Flamingos, markets, and other colourful stuff …

Dia treinta y cuatro – Lunes 09 Octubre.

I am writing this from the rooftop terrace on level 10 of our edificio at Gran Via, 66, on the corner of Calle García Molinas. From here I can see and hear the hustle and bustle of this alluring city, with all its style and grace and charm, and I’m sure, with its dark side as well.

We eschewed the normal tourist stuff today – not that there’s anything wrong with it -just that we’d seen the main sights we wanted to see when we were here a month ago. Instead we wandered just a little off the beaten track. That of course is relative, because this is a fully alive city and there’s not a real “off the beaten track” that I have seen.

First stop was Mercado San Anton, a kilometre or so from here. The ground floor is a fruit/meat/fish market with very nice looking produce; the first floor is a series of quite flash take-away places; and the terrace level is a restaurant. We chose a series of guacamole-based pintxos plus an empanada. It was actually after midday so didn’t really qualify as breakfast, but that’s how we treated it.

We were only a few hundred metres off Gran Via, and in the space of a few streets here and there we walked through very modern and stylish shopping areas and then right next to them quite run down/graffiti filled back streets. (There’s actually quite a lot of graffiti in many places.) The Plaza del Dos de Mayo, a place I would have thought was quite important in the Spanish psyche/culture (remembering, as it does, the 02 May 1808 uprising by the Spanish against the French occupation), was run down and frankly, grotty. The monument in the middle of the plaza is fully fenced off, and the statue itself appears broken. There seemed to be a number of homeless folk just hanging around. We walked through, but didn’t stay, and within a few streets were back in the more upmarket areas again. I found it an informative walk.

This may well be my last post. It’s away day #34 and blog post #33, and to be precise, day #35 since we left Australia. I’ve mucked up a few Spanish numbers, and a while back I lost a day in my counting, but those few administrative flaws aside, this has been a fairly complete record of our time in Spain (and as I think back, this time elapsed time has been almost exactly the same as when we walked the whole Camino Frances two years ago). What a time it has been.

Highlights … too many to list – they’re all there in the previous posts to read.  Lowlights … none really.  I stumble badly with the language, but that aside I really do love being in Spain.

So I’ll sign off with a few shots of and from our hotel in the middle of Madrid … adios.

Oh … Flamingos?? Check out the new shirt.  Adios.

Zooming back

Dia trientitres – Domingo 08 Octubre.

Today was our last day of intra-Spain travel. The trains in Spain seem to be very efficient and well patronised. We had two to catch today. A two hour approximately 100 klm trip from Ponferrada to Leon, and a two and a half hour approximately 350 klm trip from Leon to Madrid. Do the maths!

The first trip wasn’t until early afternoon, which gave us the morning for a leisurely breakfast on the Plaza Ayuntamiento, just around the corner from the Plaza Mayor. Probably our final tortilla de patatas and café con leche breakfast this trip.

Post breakfast we still has time on our sides, so we visited El Museo de El Bierzo, just around the corner from the plaza. The museum is housed in an old building constructed in the time of Felipe II, in around 1570. I can’t quite determine whether it was built as a palace for the king and later turned into the “Royal Jail”, or it was always the jail. Either way, I can easily imagine its use as a jail – many of the rooms are small, and nearly all the walls are well over 1 metre thick. It provided a fascinating walk back through time.

The rest of the day was spent en la tren, so there is relatively little to report.

Janet located what may well be the best restaurant we’ve experienced, which is really saying something, as this seems to be the land of food and wine.

Speaking of which, the 10th floor of our building has a terrace area high above the hustle and bustle of the Grand Via, so on our last night in Spain we’ll visit it tomorrow night.

Grand

Dia trientidos – Sabado 07 Octubre.

We left Molinaseca in the pre-dawn light for the cold walk into Ponferrada, arriving their a little before 10am. We knew that our lodgings would not be ready so early, so we dumped out backpacks and poles and set about the business of the day.

