georgia. It made me think about one of the great blessings of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. Because of my membership in the Church, I have friends literally throughout the world, wherever I go. Paul's words to the Ephesians indeed rang true to me that day...."Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone." (Ephesians 2:19-20) I am grateful to belong to The Church of Jesus Christ, built upon a foundation of apostles and prophets, with Christ himself as the chief cornerstone."

Curtis writes:
Our time in Leon was too short for the things we wanted to do. We prioritized and got the most important things done. Another year we can tour the cathedral and maybe even attend an organ recital there. THAT could be awesome.
Rio Bernesga on the west side of Leon
As with most of my blog entries, the photos are posted in the order they were taken. We didn't take our "morning selfie" until after doing the laundry, and after attending Church meetings and after hiking west, across the Rio Bernesga, out of Leon and up the hill side in the adjacent community of Trobajo del Camino (yes, spelling is correct). Finally at this point we remembered to take the picture.
In Leon I was able to replace the hat that I left on the west side of Bercianos del Camino (most likely).

Just a note about style: I liked my other hat better.

It was nice to have a good walking surface.

This is the first field we came across with this unique pattern in the soil.

Dove coat on La Meseta

Welcome to Villar de Mazarife

Saturday, February 17, 2018

El Camino de Santiago - 2017

Day 17: Mansillas de las Mulas to Leon

Michelle wrote:
23 Sept. Saturday
The morning selfie at Hotel Rural Los Soportales
We left Mansilla de las Mulas at 8:30 am and were feeling rushed to get to Leon before the 2 pm siesta.  It felt like a long 18 km.  The dirt path was good, just small pebbles and it wasn’t too hot most of the way.  It was just hard to endure, knowing we were almost there. We walked through the suburbs of Leon next to a busy road.  Then we finally made it into the city!  We walked through what is left of the old wall, Puerta Moneda, and found our hotel, Monastica Pax, which is next to a big albergue run by nuns.  Our hotel was nice and looked out onto a plaza in the old part of town. We found out that sleeping next to a plaza on a Saturday night is not a good idea.  It was too noisy!  The people like to drink and talk and have fun outside in the evenings.  After checking into our room, we left to find the nearest El Corte Ingles because they have an optical department and I needed to get my glasses fixed.  It wasn’t too far, about 10 minutes, and the woman replaced the nose cushion a gave me an extra one and she wouldn’t let me pay her for it.   She was very kind and wished us a buen camino.  It doesn’t hurt to wear them anymore.  We walked up to the cathedral, which is huge and beautiful and magnificent, but we were too late to go inside.  They closed just as we got there.  We looked in the souvenir shops and then ran into our friend Cathy from Seattle!  She and Mariana were meeting their Canadian friend for dinner.  While we were talking to them on the plaza, we noticed people dressed up in very beautiful fancy clothes gathering in front of the gate to the cathedral.. Right before 7 pm a nice black car drove up and a bride got out of the car.  She had a beautiful dress with a very long veil/train that had beautiful lace on it.  She went into the cathedral and we heard the organ play the Lohengrin Bridal March for a minute before they shut the big doors.  The organ sounded awesome!  I would love to have been inside to hear it or to attend an organ concert in the cathedral.  It was fun to watch the the wedding guests in their fancy clothes and to see the bride arrive.  I can’t imagine how much money that wedding cost.  You have to be SOMEONE to be able to get married in the Leon cathedral!

Cathy, Mariana, the Canadian, Curtis and I all walked to El Corte Ingles to eat dinner in their restaurant on the 6th floor.  We all walk at different speeds and distances, so this may be the last time we see each other.  It was a fun dinner.

