Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella
Pamplona to Burgos (Jeff by himself)
24 September 2011 to 1 October 2011
Saturday 24 September2011
Pamplona to Puente La Reina (22Km) This was the day when I said goodbye to Gillian, who was returning to the UK because of work commitments, and went off on my own. She accompanied me right to the edge of the city and we said our goodbyes. On the one hand, I was really sorry that she wasn`t coming all the way. On the other, this was my big adventure. 17 days on my own. I walked off down the road following a stream of other pilgrims. We were on a rough track which started to climb steadily. I passed the two Italian girls who we had met while crossing the Pyrenees and paused for a break at a town with an unpronounceable name which had a little coffee machine in a shop. Soon after that, I was at the summit of the Alto De Perdon (735m) which was a big ridge decked with wind turbines. I got a Korean lady to take my photo and enquired about the Korean word for “hallo” which turned out to be “Anyough” (much used over the rest of the walk). The land beyond the ridge was flat and brown with many fields but few trees. It stretched away as far as the eye could see with no more hills in view. I was looking at the meseta. I descended the rocky path slowly and carefully. I said hallo to an American couple. At the village of Uterga, there was a bar where all the pilgrims were stopping for a drink. With only a few miles to go (and my accommodation booked.) I felt relaxed and I lounged in the sunshine with a coca cola and ice. Walking on, I came upon the Americans again. He was an architect from Newport, Rhode Island. We chatted as we walked to Obanos. Then I moved on. As I approached my hotel on the outskirts of Puenta La Reina I felt a stirring in my stomach and I had no sooner got into my room than I had the most awful diarrhoea. I took a couple of tablets and I was fine by 5pm when I walked into town.
Bull Running in Puenta La Reina The town was in festival mood. Everybody seemed to be having having a barbecue in the square and the town band was marching up and down. I had a drink and then walked down the main street. Suddenly I noticed that they were placing large wooden barriers at either end and blocking off the side-streets. People were erecting metal barriers across their house fronts. What was happening? Suddenly the answer came to me. This was a bull-running area. And I was the wrong side of the barriers! I went quickly back to the bar where I had had my drink and squeezed between the metal grill in the doorway. A couple of minutes later six bulls trotted by with people running everywhere. Young men darted out to bait the animals. Then clambered to safety behind the barriers. There was constant cheering and shouting from the crowd. So there I was, held captive in the bar for the next two hours. Not a bad place to be. I made friends with an Irish couple, Analine and David, and we were joined for a pilgrim meal, with lots of red wine by a Dutch lady. We had a cheerful time and I accompanied them back to the pilgrim auberge before rolling back to Hotel Jakue. So my first evening alone on the camino was extremely sociable. I rang Gillian to check she had got home safely and tell her what had happened to me.
Sunday 25 September 2011
Puenta La Reina to Estella (23Km) This was the first revision to the walking plan I had laid out on a winter`s evening back home. I had planned to go to Irachi (with its fabled wine fountain) but revised that to the larger town of Estella which was a bit nearer. I booked accommodation by phone. After breakfast, I left the town of Puenta LR much later than most pilgrims but I soon started to catch up with some during the morning. The first I passed was the American couple. Then several more on a steep climb to regain the road. Later, several more at a bar. This was a day of small villages, dusty roads and a few vineyards. I reached Viana (a modern place) as the heat of the day arrived and stopped for an orange juice. Then I followed some other pilgrims slowly over the last 4 km into Estella which was quite a big town. My hotel was at the far end and appeared to be closed. I was much earlier than my predicted arrival time. So I retreated to a nearby garage cafe and had a drink. Three more pilgrims appeared. One was a young English girl who had a painful foot and had just got off a bus from Pamplona. My hotel (really a block of apartments) finally responded to the door bell and I was soon in my room having a shower and taking a rest. In the evening I had a tapas and a beer at the nearest bar. Then I walked to the town square where I took a photo of some ladies from South Korea and had a coffee with the American couple. When they went off to mass in the church, I changed cafes and had ham, eggs and chips..
