Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Uphill all the Way!

Fuel Stop! (click on any photo to get a better look) 

I've written several blogs in the past weeks, but they all stayed right here in my head.
I took some photos, though, and you know those are worth a thousand times more than words. This is a splendid spring, flower-wise. This was taken at a ghost village near Castrojeriz:

Monasterio San Anton is open, the camino trail is booming, but the albergue isn't full. Why? I think because San Anton was so successful last year, and the wrong people noticed. We now have a guy parked out front with a fake San Anton sello, telling passing pilgrims the place is closed, charging some of them a euro for a stamp, then trying to sell them Tau crosses! Oh, and the guy renting the house next door, when not touting himself as a "massage therapist," says he's opening a bar there. Wonderful! I wonder where his water supply will come from.
the camino near Quintanilla de las Vinas, Burgos.

Last week I met my friend Laurie in Santo Domingo de Silos, a medieval monastery town known for its chanting Benedictine brothers. We walked 22 km. from there to Covarrubias, another precious half-timbered mountain town, and then 15 more km. up into the hills, following the Camino de San Olav, a tourist initiative enthusiastically created a few years ago, now left to semi-abandonment. We had a great time. I suffered only mild heat exhaustion and delirium, ate and drank and slept well. (I don't usually walk more than 25 km. in a day!) We rolled into Burgos three days later.

We saw dinosaur tracks, Spain's second-oldest church (Visigothic), a Roman cemetery, a couple of Romanesque little jewel-box churches, a 19th-century amateur church interior that was an amazingly glowing bright turquoise, and a ghastly new "hermitage" and bell-tower that resemble a cardboard box alongside a coal tipple. Oh, and thousands of birds, wildflowers, owls, eagles, hawks, buzzards, cuckoos, and a toad. And a snake, which was dead.  

that glowing turquoise!
Laurie walks like a boss. She's a good ten years older than I am, but she can stride through 40 kilometers and finish up in time for dinner. (She won't stop for lunch. I leaned heavily on bananas for survival.) But Laurie stops for  museums, beers, or a Roman fountain routed through recycled sarcophagi. Her Spanish is good and enthusiastic, so people happily set aside their chores and open up the shut-down museum or clock tower or hermitage for us to rummage around in.

a watery tomb 
With Laurie I don't have to map out the day, or set the pace, or ask for the keys. She has a GPS unit. I just roll along in her wake, smelling the wild thyme, listening to the wind in the trees, remembering the occasional local saint's legend. It's good for my head, to not be in charge. Laurie asks good questions, and can answer a good few, too.

My favorite part of this trip came at the end of the second day, a long, long afternoon's hike. I had already lacerated my arms and legs in an overgrown creekside briar-patch, and up ahead stood a sheer cliff, topped with a church. Mondubar de San Ciprian, our stopping place, was on the other side. The GPS wanted to send us a good 4 km. out of the way, to skirt around it. We decided the people of the town below had to get up to church somehow. There had to be a trail. We started climbing.

Not far up, we ran out of trail. We looked around, considered our options, felt the 20% grade, maybe mumbled a bad word or two. And then she appeared.

Steaming up from the town below came a stout little woman in a straw boater hat. Her name was Eugenia, she was out for her afternoon airing, she said. Just happened to be passing along that sheer cliff-face. And sure, she'd show us how to get to Modubar. Easy! Just follow me!

She chattered all the way up, told us about life in Los Ausines -- a town that's really three little pueblos dotted around the bottom of  that mountain. Her barrio is the biggest, with ten year-round residents, she said. A doctor, a nurse, the works -- life's not bad there, except in winter. I saw no path. I didn't converse. I tried to keep up. Even Laurie lagged a little. We finally made it, breathless, to the top.

The views were fabulous. In the valley below at least 400 sheep were on their way home. We could've gone along the valley, Eugenia said, but it's a good thing we didn't, because those sheepdogs would've got us!

We toiled along the ridge, crossed the pass, said goodbye to Eugenia and found the friendly B & B in Modubar. The next morning was a breezy 19-km. stroll into Burgos, where we sat along the Espalon and ate gigantic American hamburgers!

I retrieved my car and drove myself  home. Laurie's hike continues. I am enjoying a couple of days at Peaceable, where Patrick and I are ALONE in the house... the first time in months!      


Ingrid said...

Sounds like a great little adventure... enjoy the blissful time with Paddy! Thanks for a lovely post again and those pictures of the poppies! Miracle of nature. Hugs

Steve Finnell said...
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Julian Lord said...

I actually disliked San Anton last time I was there, though the location itself is un-ruinable -- didn't sleep, but I found the denizens to be massively pretentious of the sort of faux-"authenticity" that seems to have seeped in from misunderstandings of what "The Way" is actually about.

Redolent of Orwell's faux-pauvre undertakings recorded in "Down and Out in Paris and London" -- "down" and "out" on the Camino ?? yeah right, these people can afford comfortable hostels and hotels, and have no good reasons to avoid them, but only their reverse snobbery.