Sunday, December 3, 2017

El Camino de Santiago - 2017

Day 12: Poblacion de Campos to Carrión de los Condes

Michelle wrote:
18 Sept. Monday
We left the albergue around 8:00 am and walked 4.6 km along the 'opcion' path to Villovieco for breakfast: Cola Cao and a croissant, my favorite!  Then we walked 4.6 km along the river Ucieza and that was very nice.  The camino was shaded and there were cottonwood trees, fields, birds, etc.  It was a little longer than the regular route that runs along the highway, but much prettier and calmer.
At Villalcazar de Sirga we stopped for lunch at a very nice cafe.  It had the nicest garden area, porch, play sets for kids, a nice modern interior and good food. (Palomar del Camino)   We ran into our Oregon friends, the Sweeneys, again and were able to exchange phone numbers.  There was an old dovecote (palomar) there that the owner has preserved.  The dovecotes were used to breed pigeons.  The pigeons provided food for the families, fertilizer for the fields and feathers for pillows and quilts.  They are no longer used, but you can still see a few dovecotes in this region.  Each one is different and it is fun to look for them.

We walked the last 5.5 km to Carrion de los Condes on a path along the highway.  There were massive fields all around and it was very beautiful.  I strained a muscle in my left foot/ankle trying to favor my right foot, which had a blister.  Needless to say, walking was a bit painful and difficult, but still doable.  We found our hostal, La Corte,  and have a nice private room.  They did our laundry for 7 euros and use a detergent that smells like roses.  We walked around the area and found 2 stores for pilgrims.  Curtis bought a shirt, we got more bandaids for blisters and are going to try using Vaselina to keep our feet happy.  A lot of people think it works the best to put it on your feet at night and in the morning to keep your feet soft so they don’t get blisters.  We found a farmacia and bought a compression bandage for my foot/ankle.  
We joined our friends the Sweeneys for dinner on the plaza.  This was the last night we saw them.  They were going to take a bus to Leon in the morning.  It was fun getting to know them better.  We also met a Canadian couple from Alberta (the Yamkowys).  They live near Lesser Slave Lake in Alberta.   They were interesting to talk to.  They have hiked in several different countries and had good stories to share.

Tomorrow we have a long 26 km day to get to Terradillos de los Templarios.  The Knights Templar used to hang out in this area and you can see their unique cross on a lot of signs.  I am interested in learning more about them.  Let’s hope my foot/ankle lasts the day!  We are sending our packs ahead, so that should help a lot to not have that weight. 

Curtis writes: It was a good day for walking: scattered clouds, lots of trees, and a good flat walking surface. 
A grove of trees planted in rows

The Camino separated from the grove of trees by a raised irrigation channel.
It's apparent from our shadows that this is a morning shot because we're headed West.

The property is well maintained.
Somebody takes the time to keep the undergrowth down.

Soon after leaving Poblacion de Campos we passed a tree plantation. We had seen groves like this from afar.  The first time was in 2012 when friends Fuco and Idoia drove us across the meseta on the way from Galicia to Madrid.  I expect that these are grown as wind breaks because I've never seen the trees harvested.

I want to come back and hike this section when the fields are green.

In Google Maps you can see this tree from above.  Click HERE
The belfry that you can see just over the horizon (near the middle of the photo) helps us to know how close we are to the nearest bathrooms.  In this case, that church is La Iglesia de Santa Maria la Blanca, in Villalcázar de Sirga.  Just as we were entering town, we came across a VERY nice bar/pub with a dovecote as an attraction.  See "Palomar del Camino" in the photo below.  We toured the dovecote and learned about something we had never seen before.  From there on out, Michelle was on the lookout for dovecotes.
The view of Villalcázar de Sirga from above.  We came into town along the road near the upper right corner.

Across the plaza from La Iglesia de Santa Maria la Blanca, in Villalcázar de Sirga is this statue to the Pilgrim.
 From the 'dovecote town' we walked on a path that parallels the highway into Carrion de los Condes.

