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Hiking the Camino de Santiago in 2019

GoldCanyon340

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Day 13 - 21st September 2019: Logroño to Navarrete

Well this, as they say in the all best sport cliché environments, was a day of two halves.

12.7kms today. A 150m nett climb including the peak of Alto Grajera at 520m elevation.

Had breakfast at the hotel as no settlements exist on the Way before Navarrete. On leaving the morning is pleasant but overcast from last night’s thunderstorms. A few stragglers from San Mateo’s opening night celebrations remained and they looked worse than I would after a 40km hike.

An item I didn’t mention for yesterday’s entry was the sight we encountered on arrival at the hotel. A pilgrim checked in before us and her feet were destroyed: at least four large Compeeds on each foot with at least two on each the heels. She could hardly walk. The Way is proving a challenge for many.

Heading west as always the departure from Logroño is decent. There are manufacturing plants for Ford and Renault but they don’t really detract.

We soon head into parkland along a long walking track where many locals take their morning stroll. The parkland becomes more open and green moving away from the city and soon becomes forested. Really pleasant. Climbing a small rise we encounter our first view of Grajera Reservoir, a 32-hectare expanse. We cross over its north side and start the climb to the Alto. It’s at this point we begin the walk through large holdings of Tempranillo vines. Their grapes are growing and taste sweet.

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Up over the Alto and past a golf course Navarrete comes into view with more grapevines.

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The sun is warm and there’s no shade on this section but it’s been a good day’s hike. Recovering on the east side of town with a coffee we walk into the town centre to have lunch: tapas and a beer each.

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Then comes the interesting slice of the day. Heading back to our accommodation, 100m south of the previous coffee stop, we get an uneasy feeling. It looks run down with no activity. The front door is closed and locked even though the sign says it’s open at this time. An older man walks around from the back and is borderline aggressive claiming, we think, that we have to call the accommodation to confirm our reservation (note: we are outside the front door). Using my best Google Translate skills I say we have a reserved room. After five minutes he turns around and just walks away. So we follow him around the back and through a side door. There are two other people here, the wife and husband we assume, who reluctantly agree we have a reservation, it’s on booking.com so they can’t deny it. The husband is actually somewhat pleasant and he handles the check in and we get our key. Overall a bad experience.

We have a quick shower and head out again for the rest of the day, definitely ensuring the door is locked. I just don’t trust the people here.

We had a pilgrim dinner at the bar where we lunched. The tapas earlier was average but the dinner was great. The terrace outside the bar was lit and looked so different from earlier in the day.

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One of the local cats joined us.

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Returned to the accommodation where my other concern is the increased size of both blisters.
 
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GoldCanyon340

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Day 14 - 22nd September 2019: Navarrete to Azofra

Woken at 4am by loud noises from downstairs. This was not the sounds of pilgrims leaving accommodation early to get a good start. Indeed this time of the morning would not see pilgrims leaving anyway. It was the owners seemingly rearranging furniture and attempting to knock down an internal wall for no reason at all. House renovation not being our thing, much preferring it to sleep, we lay awake for two hours.

In this time Mrs 340 peruses reviews of the establishment and discovers a woman who was physically removed from the property and other such delights. I have to say if I was a single woman I wouldn’t have stayed for three seconds. Mrs 340 fires off reviews to TripAdvisor and booking.com and we plan a strategy for the day.

Thoroughly demoralised, blisters on feet and with showers forecast this morning we decide to cut losses and obtain transport to Azofra. The coffee shop up the road opens at 7 and we are there on the dot. It’s run by a really lovely husband and wife. We have their breakfast deal of coffee, juice and croissant and plan how to get a taxi.

Now it’s time for one of those special moments. It’s 7.45am and a taxi pulls up and the driver comes in for an espresso. We ask if he’s able to drive us out of town and he says it’s fine but has to pick up someone else. So, all good.

The pick up is at 8 and just 300m along the road. An English guy gets in and tells us he too is headed for Azofra. He has better Spanish than us and explains he booked the taxi last night as his feet are bad (are you picking up on a recurring theme here?) Then we discover the taxi is the only one in town and it’s further revealed the taxi driver/owner is going on vacation for two weeks and has a 2pm flight! Quite amazing how after yesterday’s despair we are now in receipt of a remarkable row of coincidences.

