Day 34 – Camponaraya to Trabadelo

We left Camponaraya around 6.30, planning to get breakfast at Cacabelos, around 7km down the road. A pleasant walk through villages with pretty houses, we soon found ourselves outside Cacabelos. We see the ruins of a monastery and then look out for the yellow arrow! Can’t find any! There’s a French trio also lost like us. We walk in front of the old Iglesia, but nothing there. Finally in a park, there’s a stone with a pale yellow arrow, pointed in a direction which has no road or path. Taking a gamble, we head down the main road, west! We find a human finally who affirms we’re on the right path!

Then the Camino left Cacabelos along the highway. We hadn’t noticed as the stone markers in this area seemed to be hidden or hard to see. The French trio calls out to us and we turn of the highway and follow them.

Family picking pears
The berry tree being raided by the French and Indians

We followed the track through beautiful vineyards around Camino Viego. The walk is now through fruit gardens and vineyards with berry trees on road. Along with our French friends we pick the tree for a few. This is wine country again. There are many bodegas on the way to our next town – Villafranca del Bierzo,

This town reminds us of Ooty or Kodai! The Iglesia de Santiago was a church dedicated to Santiago pilgrims, too ill to reach Santiago. The church provided absolution to the pilgrims at the Puerta del Perdón; the door of forgiveness was located on the church’s side. The Castillo-Palacio de Los Marqueses was near the Iglesia de Santiago. It was a part-time home of the Marquis of Villafranca.

French monks of the Cluny Order founded Villafranca del Bierzo. They built the monastery, El Monasterio de Santa María de Cluniaco, following the discovery of Santiago’s body in 813 A.D. The monastery served the needs of many pilgrims who passed this way. The village became known as Villafranca, or “town of the French,” as the monks were French. It is a national tourist destination. Saint Francis of Assissi established the Iglesia de San Francisco while on a pilgrimage to Santiago.

After a delicious lunch of pasta in this pretty town, we head towards Trabadelo. Just as we leave the town we run into an English lady we’d shared a dorm with, in Villamayor. She had news on the others there. It seemed like we weren’t the only ones who got Covid there. Most of the others too had coughs and colds and were forced to take rest days! So it looks like we’ll be seeing many of them in Santiago!

The walk to Trabadelo was around mountains, by the highway with the river Valcarce by our side. It began to rain as we drew close to the village. We pulled on our rain gear and trudged to the hotel in a steady heavy drizzle. Chris is sitting outside! So happy to see him there. It had been a long day and a long walk – 30km almost!!

The phone card seemed to be out of charge and we needed to top up. Fortunately there was a gas station opposite the hotel where we could do this! A very helpful attendant there assisted us with the recharge. Every encounter with the locals is so overwhelmingly positive and such to lesson and reminder to be the same, when we get back home!!

Day 33 – Riego de Ambros to Camponaraya 21km

Forgot to mention the beautiful sunset I finally got to see last night, around 10.30pm. Our room faced the mountains and as the sun set, it warmed up our cold room.

Also, found this nice map of the Camino Frances on the wall in the home.

After an early start in the cold, we descended the hills to reach Molinaseca, a pretty town by the river. As you enter the town, is a church that had to have the front door covered in metal plates as the farmers that visited would take splinters of the door when they came to pray.

Metal plated door

Slate mining is one of the major industries of the region and is used widely for roofing. The last 3 villages we passed while coming down from Cruz de Ferro and the next few would have all their homes and establishments with slate roofs- such a pretty sight from up high.

The next town on our way, is the last big town before Santiago – Ponferrada, the second largest town in the region of Leon. It’s a large town with a lot of Templar architecture, a castle, churches and a modern city with ugly skyscrapers. We stopped here for breakfast and were happy to bump into our friends again…Chris and Resh and Ash.

In 1178, Ferdinand II of Leon donated the city to the Templar order for protecting the pilgrims on their road to Santiago

We continued our walk towards to Camponaraya. Now it was a flat walk towards our destination. We stopped in a tiny village to change from our shoes to sandals. The best place to stop is always the space outside church, as there are always benches, shade and a water source for pilgrims to use.

