Hornillos del Camino to Castrojsriz - 20.2 km

May 21
Lat: 42.287778 Lon: -4.140278

I had a good night’s sleep at the pension and got up at 6:15 a.m. to pack and go down for breakfast. It was a typical breakfast in Spain: toast, jelly and coffee; a pat on the back, and out the door. It was good and a nice way to start the day. I usually will make it to a bar/restaurant about 5 km away and take a break and get something more. The cafe con leche or hot tea is about 1.20 euros and a sweet roll is another 1.20 euros.

The owner of the place that we stayed last night took us back to the trail in Hornillos del Camino where we ended the day before. It was so cold that the van actually had ice on the windshield. We all took off heading for our daily destination. It was so cold in my shorts and a T-shirt that I just took off. After a couple of hours I arrived in the town of Hontanas and stopped at a bar right on the trail. They had the best cafe con leche. They also had great WiFi and I was able to connect to check e-mail. It's appearing more and more that WiFi is in more and more locations. It's in coffee shops, restaurants and especially in albergues and hotels. I’ve been able to Skype just about every night back to the states. (Don't forget the time difference: six hours.) Also, FYI, Hontanas has three albergues.

Walking on the Meseta is really nice because you can see everything in the distance and when you are coming into a town or village you drop down to it. Also the photo opportunities are wonderful. I walked on to a very small area along the trail by the name of San Anton, which has an albergue that I was told opened around May 1, but was closed due to the cold. I pushed on to the town of Castrojeriz, where we are staying tonight.

When you first come into the outskirts of the town, a big sign shows all the services in town. This town isn't that big but is a long narrow town with what looks like two main streets that run parallel. There is a bar/restaurant when you walk up the hill into town and across from the church. Be sure and stop there to get something to eat and a coffee or tea because it’s the last place for a while. I talked to the man running the place and asked if there was a bank in town and he told me that there were three. I don't know if he meant ATMs or banks, but I looked around and found nothing resembling either. A post office is in the Plaza de Mayor, but it's only open from 9:30-10:00 a.m., Monday through Friday. Needless to say, it was closed when I went to get some stamps. I had someone tell me to go up the street to the tobacco shop and that I could buy stamps for my post cards, but they were closed as well. I guess people just don't send much mail.

I found a good little restaurant which has a Peregrino meal for 9.50 euros. It seems like the farther west we get, the better the meals get and the better the wine gets as we well. Tonight's white wine was one of the best yet. The one meal that you can always count on is pork. Generally we always have fish and mostly pork, but rarely chicken. Also, don't look for too many veggies. If you order “ensalada mixta” and don't like tuna, be sure to order “pero no atun” or your salad will be covered with it.

The pork was good again tonight. This was the third day in a row that I've had pork of some description. It's a good thing I like pork. Hopefully tomorrow night I can get “pechuga de pollo” (chicken breast). It's almost always thighs or legs. It kind of makes you wonder what happens to the breasts.

Well it's been a full day and tomorrow is going to be just as full up on the Meseta. More to follow... Buen Camino!

Burgos to Hornillos del Camino - 21 km

May 20
Lat: 42.285278 Lon: -3.912222

I woke up to a pretty blue sky today, so I was on the trail today by 7:30 a.m. and heading out of town. I stopped on the outskirts for a quick cup of coffee and a chocolate crescent roll. The trail out of town is pretty much flat and easy to hike. A lot of street walking until after you get to Tardajos and then it starts to climb up to the Meseta. (This isn't a hard climb, only steady for a short distance.) After that, there is only about 4 km to the village of Hornillos del Camino. There is a Tienda there which has good fruit and other little snacks; there is also a bar with food, coffee and some tapas and bocadillos. For the most part not much is there. It does have an Albergue, but it's small and looks old and only has room for 32 people.

I've gotten a room in someone's home. It's more expensive (34 euros), but it’s nice and clean and I have my own room and bath. The owners picked us up off the trail and took us to their home. It took about 15 minutes to get here and it's in the middle of nowhere. They will prepare dinner and breakfast in the morning and then take us back to the trail. There are about 10 people staying here. They served us wine and some chips a little while ago. Not sure when they serve dinner as in Spain it's always late.

We ate dinner at 7:30 p.m. with 12others. There were French, Canadians, Mexicans, and Americans. The food was absolutely wonderful. Appetizers included tomatoes and cooked peppers with bread and wine. The main course was pork roast and then for desert we had a pudding. After dinner we were served various types of after-dinner drinks. All in all it was a great meal. It was the best yet. I've been told that the meals get better and better as we go to the West… we'll see how it goes.