Arriving at Azofra we have a long morning tea with the English chap. He participates in extreme distance events, 200km runs and the like, and the Camino has given him golf ball size blisters on each foot. This has never happened to him before. He can barely walk in sandals and can’t attempt to wear walking boots. The scale of injuries we’re witnessing is shocking. We swap phone numbers as he lives in Ireland and we’re headed there after this sojourn.

I’ve looked through my photos to realise I took not a single snap today, a result of yesterday’s low point on the Way. However we stayed a spectacular hotel, a converted 17th century building, with a large shower and comfortable beds. Dinner was average but on a quiet road.
 

JohnM

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What is it about the walk that is giving even highly experienced walkers massive feet blisters?
 
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What is it about the walk that is giving even highly experienced walkers massive feet blisters?
Im sure there will be other reasons, but a few that come to mind are:
1. Insufficient preparation (practice) before starting;
2. Inadequate socks and/or footwear;
3. Walking overly long daily stages;
4. Failure to notice and/or react to the warning signs of the blister beginning.

Often people don’t realise the cumulative toll on the body of walking day after day after day. Although most people would be comfortable enough with any one day’s walk, it’s the repetition that can sneak up on you...
 

GoldCanyon340

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The ‘blister situation’ intrigues me. Mine are healed now and I’m going well. But to explain the prevalence of foot injuries is difficult. It’s certainly a combination of events. As I’ll detail soon I made a rookie mistake of not loosening my walking boot laces but seeing incredible injuries on VERY experienced walkers then it’s not a cut and dry situation.

For the record I’ve hiked close to 10,000kms over the last few years, including hikes of six days a week for long periods, and never had a blister develop before the Camino.
 

lovetravellingoz

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I made a rookie mistake of not loosening my walking boot laces

Now I am intrigued. A keen walker, hiker, trekker myself if I loosened my laces I would be guaranteed to get blisters, and possibly bruised toes if downhill sections are involved. It is normal practice for me to after having set off to tighten my laces once I have walked for say 10 minutes or so in my walking boots.
 

GoldCanyon340

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Now I am intrigued. A keen walker, hiker, trekker myself if I loosened my laces I would be guaranteed to get blisters, and possibly bruised toes if downhill sections are involved. It is normal practice for me to after having set off to tighten my laces once I have walked for say 10 minutes or so in my walking boots.
A clarification. I loosened the laces at the bottom of the shoe to relieve pressure on the balls of the feet and the toes. I still tie the laces tighter for the ankles.
 

craven morehead

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The ‘blister situation’ intrigues me. Mine are healed now and I’m going well. But to explain the prevalence of foot injuries is difficult. It’s certainly a combination of events. As I’ll detail soon I made a rookie mistake of not loosening my walking boot laces but seeing incredible injuries on VERY experienced walkers then it’s not a cut and dry situation.

For the record I’ve hiked close to 10,000kms over the last few years, including hikes of six days a week for long periods, and never had a blister develop before the Camino.
That's some serious hiking 🏆
 
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GoldCanyon340

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Day 15 - 23rd September 2019: Azofra to Grañón

Today is 21.9kms seeing a 250m climb to Cirueña before a 120m descent to Santo Domingo and a 100m climb into Grañon.

We leave at 7.45am and forgo coffee and breakfast after feeling full from last night’s dinner. We do have fruit to sustain us for the 8.1kms to the first stop.

Flat landscape for 4km out of Azofra with the sunrise behind to keep us company.

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The next 4kms is a steady but manageable climb to Alto Rioja at the elevation of 745m. There’s a coffee stop here run by a local who also provides fruit. We stop for 15 minutes to recover from the climb but don’t buy coffee as 1km further along is the local golf course with a café and we’ve decided to drink there.

The golf course is the centrepiece of the town of Cirueña, one of the many number of Spanish ‘ghost towns’ badly affected by the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. It was built during the boom period immediately before the GFC with houses, apartment blocks and the golf course. All infrastructure and most of the housing for a planned population of 10,000 was established. But of course all this planning went badly awry. Today just 200 people live here. There were a few people playing golf but the streets were the embodiment of a deserted movie set.

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The Camino winds through much of Cirueña, almost as a lesson to be learnt from unregulated banking practices, then commences the 6.1km descent to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. This descent is gradual at first but then steepens into a sweeping left hand curve into town.

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The eastern outskirts of Santo Domingo are an eyesore, a light industrial wasteland with half the buildings abandoned. But crossing into the Old Town is another world with the usual much older and better maintained buildings, really a city of two halves and a stark difference. There’s not many cafés open but the one we find served a great pilgrim lunch: paella, meatballs, dessert and the obligatory bottle of wine.