Curtis writes:
As beautiful as the country side is, we miss some of the conveniences that are only found in larger communities.  We were excited to get to Leon.
One of the benefits of putting one foot in front of the other all the way across Spain is the opportunity to see in detail the changes in the agriculture according to the terrain.  Approaching Mansillas de las Mulas we came across corn fields.  I don't remember seeing any other corn fields on our walk from the Pyrenees.  The corn field and hay field in the picture below reminds me of the morning walking out of Hontanas that we came across an alphalpha field with sprinklers, the first we had seen since leaving Utah.
Corn fields between Mansillas de las Mulas and Leon
East end of Puente Villarente over the Rio Porma

In terms of the mountain west, the Rio Porma is a substantial river.  From the perspective of Georgia, it's not that big.  But the size of the bridge gives an indication of what it can be - or what it once was before the drought and before the upstream damns were put in place.

Puente Villarente
From Villarente we have a few more kilometers of walking through fields before we pass through Arcahueja and then the road is lined with industrial buildings approaching Leon.

Map on the wall in Arcahueja
Is the scale accurate?
The hills on the east side of Leon block the view of the city until you get to this point in the  pass between the hills.
Our first view of Leon
The photo above is taken from the ramp coming down for the overpass crossing N-601 entering Leon.

First view of Leon that includes the Cathedral.  Can you find it?

At the base of the hills, on the east side of Leon, runs the Río Torío.  So... yes, I had to take a picture of the bridge.
Bridge over the Río Torío
Modern Leon

Puerta Moneda, the gate through the old wall nearest our hotel.
We stayed in a really nice hotel in Leon, Hospedería Monástica Pax, in a restored monastery.  Our window opened to plaza Santa María del Camino.  This turned out to be an unfortunate location because people were partying in the plaza into the early hours of the morning.  That made for a rough nights sleep.

Sweetness in Corte Ingles
We had rushed to get to Leon before 2pm when the shops closed for the weekend. We needed to get a nose pad for Michelle's glasses. We found a nice Optical Shop in Corte Ingles. They were able to fit a different pad on the glasses but they did not have the exact brand so they could not make an exact fit. It will have to do for the next 8 days. 

At Corte Ingles
After taking care of the glasses we enjoyed a treat at Corte Ingles.  This had been a stressful day caused by not knowing for sure where we would find an optical shop, pushing ourselves to get to the shop before they closed for the weekend and all of this on top of painful feet.  Constant pain does things to your brain.

An orange Fanta and an Eclair - hit the spot for me.

Catedral de Leon
We did not make it in time to see the cathedral on the inside. But there was a big fancy wedding at the cathedral and we got to see many of the guests and the bride as they entered. We even heard the opening chords of the Lohengrin march traditionally played at weddings, from the apparently magnificent organ before they closed the cathedral doors. In the attached picture, if you look close, you might notice to Michelle in the teal blue standing in front of the cathedral.

Michelle walking towards Puerta Moneda, outside the old city wall 

The Casa Botines (built 1891-1892) designed by Antoni Gaudí.
This was created by Gaudí while he was still thinking in terms that I can relate with.  His later, more famous work, the cathedral La Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona is something I cannot relate with.  Over the entrance to this building you can see St. George killing the dragon.  By the next time we get to Leon, this will be a museum.

We have a hard day tomorrow. Church is at 10:30 and then we need to walk 21.1km to our next place. Like the Pioneers, we will also have to do our laundry tomorrow before church.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

El Camino de Santiago - 2017

Day 16: El Burgo Ranero to Mansillas de las Mulas

Michelle wrote:
22 Sept. Friday
The morning selfie at El Burgo Ranero
We slept in today because it was a rough night.  Our bed made sleeping difficult because I spent the night trying not to roll into the middle of the bed, my back hurt, I was too hot, etc.   We finally left at 8:30 am and had a nice long 13 km walk along a small, lightly traveled road.  

The only life we saw was lots of pilgrims.  The road was long and mostly straight with sycamore trees lining the path to give us shade.  We arrived in Reliegos and had lunch at a nice little bar.  I thought the food and atmosphere were very good.  

My left leg has been very sore and was making walking difficult.  It slowed us down a lot the last 5 km into Mansilla de las Mulas.  We splurged a got a 50 euro hotel room with a good bed.  Curtis rubbed some cooling gel on my feet and legs and that really helped them to relax.  I fell asleep for about 30 minutes.  