Monday 26 September 2011
Estella to Los Arcos (20Km) I had breakfast in a small bar. I was right at the point where the camino exited Estella. So it was easy to get on the trail. I soon passed a monastery, a wine fountain and the hotel at Irachi where I might have stayed. The path was a hot and dusty and passed through a couple of small Spanish villages. I arrived at Los Arcos at about 2pm and booked into my Hotel Monaco. Los Arcos had a pleasant sunny square and my room had a small balcony overlooking it. I did some washing and put it out in the fresh air to dry. Then I saw a young couple sitting outside, who I had noticed in Puenta La Reina. So I went out and introduced myself. They were Eugene and Camille from Australia and we sat drinking beer (me) and red wine (them) for about two hours while the sun went down. After that I went into the hotel and had dinner. On the way out of the dining room I had a chat with a couple of Germans from Berlin who I had met on the trail
Tuesday 27 September 2011
Los Arcos to Logrono (28Km) I was out of Los Arcos really early the next morning, even before sunrise. I was soon encountering lots of pilgrims including the two Americans from Rhode Island. However, this was the last occasion that I ever saw them. I passed through a couple of villages where pilgrims were taking refresh-ments. At one point I took a photo of a shepherd crossing the trail with a herd of dusty sheep. At Torres del Rio I had an orange juice in a bar where there was a young Irish guy just preparing to walk back to Los Arcos because he had mislaid his wallet. Coming out of Torres I got fed up with the stony camino track and took to the road (the N111) which, I knew from my map, went to exactly the same place. This was easy walking and I had a shady 10 minute break to eat cheese and apple. A bit further on and I went back on the trail to cut off a hairpin bend but the track had an impossibly steep gradient at the end. The sort where you feel obliged to walk up sideways like a crab to protect your leg muscles. Back on the road, the town of Viana was soon in sight. It looked unattractive. The trail went into the town but I decided to stay with the main road. I found a garage where I bought a cold bottle of orange fanta. As I sat drinking it in a lay-by, a car drew up and, amazingly, a couple of Spanish ladies asked me for directions ! I showed them where they were on my map. Further on, and the path deviated away from the road to a “Ermita de las Cuevas” which was meant to be a good spot to rest under the trees. I took it and slogged along. But it had been taken over as a gypsy encampment. The rubbish bins were overflowing and smelling. So I walked on. The few miles that followed were not pleasant. It was hot. The track was stony. And as the industrial suburbs of Logrono hove in to sight, the scenery became ever more depressing. After passing a dismal lake, the path reached a sprawling clover leaf of fast roads which took me ages to navigate by passing under on a cycle track. At this point, I was overtaken by two other groups of pilgrims including some Italians I had met in Los Arcos. We all trailed up a hill and over the top. Finally we had a view of central Logrono with its cathedral spire. On the way downhill the other groups stopped at a drink station created by local people. So finally at 1.30pm I was probably the first pilgrim of the day to cross the bridge into the city of Logrono, over the broad River Ebro, the second longest river in Iberia. I treated myself to a beer and tapas in the cathedral square. After about an hour I was joined by Eugene and Camille. At about 3.30 pm I found my rooms and had a shower. Coming out again, I visited tourist information and a couple of bookshops looking for camino maps. I ended up buying a slim Michelin guide which proved very useful. I had a drink with a guy called William Martenson who I had met on the trail. He was from Potters Bar and had worked at Middlesex University. After ringing Gillian, I went out looking for dinner and ended up having tapas and beer in a smart little bar where I could watch Champions League football on a big screen. (Real Madrid V Ajax) As I came out the Italian pilgrims were at some outside tables chatting up the local girls but they didn`t recognise me.
