{camino day 28} bercianos del real camino to reliegos & ruminations {week 4}

I left this morning in the dark at 6:50. Several pilgrims and I went around in circles trying to follow the confusing arrows to the Camino.  Once we found our way, we continued on the senda (track) along a road for the entire way.  We passed a wetland reserve Laguna Olma and then took an asphalt road.  It was more of the same flat Meseta for over 7 km to El Burgo Ranero.

Bercianos del Real Camino to El Burgo Ranero (7.4 km)

In Burgo Ranero, at second breakfast, my dear friend Darina from Slovakia caught up with me!  She had stopped in Navarette for 5 days, so was one of the few people I started with who was still behind me.  It was so nice to see her again. It also showed how slowly I was going that she managed to take five days off and still catch up with me. 🙂

She stayed in the café to book an Airbnb for León, so I went on, stopping to admire the (closed) Iglesia de San Pedro Apostol.  The typical buildings of the town are of adobe style using mud and straw.

El Burgo Ranero


El Burgo Ranero


pilgrim sculpture in El Burgo Ranero


Iglesia de San Pedro Apostol


El Burgo Ranero

Back on the senda, I encountered some discarded hiking boots.  Cornfields stretched to either side.  I glimpsed the mountains of Galicia in the distance.  It was a long 13km from here to the next town of Reliegos, on a track that ran along a road with little traffic. This would be the second longest stretch of the Way without a town or village.

El Burgo Ranero to Cruce Villarmarco (7.9 km)


El Burgo Ranero to Cruce Villarmarco


El Burgo Ranero to Cruce Villarmarco


Cruce Villarmarco

A few things I saw on the way today: arrows fashioned from pebbles, crosses, pilgrim statues, corn stalks,  and small wetlands.  I also stopped for a snack at a huge concrete banquet table in a picnic area that looked like it was made for the Last Supper.

Cruce to Reliegos (5.2 km)


Cruce to Reliegos


Cruce to Reliegos


Cruce to Reliegos


Cruce to Reliegos

On this portion of the walk, I finally met 73-year-old Sharon, who was organizing the Camino for Sheryl, who I’d met several stops back.  Sharon’s husband John made up their threesome. Sharon told me she’d done the Camino seven times, and she told me in great detail all the different reasons she did it so many times, but it was too complicated to remember. When she finally asked about why I was doing it, I suddenly had a nature call and had to dip into the only wooded area we’d passed all day to pee.  There was evidence that lots of other people had stopped in this spot as well.


Cruce to Reliegos

As I walked into Reliegos, I was welcomed by a number of bodegas built into the surrounding hillocks, which provided constant humidity, temperature and darkness. Only a façade or a door was visible from the outside.  They are used in modern times as warehouses or for events such as family reunions.



Bodegas in Reliegos


Bodega in Reliegos

In Reliegos, the original Astorga-Bordeaux Roman road and the French Way originally crossed.

The owner at Albergue Parada was very unfriendly and unwelcoming.  He was probably the worst I met along the way. When I asked where to leave my bag to send it ahead the next day, he showed me but insisted that I had to make the arrangements with the transport company. This was the first time I had to do this, as all other albergues did it as a matter of course.  It was always a pain for me to make phone calls, not only because I didn’t speak decent Spanish, but because I always had to turn on the Travel Pass on my phone, which cost me $10/day. Luckily I found a Spanish guy who used my phone to make the arrangements with JacoTrans.


El Parada Albergue in Reliegos


Bar Elvis in Reliegos

After I settled into Albergue Parada, I met Darina for beer and lunch at the first café in town.  At siesta time, the whole town closed down.  The bar owner started closing up and we asked her to take a photo of us.  After the photo, Darina was picking up her stuff from the table, and the owner closed the umbrella over Darina’s head.  It was hilarious.  Darina said, “I guess she really wants her siesta!”


Darina and me

We walked around the sleeping town and took some photos of each other until we finally decided we might was well take our siestas.  I was never able to sleep in the afternoons, so that was when I caught up with Instagram and wrote in my journal.


door in Reliegos


Albergue in Reliegos


Darina in front of Albergue de Ada


me in front of Albergue de Ada





The local church was dedicated to San Cornelio (Saint Cornelius) (pope) and San Cipriano (Saint Cyprian) (bishop).


church bells in Reliegos

For dinner, Darina was having a pilgrim meal at her albergue, so I went to Bar Gil II for dinner.  I ordered a common Camino menu item that I’d never tried before, a Russian salad.  It was so disgusting, I couldn’t eat it. It still cost me 7€ along with a glass of vino tinto.  I talked for a while to Janine and Margaret from Australia and New Zealand. I talked way too much about my loved one and his issues and wished I hadn’t told them as much as I did.  Sometimes I just needed to learn to keep my mouth shut.

Ruminations {week four}

The fourth week, I became fully immersed in the relentless Meseta.  I crossed into the province of Palencia, or Tierra de Campos, an extensive agricultural area which served as the historical boundary between the kingdoms of Castilla and León.  I walked along the Canal de Castilla under a peaceful elm-lined path and on an original Roman road still intact after 2,000 years of use. I left behind the province of Palencia and crossed into Provincia de León, part of the autonomous region of Castille y León. I continued on the Tierra de Campos, with its flat and well-irrigated farmland.

The landscape was flat, monotonous and even hypnotic, with few visual references. The stony covering on the Roman road made the walk uncomfortable, with pebbles rolling out underfoot and causing ankles to twist repeatedly. Much of the path was on soulless sendas (trails) that ran alongside the pilgrim autopistas, or motorways. The path often had a certain sameness to it: flat, alongside a barely-trafficked road, lined on one side by evenly spaced trees that gave little shade. This kind of path was easy enough but rather repetitive and boring. It was especially hard at the end of the day, when it was hot.  I began to understand deeply the challenges of the Meseta. It seemed endlessly flat and the hours were long. I passed a sign that said LIFE IS A CAMINO, and I thought that about summed it up.