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Lunch was the planned main meal of the day as we knew food options in Grañon are limited. So the lunch was leisurely, when you have a bottle of vino in front of you these things cannot be rushed anyway. A tour of the cathedral followed and I’ll post pictures from there separately.

The temperature was nearing its peak by this time so the final 6.7kms is ok but not spectacular. Most is next to the motorway on a dusty track. At 1.5kms to go we turn left away from the main road and into town. This last section from Santo Domingo is uphill and is tiring in the heat.

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Our accommodation is beautiful, modern and clean. We rest, shower and head back to the main square for a beer and light dinner of tortilla, of course served with bread. I really don’t think The Atkins Diet made much impact in Spain. We had a lovely view of the church with dinner.

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A good but long, warm day.
 
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GoldCanyon340

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Day 16 - 24th September 2019: Grañón to Belorado

An interesting day in a “I’ll look back on this as a better experience thirty years from now. When I’m in a hospital bed. After my second hip operation” way.

Standard 7am alarm for a 7.45ish departure, although I’m an even earlier riser at home I don’t move too quickly when I get up. Other people would be out 7.20. The first of those would be Mrs 340 but I digress.

We ummed and ahhed about breakfast but decided to hit the trail. The main road through town, usually named Calle Mayor or Calle Real, has two hundred metres to run from our accommodation to the edge of town. I thought, “What a lovely, calm morning” in the first steps. This changed 198 metres later.

There’s a quick descent out of town then left, right, left turns into farmed land. Soon as we left the protection of the narrow main road lined with housing the wind hit us. And it didn’t stop. It was a stiff breeze at first but didn’t prevent the acquiring of spectacular sky and sunrise pictures.

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Ah but then Mother Nature decided on a bit of wind to blow away those old cobwebs. The first town we breeze through, see what I did there?, is Redecilla del Camino 3.8kms from Grañón. Unremarkable and not photo worthy. 1.7kms further is Castildelgado, not much worthier but a decent sized church for a small town.

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We rested on a bench out of the wind. 5.5kms in and not enjoying it much already. Castildelgado sits in a gully on the Rio Relachigo so the descent from Redecilla is countered by the 1.9km climb out to Viloria de la Rioja. 1.9kms of hospital bed reminisces.

The winds cranked up by a phenomenal margin and soon we are hiking in 50-60kmh headwinds. This was brutal in the extreme and took close to an hour to make the 1.9km to Viloria across bleak highlands. Absolutely horrendous.

Exhausted we make Viloria and find somewhere to sit. Every food establishment is closed and we still haven’t eaten. 8.3kms to Belorado but the next 3.4km to Villamayor del Rio is downhill. This town has a restaurant mentioned in the guidebook, being a purveyor of fine meats, so we pluck up the courage to press on.

The first third of the next section is ok as protection from the wind is afforded by a high ridge to the west. Rounding the corner of this ridge, and emerging by the local freeway, the wind accelerates and we trudge 2kms to Villamayor del Rio. By this time Mrs 340 has had enough and we decide to taxi the final 4.9km to Belorado. We do visit the restaurant for lunch but it is fantastically expensive and we decide emblematic of today.

Once in Belorado the skies clear, the winds cease and all is calm. Feeling like Moses parting the seas and Mother Nature herself (on second thoughts that sounds like a line from a Carry On movie but I’ll leave it in) we check into a great hostel and go find beer.

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(Pic retrieved from Facebook and not fantastic,
Much like the platform itself)

Spent a few hours here recovering then, as they (not sure who) say, “The Camino provides.” We have a SPECTACULAR pilgrim dinner the hostel. The owner likes his food and we later assumed is a retired chef. After a wonderful first course of seafood broth we are served baked trout wrapped in jamon.

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The picture and room lighting do not do this course justice. I would have handed over serious cash to be served this in a Michelin starred restaurant. It was that good. And then the kicker: seafood broth, trout, dessert and a glass of wine for €11.

A quick stroll After dinner to take a picture of the town square.

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So another day of two halves. It’s a mental challenge as much as physical of course. I’ve hiked a Marathon distance in a day and today, at a third that distance, was a greater physical challenge. Is this what The Camino is really about? Do we have to suffer the pain to get a good dinner? How did Saint James do this without Compeeds? Did Kristin really shoot JR? These questions and many others will be answered in the next episodes of Soap.
 
