Return to sender…….(Elvis Presley)

In this case it is return to senda,  the gravel path running alongside an asphalt road parallel to the motorway. Sounds boring doesn’t it. It can be very monotonous but luckily it is tree lined nearly all the way.

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We left our donativo in Bercianos after a brilliant communal dinner consisting of paella in a pan the size of a small table. The two elderly hospitileros said a prayer in all the languages that were staying that night and then it was our turn to entertain them. In our respective countries we got up and sang a song. Of course our group of four Aussies sang Waltzing Matilda which nearly everyone new. Lots of red wine flowed but we were all tucked into bed before lights out at 10pm.

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Paella cooked with love.

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Waltzing Matilda

Our senda journey was 26.4km today passing through just one town called Reliegos which everyone joked we were walking towards religion.

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Entering Religion!

We arrived at our final destination of Mansilla and found another Albergue Municipal for 5 Euro’s.  This one is run by a lady called Laura who is a huge character. She found out that Tania had blisters so she got out this rusty saw and said, ” tonight we fix!”.

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Mansilla

We are having a communal dinner with a difference  tonight. The Italian pilgrims are cooking a huge plate of spaghetti for about 15 of us. Should be fun.

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Where the streets have no name….U2

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Days drift by as yet again we wonder through rural Spain. The towns we go through are so small that if the wind was blowing,  tumbleweed would pass us by. Some of these villages would not survive without the pilgrim traffic passing through. The locals are all very polite and lovely to the pilgrim. Always a greeting, always a smile.

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Lots of mudbrick houses in the smaller villages

Today we passed through Terradillos (pop. 80) and Moratinos (pop.30) before hitting the big smoke of Sahagun (pop. 2,800). We were still able to walk in the middle of the street but they had more of a selection of bars and cafes to go to- we choose a cake shop!

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Sahagun cafe

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Downtown Sahagun

After Sahagun we needed to make a decision that would affect the next two walking days. To follow the original Roman road on rough earth tracks across remote bush country or on the Real Camino Frances by gravel path alongside quiet roads. We chose the later. Hence we are now in the small town of Bercianos del Real Camino (pop 200). Our albergue for the night is the parish hostel, a donativo (make a donation if you want but it is not necessary).

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Downtown Bercianos

We seem to be walking more and more with the same crowd. Elizabeth from Sydney is a semi-retired teacher who walks at my pace. Bodil from Denmark walks closer to Tania’s pace. Willie (70) and wife Noreen from Glasgow have slowed down since developing blisters. Giuseppe from Italy is back walking after recovering from shin splints that saw him bus through a few stages. Fran and Dennis from near Murwillumbah who we mostly see in bars on the way. Roger, a pharmacist from Canberra, we have walked with for the past few days. Linda and Janet from Manchester who wear a lot of mauve. Marilyn from Newcastle who was in our room yesterday and has stopped in Sahagun for the night.

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The official halfway mark for Elizabeth and Bodil who started in Roncesvalles

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Friends are never too far away.

We are sure to see them drift in and out of our day as the kilometres countdown to Santiago.

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Just another 12th Century bridge!

I’m on my way from misery to happiness today… (The Proclaimers)

Today we passed over the half way mark with little fanfare or celebration. Yes I have walked 402km so far with only 388km to go!

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Pilgrims as far as the eye can see.

It was another long and mostly straight flat path with our first coffee stop at 17.1km. A welcome relief for caffeine addicts and full bladders. Again it was overcast and chilly, especially when you stopped for a break.

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Follow the signs for the bar, where they also have coffee.

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A welcome relief!

We finished our 26km day at 1.30pm limping into our albergue just 500mt from the main town of Terradillos.

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Our albergue sleeps only 34- some are turned away.

There is always a bit of nervousness as to where you will stay the night as some people book ahead to assure themselves a bed but like true pilgrims, we aim for a town and hope they have a bed for us. Yesterday that wasn’t so as we headed for the Municipal Albergue (al-ber-gay) which is usually the largest hostel in town, either attached to the church or in the centre of town. There are also private run albergue’s, casa rural (rooms in private homes) and hotels (which is where we stayed last night). If you can’t find a bed or afford a hotel then its another walk to the next town.
Most towns have a church and everynight they have a special mass for pilgrims. We went to our first last night in Carrion. It started out with the full Catholic church service in Spanish of course and ended with the priest asking for all the pilgrims to come to the front of the church (approximately 120 of us) for a special blessing.  After identifying the countries that we were all from (most being from Italy and then probably Germany or Holland), we had the sign of the cross on each of our foreheads and were given a special paper star to carry with us to Santiago. There are some pilgrims who go to every mass service in every town they go to but we had decided to wait till we got to Santiago for the pilgrims mass but something pulled us from our hotel across the road to attend this service and I’m glad we did it. Bless me if we don’t make it to Santiago now.