Carrion de los Condes in the distance

Our hostal in Carrion was really easy to find - right on the main road into town.  We were glad - again - to have a room to ourselves.
Hostal La Corte
View from our window at La Corted
Plaza Generalisimo. 
We relaxed here a while waiting for the pharmacy to open for the afternoon.
 We had another good experience with a pharmacist here in Carrion.  He examined Michelles foot carefully and recommended a compression bandage that would not cost very much. 
Ensalada Mixta from Bar Carmen

We met the Sweeneys on the street and agreed to eat dinner together.  While we were eating, another couple, friends of the Sweeneys, joined us.  Thus we were introduced to the Yankowy's of northern Alberta, Canada.  These two sets of friends are the only pilgrims we have kept in touch with after the Camino.
Rio Carrión
The river that runs along the outskirts of town is very relaxing.
Rio Carrión - with some post processing

Friday, November 24, 2017

El Camino de Santiago - 2017

Day 11: Itero de la Vega to Poblacion de Campos

Michelle wrote:
17 Sept. Sunday
We got up at 7:30 and cooked some eggs and had kiwi yogurts, croissants that had a vanilla filling and the ends dipped in chocolate (!) and a fruit called an Uruguayo.  It had a skin that looked and felt like a peach, but you can’t eat the skin.  It was crunchy like an apple and it tasted a little like a peach or nectarine.  It’s shape was more like a tiny pumpkin - more squashed than round.  

We left the albergue around 9:00 am and walked 8.5 km to the next town.  There were not many hills, but there were HUGE fields!  We finally saw some sheep and a dairy, but no cows!  We followed a pretty canal into the large town of Fromista.  There is a cool lock on the canal there.  Other than that we were not impressed with Fromista.  We tried to find a farmacia that was open on Sunday, but could not find one.  I had to continue limping along, hoping to find some more blister bandaids.  I had two blisters under my callouses on my heels and my feet hurt.  

We walked 4 km more to our albergue, La Finca,in the village of Poblacion de Campos, where we stopped for the day.  This was a new albergue and we were in the 'addition', which wasn’t quite finished.  The beds were in alcoves with a curtain for privacy, or you could go up some stairs to a little loft.  The semi-private space felt nice.  However, there was no hot water for the showers and there was a bad drainage problem.  The other building had hot water and a washing machine.  I took a cold sponge bath, washed my hair in the other building’s shower.  We were able to wash our clothes in the washing machine for free, so it was a trade off, kind of.  We hung our clothes out on the line to dry in the wind and sun.  We had a late lunch with our friends from Oregon, the Sweeneys.  We are liking them more each time we see them.  Nice people.

Dinner was a communal meal in the restaurant and very hearty.  They served a meat that we couldn’t recognize - rabbit!  I didn’t have any and Curtis said it had too many bones.  Some people liked it.  We went to bed in our cute little cubicles but were woken up at 11:00 pm by 2 drunk pilgrims that were talking loudly and being very inconsiderate of the other pilgrims who were trying to sleep.  It was very disappointing.

Curtis writes:
What was disappointing was that one of the drunks was the lady from Tennessee whom we met entering Castrojeriz, whose southern accent was pleasant to listen to the day before.  The pilgrims on the Camino are one big family.  We have a familiar love and interest in the success of each other on the Camino.  And we have our problems, like every family.  So, at 11:00pm, the French man with whom we had enjoyed dinner 4 hours earlier (he and his wife liked the rabbit) was telling the drunk lady she had to stop talking on the phone in 10 minutes because she was making too much noise.  (True)  Her drunk friend tried to defend her with the excuse that her family is in America.  He insisted the call had to end.  I considered trying to help, but concluded that my entrance into the fray would just delay its resolution.

Trees lining the path approaching and leaving
Itero de la Vega, left pleasant memories of
that part of the Camino.
We were in a part of Spain where hi-speed wifi is not a big priority. Consequently I could only post a few pictures on Facebook Friday night, and it was the same in Poblacion de Campos (5km beyond Frómista).  I bring it up as a warning to future hikers - beware that this is a pilgramage with sacrifices.  Don't waste time regretting the loss of fast internet access- rather, find solace in the insulating distance from the caos of the world.  The silence is an opportunity to listen to your own heart, and hearing clearly now, you can tune your soul (heart and mind) to resonate with what is most important.