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Day 17 - 25th September 2019: Belorado to Villafranca Montes de Oca

That alarm at 7am again but it takes a few minutes to get out of bed, our legs still tired from yesterday’s walking in the wind.

As last night’s pilgrim dinner was spectacular we skipped breakfast at the accommodation as €10pp is pricey compared to the ‘Michelin’ dinner and breakfasts in general. We found a café off the other side of the square and had toast, coffee and juice.

Setting out at 8.20 we pass through unremarkable landscape for just under a kilometre passing this bridge on the way out of Belorado.

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Much greener today with more vegetation along The Way.

Tosantos is the first town on the hike today 4.8kms from Belorado. A quick stop to rest the legs and climbing out of here we view the hermitage of Our Lady of the Crag built into the side of the cliffs with a 12th century image of the Christ Child.

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Lovely views across fields today.

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A quick 2kms to Villambistia where we have our credentials stamped at the church.

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A flat 1.6kms to Espinosa del Camino, unremarkable but an ok looking café/albergue.

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Then the final 3.6kms to our destination over the only real climb today past the ruins of the 9th century Monastery de San Félix de Oca. Count Diego Porcelos, founder of Burgos, was interred here.

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A pleasant walk into Villafranca Montes de Oca where stayed in a sumptuous hotel next to the church.

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What a difference from yesterday with pleasant weather wind, no wind and more greenery. Kristin did shoot JR but I’m still unconvinced that Saint James was not a time traveller with Compeeds.
 

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Day 18 - 26th September 2019: Villafranca Montes de Oca to Burgos

Woke today to realise the probable reason for my blisters is not loosening my boot laces nearer the toes. A rookie mistake but I’ve never had this problem before. With the blisters on the big and little toes on my left foot we decided to get the bus into Burgos. This was always an option in the back of our minds as the outer suburbs of most larger towns and cities on The Camino are not amazingly pleasant.

A delightful sunrise greets us before breakfast.

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The bus isn’t until 10.53am so no need to rush. It’s a good ride into Burgos and a nice walk across the river, through the city gates and into Old Town. Our hotel is next to Burgos Cathedral and the view from our room is spectacular.

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Being in a larger town affords opportunity for laundry so we find a nearby bar while the washing and drying cycles do their stuff.

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This bar has good prices unlike the eateries and drinkeries(*) on the main squares.
Relaxation in the afternoon, a bit of sightseeing and a pilgrim dinner to round off the day.

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A quiet day to rest the injuries. We have a rest day here tomorrow and looking forward to visiting the cathedral.

(*) I really dislike the term ‘eatery’ to describe an establishment that serves food. Do you call your office a ‘workery’? So I made up the term ‘drinkery’ and put it in here for good effect too :p
 

GoldCanyon340

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Update from the front.....

I’m conscious of being behind in my posts and trying to catch up. We’ve had a long week of hiking across the Meseta and patchy wifi for the last three nights (we are in VERY rural northwest Spain now).

I have all the photos of course and most of the text written in my head so I am trying to post multiple days when possible.
 

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Day 20 - 28th September 2019: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino

20.6kms today including a 130m climb and the same descent over Alto Meseta. This marks the Camino’s eastern entrance to The Meseta, Spain’s vast plateau with fertile soil now mostly utilised as farmland.

With longer days we prefer to get going and eat breakfast along the trail. This we plan to do at Tardajos 10.6km along and just over halfway.

There’s a light mist this morning and Burgos is quiet as we depart. After 1.4kms we cross Puente de Malatos over the Rio Arlanzón and through parklands for another kilometre. Out past one of the campuses of Burgos University there’s more housing before reaching fields at the end of the road. The mist isn’t shifting and it makes for quiet surroundings on this peaceful Saturday morning.

We reach a significant marker with the remaining distance.

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A 3.5km trek over flat land past the village of Villabilla where nothing is happening. The mist lifts as we reach a freeway overpass then underpass and soon we are in Tardajos.

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A decent coffee and pain au chocolat are sunk by each of us at a café by the main road through town. Our Camino guidebook says this is the last significant paved road we’ll see for three days: welcome to The Meseta.

Turning left we leave said main road and make good time on the 2.4kms to Rabé de las Calzadas.

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We did not plan to stop here but 100 metres along the trail after I took these pictures is a small church. We had to visit as it looked so nice.

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We are glad we did as a nun sat inside and blessed every pilgrim to visit. It was a moving moment.

Then it’s our first experience of The Meseta.