We had to take our clothes to the partner albergue to use the washing machine.  We walked around the town while our clothes were washing.  It was an interesting town.  There is a wide river on the the far side of town and large parts of the old wall surrounding the town.  The walls are quite high and have the cutout places for lookouts or archers.  My imagination started running with all sorts of battles, etc.  All the old movies of castles and adventures flashed in my mind.  It was fun!  We crossed the bridge and I imagined that if there was ever a drawbridge, that would have been where it was.   We stopped in a couple of tiendas and bought stuff for a light dinner and breakfast.  Then we went back to the albergue to hang up our clothes in the late afternoon sun and eat our dinner in the nice garden area.  It was a peaceful and relaxing way to spend the afternoon.
Flat smooth walk from
El Burgo Ranero heading West

While we were walking around the town we ran into a Danish woman and a Mexican woman that we’ve seen on the trail and that had also stayed at the same albergue last night.  The Danish woman is fluent in Danish, Spanish and English.  She lives in Colorado, but goes to Mexico in the winter.  The other woman is her friend.  They were fun to talk to.  The Danish woman has a great sense of humor.  It’s nice to run into people like that.  It always brings a smile.

Our hotel is across the street from the park and it is really nice to sit in our room and listen to the kids playing soccer, etc.  Our window is open and we can feel the breeze.  I love it!  I think we will transport our packs in the morning so that there is less strain on my leg for the last 19 km into Leon.

Curtis writes:
We walked about 19 km today. It's interesting to note that blisters are no longer a problem but there are other things causing pain now. For Michelle it's a strained muscle in the calf of each leg. For me it's a toe that gets jammed underneath another tow in my left foot.
We have arranged to ship Michelle's pack ahead to our next hotel tomorrow, so that should lighten the load and make it easier on our feet.

Breakfast at a park bench along the trail
with the highest point in the county behind us.
The pain of walking kept me from enjoying the simple beauty of this section of the Camino.  Some would consider it austere.  I liked the far horizons and the subtle changes in the topology.  I like the long straight lines.
We came across a rare park bench along the trail.  It was a perfect place to stop and have a 1st Breakfast (2nd Breakfast was in Reliegos).  You'll notice the meal included my new favorite chocolate drink: Batido de Chocolate from Central Lechera Asturiana.
The geographic area between Burgos and Astorga is known as La Meseta (think table-top like flatness).  While some Camino bloggers get bored with it, I think the long uncomplicated walks allow for extended periods of deep reflection.  For me, this was meaningful and valuable time.
Chanticleer sings a composition by Jackson Hill called  Voices of Autumn that aligns with long things with slight variations.  An even more worthy theme for this section is Arvo Pärt's composition Spiegel Im Spiegel.   You really need to click on that text and start it playing before you read on.

Each note played on the piano is a tree.  One after another, perfectly spaced along the Camino.  From time to time there is a tree out in the distance.  The cello provides the horizon - continuos, smooth, with gentle transitions.  The trees make a beautiful contrast with the long lines of the horizon. 
The view south, across la meseta between El Burgo Ranero and Reliegos
The view in the opposite direction has a faint mountain profile.
This mountain range on the northern horizon is the most beautiful I've seen in Spain: Los Picos de Europa
From this point we could also see mountains to the West, but the South and the East is just a flat Horizon.
What deep thoughts did I ponder as I plodded step after step?  They are gone now.  Did they matter?  I think they did.  Even though I cannot tell you how it changed me, I feel changed by the Camino.  I know that it changed the desires of my heart.  It helped me see my relationship with Michelle from a perspective never witnessed before.  It made plain to me the power of her tenacity.
Michelle heard a different song.  It was Tevye taking his daughter to the train (Fiddler on the Roof), to join her exhiled husband in Siberia.
From left to right
Ponferrada,  Astorga,  Leon,  Sahagun,  Carrion de los Condes,  Burgos,  Santo Domingo de la Calzada
these are all towns on the Camino de Santiago.  On this map we're hiking from right to left.
Click on the map above so that it will expand and you can read the text, or click  HERE to access Google Maps.  Looking at the map and seeing the distance walked to this point, from Logroño, beyond the right edge of the map, to the red marker, I get a feeling of ... "Wow!"