Ironically, for some hikers, the loudest thing heard is the pain from walking.  It's interesting that feet problems had stayed away until this part of the trail. Blisters were starting to appear on Michelles feet and my left foot felt like the bone at the ball of the foot was bruised.

Canal de Castilla
This day we hiked 17.7km, hoping for improvement to the feet. Fortunatly, it was quite flat. It was not boring. Part of it was along the Canal de Castilla.  This canal is fed from the Rio Pisuerga as it comes down out of the Picos de Europa, south of Santander.  We crossed Rio Pisuerga the day before, as we approached Itero de la Vega.  The canal and the river come back together in Valladolid.

Huge field beyond the Canal de Castilla

Former locks on the canal near Fromista
It was good to see the canal filled to capacity, even though the drought was having a severe impact.  There is something calming about walking next to running water. 

The locks near Fromista engaged the Civil Engineer in me.  Sometime I wonder how it is that I'm not a Civil Engineer.  I've loved channeling water since I was a kid playing in the irrigation dich next to my home in the desert of Chihuahua.

We were disappointed with Fromista for 2 reasons:  We were hoping to find an open pharmacy where Michelle could find the bandage she needed for her foot.  The second reason is more complicated.  It was Sunday, and we were not able to carry out our normal Sunday activities.  There were wondering thoughts as to whether we tried hard enough.  You can draw a triangle with vertices at Burgos, Valladolid and Leon.  Fromista is close to being in the middle of that triangle.  See on Google Maps

Leaving Fromista we had a long flat walk to Poblacion.  It was so straight and flat that I challanged myself to see how far I could walk with Michelle guiding me while I walked with my eyes closed.  I think I lasted 20 minutes.

Straight section from Fromista to Poblacion de Campos
We were looking forward to the Albergue in Poblacion because of the reviews given by other pilgrims. 

Albergue La Finca
An experience very different from Albergue La Fabrica
 The concept of having private curtained-off cubes was appealing.  How cozy!
Private cube in La Finca
As seen above, there are two buildings. We ended up in the newer building (brown wood siding to the left).  Unfortunately, it was so new that the hot water had not been hooked up, and the drains in the showers... well they didn't.  While the washer was free (nice), the clothes lines were in the weeds, not on the nice grass. :(
Cube arrangement: the stairs go to a cube
above each cube at the ground leve.
I think La Finca has the potential to be a nice place, but in Sept. 2017 it was not quite there.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

El Camino de Santiago - 2017

Day 10: Hontanas to Itero de la Vega

Michelle wrote:
16 Sept. Saturday
We left Hontanas at 7:24 am and walked in the predawn light.  The trail went between some hills, so we couldn’t tell where we were going.  The valley ended and we walked along a long tree-lined road with alfalfa fields and cottonwood trees.  We came to the ruins of a convent founded in 1146, San Anton, and across the road was a little outdoor cafe.  I asked for Cola Cao and the owner said that it was for children!  He only sold coffee.  So we left.  Humph!  The next town was Castrojeriz - a town wrapped around the  base of a hill with the ruins of a castle on the top.  We met a woman from Bristol, TN there and enjoyed a glass of fresh orange juice with her.  It was good to hear a good ole southern accent in Spain!  

Curtis found a sign in the cafe he liked:
“We invite people here twice a week.  Once was yesterday, and the other is tomorrow.”

We liked Castrojeriz because it is clean and the people are friendly.  We stopped at a church on the way out of town and I took a little tour of it.  It had a little museum with their old processional crosses, chalices, relics, etc.  It wasn’t overly ornate and had nice paintings of the life of Christ behind the altar instead of statues of saints and apostles.  Near the exit there were wooden models of various churches and bridges that were quite amazing.  The host had me look inside a window of the model of this particular church and there was miniature painting of Mary over an altar - just like the one in this church.  Then I looked in another hole and saw the miniature of the rosetta window.  It was very cool.  The detail work was very nice and I enjoyed that part of the exhibit.  This was also the first church that I was able to see just what exactly the relics were that are so important to the church.  I’d always been curious about that.