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The sun cranked up a few degrees and with no shade on the trail we are glad of this shaded picnic spot.

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Another 70 minutes of hiking alongside wide flat land. The vistas are quite stunning and it does remind us in part of hiking in the northern parts of The Flinders Ranges in South Australia albeit with ploughed land replacing the Flinders’ saltbush. Finally Hornillos del Camino comes into view as we descend from Alto Meseta.

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Our accommodation tonight is out of town and we are picked up and driven the 5kms. It’s not the best but after a long day in the sun everything after a bed and shower is a bonus really.
 

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Day 21 - 29th September 2019: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz

This is our first full day on The Meseta. 20.1kms with two small climbs in the first half of the hike before flat plains to our destination.

The ride back to Hornillos del Camino from our accommodation is fun. All us seven pilgrims in one SUV driven by the accommodation owner. Mrs 340 is up front, four of us in the back seat with one person on a lap and the remaining two in the back with the backpacks. A welcome change really from excessive Health and Safety regulation and compliance!

The only town between Hornillos and Castrojeriz is again halfway so we buy a large jamon bocadillo, so large it is a tight fit for Mrs 340’s backpack, and depart at 8.10am.

This is a typical view of the main street in many small towns through which we pass on The Way.

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Climbing out of Hornillos and back onto the plains we have a beautiful sunrise at the rear. Three weeks in and it’s noticeable how the mornings are acquiring their autumn darkness.

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We make good progress across the plains, wide open land where it is easy to contemplate life.

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More and more plains. We know our pit stop town of Hontanas is near but just can’t see it. There’s a sign for accommodation in Hontanas another 2kms along the trail, then one at 1km but the town itself is still not in view. I look on Google Maps and Hontanas is supposed to be right here. Do you know the scene in Aliens where the humans are in the store room and according to their motion sensors the aliens are supposed to be in the same room but (spoiler) they’re in the ceiling directly above? It feels like that.

And then a sharp dip in the trail and we finally see Hontanas.

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We eat our bocadillo, have a coffee and pastry. There’s no rush as it’s warm and we’ve made good progress.

The whole Camino is marked with signs and ever present yellow arrows painted on the road and buildings. Some towns mark the trail in other ways, usually based around the scallop symbol.

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We have a long 5.6kms to the next landmark, San Antón. It’s very warm and there’s no shade. We make this distance in 75 minutes but it’s worth it to be greeted by this old monastery spanning the quiet country road.

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There will be a separate post with more pictures of this building founded by Alfonso VII in 1146.

After exploring the ruins of the monastery it’s another 2.5kms to the outskirts of Castrojeriz where the convent of Santa Clara greets visitors.

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Castrojeriz is a lovely town but spread out on the east-west axis in a cigar shape. We enter from the east and our hotel is in the western third a full 1.5kms from the convent, up a hill. It’s been a tiring day and this approach to the hotel is rough; we just want to get there by now in the peak heat.

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Too tired to explore much we rest for a few hours before heading downstairs to the bar for a couple of beers before the pilgrim dinner.

We’ve really enjoyed getting distance in with two 20km days.
 

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  • Married Segments & More – AIR024
    Sat, 16 Nov 2019 04:32:20 AEDT
      Airlines seem to love married segments, but for frequent flyers and travel agents they can be extremely frustrating. Sometimes you'll find an award seat on a flight you w ...
  • HARS (Historic Aircraft Restoration Society) – AIR023
    Sat, 02 Nov 2019 13:24:03 AEDT
      The Historic Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) boasts a collection of over 60 aircraft, including a retired Qantas 747, Super Constellation and DC-3s. John Travolta's Bo ...
  • “Hidden City” Court Case – AIR022
    Sat, 19 Oct 2019 09:30:46 AEDT
      Earlier this year, German airline Lufthansa tried to sue a passenger that exploited the loophole of hidden-city ticketing by skipping the last flight on their ticket. This ...
  • Summer in Europe – AIR021
    Sat, 05 Oct 2019 17:28:53 AEST
      Qantas and Virgin Australia are fighting over two rare and lucrative new landing slots for Tokyo's Haneda Airport. Meanwhile, four European airlines have gone bankrupt in ...
  • Are Loyalty Programs a Scam? – AIR020
    Sat, 21 Sep 2019 08:36:18 AEST
      The ACCC recently released a damning draft report into Australian loyalty schemes, calling out practices that it says may shock consumers and putting loyalty program opera ...

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