There's more to follow.... Buen Camino!

Burgos - Zero Day

May 19
Lat: 42.341944 Lon: -3.703889

I got up at 7 a.m. and packed to leave the Municipal Albergue as you can only stay one night, with the one exception if you're sick. I was out on the street by 7:30 a.m., went looking for breakfast, and then to another place to stay. Hawk and Christine went to a hotel for 50 euros a night and I went to the Divination Pastora Albergue, which has only 16 bunks but is also is only 5 euros. It is a really a nice place. It's clean and warm.

I met a man from Clarkston, Georgia; a woman from near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; and lastly a man from Franklin, North Carolina. I got checked in around 11 a.m. and then spent the rest of the day just walking around the town. It was a good day to do nothing as it was cold and rainy all day with temps in the mid-30s to low 40s.

I had one of the best meals since I got on the trail at the Viva la Pepe Restaurant in front of the Cathedral. It was a little more expense than most of the Peregrino meals but well worth it. I had a rack of BBQ baby back ribs with French fries and a bottle of good grade wine, and for desert, a NY style cheese cake with caramel on it. When I was finished I was stuffed and knew that there was no dinner for me. I took a lot of pictures all around town.

Note for all: Burgos is a great place to take a day off. By the time you get there, you really need a day of rest and the food and choices of restaurants are really good. Planning on a good night’s sleep and to be back on the trail tomorrow.

Atapuerca to Burgos - 20.5 km

May 18
Lat: 42.341944 Lon: -3.703889

Once again I was up and packed by 6:30 a.m. I wandered over to the restaurant for a quick breakfast. Hawk and Christine came in and had breakfast then we were off. It was a nice climb out of Atapuerca with some mud and small rocks on the path. We walked for about an hour and a half before coming in to Cardenula where there was a great place to get coffee. We had a lot of road walking today mixed with a fair amount of mud walking. It was once again unseasonally cold in the lower 30s and only warmed to the mid-40s with little sun.

The next little village is Orbaneja. There is also a restaurant there where I stopped and ate. About one km beyond this town the trail takes a split and you need to decide which way to proceed. You can cross the highway bridge and the trail straight ahead goes through Villafria by the road and then into Burgos, which is about 7.1 km. Or you can take the trail to the left and go around the airport, which had a lot of mud and was 7.9 km. Both trails bring you to the suburbs of Burgos in a town of Castanares where again you have to make a decision on which way to go. If you turn left you'll follow a river into downtown Burgos, which they say isn't marked well but that you won't get lost. The trail to the right is the marked Camino through the city. I took the marked path through the city on the streets of Burgos. One word of caution on this route: Watch closely for markers because it’s not that well marked. I got confused a couple of times and the people that I talked to didn't know exactly where the Camino was. It was at that point I just started asking how to get to the Cathedral and everybody knew that. I finally got to the albergue at noon just as they were opening.

The albergue is a nice clean place and is only 5 euros for the night. You can only stay one night and then you HAVE to move on. It does fill up fast so get there early. I didn't see Hawk and Christine until around 3 p.m. after they got into the albergue. Zack and Chuck came in about the same time as I did and later in the day Windy from Australia as well as the Canadian women showed up. Around 5 p.m., Don and Sally from Colorado arrived. I toured the Cathedral. You have to have a ticket to get in. Be sure to have your credentials with you because it gets you in for half price for 3.50 euros.

I met up with Hawk and Christine and we went to dinner. One thing to remember when ordering beef is to be sure to tell them how to cook it or it will be served nearly raw. When you send it back they will cook it your way but they won't be happy.

After dinner I went back to the albergue and talked to my South Korean friend and we exchanged e-mail addresses. It was a good day and a good place to visit.

More to follow… Buen Camino!

Villafranca Monte de Oca to Atapuerca - 18.5 km

May 17
Lat: 42.375833 Lon: -3.506944

I got up at 6:30 a.m., packed up, and went to breakfast in the restaurant next to the hosteles. The trail is starting to get crowded with lots of different nationalities. Today alone I talked with people from South Korea, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and even another American. It’s a lot of fun getting to talk with people from other cultures.

This morning I hiked the first 12 Km with a fellow from Switzerland. Peter was a delight to walk with. He is 29 years old and in the last nine years he'd lived in eight countries. This is unbelievable to me as most people in America work and live their entire lives not only in one country, but in one or possiblly only two states. We had great conversations about not only life in general, but what we had done with our lives and still want to do.