We crossed a river and began a long,steep climb to the top of the hill where we had a fantastic view of the big, wide valley and the long camino ahead.  There was a rest shelter at the top and we met several other pilgrims recovering from the climb.  We could see the tiny pilgrims ahead of us on the camino and three villages.  It was steep coming down, but the road was paved, so that it wouldn’t be slippery when wet.  We crossed a wide river on a narrow bridge and entered the province of Palencia.  Palencia is part of the region of Castille y Leon.

The road entering Itero de la Vega
We walked along the river into the town of Itero de la Vega and stopped at the albergue Hogar del Peregrino.  This was nice little pension that the owners of the supermercado next also owned.  It used to be a private home, but now is rented as a pension.  It has 3 double rooms and 1 single room upstairs, 2 baths, a kitchen and a living room.  It was nice and quiet - no bars nearby.  There was a very large framed picture of a sailing ship that was actually a 4,000 piece puzzle that they glued together.  It was very nice.  It was a gift from Blanca (the owner) to her husband.  he said he wasn’t sure if it was meant to be a gift or torture!  

We did our laundry and I sat on a bench on the street in the sun while the clothes dried on the rack next to me.  It was very pleasant sitting there.  
Michelle sitting in the shade while the clothes dry across the street in Itero de la Vega

The people who stopped to talk to me were very nice.  Blanca made us dinner and we had a nice conversation with a couple from Ohio and the Sweeneys from Oregon, and a young man from Argentina.  We were in bed by 10:00 pm.

Curtis writes:
Because we spent the night with 4 other people in the room, it was hard to sleep in.  The ladys from Belgium or France started moving first, then our friends from California and finally us.  So, for once we were not the last ones out of the albergue.  As mentioned before, the Camino drops off the plain into a valley with Hontanas just over the rim from the plane.  The valley widens to alphapha fields irrigated by sprinklers and lined with cottonwood trees.
Looking Back: Because you can't see the backpacks on the walkers in this picture,
you can tell the image is looking backwards, away from Santiago.
Looking Forward: The sun shining on Castrojeriz.  Our destination is beyond the mountain on the horizon.

Eventually the valley opens up wide, with a tall hill in the middle.  Hey, that's a great place to build a castle.

From Castrojeriz one can see the Camino going up out of the vally and back on the plain.
click HERE to see Castrojeriz in Google Maps

Half way up the hill, looking back at Castrojeriz

Up the hill from Castrojeriz

Looking towards Itero de la Vega along the green band created by the river (Rio Pisuerga)
The advantage of walking in September is that the weather is merciful in long shadeless sections like this.  I feared being wind blasted - but that was not a problem.

Home sweet Home in Itero de la Vega

Sunday, November 12, 2017

El Camino de Santiago - 2017

Day 9: Tardajos to Hontanas

Sunrise view from our 2nd floor window at La Fabrica in Tardajos
Michelle wrote:
15 Sept. Friday

We didn’t get up until almost 8:00 am today!  That is one of the drawbacks of being in a nice quiet private room.  You don’t hear everyone else getting up and leaving.  We left at 9:00 and walked to Rabe de las Calzaldas - a nice village.  We stopped at a cafe for breakfast and the owner talked and talked to Curtis.  He gave us necklaces with a little medallion of Mary on it.  There is a beautiful building that is a convent in that village - not a common sight.  

We climbed up a long slope to the meseta.  It has been a cool 53 degree windy day.  The temperature drops about 5 degrees when a cloud crosses the sun.  The meseta is relatively flat and goes on and on and on.  There are not very many trees, but there are wind turbines and fields of cut and baled hay.

Grapes, nearly ripe growing along the wall
We dropped down into a village called Hornillos del Camino and had a drink and a snack.  Then back up onto the meseta for another 11 km.  We were beginning to think that there was no end to the meseta.  We were looking for church bell towers or cell towers to tell us we were close to the next town, but we couldn’t see any.  Then we dropped down into a village - Hontanas - where we were glad to stop for the night.  We couldn’t see the church tower because it is below the ridge of the meseta.  It was a sunny but chilly day and the albergue had an awesome clothesline on the side of the hill.  It was on a cement pad that had a wall behind it to catch the warmth of the sun and the wind.  I am becoming quite a connoisseur of clotheslines!  We shared a room and a bathroom with 6 other people.  It was not as comfortable sharing again, but we survived.  We met Ann and Scott Sweeney from Oregon.  They are a nice, fun and interesting couple.  Scott is a retired fireman and Ann was a banker for many years.  We ate a communal meal and had chicken paella.  I got to serve everyone the paella from a huge frying pan.  The church in Hontanas is a small humble church, but I liked it better than the big fancy ones.  There was soft music playing and some candles burning.  It seemed more personal and loving than some of the big churches we looked at.  
Curtis writes:
This turned out to be our first day on the meseta.  As you will see in the photos further down, the topography is different from what it was East of Burgos.
We liked thc clean and well maintained look of Tardajos and Rabe de las Calzadas.  We found that the further we walked from the cities, the more empoverished the villages were.
Walking through Rabé de las Calzadas
 The building in the picture below is across a small plaza from where we ate breakfast.  When we saw this building from afar, I said: "That looks like the Relief Society building."  See, in the small town where my mother was raised there is a small sturdy building (less than half the size of this one) that was specifically for the Relief Society.  Well, it turns out I was right.
Over the entrance it says:
Hijas de la Caridad
Centro La Milagrosa
The plaza and church at Rabe de las Calzadas
It was nice to walk on a well-maintained road.  It was very very rare to see a car or truck on these roads.

A rare site: 3 generations of Camino signs.
The hike today was the most flat we've experienced on the Camino.  Think southern Idaho; even the wind was constant, and cool. The clouds were sparse and trees rare, so the cool breeze was actually helpful.

Approaching Hornillos del Camino
Click HERE to see it in Google Maps
In Hornillos, shown above, we stopped for a bite to eat.  Totally against my character, I had a dish of pickled fish, like sardine size.  I don't know what they were, but it tasted good.  I think the bar was called Casa Manolo.  It was very small with only about 8 seats.  It was clean and the service was with a smile.

Before reaching our destination, we passed the most lonely albergue on the Camino (that we've seen), Albergue San Bol.  Studying it from the road, we did not see any movement, so we're not sure it was open.
Albergue San Bol is in the valley ahead, in the shade of the trees. 
The Camino continues back up onto the meseta towards the right of the picture.
This picture is looking back to where the previous picture was taken 20 minutes before.
Our destination, Hontanas, is about 19.5km from Tardajos where we started.

The road drops into a valley where Hontanas hides below the horizon.
Previous to this day, we could tell when we were approaching a community by the church bell tower or by the cell phone tower.  When we were within 1 km of Hontanas, we could see no sign of it.  You can see how flat the terrain is.  There were signs along the road indicating we were really close to town, but all we could see were fields, so it was hard to believe the signs.  But what joy it was to see that, indeed, the town is right there.  It's always better to be surprised with good news like "You don't have to walk any further today." Rather than, "You're not as close as you thought you were."

This is our albergue, Juan de Yepes
This albergue was clean and modern.  We bunked in a room with new friends from California, Scott and Ann, a woman from France and a woman from Belgium.  Six of us shared a bathroom.  There were 3 or 4 other rooms with similar arrangements.  The laundry was done by the hosts for 4 euros.  We chose to dry the clothes on the line rather than pay more for the dryer.  Dinner was ensalada mixta and paella.  Being that it takes me so much work to get the meat out of seafood, I'm not a big fan of paella; but the rice was good.  The picture below was taken by Ann.
Michelle dishing out the paella at albergue Juan de Yepes in Hontanas
(photo by Ann S.)
After dinner we explored the town just a little bit.  Michelle wrote about the simple humble church with soft music playing and low lighting mostly from candles.  Nice.
One of the nicer homes on main street in Hontanas

Sunset behind the belfry