We saw a gentleman in his own chair with books on the bench and church music playing on his phone or maybe a player. He greeted us and continued doing what he was doing. He was making notes, reading the Bible and seemed to be preparing a sermon. He had cornered the sunniest space in that square.

We reached Camponaraya and after a great lunch of lamb stew and paella & Resh and Ash for company, we headed to our home for the night.

We came out in the evening to walk along the high street, but some fruit, etc. A couple of German ladies who we’d seen on many days, passed us looking really worried. It was around 6pm and they didn’t have a place to stay & they were too tired to walk 6km to the next town. We pulled up the Camino Ninja app on John’s phone and after a few calls we were able to find 2 beds for them! The app is a blessing for people on The Way with detailed lists of places to stay in every town and village, a rating, the pricing etc.

After our good deed for the day, we went to bed. The Camino has taught us so much (another post just for that) but the greatest lesson is empathy! We’re all in this together!

Day 32 – Rabanal del Camino to Riego de Ambros 21km

Today we climb to an altitude of 1499m, the highest on the Camino Frances. It was close to freezing cold when we left Rabanal del Camino…4deg C. We trekked up the beautiful hills in the dark and the breeze was cold! We walked through fog for about 6km to reach Foncebadon, a tiny little town in the hills. We stopped for a bite and a hot cuppa before climbing higher. It was great to see Chris here! Warm from the delicious coffee we headed out into the cold again. And then we reached the Iron Cross – Cruz de Ferro!

Chris captured this beautiful moment for us

(Source- Leslie Gilmour- http://www.caminoadventures.com) Absolutely not to be missed on the way is the Cruz de Ferro. Also known as the Iron Cross, it is set on a gently sloping hill that also happens to be the highest point of the French Way…this cross is a bit of a mystery even for historians. Erected atop a five-meter wooden pole, most people believed that it was built for a very practical purpose — marking the way for pilgrims who walked the Camino Frances during the winter when everything is covered in a thick layer of snow.

Some historians believe that it was a place used by the Celts even in pre-Christian times and that it was a part of an unknown ritual, while others believe that the ancient Romans used it to mark a border between two territories. Speculations abound, but the most popular belief is that the cross was put there by Apostle James himself. As the tale goes, St. James was passing through the land on one of his evangelical missions, when he encountered pagan priests who were performing a ritual that involved human sacrifice. Full of righteous anger, he grabbed a stone from his pocket and threw it at the pagan altar. Guided by the Lord, the stone shattered the altar into a thousand tiny pieces, and St. James erected a large cross in its place to mark the power of the Almighty.

Today, according to custom, if you bring a small piece of your own home town along with you, you may place it at the foot of the hill and symbolically “leave your burdens behind.” If you like, you may say a prayer and enjoy the profound peacefulness that envelops both hill and cross.

John carried a stone from his father’s grave to leave here – a stone he had carried always with him, ever since his dad’s passing from cancer in 1983. I had picked up a stone along our Camino way a few weeks ago. My prayer was for all my friends and family who’d suffered with Covid, lost loved ones to it, those who found they have some kind of cancer, are being treated for it, or have passed from it and lastly for all of us with mental health challenges. It’s been a couple of difficult years for many and my prayer was for all of us – for healing, for strength during treatment, for the families left behind.

It was quiet at the cross. People getting photos taken quietly, people saying a prayer, people thinking in the silence of the significance of the place. Our friends Chris as well as Reshma & Ash were here at the same time.

From here we headed down to Riego de Ambros. It was a steep walk downhill, along tough trails filled with stones and rocks.

We hardly noticed the strain as the chatter was non stop! Resh and Ash take a year or two off every few years to go see the world. They pick interesting ancient routes like the old silk route, Cairo to Cape Town etc and immerse themselves in travel and culture along the way. Very very inspiring!

