{camino day 21} hornillos del camino to castrojeriz & ruminations {week three}

I started my day at 7:00, climbing a gentle uphill with Karen from New Zealand and Chun-Yu from Taiwan.  They had met in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port at the beginning of their Camino.  Karen had been worried about walking alone and she asked at her albergue if anyone would like to walk with her.  Chun-Yu from Taiwan said he would accompany her.  They had stuck together for the whole Camino and even slept in bunks beside each other.  Karen was quite a bit older than Chun-Yu, so they were an unusual pair.

I had my headlamps on for a bit, but I didn’t need them for long because there was enough light leaving Hornillos del Camino.  It was cold and gusty as we climbed up the Meseta and walked along.

Hornillos del Camino to Arroyo San Bol (5.7 km)


Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz


Hornillos del Camino to Arroyo San Bol


Hornillos del Camino to Arroyo San Bol


me on the Camino




Hornillos del Camino to Arroyo San Bol

As we dipped down into San Bol, the light was gorgeous: a sweep of corals, golds, purples and blues. I couldn’t stop marveling over the sunrise, the light on the fields, and the pink color of the clouds. It was truly magnificent.


Hornillos del Camino to Arroyo San Bol


Hornillos del Camino to Arroyo San Bol


Hornillos del Camino to Arroyo San Bol


Hornillos del Camino to Arroyo San Bol


Hornillos del Camino to Arroyo San Bol


I climbed out of the narrow Sanbol valley back onto the Meseta.

I met 18-year-old Anna from British Columbia doing the Camino because she took some kind of a test that revealed she had no “grit.” She wanted to prove she did in fact have grit, but she had encountered many obstacles.  She twisted her ankle and had to rest four days in Logroño.  Then she twisted it again.  Today, she was grappling with big blisters. She was quite funny telling how she tallied up the people she knew and figured she really liked 40% of people, 40% were okay, and 20% were so annoying she couldn’t stand to be around them. She planned to take a bus the next day from Castrojeriz.  She said last night in Hornillos someone stole all her underwear, so she had none at all.

After a long flat track with windmills in the distance under dramatic skies, we caught a glimpse of another classic pilgrim village tucked into a fold of the Meseta, Hontanas.

Arroyo San Bol to Hontanas (4.8 km)


Arroyo San Bol to Hontanas


Arroyo San Bol to Hontanas


Arroyo San Bol to Hontanas


Arroyo San Bol to Hontanas


Arroyo San Bol to Hontanas

At a café in Hontanas, a neat little town tucked into a dip in the Meseta, I sat with Anna and Karen and Chun-Yu and a Korean girl. I ran into Joan and Harold from Texas who I’d met back in Burgette after that long day over the Pyrenees. I had never learned their names but finally did today. They were also with us at that wonderful dinner in Muruzábal. Harold was dealing with major blisters but Joan had no problems except a pain in her calf.  They were both on their second marriages.

I walked past the solid parish church of the 14th century Conception, dominating the tiny village square.  It emanated an air of quiet reverence.


After Hontanas, I walked alone to San Antón where there are ruins of the ancient 14th-century Convento de San Antón. I passed under St. Anthony’s archway, Arco de San Antón, with recessed alcoves where monks left bread for pilgrims of old.  Now pilgrims leave sheaves of wheat and messages.The enormous arch once supported a roof.  Parts of the apse and the façade of the church, together with some main walls of the central nave, are still standing.

This was the ancient monastery and hospice of the Antonine Order founded in 11th century France and connected to the work of the hermit of St. Anthony of Egypt (San Antón Abad), patron saint of animals usually depicted with a pig at his feet. It was founded to care for those suffering from a disease similar to leprosy, known as St. Anthony’s fire. This was a fungal skin disease when often turned gangrenous and led to death. The members of the community wore a habit bearing the Greek letter tau (Ττ) on the front, which symbolized divine protection against evil and sickness.  This symbol was increasingly worn as the Cruz del Peregrino (Pilgrim Cross). The monastery was dissolved at the end of the 18th century.

Hontanas to San Antón (5.6 km)



San Antón


San Antón


San Antón



San Antón

Just past San Antón, I stopped for some orange juice and watermelon at an outdoor cafe where a breeze sprinkled the air with notes of mellow classical music.

After my lovely stop at the café, I walked the rest of the way into Castrojeriz, a sleepy town with a declining population of 500. The residents of Castrojeriz boast of having the longest urban crossing on the whole Way.  Ignoring the major cities, that might be the case. In fact the town is laid out along one long 2km winding road from start to finish. It has streets of imposing civil buildings and the Plaza Mayor, while the houses on Calle Mayor are examples of Castilian architecture.

Walking through Castrojeriz, I could see the 9th century Castillo, with Roman and Visigothic remains, and a scene of much fighting. These castle ruins sit on a hill overlooking the village. Castrojeriz rose to prominence during the reconquista and as a major stop on the medieval Camino with no less than eight pilgrim hospitals.

San Antón to Castrojeriz (Iglesia Santa María) (2.5 km)


San Antón to Castrojeriz


San Antón to Castrojeriz

At the entrance to the town, I stopped in the 14th-century Colegiata de La Virgen del Manzano, or Iglesia Santa María (collegiate church of Our Lady of the Apple). The church has a statue of St. James in pilgrim regalia festooned with scallop shells and a lovely statue of Our Lady. It has been renovated as a museum of sacred art.