It wasn’t all miserable though.  The monotony was interspersed with  lovely rolling farmland dotted with rectangular and cylindrical hay bales. A stunning sky often hovered overhead.  Owls hooted morning greetings as the sun rose, while birds twittered in the rustling trees. I watched the harvest moon float downward to earth. A field of sunflowers seemed more vibrant than others I’d seen.  Ornamental grasses danced along a canal that held reflections of trees from the opposite shore.  On the fringes of the Meseta, wind turbines twirled on ridges. I encountered what looked like hobbit homes but were actually wine cellars, or bodegas. We had amazing views over the flat farmland, and often the distances looked daunting, with the endless plain stretching away to ephemeral towns on the horizon.

Many people say they hate the Meseta.  I could say I both loved and was bored by it. Hate was certainly too strong a word.  I often found it peaceful and soothing.  The worst were the roadside paths; the ones in the wild were much more enjoyable.

Extremes of temperature became more exaggerated.  It was often cold in the mornings and hot in the afternoons.  I had days where a pleasant breeze kept on giving. On others, wind was gusting and biting. On some stretches, I was annoyed by gnats and flies swarming around my face in the heat the whole way. I used my hiking poles like a baton, twirling them around and around to keep the flying insects at bay.

I stayed at the most charming albergue, Albergueria Laganares, where romantic French music was softly playing and the husband-and-wife owner openly flirted with each other.

I enjoyed lentil soup, bread, albondigas with French fries, pudding, croquettes, lasagna, and many “second breakfasts.” I tried and was disgusted by a Russian salad, ubiquitous on pilgrim menus.

I attended my first pilgrim mass in Carrión de los Condes.  After the all-Spanish mass, the two priests called the pilgrims up and read blessings in Spanish and English. They they placed their hands on each of our heads and said blessings on our Camino journey and on each and every day of our lives and did the sign of the cross on our foreheads. I was in tears.

My fourth week, I connected with pilgrims with whom I shared a spirit of fellowship and laughter. “Grit”-challenged Anna teased me about the “toe box” on my Keen Targhees, which she thought sounded macabre. I intersected often with friendly Karen and Simon from Norfolk, UK.  We sat outside drinking wine at Albergue Amanecer, where donkeys, geese, sheep and dogs wandered around the grounds, and a donkey tried to have a sip of our wine.  I saw them again in Carrión de los Condes  and Sahagún.  While with them,  I met Kate from London but originally from South Africa; she had lived in Dubai for a time and had visited Oman, so we shared our experiences there. I also met Adele and Bud from Tasmania. I ran into them all again, except for Kate, in San Nicolás del Real Camino at the first bar in town.  Later, I ran into Kate again, who was doing a walk of joy, a thanksgiving of sorts for people she loved who had been ill, and then got better.

One morning, in the dark, 30-year-old Anne-Charlotte from Lille, France appeared by my side and we shared our reasons for doing the Camino. She told me of her boyfriend who had been suffering from trauma because he was accused of stealing at his last job, so he hadn’t been able to work since. She came from a family where everyone had a good job and they couldn’t understand why she was with him. She had been walking from Le Puy-en-Velay for two months and figured it was her time to figure out her situation on her own without her family’s interference.

A Canadian guy from Ottowa who had been living in the mountains in Mexico said, from things he’d read, it seemed the U.S. was in the middle of a political civil war. I agreed completely.

One night, the Korean husband of a woman who spent all afternoon doing laundry, shook me violently and woke me up: “Snoring!!” I wished I’d had the wits to say, “Well at least I don’t sit there having my spouse slave away while I smoke, drink and play on my phone!”

I met Sheryl from Seattle, who was walking the Camino for her niece who was 30, addicted to meth, and in prison. Later, I met 73-year-old Sharon, who was organizing the Camino for Sheryl, booking shared rooms in hotels and transporting their bags ahead.  Sharon’s husband John made up their threesome. I would see them countless times during the rest of my Camino.

Darina from Slovakia had stopped off at Navarette for a week with some teaching colleagues.  She had written to me periodically through Whatsapp, so we’d kept in touch, but we finally caught up with each other again in El Burgo Ranero.  I was happy to share lunch and beer with her in Reliegos as well. Meeting up with her again became the highlight of the remainder of my Camino.

At one pilgrim meal, I met Marius and Simona from Lithuania.  Simona told how she stayed in an albergue whose owner had done the Camino many times.  This woman believed the Camino was a death walk: you shed who you were to make way for becoming someone new.

Back at the home front, I found out a childhood friend, Tammy, had killed herself the previous weekend.  I hadn’t seen her in years but had fond memories of her. My sons were getting ready to sign a lease and move into a new apartment. I hoped it would work out for them to live together, although I had my doubts.

I continued to be obsessed with collecting sellos (stamps) in my pilgrim credenciale.  I passed the halfway point (between St-Jean-pied-de-port and Santiago) in Terradillos de los Templarios.  I got my Halfway Compostela (between Pamplona and Santiago) in Sahagún.  I continued to enjoy the pilgrim meals where people shared their reasons for doing the Camino and where fellowship evolved among pilgrims, though these times of organized fellowship were becoming less frequent.


*Day 28: Monday, October 1, 2018*

*33,513 steps, or 13.78 miles: Bercianos del Real Camino to Reliegos (20.2 km)*

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


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 Capelas Sáo Miguel – not quite a Monday walk. I know Jo is out of town for a while, but I figured I’d link anyway. 🙂