The weather is so strange here. It was 36 degrees at 7:30 a.m. and as I climbed up the mountain it got colder. We made it to the summit of the first mountain out of Villafranca only to find it with snow on the ground and before we got across the top it was snowing again. It snowed for about 30 minutes, then rained, sleeted and later even the sun came out with an afternoon high of 44 degrees. Even the locals are commenting about it as it hasn't been like this in years.

We got to St. Juan de Ortega just as the snow was turning to rain and got into a bar/restaurant. The place was packed with Peregrinos all there for the cafe con leche, which is the best coffee that you'll ever have. It was there that I met two fellows from San Diego, California. They were both firemen. After an hour of drinking coffee and talking it was time move on. I finally got to Atapuerca to the Albergue Peregrino where I had a single room reserved. This is a wonderfully clean and friendly place. It is 8 euros for a bunk bed space, and 25 euros for a single private room with your own bathroom and shower. This little town only has a population of 200, but has one of the best restaurants that I've been in since my arrival in Spain. They have a Peregrinos meal for 10 euros. I had one for lunch and then we went back for dinner a 7:30 p.m. I had dinner with two women from Dublin, Ireland. We had great conversation around my own Irish heritage. All in all it was a fun night.

It's now time for bed and resting for the walk to Burgos tomorrow. It should make for an interesting walk as again they are calling for cooler than normal temperatures and possibly more rain. I’ll just have to see what tomorrow holds.

Until then ... Buen Camino!

Castildelgado to Villafranca Montes de Oca - 22.0 km

May 16
Lat: 42.395833 Lon: -3.307778

I was up at 6 a.m. and down for a quick breakfast in the restaurant before packing to leave. We finally got underway at 7:25 a.m. It was to be a long day, but not a very difficult one. Tempertures hovered in the mid-30s all day with a lot of wind so the rain jacket was a must.

When Hawk and I got to Belorado we stopped in a nice restaurant and got a cup of tea and a pastry while waiting on Christine and the girls from Canada and Germany to come in. After leaving there and with the cold, we picked up our pace a little. When we got to Villambistia we decided to have lunch at a nice bar/restaurant. After lunch the weather started to turn colder and then it started to sleet and we could see snow up on the mountain tops.

We finally got to the Hoteles, La Alpargateria Casa Rural, and checked in. Again the "pilgrims" dinner wasn't served until 7:30 p.m. This is the “norm” in Spain; dinner is usually served no earlier than 7:30 p.m. and as late as 9 p.m. By that time most pilgrims are in bed or at least heading that way.

Today was somewhat uneventful and pretty much a heads down day. The forecast for tomorrow says it is going to be even worse, but we'll see.

Buen Camino!

Ciruena to Castildelgado - 18.7 km

May 15
Lat: 42.438056 Lon: -3.084167

We began later this morning because the pension owner prepared breakfast at 7:30 a.m. so we started at 8 a.m. The pension, Casa Victoria, was a wonderful place to stay; the price was only 20 euros for a single and the bar/restaurant (which is great and very reasonably priced) is right next door. As a side note, don't stay in the albergue, the Virgin de Guadalupe in Ciruena. The price is 13 euros a night and is not nice according to Chuck and Zack.

We walked out this morning in a pouring down rain with full rain gear on and 39 degrees. The trail was great though as it wasn't really muddy. It was a wide path (dirt road) leading all the way to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. In this town they have a church that is famous for a miracle involving a cock, (rooster), so we paid the 3 euros and went in to see the church and the rooster. It was interesting with lots of gold and plenty of statues.

After we finished the church tour we headed back out on the trail. It continued to rain as we walked to the town of Granon, where we ate lunch and went to the bank for another cash draw. They have a great bank with an indoor ATM machine. Since there is only one restaurant, eat there and get your cash.

After lunch the rain started to subside and the temps rose into the 50s. The rain jacket came off and we headed to Castildelgado, where we stayed in the "El Chocaltero." It is supposed to be a Hosteles, but is more like a truck stop, but less expensive at 22 euros a night for a single. It is clean, although small (you have to go outside to change your mind), and they have a restaurant right there. All the truckers seem to like it too. (You know what they say about food...truckers are never wrong).

The day just seemed to fly by with nothing too eventful, pretty much heads down and one foot in front of the other.

Buen Camino

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