We checked into our home for the night in Riego de Ambros, a lovely home owned and run by a lovely lady in her 80s. She suggested we head to the Toni’s for dinner and that we did. Toni from France had opened his little albergue and food truck just 3 weeks ago. On his menu was rice and Indian lentil curry! Without hesitation we ordered two plates and we weren’t disappointed! It tasted fantastic!!! He later told us that he’d never felt this much pressure before – cooking curry for a couple of Indians- the first Indians he’d ever met! He also offered us some vegan tiramisu that he said had flopped, but that was good too.

With avocado on the side

With a full stomach and hearts warmed with the couple’s warmth and their dreams for the future of their business, we headed to our home for the night.

Day 31 – Astorga to Rabanal Del Camino 21km

One month of walking! It’s been a joy! Can’t wait to get up every morning and walk across the canvas for the day!

Leaving the beautiful town of Astorga, we hit the highway. A little outside town we see a chapel opening. A prayer and a sign of the cross with the holy water there, we head to Rabanal Del Camino.

The sunrise looks like the sky is ablaze! We heard news of the fires in parts where we’d walked, close to Pamplona as well as to the south of Astorga. One or two of the albergues in Puente del Reina (after Pamplona on the way) were badly affected by the flames, not to mention the loss of pilgrim business as they had to close paths in the region. Yesterday John smelt fire in Astorga and we heard from others who’d dried their clothes on the line, in their hotels, that there was soot on the clothes. The winds had carried ash from the fires south of Astorga!

Rabanal del Camino is a beautiful town with a lot of options for pilgrims to stay. Cobbled streets and stones houses with pretty flowering pots, the town is picturesque! The climb into the mountains starts from here and because of the beautiful trails there are a lot of tourists in town.

The church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, from the 12th century, declared as a Site of Cultural Interest and one of the few remaining temples of the Leonese rural Romanesque is where we go for Sunday mass at 12.30pm. It’s a humble church and serviced by the Benedictine monks from the monastery near by.

The weather has changed. It’s raining in the afternoon and there’s a chill in the air. Tomorrow’s hike up into the mountains is something we’re looking forward to! It’s one of the most special parts of the route to Santiago!

Day 29 & 30 – Leon to Astorga via San Martin Del Camino

About 45km between the two beautiful cities and we decided to do it over 2 days. The midway point is San Martin Del Camino, a little town with albergues aplenty for the weary.

About 7 or 8k out of Leon, we hit Valverde de la Virgen with a run down church whose steeple has been taken over by storks and their nests. It’s a common sight across Spain…the birds love the high perch and don’t seem to mind the bells going off every 15 minutes! A little further down the road we pass the Bascilica of the Virgin of the Camino, a beautiful modern church with the most impressive facade!

The walk is along the highway, which is busy! After a point it’s annoying and we may as well be walking on Bellary Road in Bangalore!! Just as our annoyance levels were rising we see our Canadian Indian friends Reshma and Aashif, in a cafe on the roadside. We get in and chat for a while. Reshma introduces us to the owner of the cafe Maria, who is delighted to have so many Indians at her place. She’s thrilled when Resh points out that we’re actually from India. She then wants to give me a hug! I’m sweaty at this point and not sure she should be hugging me, but she doesn’t care and gives me the tightest warmest longest hug ever, followed by two firm kisses on the cheek! She is a follower of Amma and of a lot of Indian spirituality practices! Her warmth and love really took all the negativity about the highway out of me!!! A tight hug can do wonders!!

Emily from Seoul was also at the cafe! We’ve been seeing her on the way, at masses in the evening at churches, but had never spoken! She had some pictures of us that she’d taken and wanted to share. We exchanged email addresses.

10km later we stop for some respite along the highway again and share a table with Resh and Ash again. As the conversation flows, about their wanderlust that’s taken them to every corner of the world, to their families and growing up, we’re amazed to hear that their parents lived in Tanzania and Zambia. John and his family were there too around the same time. So John and Resh and Ash had a great time recollecting their past. After a beer too many, we set off again to reach San Martin del Camino, in the blazing sun and vehicle fumes.

