Day 14 Burgos to Hornillos del Camino
If anything our rest day in Burgos seems to have left us sluggish and tired, and it’s not until eleven or so that we finally shuffle out of town. It’s an easy enough day’s walking, but by the time we get to Hornillos it’s late in the afternoon and everywhere is full.
My ankle is playing up and Bryony is basically done, so going on isn’t really an option; none of us wants to get a taxi anywhere, so instead we while away the evening in the village, eating in a local bar where I charge my phone and camera as best I can, and walk back five minutes or so down the path to make camp beside a wall of hay bales.
I kick away the stones and clods of earth, flattening the area, while Hannah and the others gather hay to make some kind of bedding. We stretch out our two foam mattresses to pad shoulders and hips, snuggle into our sleeping bags and gradually doze off as we watch the skin darken and the stars appear.
Day 15 Hornillos to Castrojeriz
Having expected to be up at cockcrow, instead we have an unexpected lie in, undisturbed by snorers and early risers, so make breakfast in the village square and are on the way around nine.
Trudging across the Meseta isn’t nearly as arduous as the early days of the Camino, but it still takes a toll, and by the time we reach the beautiful 14th Century ruins of San Anton, Bryony’s knee and foot aren’t capable of much more. Still, Castrojeriz is just down the road so we push on and eventually reach it, settling into a private albergue opposite the parish church of St Dominic.
After a crisis with a sleeping bag falling from a window, Jeremy and Steve forage for food and get some basics, but it’s only when Hannah discovers the local supermarket that dinner starts to look promising and she proves as good a cook as the others had told me. We while away the last hour or so before bed chatting, with the hospitalero thanking me for payment with an eager “go raibh maith agat”.
Day 16 Castrojeriz to Fromista
Bryony clearly can’t go on and Jeremy decides it makes sense to accompany her back to London and return to finish the Camino next year, so for our last day together she gets the bus to Fromista while Jeremy walks with us one last time. The morning’s climb is beautiful and afterwards the day is a gentle stroll, the central but enlivened by the company of Dave and Jane, a Welsh couple from Holyhead whose first date had seen them watching The Way together.
I’m irritable on arrival in Fromista and unfairly snap at Steve when he starts making plans for Mass when we can’t even find the hostel. All irritation is dispelled, though, once settled in the hostel and I check my email to find my closest friend has asked me to be godfather to her little boy. Mass in beautiful, and ends with a pilgrim blessing culminating in our singing the ‘Salve Regina’ together.
The night ends with the group of us in the albergue dining room, drinking wine and watching clips from The Muppet Show on YouTube. There are worse ways to end adventures.
Day 17 Fromista to Carrion de los Condes
We say our goodbyes in the morning, pausing for a group photo, and then set off at an atypically fast pace. Deciding to take the alternative route along the river rather than the main road, we split up and walk alone for the morning, meeting up again for lunch beside the huge Templar church in Villalcazar de Sirga.
We reach Carrion by two and by three are exploring the town; later that afternoon I meet American Chris, Carlos, and a few others as they saunter in. Before Mass we have a multilingual singsong with the nuns who run our hostel, my highlight being the improbable inclusion of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ amongst the hymns.
For dinner later we eschew the standard pilgrim menu in favour of a few smaller dishes; the pigs’ ears were worth trying, but I’ll not rush to have them again.
Day 18 Carrion to Terradillos de los Templarios
I set off with Kiwi Jeanne for another long flat trudge across the Meseta, with Canadian Steve catching up after a couple of hours, and I drop back to walk alone for a bit. Later in the afternoon I wait outside a bar in Ledigos for others to catch up, and after chatting with another Chris, a historian from North Carolina who had somehow done a 50k day just a week or so earlier, I walk the last few kilometres to Terradillos.
Terradillos is an old Templar town, but nothing remains of its past glory; there’s little there now bar a friendly hostel where I spend most of my time chatting with Liz and Adam, a couple from Maine I’d been bumping into since before Burgos. Both are experienced travellers, with Adam having hiked America’s Appalachian, Transcontinental Divide, and Pacific Coast trails; it seems fitting that they’re spending their honeymoon doing the Camino together.
Day 19 Terradillos to Hermanillos de la Calzada
I reach Sahagun in time for lunch, walking through the morning with Sorren, a medical student from California, and after lunch the two of us set off with Carlos, Chris, Hannah, and Diana, a Spaniard living in Dublin, for the dry 12k stretch to Hermanillos de la Calzada.
Carlos and Diana make better time than the rest of us, and when our straggling foursome arrive, exhausted, the hostels are full, save for emergency overflow accommodation. How did we feel about a self-contained five room section including a sink, a balcony, power sockets, and no curfew? Let’s just say we weren’t complaining.
Day 20 Hermanillos to Mansilla de las Mulas
I’m not sure any day since the first has loomed as scarily as this: 24k following a Roman road across the sun-hammered Meseta, with nowhere to refill our water bottles. Well prepared, though, with mountains of fruit, sandwiches, and boiled eggs, our bottles full and water being downed by the bucket before starting, it’s really only in the last four kilometres that we begin to struggle.
Still, we pool what we’ve got left and hoisting our packs back onto our backs, sing our way into Mansilla de las Mulas. “Always remember to sing,” said the sisters at Carrion.
Tomorrow we reach Leon, where we’ll celebrate Sorren’s birthday. It’s hard to believe we’re almost two thirds of the way to Santiago.
Part IV continues tomorrow.
Greg Daly travelled with Camino Ways www.caminoways.com. Tel: 353 (0)1-525-28-86.