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Follow the arrows

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Happiness!

I feel the earth move under my feet, I feel the sky tumbling down…(Carole King)

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Try not to laugh too hard!

We started in the rain, just a light shower, nothing too torrential. Luckily there was no mud to slide in as most of the walk was on the “soulless” senda which is a gravel path running alongside the road.

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The senda

We were looking our fashionable best. Lucky the fashion police were tucked away in their warm beds.

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We visited the magnificent 12th century Templar church of Santa Maria la Virgen Blanca which contains the tombs of nobles and royalty and has been declared a national monument.

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Santa Maria

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After a backbreaking 26.5km including another downpour, we arrived in Carrion de los Condes. We immediately ran into three people we had walked with last week. It was great to finally catch up with “our crowd”.

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Yes that cloud found us with 3km to go!

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Dennis, Fran and Elizabeth.

It has been a hard few days to push through the kilometers but well worth it when we are met with cheers and opened arms. We tried to stay in an albergue but the main one was full, so we literally stumbled across the road to a hotel that dropped its price with just a suggestion. So we have a room to ourselves, a bath and clean towels. At the end of the day we are happy and dry little pilgrims.

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To the left-our hotel. To the right- 12th C church.

On the road again, like a band of gypsies we go down the highway. …..(Willie Nelson)

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We’re the best of friends continuing this journey together.

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Shadow friends

We meandered through 28.6km today from Hontanas to Boadilla. After a freezing night in the albergue, we left Hontanas early nervous as to how Tania’s blisters would cope with a backpack and a longer distance. They have almost taken on an identity themselves, twins with different personalities and grievances but they are definitely improving.

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Good morning!

Passing through the arches of the 14th century ruins of San Anton where apparently bread was left for pilgrims in the past, we had a glorious walk into Castrojeriz. This sleepy town of 600 lies in the shadow of the hilltop castle established in the 9th century.

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Castrojeriz

We skirted the hill and headed out of town to be met with the challenge for the day,  an 18% climb to the 900mtr Alto de Mostelares. That was an aerobic activity!

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Onya Tania!

Coming down off the meseta again 1.8km later, we had a wonderful view of the road ahead.

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We had a quick bite of lunch in Itero de la Vega and didn’t get a great vibe of the town so continued on to this oasis in Boadilla del Camino.

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En El Camino

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At the Albergue entry.

The albergue is a casa rural with private rooms but we have paid our 7 Euro for another bunk bed in the main house. Our washing is drying under the breeze of the trees as we quench our thirst in the beer garden. The end of another lovely day sauntering through Spain.

Oh what a beautiful morning. Oh what a beautiful day…(Rodgers and Hammerstein)

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Doing our Charlie's Angels pose with Ewen from Indonesia

We woke to a beautiful blue sky. A perfect day to meet the Meseta (plateau in Spanish). This region is spoken in hushed tones as it can be blisteringly hot in Summer and freezing cold in Winter. People either love it or hate it. It is essentially the cereal bowl of the country as it shimmers with low lying crops as far as the horizon.

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The Meseta

Little shade is found in this arid region and yet beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. It was gorgeous today.

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We stopped in at San Bol to witness the Agua de Vida, the supposed water of life from the well which is said to have healing properties.  Too cold to bathe our feet but a slight sprinkle to the hands and face was refreshing enough.

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San Bol

Approaching our final destination of Hontanas was an interesting experience as with less than 500 meters away it wasn’t visible.  It is a Shangri-la tucked down in a fold of the Meseta with only the church spire peaking out like a periscope. Lovely little village and a great albergue to stay for the night.

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200mtrs to Hontanas

A 18.5km day today with Tania coping well with her bilateral heel blisters. Tomorrow we will try a little further and she will be carrying her backpack-so wish us a buen camino!

Always look on the bright side of life…(Monty Python)

Tania is back walking!

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Leaving Borgos

We started very slowly in Burgos this morning. It was very quiet in the streets of the city as people were sleeping off the celebrations as Real Madrid won the UEFA Championship last night. We heard lots of rebellers drifting through the streets in party mode most of the night. However the camino crowd continue on their way early as usual.

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We decided to ease Tania’s feet back into life by walking 13km to Rabe. A short stroll to a beautiful little Spanish town on a cloudy but rain-free Sunday. She used the bag service to deliver her bag from our hotel last night to Rabe for 5 Euro.  A great service available all along the camino for people to transport their bags without the backbreaking effects. You just have to make sure you make it to the destination that day. 

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Our Albergue for the night.

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Rabe is a one stork town!

We have met a few more Australians and bumped into some familiar faces. Sadly we said goodbye to our Dutch friend Leo who we have been travelling with from the beginning.He is walking faster and longer than us now.After starting in Holland in March this year, he is a bit more fitter than us. We will meet other characters as we continue this journey.

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Goodbye Leo