Planted grove
Lest you think it was way monotinous... not so.
For those in need, there's the taxi option
When I would come across a sign for a taxi, I took a picture with the idea that, should I need one, I have the number in the photos.
Overview of Mansillas de las Mulas, entering from the East.
We enjoyed Mansillas de las Mulas because we stayed at a nice Hostal: Los Soportales.
Hostal Los Soportales
(soportales translates to "arcade", which, before it was filled with electronic
 games, was a a covered passageway with arches along one or both sides.)

Clean modern room at Los Soportales
After the rough night in El Burgo Ranero, this place looked heavenly.  The one drawback to staying at a hostal is that they usually don't have laundry facilities like the albergues do.  Fortunately, this place is owned by a group that also runs an albergue, so we were welcomed to use those facilities.
After the required shower and laundry chores, we took a stroll through the town.  We found that the city was surrounded by a wall at one point in time.  Much of the wall remains on the west side of town, bordering the river.
Wall faced with rounded river rock

Rio Esla

Mansillas de las Mulas from the West

West wall at Mansillas de las Mulas
from the bridge leaving town
One of the remaining gates at Mansillas

Another arcade in Mansillas

Another instance of a wall surfaced with clay and straw.
Typical street in Mansillas
Flowers in the park

The flowers are the last photo before settling down for the night. Our hotel was across the street from the park: Plaza Arrabal.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

El Camino de Santiago - 2017

Day 15: Sahagun to El Burgo Ranero

Michelle wrote:
21 Sept. Thursday
Leaving Sahagun before dawn
We left Sahagun at 7:00 am and had a nice cool 12 km walk to Bercianos del Real Camino.  We stopped there for breakfast and a rest.  Then it was another 7 k to El Burgo Ranero - a quiet village.  

We stayed at an older albergue that got mixed reviews.  It was a step down from the other places we’ve stayed, but not too bad.  We had a private room with a  double bed that sagged in the middle and shared the bathroom in the hall with the 8-10 people staying in the dormitory room at the other end of the hall.  There was another dormitory room and bathroom upstairs.  The little kitchen had a table, microwave, electric kettle and a vending machine  but no sink.  There was no potable water here, unless you got it from the bathroom.  I understood why it had bad reviews, but we were grateful we didn’t have to walk another 13 km to the next village.  It felt crowded here and chaotic, but I realize it was an unusual day for the albergue owner, who worked very hard trying to help everyone get settled somewhere.  

Arco de San Benito on the
right as you leave Sahagun
Even though things were a bit uncomfortable, we were lucky to get a room that day because one of the other albergues in the town closed it’s doors for the day and all the people that had reservations there were scrambling for a place to stay the night.  It turns out that the albergue that closed had a bed bug problem and had to be sanitized.

We washed our clothes by hand out in the small patio.  I felt a bit bad about our clothes taking up so much space on the drying racks because I knew it would take longer for them to dry because the walls of the patio blocked the sun and wind.  It all worked out okay in the end, but I definitely like the open drying areas better!  

My blisters have calmed down and don’t bother me anymore.  Now I have a tight muscle on the side of my left leg.  I think I strained it trying to favor my right foot.  I have to massage it at night to get it to relax some.  

Curtis was helpful once again in translating for a Korean couple that wanted to take the bus to Leon.  He was able to find out what time the bus comes and where to pick it up.  They were so grateful that they bought us “drinks” (Kaz Lemon) and we had an interesting conversation in very broken English.  

I was getting antsy and ready to leave the town.  There wasn’t much to see and nothing to do.  We had a good dinner at a place that played an Elton John cover, so we knew all the songs and enjoyed listening to that.  I had a homemade vegan burger that was very good.  

