To Atapuerca

(Written yesterday, 18 April, but posted late due to Wi-Fi issues. Not all of the photos are uploaded properly here but I’m working on it. Sorry!)

I think I got my mojo back!

In early January when I was first working on hard planning for this trip, I had no real concept of kilometers or what the altitude maps really meant. While I used a lot of data to plan each leg, in a way it was still fairly arbitrary considering I didn’t understand the real physical conditions of the trail.

The leg I mapped for myself leaving Belorado is a perfect example.

I knew looking at the data that there was a steep climb a few towns beyond Belorado, plus a long 7+ mile stretch of very little. So making my itinerary in January, I decided I would walk from Belorado to Villafranca Montes de Oca, then climb the massive hill the next day when I was fresh again.

I am also now trying to race the sun. I did not expect massive flooding last week, and I certainly did not expect Seattle summer sun and heat this week. So it is true: I am not racing other pilgrims. We all reach the endpoint on our own timelines. But these days I am racing the high afternoon sun. I watch my shadow carefully, and as soon as it is behind me instead of in front of me, it is time to find shelter.

Good sign:

I woke up at 5 am this morning again despite being in a single room. This is ok. I checked Facebook, read some news (though I wish I didn’t), and was on the road by 6 am. I got to use my headlamp for the second time, Al!

…and… I was in Villafranca by 8:45 or so. Pilgrims who spent the night there were just getting kicked out of their albergues and hitting the road.

Well shoot. That was super poor midnight-at-my-computer-in-January planning.

I stopped at the bar, downed an espresso, used the banos, and hit the mountain. There are no photos. I was not happy. But I’m also tired of documenting my unhappiness every time I climb a hill. Suffice it to say, I made it to the top sweaty and disgruntled, but it worked out. I will probably never get used to climbing hills.

There was a Spanish civil war memorial about halfway up. Lots of pilgrims gathered around. I kept going.

Once it evened out I stopped to catch my breath. These hills/mountains/behemoths are crazy!

I promise I am trying very hard to stop complaining about climbing hills. No one is forcing me to do this.

This is pretty much what the woods looked like on the top of the mountain. I think it gets hot around here.

Once the climbing evened out and the path flattened, I started to feel much better. Do you want to know what really put a smile on my face? This impromptu bar that was set up right on the Camino. It was quite amazing, and complete with a menu board. I guess 10 am was too early for it to be open though.

The rest of the way was really very pleasant. Look, logs! Reminded of home. Again.

It was an incredible coincidence that I soon as I passed the logs and thought about Washington state, who should start trying to call me but my son Elliot! My phone kept hanging up on him, so it took about four tries before we had a good connection. It was one in the morning for him and I could hear all of his roommates in the background. He said that they’re all reading this blog and he wanted to say hi. Elliot, you have no idea how touched I am that you called me! I love you, little man; it was so great to hear your voice!

For Jen Walking: the music after the phone call with my kid was Tribe Called Quest’s latest album. It seemed appropriate after reading the news this morning about the Starbucks stores, another unarmed black man losing his life to police violence, and my son wanting to briefly dip into politics on the phone.

It was terribly incongruent rolling into the first monastic village on the path while Moving Backwards was playing though.

San Juan de Ortega is an amazing 12th s monastery … and the church was open! Hallelu!

The tomb of St Juan de Ortega:

So amazing.

There is a single albergue with an attached café next to the monastery. I’ve learned to never, ever pass a banos. I have yet to have an emergency out on the trail and I’m not about to tempt fate.

A new friend I had just met yesterday was sitting at the table out front. Allison from Chester, UK, was staying in the albergue there again tonight. I thought I got up and hit the road early; how did she beat me there? Her heel was hurting her so she took a bus from Belarado to St Juan. She told me that the bus was packed with pilgrims skipping the two days between Belorado and Burgos. I am not going to lie: I felt slightly jealous. Why must I always be tempted?

I learned a wonderful lesson from Alison today. She was staying at St Juan; I was moving on another couple miles. We both knew that the chances of meeting again on the trail are pretty slim. It’s ok to make connections and then let them go. I don’t need to make new best friends and attach with every person I meet. Buen Camino, Alison of Chester.

The rest of the walking today was really very pleasurable. The sun was still at my back, so I needed to fly down the path as quickly as possible. It was mostly flat or downhill, so no problem at all!

No problem, that is, until I came face-to-face with this group.

Suddenly I’m in a Swiss Miss commercial.

They were literally grazing on the side of the path. Suddenly I’m a city girl again.

Oh my God! Cows!

Are they evil like horses? Will they be mean? What will they do? Can they smell fear? Oh man!

I took pics as fast as I could … really so that if one of these Bessies takes me out, you all have a record.

I survived the evil cows and came upon this wonderful little village called Ages.

I was hungry for lunch, but decided last night I really need to cut back on bread-based meals, especially since I don’t eat much wheat at home (husband is allergic to gluten). I really just wanted a salad. The menu board said “salad” on the board but when I went in it was pasta salad. The senor was not happy with me when I rejected it. He was actually pretty grumpy overall. I cobbler together the best lunch I could of a large pineapple slice and a few slices of jamon. Hawaiian pizza without the pizza. I think the cafe owner thought I must have lost my mind but I don’t care. It was delicious.

Check out how cute this cafe is!

Oh, he has a juicer! I usually can’t pass up the fresh squeezed juice on the Camino (unlike any orange juice I’ve ever had in my life!), but he’s so grumpy I’m not even going to ask.

I finally reached my goal destination of Atapuerca just as the sun got intense. Thank goodness! I saw a few places advertising private rooms, but they were all 35-40€ like this place:

I found a park bench in the shade, pulled out my phone, and did a quick search on booking.com. Found a great looking place with a room for 20€ and it was only about 500 feet from me. Perfect!

After taking a shower to wash all of the day’s sweat off, I checked out this cute little village.

The town church:

And look at this scene behind the church:

These guys literally walked right up the hill to within 20 feet of me!

I had to back off because their guard dog was getting nervous about me. I don’t blame him; he’s got a job to do.

Cows and sheep in the same day.

Good night!

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