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 credential that gets stamped at each albergue, and a few other places on the way. You cannot stay at an albergue with a credential.
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.