Iglesia Santa María


Castrojeriz (Iglesia Santa María) to Castrojeriz (Plaza Mayor) (1.5 km)


castillo in Castrojeriz

I checked into the lovely albergue, Albergue Rosalía.  It had single beds laid out under a tall ceiling with large wooden beams.  It was a charming place, one of the better albergues on the Camino.


Albergue Rosalía

After my regular routine of shower and laundry, I walked up around the Iglesia de San Juan.


At a café in Castrojeriz, I had lunch with Rainer, a guy from Germany who had been walking around in his underwear when I checked into Albergue Rosalía. His bed was across from mine. He was quite the talker, but I honestly can’t remember what we talked about.


In the evening, we enjoyed a lovely pilgrim meal at Albergue Rosalía, a kind of paella but with noodles rather than rice, accompanied by hummus, salad, wine and chocolate mousse with sprinkles.  I enjoyed the company of Marianne and Mette from Denmark, Karen and Chun-Yu, Leli from Denver, Preethi from Canada, Kit from Toronto, and Rainer from Germany.


At the front, left to right, Rainer, Marianne & Mette, Chun-Yu and Karen


pilgrims at Albergue Rosalía

It was a stunning day all around, one of my top days on the Camino.  I thanked God for the many small blessings: Mike’s text about our older son, the sunrise, the cold weather, the light, the windmills, the wind, the gorgeous convent ruins and the mystical music at the cafe near San Antón.  I also asked God for forgiveness for my bitterness and anger over my youngest son. I was feeling nothing but love for the world by the end of the day.


*Day 21: Monday, September 24, 2018*

*31,166 steps, or 13.21 miles: Hornillos del Camino to Castrojeriz (20.1 km)*

You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:

Ruminations {week three}

The third week was by far the most difficult of my whole Camino. Though I found “angels” to direct me along the path, I was dealing with some major problems back home with my loved one, and felt demoralized and devastated by the whole situation. I felt much like the forlorn black-faced sunflowers I passed along the way.

We passed into Castilla y León, leaving the La Rioja region behind. We were heading into the dreaded Meseta. I was still struggling with the pilgrim stink, on myself and on other pilgrims, because of the relentless heat. I almost got run over by a truck in the town of Villafranca de Montes de Oca, a kind of truck thoroughfare. I walked in fog and in darkness, attending to haystacks, wildflowers, violet berries, patches of heather and ferns, small pine trees laced with spider webs, and fields of derelict sunflowers. I passed through unsightly industrial areas. I fell in love with early morning light, building-like haystacks, a rest area filled with totem poles, and Albergue Rosalía; I loved its single beds laid out under a tall ceiling with large wooden beams.

I had crazy times in the albergue in Atapuerca in a coed shower, laughing as I came out of the shower, bumping into the Aussies, Ray and Tony, in only their underwear.

I was disappointed that I accidentally missed a 4.9 km stretch of the Camino when I stayed at a hotel off the Camino and then got a ride with a fellow pilgrim that took me right past the town of Villamayor del Río, where I expected to be dropped off.

I continued to love stopping in churches, kneeling, and offering prayers for family, friends, fellow pilgrims, my country and the world.

As I walked and shared my struggles with other pilgrims, they shared intimately with me, about sons who were bipolar and had been repeatedly “locked up;” about lost sons and struggling sons; about the meaning of “grit;” about what was true and what wasn’t.

My third week, I connected with pilgrims with whom I shared a spirit of fellowship and laughter: Richard and Paul from Quebec; Tony and Ray from Australia; Simon and Karen from Britain; Anne from France, who was fearless about sleeping outdoors; Ingrid my old friend from Minnesota, who had fallen behind after pushing herself too hard; Glauco from Brazil who was walking for his two deceased sons and his wife’s ongoing pregnancy; Ludwig, who prayed in all the churches for Trump to have a stroke; David and Michelle, who believed that astronauts didn’t land on the moon, that the whole thing was staged. I met two Danish middle-school teachers, Marianne and Mette, who brought me much needed laughter. I met Karen and Chun-Yu, who had paired up for the duration of their Camino despite only meeting early on the Camino. I met Anne who was trying to prove she had “grit” but was confounded at every turn with twisted ankles and huge blisters. I met Joan and Harold from Texas, after not having seen them since Burgette.

I was ditched by some Virginians, Dick and his wife, for a planned dinner date in Burgos. A music festival pounded with loud music right outside my Burgos hotel. My whole time in Burgos, I felt devastated by horrible things my loved one said about me, and by his blocking of me from all social media. In Burgos, I lost my heart for my Camino and for life in general.

Darina from Slovakia had stopped off at Navarette for a week with some teaching colleagues and wrote to me periodically, but I didn’t see her during my third week. I found out through Instagram that the newlyweds, Claire and Matt, would be going to South Korea to teach with the English Program in Korea (EPIK).

I continued to be obsessed with collecting sellos (stamps) in my pilgrim credenciale.  I loved the pilgrim meals where people shared their reasons for doing the Camino and where fellowship evolved among pilgrims. It continued to feel like life in microcosm, parallel yet removed from my actual daily life.


On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.

This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk.