Breakfast served by Pepe turned out to be a drink of your choice and packaged fairy cake, so we set off for the next village, Villafranca Montes de Oca, about 3.5 km away and found a cafe for a proper breakfast.
Bo is walking with us today, a Danish guy who stayed at the albergue last night. I have a croissant whilst the others have hearty bocadillos.
As we leave the village we enter a wooded area and encounter a never-ending and very steep hill and I am very glad that I don’t have a heavy breakfast weighing me down. Generally I find the steep hills a real challenge – not so much in my legs, but in my lungs. I stopped smoking 32 years ago but still I feel the evil weed is affecting my performance. There again, it might just be my age! Anyhow, this morning I manage this huge climb more easily than usual. We have a short reprieve on the flat before the next massive incline hits us, and once at the top the path levels and is enclosed on both sides by thick forest – pine and deciduous trees that look like beech but are not very big. After a very steep descent we face our third slog uphill until the track levels again.
The track is compacted dirt, which is reasonably comfortable to walk on, except where it has been churned up in the rain leaving deep ruts. The forest thickens and we are totally enclosed with no views other than the trees to left or right. It doesn’t make for a very interesting walk and it continues for about 12 km.
There are signs throughout the forest ‘mushroom harvesting – it is prohibited to collect without authorisation’.
We stop for a drink at the village of San Juan de Ortega, 16 km into our day’s walk.
After Ortega the track opens up what looks like grazing pastures, although there is no sign of any animals, we haven’t actually seen any sign of farm animals since day three. There are cattle grids at regular intervals and I wonder how anyone horse riding the camino would manage to get over these.
There are masses of pretty blue flowers, which I think may be gentians, growing in swathes across the grass.
Finally we can see a couple of villages in the distance. The first is Agés, tiny and very pretty. There is a quaint sign, saying 518 km to Santiago. We have learned during our travels to completely dismiss such distance markers because they seem to pull the numbers out of a hat, you can walk for ten kilometres from the last sign and find one that says 15 km more than the previous one.
Also, all the guide books, elevation maps and other reference material seem to tell different stories and can’t be relied upon for accuracy.
We pass through Agés and continue for another couple of kilometres to our destination, Atapuerca.
Altapuerca is another pretty village with a very comfortable albergue, complete with garden, lawn, excellent laundry facilities, good kitchen, showers and loos and individual rooms with six beds, two singles and two sets of bunks. They are not full and so aren’t using the upper bunks. We have an elderly gentleman in our room and we at hoping he is not a snorer!
After the usual chores we find a bar for a light snack and a glass or two of wine and then return to the lovely garden to make use of the wifi and catch up on my blog posts.
Ella and Søren have gone out for supper, but I am fed up with stodgy food and have bought a few bits and bobs for a picnic in the kitchen.
This is my pilgrim’s credencial that gets stamped at each albergue, and a few other places on the way. You cannot stay at an albergue with a credencial.
Today was a nice easy day. A relatively short walk of just over 20 km. We plan to walk a greater distance tomorrow. My toe blister has more or less gone now – I shall try it without any tape tomorrow. My heel blister is gently seething under the compeed plaster. I am not entirely sure what is supposed to be happening under the plaster but the instructions say to keep it in place until it comes off of its own accord. It is still giving discomfort but it is bearable. I have also developed an aggressive rash on the inside of my right knee – quite uncomfortable. We will pass through the city of Burgos tomorrow so I will call into a farmacia to get some advice.
Some days I am fiddling with the straps of my backpack all day and cannot get comfortable. I am pleased to say that today was not one of those days. When it is sitting correctly it is not a burden, even loaded with an additional 2 litres of water, weighing 2 kilos. Unfortunately I can’t leave the straps as they are when it is just right because the next morning extra clothing means a different fit.
There is another class of camino walker who choose not to carry their own bags, but send them on to their next stop in a taxi. We can’t help but feel a certain contempt for them as we struggle on under the weight of our packs. However, everyone must walk their own camino, and I suppose we shouldn’t really judge others.
Wow i am very impressed with your credentials, your so lucky to be having this experience. I hope your bringing presents back- lol xx
I picked up some prayer beads for you today, I am sure you will find good use for them! Xx
I just looked at google maps.
According to it, it is 479 km, 100 hours on the N-120
Or, 528 km, 109 hours on the N-525
You are doing really well and it all looks fab. xxx
Hi Kim, thanks for the info. I expect we could do it a lot quicker if we stuck to the main roads. Not so pretty though!
Well, David and Helen are here for dinner and I have read this latest inatallment aloud, including the comments. We totally cracked up at Jane’s comment that she hopes you are bringing presents back for us all. Jen-Kristian requests a two metre crucifix, but if that proves difficult a 1.8m one will do! Helen is feeling kind and can wait for some seaweed from Finistere. All I want is to know who the bloke is from three blog entries back who is so assiduously eyeing up Ella’s posterior in the albergue kitchen? We all raise our glasses to you here at the end of our dinner Thursday evening. Keep on going! Love Lyn, J-K, Helen and David. XXX
Hi Lyn. Thanks for all your comments – much appreciate. Ella seems to get ogled wherever she goes. Xx
Hi Maggie, when I follow your Blog I feel like I am walking it with you, but I don’t have the blisters, but I do feel tiered at the end of the day, keep up the good progress and may the road be kind to you. Malcolm xx
Thanks Malcolm, great to hear from you. I will send a message to Christine tonight, if she doesn’t see emails, can you pass on my message. Hope David made you a tasty supper tonight xx
I did think about you having to resist the temptation of shopping, as one does, when away from home. Probably quite a new experience. At least you can save some money for more croissants & wine! Keep up the good progress. Frances x
Absolutely no temptation to shop. Anything I buy I have to carry! I shall pay a visit to M&S on my next visit to the uk.
I have been reading your posts and find them informative, thank you. However, I would not personally have even a little contempt for anyone sending their bags ahead. I have medical issues that would prevent me from carrying a pack… so that might be the only way I’d be able to complete a journey like that. Some people might need to be congratulated for being there at all when physically it might for them be an impossibility. Also, there is no reason for physical suffering to be a requirement. If I did the camino I might skip areas I didn’t like, or send my bag ahead, maybe even skip Santiago. It’s not about a passport filled with the right stamps on the right path or the right way to hike, it’s about a personal challenge being met even if that challenge is, for some people, at a lower bar than for others. One could also do a “way” in Tuscany…or anywhere else…and that would be a similar admirable pilgrimage. I have actually wondered whether a self researched pilgrimage through Tuscany or other parts of Europe might be more visually stunning. In that case someone doing their own trip, self researched and conceived, might frown on camino walkers for taking the road most travelled by without using their imagination, as, if the way has no Christian meaning, hostels and B& B places (many much more lovely than these hostels along the camino) are everywhere, walking trails are everywhere etc. …..I was wondering how those who send their bags ahead do that…. how do they know where they will be or where they will be staying?
Hi, sorry I have not responded sooner. I will reply in full in the next day or so, by way of a separate post. You make important points that I would like to address. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I didn’t expect anyone but a few friends to look at it. Will be in touch, maggie
I have rather belatedly responded to your comment via a post which can be seen here: https://magwood.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/to-be-a-pilgrim/.