I have thoroughly enjoyed our little mini-Camino, and as I said previously, it’s kindled (re-kindled?) a desire to walk the whole Way again. And maybe not wait until I’m 70 – perhaps in only 2 or 3 years’ time.

But I have a novel to write first, and that leads us to today. One of the key reasons for coming to this part of the Camino was to visit Ponferrada and its castle. The twelfth century Castillo de los Templarios is a magnificent building. Originally built by the Templars, it was subsequently expanded and developed over the following centuries. It remains in remarkedly good repair, and caters well for the visitor. It contains an extensive library of Templar and related books. Part of me would have liked to have undertaken some research, but that was never really a viable option. But it was wonderful just to wander the battlements and towers and keeps and just let the feel of the place sink in. We spent well over 2 hours just wandering.

The rest of the day was a more general explore, ending in a visit to the National Energy Museum. It’s an old coal loading, boiler and electricity generating plant which has very thoughtfully and cleverly been converted into a museum which explains not only the history of the building but also a broader history of the industry in the region over the last 100 years or so. Apart from enjoying the museum itself, I was reminded of my own time working in the Stokes Hill Power Station as a young fellow in the early 1970s, clambering all over the boilers in the hot Darwin sun collecting steam samples for laboratory analysis. It was probably one of the lowliest jobs in the station, but I loved it. So today allowed me a little wander down memory lane.

The walk to and from the old power station is along the banks of the Rio Sil; apretty walk under (and then across) the iron bridge (Latin: Pons Ferrum) which gave the city its name.

On the skyline above you can just make out the castillo battlements.

We ended the day with a drink in the main square, followed by a lovely dinner.

Reflections

Dia trientiuno – Viernes 06 Octubre.

First order of the day – transport all three bags to Molinaseca. Second order – dose up with anti-inflammatories and analgaesics (lots). Third order – get ourselves to the bus station to hopefully find our way to Rabanal. All before 8am. All done!!

Yesterday we had made two enquires of the gruff bus station man – “what time is the bus?” (Janet) and little later “can we buy tickets to Rabanal?” (me). Answers, “8:20 am” and “no, tomorrow” respectively. So we get to the station at 8 – his gruffness is back on duty. Janet doesn’t want to talk to him. It’s therefore left to me, the considerably inferior Spanish speaker to enquire “¿donde es el bus a Rabanal?”

We were expecting some sort of Alsa bus, but it turned out to be a local operator in his mini-bus (you have to pronounce that with a Spanish accent). The mini-bus driver (and his bus) turned up around the appointed hour, he had a chat to his gruffness, who then pointed at us, and then signalled that we needed to pay for our tickets (€5.40 in total), which we did, and then follow the bus man. He collected a co-pilot and then the four of us were off. We more or less followed the path we had walked a couple of years earlier (the Camino running alongside the road we were on). There were many pilgrims out on the path, some of whom must have left Astorga around (or even before) 6am. Half-an-hour or so later we were deposited at Rabanal, with a very friendly ¡Buen Camino! from our driver and his companion.

Rabanal is a special little village for me. I write about a significant experience there in An Impossible Dream (at the end of the chapter Policía). I was looking forward to being there again. It’s a sleepy place; almost nothing is open in the morning. We found a coffee and then headed off for our walk to Molinaseca. I had forgotten that this walk is also the day of the Cruz de Ferro, arguably one of the most spiritually significant days on the Camino. So when I did discover (rediscover – duh!) this, it was a special bonus. I collected a rock from the road in Rabanal to carry the 10 kilometres to the cross, and Janet did the same, and shortly after another for a friend.

I remember very clearly the annoyances and intolerances I carried with me when I we made exactly the same walk 734 days earlier. As I walked I wondered how, or indeed if, these had changed. That’s one of the great benefits of the Camino … unlike anything else I have experienced it provides an opportunity to bury oneself in one’s thoughts. I concluded that my intolerances probably haven’t lessened – they are, after all, an integral part of whom I am – but what I think has changed is that they come and go with greater self-awareness than was previously the case.

We stopped for second breakfast (really breakfast and a half) at the same little hippy albergue at Foncebadón at which we had stopped two years earlier. The same Buddhist prayer flags and sayings were there. The big woolly sheep wandering into the café was new! Foncebadón appears to be going through a growth spurt. Several new/refurbished albergues/hostals appear to be popping up. I assume that this is due to its proximity to el Cruz de Ferro.

As we got closer to the Cross I recalled that we had been invaded by a noisy bus-load of teenagers last time, and that had really bothered me. None of those distractions were present today. And then as we were only perhaps 400 metres from it a bus arrived an disgorged a group of noisy older folk, who immediately swarmed all over the place. I noticed that the intolerances had indeed not disappeared. Janet announced that she was not going to wait around until I had a clear view for some photos (more annoyance on my part). Thankfully the bus group swarmed away as quickly as they arrived, and so the “clear air” which I sought was quickly returned.

I placed my rock at the foot of the Cross, but for the life of me, as I write this two days later I cannot recall what I was thinking at the time. Not that it matters. It’s just a special place to be.

(I did wonder, as an aside, what the bus people found. There were probably 40 or so of them. The bus arrived. They charged (well, ambulated) up to the top of the mound. They gathered around a had a group photo. They got back on their bus, and left. All in the space of about 5 minutes, maximum (and maybe a little less).)

The walk into Molinaseca via El Acebo is physically a bit challenging. It’s mostly a steady downhill, and mostly along a rocky path a lot of which was possibly once a creek bed. Walking poles are essential (in my view). Good boots and non-sore foot preferred (last time I’ll mention that). The view is often spectacular, and the architecture of El Acebo is in the “seen to be believed” category. The weather was very kind to us – clear blue skies all the way, compared, I seem to recall, to a cloudy, misty walk previously

On the way to El Acebo …

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El Acebo …

At the highpoint of the Camino (the Punto Alto, a few kilometres along from el Cruz de Ferro), there’s a semi-permanent caravan/bar arrangement. We ended up sitting next to four Americans (Tim and Wesley from NYC and Paula and Warren from Philadelphia). Somehow the brief conversion turned to books written about the Camino, which led Janet to say “well, we have a Camino author present now!”, or something to that effect. Now I carry no book promotional material with me, and so I had nothing to give them. But they took my name and the book name and expressed what seemed to be a genuine interest in obtaining a copy. I don’t set out to make connections in that random sort of a way, but all the same it will be nice if I do hear back from them one day.

We arrived into Molinaseca late afternoon, found our digs (and our bags, which had been unexpectedly delivered to our room), and then promptly made our way to Bar Puente Romano, on the banks of the Rio Muérelo, for a refreshing G&T. Molinaseca is a very pretty little town, almost an outer suburb of Ponferrada. The river was much drier than last time, which seems consistent with the much hotter weather we seem to be experiencing now compared to the same time two years back.

Tomorrow we have a small walk (only 6 klms or so) into Ponferrada and the magnificent Knights Templar castle.

Leaving Molinaseca the next morning …

Walking Backwards a la Casa

Dia triente – Jueves 05 Octubre.

We had a plan for the day. After our two days in Leon, the plan was to catch a bus to Astorga and then to do a mini-walk out of Astorga. And so It came to pass …

Because we are combining tourist-travel with some Camino-travel, on top of which we’ve been buying a few gifts and souvenirs, together with city maps and related paraphernalia, we’ve ended up with an extra bag of luggage. Quite a heavy extra bag of luggage. Not a problem in itself, but the resultant three pieces of luggage can make for a bit of a challenge when catching trains and buses, so we arranged to get the additional bag sent on from Leon to Astorga. The bag courier system (using Correos, Jacotrans or one of the several other providers) is very sophisticated. I’ve opted to use Correos (the Spanish post office, owned, I think, by Deutsche Bank), because their system is fully on-line, and very easily arranged.

So we wheeled our suitcases the kilometre or so out of the old town of Leon across the Rio Bernesga bridge to the Estacion de Autobuses. There was a million people also waiting for the bus, and I looked and wondered how we were all going to fit on. We did, and the short trip to Astorga was uneventful.

And that was when the day’s events started. The “mini-walk” out of Astorga was a little over 6 kilometres (each way). Our goal – to re-visit La Casa De Los Dioses, which I wrote fondly about in An Impossible Dream (chapter Lead And I Will Follow). Janet had deduced from some various FB posts, and this had sort of been confirmed in a post by Kerri a few days previously, that Suzie was no longer at La Casa. However we were up for a walk and we wanted to confirm this ourselves anyway.

Now sometimes going back to something isn’t always the wisest of actions. This walk today required us to go against the normal pilgrim flow. It brought a very interesting perspective. I remember when we had walked the whole Camino two years earlier we occasionally encountered people going the other way. I recall often wondering what they were doing – where they were going. Today the shoe was on the other foot. Over the space of the 90 minutes or so we spent walking out to La Casa, we probably encountered maybe 50 people coming the other way. I don’t think I was imagining it, but I often saw the same querulous looks as I probably gave two years ago. Occasionally people said something like “you’re going the wrong way”. I was carrying a very small backpack, and Janet only her water bottle, and the whole experience left me feeling that somehow I didn’t belong – that perhaps I “shouldn’t” be there.

And it was hot! It wasn’t particularly pleasant walking. And in the process I mismanaged my foot management. I wasn’t aware that it was happening until too late, but in the heat my ankle was strained and my foot was swelling, and as a result I ended up with a severely bruised big toe (I’ll probably lose the nail, but that’s a story for another day).

La Casa De Los Dioses was physically much the same as when we were last there. If anything, the donativo food offering was even better. But something was missing. Janet ascertained from David, the host, that Suzie had left last October. We stayed there for perhaps 30 minutes, and saw David only twice, very briefly, in that time. He was busying himself with something out the back, and apart from a perfunctory (and I think genuine) “welcome” upon his first appearance, I did not hear him speak again. There were a few other people there – a number of dreadlocked boho types – and I got the impression David was avoiding them, although that might be a completely inaccurate assumption on my part. Janet formed the view that he wasn’t happy, although again that could just as well be an assumption. She had read previously that around last September he was considering closing La Casa; that he had been running it for many years and had become disillusioned with the changes on the Camino. Accurate? Who knows? Related to Suzie’s departure? Again, who knows?

I was still pleased that we had gone out there to see the place again for ourselves, but for me it was different, not in a positive way. Was that all about going back to something, expecting it to be as before? Was it about the confirmation that Suzie had in fact left? Was it about the discomfort of the heat? My foot? The bohos? Probably yes to all of those in some combination.

So after half an hour or so we headed back down into Astorga. It was an unpleasant walk – normal sock arrangements were no good, bare feet didn’t work, and eventually at Janet’s suggestion I reverted to no socks, which at least meant that my toe wasn’t bashing the end of the shoe at every step.

Returning to town mid afternoon we collected our transported bag at the hotel reception and after a bit of organising and washing headed off to explore. Astorga is a lovely city, one of its attractions being the Gaudi designed Episcopal Palace. It’s a museum these days, and wonderful to see. It’s been beautifully restored over the years, so it looks today like I imagine it looked upon completion. In the basement is an extensive collection of Roman information and artefacts – all of it in Spanish and so not always straightforward to comprehend, but fascinating all the same. (I noted here and elsewhere that Astorga seemed to be a place with a fairly significant Roman history – I’ve seen its name written a few times as Asturica Augusta or Astvrga Avgvstvs – Astorga Augustus ).

Dinner tonight was at the restaurant we had attempted to visit last time, but which at that time was closed (it doesn’t open until 8:30pm and we had wanted to eat earlier). It was an exceptional choice – in this case a case of not going back. Ironic, huh?

Tomorrow we transport ourselves to the tiny village of Rabanal del Camino, and then walk the 26 kilometres or so to Molinaseca. Could be interesting!!

The Learnings

Dia vientiocho. Miércoles 04 Octobre.

I have written on this theme before … how one learns so much from travelling. Today was such a day, and some.

I also wrote, recently, about the happenings in Barcelona. I had been intrigued to see the apparent strength of the secession movement whilst we were there, and only two days ago quite mortified to see the official crackdown on the independence vote on the 1st of this month.

Today we visited the Palacio De Los Guzmanes in León, a magnificent 16th century palacio commissioned by the wealthy Guzman family all those years ago. Today it is the seat of the Provincial Government of León. Fate smiled upon us, and we were lucky to have a personal guided tour with a delightful woman who works there and clearly knows the place well; both at an historical and an operational level. I learned a little about the multi-level system of government (local, provincial, regional, central), and we talked about the current Calalonian “crisis”.

The King had addressed the nation yesterday. Apparently this is only the second time ever on the modern (post Franco) that the King has addressed the nation in such circumstances (the first being back in 1981 when an armed soldier entered the Cortes as part of an attempted coup). Our guide had great sadness at the impact the Catalan secession movement on Spain’s very hard won democracy.

Above: the front page of today’s El Mundo.

I don’t profess for a moment to understand even the broad issues let alone the subtleties, but even so this is clearly a critical issue for the country.

Back to the Palacio De Los Guzmanes – a few photos follow.

The third above is the chamber of the Provincial Government; previously the dining room of the Guzman family.

Underneath that is shot of part of a painted tapestry which hangs above the Presidential bench. The fellow in it is King Alfonso V, whose actions in the year 1017 led to the creation of the first democracy in Europe (and indeed the world). More on him later.

At the suggestion of our guide we then made our way to the museum of the Basílica de San Isidoro, a couple of hundred metres up the road. We had intended visiting the musuem last time we were in León, but at that time my infected leg demanded a trip to la doctora, so we missed out. But not today. Unfortunately we had no option other than to join a Spanish speaking group (there were only 3 of us, but the Spaniard arrived first), which sort of added to the mystique, if not the understanding.

That small impediment aside, what a fascinating tour. The museum is extremely high-tech, with a laser alarm system which looks like it belongs in the movies. And no wonder. They have a chalice which officially dates back to the 11th century, but has been carbon dated to between 200 BC and 100 AD, and there have been claims that it is the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus drank and served Holy Communion. True or not, it is a magnificent artifact.

Another part of the museum houses the Royal Pantheon, where some 25 kings and queen of León are buried. Alfonso V (994 – 1028) is there, as is Sancho I of León (932-966). The roof frescos on Pantheon are awesome.

No photos allowed; words will have to suffice.

We leave León tomorrow; in just a short time I feel I’ve learned so much more about this vibrant city.

But now to do two time shifts. We actually started the touring part of the day with a visit to Santa María de León Cathedral. We had visited it previously, but it is such a magnificent building with an equally interesting history or was worth a retun visit.

And then jumping though the day brings us to the start of the San Froilán festival and the marketplace spread over about 4 streets near San Isidoro. Very similar mediaeval theme to Burgos a few days earlier. All manner of goodies available. Photos follow; with “gross alert” a few shots in – warning, don’t look too closely.

Off to Astorga tomorrow … hasta luego

The land of the perpetual fiesta …

Dia veintisiete – Martes 03 Octubre

Our hostal in Fromista is hosted by a woman with the most infectious friendliness one could hope to find anywhere. She speaks only Spanish, and seems to make little allowance for her non-Spanish speaking guests, seemingly not slowing down even a little. But she does so with such genuineness and warmth and apparent happiness that it is impossible not to get drawn in, even if I don’t understand her.

Because most of her guests travel only with the backpack they carry, or maybe a smaller suitcase being transported from town to town, she was most surprised when we walked in looking like “normal” pilgrims, only to claim our three large bags which we had couriered ahead. Janet tried to explain the nature of our trip – whether she understood or not we’ll never know. And then she was concerned that our train trip today (Fromista to Palencia and then change trains for Palencia to Leon) wouldn’t work because the Palencia train would be late. And then she dragged out some itinerary for someone else to demonstrate her point – it made no sense to me but it was all done with great genuineness.

Above: Leaving Frómista.

I’m drafting this from the waiting room of the Fromista station, so time will tell whether her prediction of a delayed train will come to pass – although the train in the other direction certainly was exactly on time.

Our time in Spain is now coming to an end, which saddens me. I know that we can’t stay here forever, but it’s been such an enjoyable trip that I don’t want it to end. I also know that we will be back – our Portuguese Camino trip is now only 11 months away – and I am thinking that that won’t be the last visit to this part of the world. I really would like to walk the whole Camino again one day – possibly with some medical assistance. Perhaps we could do that for my 70th birthday!!

Above: in León … not far to go 😆.

Today’s great surprise is that all pain has gone from my left ankle, the first time in over two months. We’ve probably walked an average in the range of 12/15 kilometres/day since we’ve been in Spain, the shortest being just over 6 klms when we spent nearly the whole day in a train from Malaga to Barcelona, and the longest was yesterday at around 26 klms according to the various devices. I’d resorted to a single anti-inflammatory and a morning and midday analgaesic. I experienced some discomfort during the day, which is normal, nothing too debilitating, and awoke this morning to no pain at all, and even as I sit and write this only the occasional twinge. Weird, but hey, let’s not look a gift horse (or burro) in the mouth.

Our trip to Palencia and then to Leon went without a hitch. The trains were largely on time, and the journey’s smooth. León is a wonderful city full of life. It seems quieter now than the same time two years ago, and this afternoon we gently wandered the streets exploring old haunts, and finding some new ones. We stopped for a drink at El Topo, where we had done something similar with Melie and various others previously. The bar sits on the corner of Calle Mariano Dominguez Berrueta and Plaza Regla, directly opposite la cathedral, and is a wonderful place to stop and watch the passing world. This afternoon there were the usual array of tourists, amidst schoolkids running around and having fun, mums with babies in their strollers, and old señores and señoras watching the world go by.

We have arrived in León at the time of the San Froilán fetivites. That’s not surprising really, as España really seems to be the land of the perpetual fiesta. We’ve had La Merce in Barcelona, Fin de Semana in Burgos and now San Froilán here. That’s on top of La Vuelta in Madrid a few weeks back, plus any others along the way which we might have formally not identified.

Above: a stall at the pottery market … part of the festival.

The old city of León is not particularly large, and we wandered big streets and small taking in the atmosphere. The bars tend not to open until around 8pm, and then they continue with a burst of frenetic energy until around 11pm when the world seems to quieten down. A great place with a great vibe.

The energy here today has helped to balance out some of yesterday’s sadness, in my thoughts at least …

Peace

“I see that you’ve met the wise man of Castrojeriz” the stranger said, and with those words he both acknowledged and preceded two delightful encounters.

Dia vientisies.- Lunes 2 Octobre.

The day started like many others, other than that we had a 25 klm walk ahead of us. Except that it didn’t really, as events were unfolding locally, nationally and internationally which were unlike any others which had gone before.

We went to bed last night and awoke this morning with the disturbing news which was coming out of Barcelona. We had been in that city only a few days ago, and I had written of what I had seen in regard to the Catalonian succession movement. Of course the national (Spanish) government was never going to allow the Catalans to secede – how could they? Constitutional/legal impediments aside, the economic impact of a separate Catalonian state on the rest of Spain would be devastating, let alone the potential domino affect if other, wealthy, autonomous regions decided to follow the same path. But bringing in the riot police to crush the dissent? Having the Mossos d’Esquadra, the dedicated Catalonian police, to turn against their own? Over 800 people wounded. Mossos d’Esquadra officers in tears and refusing to obey orders. The pictures in the press are grim. From where I stand a serious political miscalculation. I cannot see this ending well.

We left Castrojeriz with this in mind. Perhaps not front of mind, but in mind all the same.

Not far from the hotel Janet stopped to take a photo. It has some significance, but is not all that relevant to this story. As she finished a man approached and asked if we knew what the sign in the photo meant, and then started to explain it. But before he could get very far into his story I knew that I knew him, having never met him. I said something like “you’re Kerri’s friend”, or some such (the exact words are irrelevant).

It turns out that this random man is Mau, about whom Kerri has written a lot. A purely chance encounter, we must have spent 10/15 minutes talking in the street. We talked about the meseta, changes, simplicity, peace, and parted with genuine, affectionate hugs all round.

As we left town we found two incredibly friendly beasts …

They are a distraction to the story, but extremely cute and so must be included.

The route out of Castrojeriz involves a flat walk of a kilometre or so, and then a steady climb up to the top of a hill. It was early on the early flat walk that we chanced upon Simon from the Netherlands (he was the stranger I referred to at the start).

It turns out that he knows Mau well, and had obviously seen us talking to him in the street. We walked and talked for maybe 15 minutes, before he excused himself so that he could “take the mountain alone”.

He, like Mau, and us if I could be so bold as to put us in the same category, really likes the peace and beauty of the meseta, and takes (or plans to take) groups of people on “slow” walks through this beautiful countryside. For beautiful country it is.

Even though that this was just day 2 of our mini-Camino, I almost immediately felt connected to this land. There’s something special about it. A series of photos follow, including later into the day as we walked alongside the Canal de Castillo.

I called this post “Peace” due to my encounters with both Mau and Simon as they both exuded a genuine peacefulness.

But the Peace Continuum, if indeed there is such a thing, has been badly injured today. Starting with yesterday’s events in Catalonia and ending with the dreadful mass shooting in Las Vegas. This is a day of sadness, not peace, and so I won’t say too much, however I really do wonder how our American friends can hold so doggedly to their 2nd Amendment “right”, when it wreaks such destruction all the time upholding a cause for which it was never intended. Futile on my part, I know …

Tomorrow we leave our mini-Camino and the meseta, however I suspect we’ll be back.

And if any of you ever find yourselves in Frómista, where we are tonight, you could do far far worse that reserve a habitación here at Hostal Camino de Santiago. Our hostess, about whom I have previously written, is one of the most delightfully infectious people you could ever hope to meet. Adiós.

Sentiments

Dia veinticinco – Domingo 01 Octubre

I don’t have a really strong sentimental gene, but all the same today was rather special, in a sentimental sort of a way.

I realised in a way that is different to that which has gone before, that walking along the Camino really is something special. Notice that I didn’t say walking the Camino, because we’re not doing that per se, but all the same walking along it has an undefinable magic which really struck me, unexpectedly, today.

We had left Burgos early-ish – having arranged for our bags to be transported to Castrojeriz, and then arranged for ourselves to be transported to Hornillos del Camino for the ~22 klm walk into Castrojeriz. The friendly service we received from our hostess Almudena and her son Alberto was exceptional. I doubt that many Aussies would go out of their way to assist as these folk did. Because today was a Sunday and much shuts down on a Sunday, Alberto offered to drive us from Burgos to Hornillos so that we could start from there. He’s a lovely young man and was very happy to help us. We chatted away for the 15/20 minute trip, finding out that he’s a materials engineer, and that his wife is Basque, he speaks about 5 languages (and is trying to learn Basque, but finding it very hard). We offered him some euros to at least cover his fuel, but he would have nothing of it. He dropped us to Hornillos, via Isar where we had stayed 2 year ago. It was a lovely start to the day.

Hornillos is a tiny little village. I remember our first visit to Hornillos well, two years back. On that day back in 2015, on the afternoon of 20 September, we walked into the village mid-afternoon, and it was there that I had my first real talk with Melie Viera, with whom we have gone on to have a solid ongoing friendship. We started the day with a café at the same place we had had that first meeting with Melie, and reminisced about not just that meeting but what has taken place in the meantime.

And then the next reminisce was a recollection of my first meeting with Kerri Daniels , on 21 September 2015. We had walked out of Hornillos that morning and met Kerri just a little while later; my story in my blog of that day records that encounter – again, an encounter which has strengthened over these last couple of years.

So Hornillos has a special place in my heart, and it was lovely to be there again today.

Those reminisces aside, it was lovely to be out on the Camino again. It was so, so peaceful. The was no wind. The wind turbines were still, all day. In fact it was so quiet that we could actually hear the jets flying 10 kilometres above us, leaving their contrails criss-crossing the sky. There were very few people around – maybe only 10/15 or so in our immediate vicinity – and we wandered along the vast open fields of the meseta in that quiet peacefulness. I just loved it. It reminded me that I would like to do the whole 800 klm walk again one day, although sadly that is a dream unlikely to be realised.

Quickly getting into the Camino culture we walked comfortably for about 10 klms and had “second breakfast” at Hontanas.

The plan was then to drop into San Anton to get a sello on our credencial, and more than that to revisit San Anton, and say hullo to that place and Kerri’s “successors”. Sadly that was not to be, as when we arrived in San Anton the hospitaleras had departed to somewhere (Castojeriz I assume). So we pressed on to Castojeriz and our room for the night, a little disappointed.

Janet had befriended Kanji, a young Taiwanese woman presently doing her Master in Civil Engineering in Germany, and so they walked together for the last 5 or 6 kilometres or so. My ankle was hurting a lot and I was starting to noticeably slow down, so I was happy for them to walk and chat.

Castrojeriz is a long skinny town and our hotel is at the other end, so the last little bit of walking seemed to take forever. Once we got there, and after a bit of a relax (and replacement of walking shoe with a thong!) we donned our boots again and headed off to the Castillo de Castojeriz. The Castillo, now largely in ruins, dates back to the late 9th century, and offers the most wonderful views of the town and surrounding countryside. For whatever reason we didn’t visit the castle last time, and I was very pleased that we were able to do so today.

Kanji joined us for dinner – she is staying at an albergue a few minutes away from us. I learned a little about Taiwan, a place whose name is well known but beyond that about which I know relatively little.

Our “mini Camino” continues tomorrow with a 24 klm walk into Frómista, and from there we’ll catch a train onto León.

Forebears

Dia veinticuatro – Sábado 30 Septiembre.

Burgos was fully buzz, buzz, buzz today. I’ve tried to find out what the mediaeval festival was, but so far without luck. The Plaza Mayor was full of people, the knights, knaves and wenches seemed to be doing a roaring trade, and all seemed good in the world.

One of the things that I was disappointed we didn’t have time to visit last time we were in Burgos was the Museo de la Evolución Humana, the Museum of Human Evolution. You can actually see the building in the background in some of yesterday’s photo – it’s just over the Rio Arlanzón from the old city, down the road from El Cid.

This is a brilliant museum. The displays are informative, modern, and whilst I don’t have a knowledgeable reason to say so, probably the best of its kind in the world. Certainly with the world-famous Atapuerca paleoarchaeological sites being just down the road so to speak, they have the scientific base to set the museum up as the leading light. In special light and temperature controlled rooms it is possible to see exhibits of our forebears 500,000 years old. Simply amazing, and I’m so glad we made the time to visit the museum on this trip, and to see some of my long-departed relatives.

We are walking tomorrow – a mini-Camino as it were. We have two 20+ klm days ahead of us, from Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz tomorrow and then onto Fromista on Monday. So to give this a little air of authenticity we went to the municipal albergue today and collected brand new credencials for these and a couple of other days later next week.

As we were about to head out to grad some farewell pintxos/tapas a bgeat hubbub erupted in the street below. It was the knights of old, their knaves, damsels, belly-dancers (!), horses, kids, the odd bishop, a few sisters, parading the streets, accompanied by a band and assorted other instruments, saying farewell to their festival I guess. Or perhaps it was simply to with Janet and me a buen camino for tomorrow!!