The Albergue we stayed at was small and given that the town was tiny, we opted to eat the pilgrim dinner at the albergue, cooked by the family. That was a great decision as we met wonderful people that evening, had a tasty meal and lots of interesting wine and liqueurs. At our table were Andre and Evelyn from France, wonderful young Ying from HK and amazing Chris from Munich who is great fun, a genuinely wonderful person and someone we’ll always stay in touch with. After dinner we were joined by Shane from Canada and Kelly from New Zealand, who brought over a great whisky liqueur from their table. The night was long, but the camaraderie was wonderful!

The next morning we set out for Astorga. About 8km down the road we reach Hosptial de Orbigo which has the longest medieval bridge on the Camino Frances. It’s 300 feet long and it’s easy to imagine the knights galloping down the bridge! It’s an amazing feat of engineering, too, for the medieval times.

It is believed that the Romans built a bridge that was part of the Via Aquitania that connected Asturica (Astorga) with Tarraco (Tarragona) and served to transport the gold from Las Medulas through Hispania. It was in the Middle Ages (XIII century), when the bridge was constructed and was rebuilt several times over the years. They say that in January 1434 M. Suero de Quiñones requested permission from King Juan II to hold a tournament. In love with Ms. Leonor de Tovar, M. Suero agonized his love fasting and holding on his neck a heavy ring every Thursday. To win the admiration of the lady he challenged all the knights who dared to come and fight on the bridge Orbigo, promising to prune up to 300 lances. The tournament was held in July lasting 30 days and 166 spears were pruned. A year later M. Suero married Ms. Leonor and 24 years later one of the knights defeated in the joust ends the life of M. Suero. (Source- tourism castilleyLeon)

Past the bridge, we reach Estabanez de calzada where we pass a home with its yard open to everyone. There’s a gentleman, probably in his 70s who sees us pass and calls us in. He tells us a Sikh couple had passed a little earlier and is happy to see more Indians. He walks to his cherry tree in the back and picks a good number of cherries, goes into a room, comes back with them washed, in a bowl, and a banana cut in half, for us to eat. He stamps our Camino credentials, shows us souvenirs on his walls and wishes us well! Such affection! We were overwhelmed!

We continue our walk through hilly areas. It’s pretty and the weather is nice! As you reach the top before the descent to Astorga you come across the bounty of Tomas who has a table laid out, under canopies, with hammocks and beds to rest on. There are fruits and nuts aplenty, cheese, oranges and a juicer, the sweetest watermelon. Pilgrims stop to rest their aching feet. The boho space is welcoming! Tomas is a meditator and has visited India and is happy to see us! He wants to know more about South India as he hasn’t been there. Refreshed after our rest here, we head down the path.

The first sight of Astorga from a distance is breath taking. It’s set on a hill with Roman walls. As we walk down we see a merry musician who sings a special song for us!

With that melody in our heads we climb up Astorga. The streets of the old town are narrow and cobbled. It’s the weekend and the cafés are overflowing with townsfolk and tourists and peregrinos. We find our hotel for the night and love it! It’s an ancient house and has been in the hotel owner’s family for the last 300 years. The rooms are built around a central courtyard. The furniture is lovely and so are the paintings! Wish we had more time to spend here!!

After our afternoon routine we head to the cathedral, the Episcopal Palace built by Gaudi and the town square to see them up close. We end the day with a visit to the local sweet shop to pick up the Astorga specialty – a puff pastry called mantecada de Astorga. It’s delicious and we have way too many!!!

Day 26 & 27 & 28 – Sahagun to El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas to Leon

A total of 54 km over 3 days of easy walks! Mostly along the local highway and flatlands. Makes for boring walks, but a good time to catch up with friends and make new ones along the way!

Day 26 – first a shout out to the owner of Los Balcones del Camino at Sahagun for her lovely apartment and the best stocked pantry ever! Before setting out of Sahagun we ate breakfast with our flatmates, a Slovenian cycling couple aged 70 and 64 years! They started at St Jean Pied de Port too and cover about 50km a day. Their destination was Leon that day and ours was El Burgo Ranero – 17km down the road.