We stopped at the local tienda and bought ice cream bars (Magnum!) and walked around watching the sun set behind the clouds.  It reminded us of Nebraska, where the highest point on the horizon is the overpass!
As the sun rises behind us we see Bercianos del Camino ahead of us.
Curtis writes:
The tree-lined path for much of the meseta was greatly appreciated.  It was a lot of work to plant all these trees.  A lot.

Unique house near Bercianos
This house is set in the field adjacent the Camino as it enters Bercianos.  Homes like this are relatively rare along the Camino.  Most people live in towns in homes that are wall to wall with the neighbors, as is shown in the image below of Calle Mayor in Bercianos del Real Camino.
A flowered balcony in Bercianos.

Trees where the Camino crosses Arroyo del Olmo

Entrance to El Burgo Ranero
Even though the hike was short, it was painful.  The left foot was not happy.  So, it was good to see El Burgo Ranero.  The second main anxiety at this point was: are we in time to get a decent bed?
We were able to get a room to ourselves in a low cost albergue: El Nogal, for 10 euros each. Granted, you get what you pay for. There is a small chain hotel right off the highway, but the price is 3 times as much. It turns out that one of the other three albergues is closed. All the beds in this albergue were taken by 2pm.  Reading the reviews of El Nogal, we found that the negative ones were critical of owner.  She is a strong character; quite passionate about saving money.  She made sure that everyone understood the necessity of turning out the lights when leaving the room.  A Canadian man walked away from the bathroom with the light still on.  She re-emphasized to him that the lights need to be turned off and he tried to apease her saying "no problemo".  She walked away mumbling about how it was no problemo for him but it is a big problem for her.  Later she got in 'discussion' with 3 Spanish pilgrims who were challanging her on the cost of doing their laundry.  They expected their laundry could be done in 3 loads.  She was telling them it was 6.  She eventually won the argument when she came back from changing the laundry and told them there were 26 pairs of socks.  Of course, each of the 3 women said no way, but when they started totaling the numbers they had given her, they realized she was right.  It was fun to listen to them go at it without any acrimony.  Nobody got hurt feelings.
Alberque El Nogal

Our private room at El Nogal
To her credit, the albergue owner was also passionate about helping pilgrims.  When she learned that there were no more beds for pilgrims in town, all of the albergues were full, she loaded up a hiker in her car and took him to another place to stay.

View of the courtyard at
El Nogal from our window.
We can't recommend El Nogal simply because there are no kitchen facilities, not even a sink to fill your water bottle.  The mattress sagged in the middle, which made for a night of bumping elbows and knees.  I'm glad the weather was not cold because I suspect that heat would have been minimal too.  Nevertheless, with all it's problems, I'm appreciative of the fact that we had a place to stay (many were turned away) and that we got there in time to get the one private room.  I remember the look of relief the owner gave me when I told her we wanted the double bed.  It precluded a potential problem if a single person requested the room.  At other places when making reservations over the phone I was asked if it was for a married couple.  Since I always answered yes, I don't know what would happen otherwise.

After cleaning up and sending off the laundry I took a short nap while Michelle wrote in her journal in the court yard.  Eventually we got up and wandered through the town.  At one of the other albergues I found this posting of the train and bus schedules.  There was a couple from Korea with minimal Spanish ability and a little English ability.  They were trying to get to Leon by bus or train.
Transportation from El Burgo Ranero
I'm including this here for future reference.  Note that for this town, the train is the more common mode of transportation.
Friendly Korean couple who treated us to drinks.
We helped them figure how to get to Leon.
Flowers on the window sills on the clean streets of El Burgo Ranero

We walked around the small town long enough for the restaurants to open for dinner.  I had a delicious spagetti bolognesa with chicken.

Dinner at La Costa del Adobe in El Burgo Ranero

After dinner we strolled to the little market (Autoservicio Pili), bought some dessert and then watched the sun set from the west end of town, looking over the pond that is really hurting during this drought.  We got some snacks for tomorrow and then back to our room to get rested.