El Camino Frances

The Traditional Route from France

Eastern Meseta

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Burgos to Castrojeriz

26 May 1993 and 11/12 June 2002

The way out of Burgos is through another industrial zone and railway sidings. Then for several days the Camino crosses the high meseta of northern Spain. This is not the flat plain I had imagined and there were quite a few steep climbs where rivers and streams had cut through the countryside.

1993. After only 8km we stopped at the hotel in Tardajos for a slow breakfast of coffee and pastries then found the village shop to buy supplies for lunch. This was a slow process because the two housewives in the queue before us wanted to know where we all came from and what families we had left behind. This was such a pleasant change from the impersonal city of Burgos just a few kilometres down the road.

The Meseta after Rabe

Between here and the next village, Rabé de las Calzadas, I was accompanied by a nun who was walking to the hermitage in Rabé before returning to her home in Bilbao the next day. Rabé is the real start to the meseta and, at the fuente in the single street, we picked up the final member of our gang, Cruz, a Spanish girl from Madrid.

2002. After buying food in Tardajos we arrived in Rabé just before the refugio opened at 3pm. The hospitalera provides dinner here at 8pm so we had a snack and a siesta in the shade and were able to read the UK newspapers I had bought in Burgos. Dinner was taken around a large table and we then shared our wine and got to know the other pilgrims.

poppies

We made an early start so that we could get to Castrojeriz before the sun became too hot. In 2002 we had six days in a row when the temperature exceeded 40C and there is very little shade on the meseta.

The land around here is very stony and, what has not been used for dry stone walls is built into in huge piles at the edges of the fields. Cereals are the main crops but there is also some alfalfa for fodder. Poppies grow as weeds among the crops and after the main crops are harvested the poppy seeds grow to form a red carpet across the land.

Sambol

On both my journeys across this stage I found nothing open in the village of Hornillos but was able to refill my water bottles at a fuente. The next stop is Arroyo Sambol which is not a village at all but an isolated building about 300m off the Camino. In 1993 the building was unlocked and we used this for shade and a siesta. This was prolonged because we had lots of wet clothes to hang out to dry.

2002. Sambol had gained a hospitalero, Udo, who made coffee for us. The place is still very basic with no showers and the bushes used for toilets. Our group had straggled out along the Camino so that we could be left alone with our thoughts in the wide open spaces. We gathered in Sambol to decide where to head for that evening then set off to walk alone again.

Hontanas

The village of Hontanas is hidden in a valley and appears suddenly out of the featureless meseta. There is a refugio here and bars for food. On both occasions I continued through here and on to Castrojeriz for the night.

San Anton

Between Hontanas and Castrojeriz is the ruined convent of San Antón where a remaining arch spans the road. There is a shady place to rest here and I believe that there is now a basic refugio amongst the ruins.

There are only another two and a half kilometres to the start of Castrojeriz but the town is stretched out along the foot of a hill and the walk to the nearest accommodation can seem never ending. In 1993 I stayed in the municipal refugio but in 2002 I noticed a special discount for pilgrims in one of the hotels and treated myself to a room with a bathroom and large fluffy towels.

Castrojeriz is a market town and there are plenty of shops and restaurants to serve travellers.