Leaving Sahagun
Midway between Sahagun and El Burgo Ranero
A little church on the path at Bercianos del Real Camino
A municipal employee keeping the path weed free and trimming the plants along the path

Day 27 – 19km today from El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las mulas – we left when the moon was up and then saw a beautiful sunrise over fields of gold!

Church at El Burgo Ranero
A row of trees with crocheted huggers as we left town
Stopped in a rest area to eat the breakfast we carried
The garbage collection happened at 7.15am while we were sitting to eat. The rest areas are extremely clean as is the rest of the way

We stopped at Reliegos, with a good number of bodegas built into the side of hills. We stopped for coffee at La Cantina de Teddy. We meet so many wonderful people along the way and some of the most precious are the Spanish who are so welcoming and generous with their love! The owners of the cafe here were very happy to have Indians at their place! The gentleman came out in the middle of his busy hour to talk to us. He wished us well, wondered if we were comfortable with the weather, since it’s so much like India (we didn’t want to explain that Bangalore is nothing like this!) and then wanted to take a photo with us.

Fine example of mujedar architecture as we enter Mansilla de las Mulas

We see evening mass here (8pm) which includes a pilgrims blessing.

Day 28 – Today we walk into Leon. It’s another easy stretch, but the last stretch is entering the city along city bridges and roads.

About 10k out of Mansilla we stopped at this little cafe on the way. Owned by Helena who lives on the property, it is a great place to pick up a coffee and snacks. She started the little cafe about 3 years ago and loves meeting and taking to the pilgrims! While we were chatting with her, another wonderful gentleman we’d meet on and off on the way, came in. Harald from Bavaria. We look forward to seeing him more often as we head to Santiago!

Another great Mujedar example

One of Leon’s glories is, without doubt, the Cathedral, they say one of the finest in Europe. I was moved to tears on entering the massive Gothic structure just filled with tall windows with stained glass. Gothic architecture is something else and my awe for it comes from listening to the audio commentary at the cathedral describing how the church was built! Gothic architecture’s defining features are pointed arches, rib vaults, buttresses, and extensive use of stained glass. Combined, these features allowed the creation of buildings of unprecedented height and grandeur, filled with light from large stained glass windows.

The colours are mesmerising and my iPhone camera couldn’t do them justice at all. It has more than 250 remarkable stained glass windows including a large rose window. In total there is over 1800 square metres of glass. Only the Chartres cathedral in France has a greater collection.

Gaudi’s Casa de Botines

Designed in the 19th Century by the famous Gaudí, the corner towers make this building look like a fairytale castle and is one of the few building built by him in Northern Spain.

Hostal San Marcos, built in the 12th century, also known as the Convento de San Marcos, is the former house of the Knights of Santiago. This magnificent building was originally a Hostal built to shelter the pilgrims on the Santiago. In the 15th century it was converted into a monastery, in the 17th century it was a prison and during the Spanish Civil War, it served as an army barracks. Today it’s a star hotel run by Parador!

As we walked into Leon that morning, we didn’t find it as charming as Burgos, but after spending the evening in the Cathedral and the beautiful old town that impression changed! Leon is beautiful!!

Day 25 – Calzadilla de la Cueza to Sahagun (22 Kms)

Left by 6.05am and caught the sunrise about 40 minutes later. We’re able to do about 10 Kms within the first couple of hours and that really helps!

We reach Terradillos de los Templarios, which was the jurisdictional place of the Order of the Temple. The church and the houses are all brick, like we noticed in Calzadilla de la Cueza. We’ll see more architecture like this over the next few days.

The Mudejar style, resulting from Jewish, Muslim and Christian cultures living side by side, emerged as an architectural style in the 12th century on the Iberian peninsula. It is characterised by the use of brick as the main material. Mudejar did not involve the creation of new shapes or structures (like Gothic or Romanesque), but reinterpreting Western styles through Muslim influences. It is accepted that the Mudejar style was born in Toledo, as an adaptation of architectural and ornamental motifs (especially through decoration with plasterwork and brick). Mudejar extended northwards (Leon, Ávila, Segovia, etc.) giving rise to what has been called ‘brick Romanesque’. Centres of Mudejar art are found in other cities, like Sahagún, Toro, Cuéllar, Arévalo and Madrigal de las Altas Torres. (Spain.info)

Remembered to take a photo of these perfectly fried eggs on toast only after it was half eaten

We stop for breakfast a few Kms later in Moratinos. It’s a dusty brown town and all that’s missing is some horses and cowboys! There’s a little mound across from the cafe we’re at. John takes a walk up to the mound to see it’s a bodega, where wine was stored in the past and there’s a nice piece of history there!