Wednesday 28 September 2011
Logrono to Najera (30Km) I was experiencing some pain in my right shoulder (a pulled-muscle, an injury which is still with me even as I type this on my fifth day back from the walk.) So I decided to shorten the day by taking a very early bus to Navarette just beyond the western outskirts of Logrono. When I arrived, a small cafe was opening for breakfast. So, I joined a few other pilgrims having coffee, orange juice and toast. I left Navarette on a long straight road and then there was a dusty track alongside a motorway. My map told me it was unnecessary to visit the next little village of Ventosa. So I walked straight on up a hill and beyond I could see some towns in the distance, one of which was Najera. It was still only 13.00. So I sat down on a piece of vineyard wall and ate my apple and cheese while other walkers and cyclists passed by. When I started off again there was an easy walk through vineyards to the industrial edge of Najera. On this section I was passed by three young Irish pilgrims who I got to know later. The path entered the town past some ugly business units and an aggregates plant. Finally reaching the centre, I had a coca cola. I turned right down the main road towards the river where I found Hostal Hispano and my room. I had a beer and tapas and walked around a bit. I also went to a small supermarket where I bought a couple of cloths to wash my dusty walking shoes. As evening approached, I had another beer outside the bar and I was joined for dinner by William Martenson. Najera was rather strange for the number of African men lounging around near the bus terminal. They seemed to be in transit and were sleeping rough under the bridges.
Thursday 29 September 2011
Najera to Santo Domingo De Calzada (23Km) I started off very early just as the sun was coming up and my shadow went ahead of me on the path as I walked due west past the wine fields of black Rioja grapes. On this day I saw only three other pilgrims on the whole route. There was a tremendously long steep hill going up to a place called Cirinuela which had a golf course and row upon row of smart but completely soulless houses which were shuttered and silent in the lunchtime heat. I walked through five or six streets without seeing anybody alive. Out the other side I had a break for lunch under a solitary tree. Not very comfortable but shady. Then I walked the remaining 4 kilometres down a straight dusty track into Santo Domingo. I had asked Gillian to book me into one of the two Parador hotels that the town boasted. The Ricardo Fresnede on the outskirts was an old monastery and absolutely beautiful. The receptionist was concerned that I had reserved an expensive double room but I told her I would take it anyway. After I had had a soothing bath and a snooze in my lovely room I walked the short distance into town. In the cathedral I met William and as we exited we bumped into Eugene and Camille. Several beers later we separated for dinner. I suggested to William that we went back to the Parador but, instead, we ended up at his small hotel for one of the worst meals of the walk served by a very old lady in “Fawlty Towers” style.
Friday 30 September 2011
Santo Domingo to Villafranca Montes De Orca (35Km) To keep up with my timetable, I needed to be in Burgos on Saturday. So I decided to walk two 30Km+ days. This was going to the first of those days and it meant that sadly I would be leaving behind the people I had got friendly with. Breakfast at the Parador was a little disappointing with rather tired coffee. But the buffet was varied and I made myself a sandwich to eat en route. It was just after dawn when I started walking and lots of other pilgrims were on the path before me. At the little town of Viloria de Rioja, I caught up with Camille and Eugene and we walked together to Belorado (23km) where they were stopping. The first auberge we reached had a bar. I bought a round of beer and had a small Paella as “walking food”. We walked into the centre of town and said our goodbyes at about 1pm. (I never saw them again on the pilgrimage but we kept in touch by Facebook and I met Eugene in London in 2017) I had another 12Km to walk and it was getting very warm. I walked out of Belorado and started along a dusty but well cared for track which ran parallel to the road but several hundred meters to the south of it. Just before Tosantos I stopped to eat my sandwich and then I had an orange juice in a small bar, The path got a bit stony and descended to another village. I crossed the main road at the top of a steep hill and finally I had a glimpse of my destination. But it was still a couple of kilometres away and I was a bit tired. I could see what I thought to be a beautiful church on the outskirts but as I got closer it coalesced into an electricity substation. The last 500 meters were along the busy road with large lorries whizzing by. I reached the village at 3.30pm. Villafranca had some nice houses but what I was most pleased to see was a sign pointing the way to Hotel San Anton Abad which I had pre-booked. This turned out to be very smart. At the reception desk I bumped into two Dutch ladies who I had last met as I left Navarette. They were “looking” at a room. I assumed they were staying but I never saw them again. After a shower and a rest I sat in the bar, had a beer and did a Sudoku. I met a German pilgrim who I had seen before Pamplona. At dinner there was an older gentleman who looked like a pilgrim and we joined each other for dinner. He was Clive from England and he was 86 years old! He was doing the camino in very short stretches and had stayed in Tosantos the night before.