Church at Moratinos

We cross over from the province of Palencia to Leon. It’s another 7 Kms to Sahagun. Just as we see the town and we’re heading towards it, there’s a diversion in the Camino path. About 3.5 Kms short of Sahagun we walk to a spot to mark the halfway mark on the Camino Frances! We’re half way to Santiago!

Then, it’s a strenuous final dusty stretch under the sun into Sahagun! As we enter the town we see the sign for a bull ring and the sidewalks have barricades, the kinds we’ve seen only in photos of Pamplona. We pass the church and there seems to be mass starting in a bit and the church seems full. Puzzled, we head straight to our apartment for the night. We let ourselves in (she gave directions on Booking.com) and settled into our beautiful room in the apartment.

After a bath we head out to the town square for lunch. We’re hungry and order the biggest burger and beer!

Across from our apartment, there’s a kids activity on, an introduction to bull fighting. We see posters for a five day festival. When we get back after lunch, we meet the apartment owner who gives us the festival pamphlet. There’s a bull run at 7pm and the final event of the festival in the bull ring at 8pm. That’s exciting! Never thought we’d get to see this Spanish tradition!

After a short nap we head to the local laundry to wash and dry our possessions.

After putting everything away at the apartment we head to the streets to watch the festivities.

The bulls are transported to the end of town.

We then watch them run up the streets, with young men running in front of them. They enter the stadium and the stage is set for some innocent play.

After the ground is wet to keep the dust settled, bulls are sent in one at a time. Youngsters from different teams pretend to taunt the bull and the bull pretends to chase them. After many rounds of this play and about 5 bulls that come in and out, we exit the stadium to get a stamp on our pilgrim passports from the main pilgrim centre in the town. It’s almost closing time so she stamps our passports but can’t give us our half way certificates. We’re going all the way, so that doesn’t matter!

We head back to the town square where the festivities have moved to. Just before this, at the end of the festivities at the bull ring, flags of the different teams were folded and taken for safe keeping to the local church, to be taken out again next June!

A lovely action packed day compared to our usually calm and boring evenings! Exhausted we fall into bed! We’re thankful for the coincidences – that we booked to stay in Sahagun and we made it to the last day of the festival!

Day 24 – Carrion de Los Condes to Calzadilla de la Cueza

This was an interesting Meseta walk! A 17km stretch with no towns and villages in between and our destination, Calzadilla – a very tiny village (population 60).

Everyday the news reports talk of temperatures rising across the country of Spain. We can feel it! Even the night time temperatures have risen by at least 5 degrees. The rooms in the hotels or apartments or albergues aren’t built for heat! They’re built for the more moderate temperatures the regions are used to. There are no fans in the rooms. All you can do is keep the windows wide open and hope for a breeze.

We leave the beautiful town of Carrion around 6.30am after breakfast of toast coffee and juice.

The cool morning air (around 14 degrees C) feels wonderful!

With no water taps and toilets on the way we hit the path prepared. By around 9.00 am we’ve covered around 7km. In a couple of km we should see the food truck and there’s hope for a coffee for John and something cold for me.

Soon we’re 450m from the village, according to Google maps, but there’s no sign of human habitation in sight! And then, we come over a slope and Calzadilla appears! Relief and joy that we can get out of the sun soon!!

My bag arrives a little after we do! More joy, to see my possessions!

After lunch and a nap we go to the church to see if there’s mass. Closed. Too tiny a place for a priest to come by. Notice the change in the architecture style. The brickwork instead of stone.

There was anxiety about today’s walk before we set out this morning, but it wasn’t so bad after all! It got HOT only after 10am and by then we had covered about 15km. Leaving early is the key!

Want to end with a reflection on how meditative the walks have been! Both John and I are podcast/ audio book/ music junkies! Its been almost 4 weeks and neither of us has listened to anything on the phone while we walk. Our focus is the path ahead. Our eyes looking at the stones, sand, rubble we walk on, the scrub we walk through, the jagged rocks we climb up or down… always checking where our next step is placed, ensuring we don’t misstep and hurt our feet or twist an ankle. Our ears are focused on the rustle in the grass, the crunch of the repetitive footsteps, sounds of cycles or walkers behind us wanting to overtake us on a narrow path we share, the sounds of the birds and buzzing of the insects! Our skin is focused on the cold, the heat, the breeze, the lack of it, the sweat streaming down when it’s humid. Our nose is taking in the smells of surrounding, recently cut crop, goat poop, the fragrance of flowers along the path, the yellow ones in the photo below, the most fragrant! No thoughts of what’s going on in the world and the chaos our leaders are working together to create!

Day 23 – Formista to Carrion de Los Condes 19km

We head out early as has become a habit now.

We have only 19 kilometers to cover and it is mostly a flat surface along the highway. The first village on the way is Poblacion de Campos where you can find a baroque church dating back to the 1500s. Everyone’s asleep here. Just the chicken are crowing.

After crossing the river you follow the road and we pass through three small villages Revenga de Campos, Villarmentero de Campos and Villalcazar de Sirga.

We stop opposite the Romanesque Church of Santa Maria la Blanca, a church built by the Templars in the 12th century.

Discussing pilgrim affairs

The town of Carrión de los Condes is 5 kilometers from Villalcazar de Sirga. As always the last stretch is endless!

We check into our hotel for the day, to find my bag didn’t leave Formista in the morning. They offer to drop it at tomorrow’s location, tomorrow.

After our usual post walk activities we head to the Square to grab some lunch. It’s Saturday and the bikers are in town. The Square is filled with super bikes of all models and makes. We pick one of the restaurants in the Square and sit down to a wonderful lunch of paella and spaghetti.

After a nap we head out again. It’s sweltering hot! Just as we head out of a store we’re caught in a sudden downpour- a hailstorm with fairly chunky bits of ice.

We share shelter with a couple of Americans from Utah and California who are cycling to Santiago. The gentleman from Utah worked at Accenture some years ago! Small world!

As we head to a supermercado to pick up fruit, we see a street cordoned off for a bike stunt show.

A fun finish to the day!

Day 22 – Castrojeriz to Formista

We left at 6.05am, eager to make headway before the sun came out. We have 25km to cover. Turns out Castrojeriz isn’t such a little town after all. It takes us about 20 min to leave town. The Monastery/ palace ruin is atop the hill that the town winds itself around.

Monasterio de San Antón

As we head into the fields, the sunrise through the clouds is splendid! The colours of the sky are beautiful!

After all that beauty in the skies, we face our first challenge of the day – Alto de Mostelares, at the exit of Castrojeriz. It’s a climb of about 145 meters in almost 2 km of continuous climbing. Once you get to the top there are incredible views.

The plateau continues endlessly. We cross from the province of Burgos to the province of Palencia, still in the region of Castile Leon. We pass some humble villages, dusty and agricultural.

Motorised wheelchair
Sahara cap – new acquisition
Boadilla del Camino

We arrive at Itero de la Vega, where we have a quick coffee, intent on moving ahead before the sun gets more intense. After about 8km of a really hot walk we reach Boadilla del Camino. With only one cafe open and overflowing and an irate owner, we decide to power ahead. With 7km to Frómista and quite exhausted by the heat, we aren’t able to appreciate the beauty of the canal we’re walking parallel to – the Canal de Castilla.

There’s a bunch of school kids who’ve been dropped by the boat to the end of the canal, where we are, and we all walk towards Formista together. Of course except for a pair of chatty girls who walk really slowly, the rest are way ahead.

It’s the longest walk we’ve don’t so far! Felt good that we had the energy for this! Tomorrow is an easier day with just 19km to cover!