Saturday 1 October 2011
Villafranca Montes de Orca to Villafria (Burgos) (30Km) I was able to have breakfast at 7 a.m. So I was on the trail before sunrise. This started immediately with a very steep climb on a rough track outside the door of the hotel. An Irish guy passed me going well with sticks. I met a couple of Americans near the top of the hill and they took my photo against the rising sun. For a change, the path was cut through an area of trees and forests. After that first climb, there was a steep descent and another climb with a major highway off the left. But after that it was mostly flat as if we were crossing a wooded plateau. (I witnessed a very sad sight. About 8Km had elapsed since Villafranca when in front of me I saw a couple of pilgrims walking well. So well, that I would never have overtaken them. But then they stopped. The lady took off her pack and starting looking through the contents, more and more urgently. As I got nearer I could see they were in animated discussion. Finally as I reached them, they started walking back towards Villafranca. Presumably they had left something important behind and felt they had to go back!
For much of the time, I kept the Irishman with sticks in sight but as we descended to the village of St Juan de Ortega he disappeared in the distance. I found him sitting outside the village bar. I went inside in the cool to have a coffee and orange juice. I also had something which looked like a flat Cornish pasty which turned out be a tuna slice. As I sat there a Canadian with a huge backpack came in and asked if he could join me. However, he took so long going to the loo and ordering his food that I was ready to go before he finally sat down. I said goodbye to the Irish guy as I set off again and I never saw him or the Canadian ever again. The path continued through woods until suddenly they petered out and there ahead was a wide low valley with bare hills on both flanks. The Camino route was a scar across the distant hills on the far side. I descended the suddenly rocky path to Ages and resisted the lure of its attractive bar with sunshades and tables. Instead I continued walking a further 3Km to Atapuerca. It was 12,30 and very hot but I was about to climb a sizeable hill. I took it slowly following a couple of young Koreans. Underfoot the going was nasty with sharp stones and loose gravel. At the top there was a distant view of what might have been Burgos but I was too busy watching my footing on the difficult descent. A couple of German girls overtook me but then decided to go down into the village of Villalval even though the signs said otherwise. I walked on, overtook the two Koreans and then found myself on a road with no shade whatsoever.
I was aiming for a 3pm bus at Villfria to take me into Burgos. It was now about 2pm and I stopped for 5 minutes for a badly needed cold drink. I went through the village of Orbaneja at about 2.15 and I thought I had plenty of time. But within sight of my destination with about 15 minutes to go the road betrayed me. It started to weave around in a gigantic curve almost doubling the walking distance. I cursed and sweated and walked faster in the heat. Finally, I crossed the railway bridge into Villafria with 5 minutes to go. There was another couple of hundred meters before I reached the bus stop where some other pilgrims were waiting. Luckily, the bus was a few minutes late. It dropped me in the centre of Burgos fortuitously very close to the Hotel Espana which Gillian had pre-booked for me.
After freshening up I went out to look around. There was some sort of pageant going on and lots of people were dressed up in costume. It was a nice city with an absolutely huge cathedral. I had it in mind to reduce my walk the next day by taking a bus to the edge of town but when I enquired at the Tourist Information Office they said that, being Sunday, there would only be one bus at 7pm! I used a cash machine and walked around trying to find a restaurant to have an evening meal. But they all started serving food at 9.30pm. (Why do Spaniards eat so late?) Finally I found one restaurant which served food all day and I had a nice meal of pork, eggs, chips and salad. The town was just getting busy. Gilly had warned me that it might be noisy and so it proved. My hotel was within earshot of the Plaza Mayor and the hubbub went on till 1 a.m with intermittent noise of drunks until 6 am when I got up.