Day 12 - Belorado to Atapuerca

Trip Start Sep 03, 2012
1
13
36
Trip End Oct 07, 2012


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Where I stayed
Albergue Atapuerca (Atapuerca)

Flag of Spain  , Castile-León,
Thursday, September 13, 2012

Kms Walked Today: 24.3 + 6.1 km: 30.4 kms
Kms Walked in Total: 261.3 kms
Kms to Go: 520.7 kms (this doesn't fit with the kms on the signs. So either the guide book has 15 to 20kms extra or all the official signs are wrong. Funnily all other guide books differ from both of the above!)
Blisters: none
Pains: right ankle started hurting after 2 hours. It was the left one last week!

Another excellent night, with at least six complete hours of deep sleep. I'm really getting the hang of the albergue nights. I guess my wife won't be too chuffed when I push a bunk bed into out bedroom in London!

We slept with the large window open which was welcoming. The dorm was slightly lower than ground level, so the window opened up to the street. Round about ten o'clock the previous evening, two locals were walking buy and stopped to look in. One told the other "look its a pilgrims residence", and then I heard a terrible nose snot being inhaled, which he then proceeded to spit just outside the window. "Si, si" the other one said, and they walked off. I doubt they realised there was about twenty pilgrims looking at them.

I woke up at 4.50 am fully refreshed. As I had prepared everything in two lots (clothes to get dressed in a plastic bag, and the rest in the rucksack), it was as easy as picking both up, putting my sleeping bag on my shoulder and walking out to the bathrooms. I was changed and packed in ten minutes, released myself into the fresh and walked off.

I chomped my fruit as I left the town and walked over the Tiron River and into the dark. I knew I had at least two hours of head lamp walking until sunrise, so concentrated on the path and put my loyal radio on.

Far in the distance I could see the shapes of hills and mountains, reflected by quite a few explosions of lightning. For a second I thought I was in "The Lord of the Rings" and I was walking towards the Evil Place. I envisioned a pilgrim walking ahead and saying "My Precioussss...my bed, my precious".

To keep my mind away from Gollum and other evil creatures, I switched my stored music on. Again the first random song seemed to relate to the Camino. I related it to the american couple I saw yesterday who were totally exhausted, and to a few others who I have seen arguing on where to stay or how much to walk.

The song was by The Smiths, "I started something I couldn't finish"
"I started something,
Forced you to a zone,
And you were clearly never meant to go,
Hairbrushed and parted, typical me,
I started something and now I'm not too sure"

I didn't really see anyone else until close to 7am when I passed two pilgrims. I could swear that the one with the headlamp was completely drunk. He kept swaying from side to side, and the headlamp only made it more exaggerated.

By 7am I was hungry for some news on the weather as it was quite chilly (or "nipply and froddly" as a German friend says...I'm not sure where the froddly originates from). It had been drizzling from the right hand side for a few minutes, but in a manner that I was only wet on the right and completely dry on the left.

I changed the iPod to radio format and the sound was an annoying "come and go" when the signal is weak.

For some reason (and I'm sure there is a technical and scientific know how behind it), if I put my hand close to the pod it sounded better. It was nearly good if I held it up high to get a better signal without my body blocking it.

I then realised that if I attached it to the headlamp head-band it was much more comfortable, and a fantastic sound if I then balanced the ear-plug cables on the top of my head! I can only imagine what others thought when they saw me walking along the Camino imitating a balancing act.

Finally after 2 hours I bumped into Villafrance Montes de Oca (where originally Frank or French pilgrims installed themselves many centuries back). The first open bar was next to a lorry stop, and inevitably there was a bunch of truck drivers having their breakfasts. Full English? Think again...
Brandy and Anisette and nothing else!

I knew the roads next to the Camino had taken a few pilgrim lives (the crosses along the path are a good reminder of it. But I'm certainly going to avoid all the main roads as much as possible after seeing that.

The walk for the next couple of hours brought a change in scenery as it was surrounded by woods and freshness. Ups and downs though.

One of the really annoying things I have seen from day one along the Camino are the endless amounts of graffitti and writings by pilgrims.

Every pilgrim sign, piece of wood or tunnel is packed with comments such as "the present is everything, nothing else counts", or, "courage and strength".

Firstly they are changing the Camino instead of respecting it, and secondly I really don't need their silly little motivators. How old are they? Six?

If only I knew they could read my replies I would take some time to add "keep your silly thoughts too yourself" and "stick the pen up your nostril presently, not tomorrow."

I arrived at my original target of San Juan de Ortega at 10.30am. I had all day ahead, and wanted to scratch a few kilometres away to make the trip to Burgos on Friday shorter.

Even though my right ankle was not in the best of shapes, it was only another six kilometres to Atapuerca. I always wanted to go there as there are some caves where they found human remains from one million years back, plus lots of prehistoric remains. It sounded like a perfect afternoon activity.

So I had a lunch break at the minute village of San Juan de Ortega (coffee and a huge piece of "empanada de atun" which is a sort of tuna cake - 3,50 euros). There I coincided with the Singing Monk with whom I started walking to Atapuerca.

It was quite an interesting chat, with interrogations on both sides: jobs, previous walks, where we live, etc. He currently lives in New Zealand and is a teacher so enjoying his schoold holidays to do the walk. He must be an ex-monk as he spoke about his wife and children, whom he will meet to walk the last portion of the Camino at Sarria.

We arrived at Atapuerca around 11.15 and joined about twelve other pilgrims, of which I probably knew about six already.

While we waited for the albergue (El Peregrino at the start of the town) to open, I walked over to the Atapuerca information centre and found out when we can visit. The Singing Monk also wanted to join.

Sadly the visit to the real caves is only available at 11am, but we could visit their exhibition centre right there at 3.45pm. I later learnt that the visit to the caves is not very good as no one is allowed inside in order to protect the prehistoric paintings.

Monk and myself joined a Spanish group with a young guide and did the full tour. I translated to Monk as we went along and he greatly appreciated the effort. The exhibition is a very visual one on the evolution of man, hunting, farming, painting, building and making fire.

The guide showed us how the original men of the area would have hunt animals. He had quite some skill with the arrows and spears, and also allowed us to try throwing a couple. The last part of the tour involved going into a hut and while we sat down on wooden logs, he "made fire" by rubbing sticks, crashing stones, and other ways. Very entertaining.

It was only 4 euros with the Pilgrim passport. We are getting more and more discounts as we go along with it. Some villages like Najera allow pilgrims into the public pool for free with the passport.

It was good the exhibition was on as there is little else to do there, just a couple of albergues, a mini market and a bar.

Our albergue turned out to be excellent. 8 euros, but only six per room, and all clean and silent.

When we were walking back to the albergue after our visit, we found the two Swedes from yesterday sitting outside on the road side. We greeted them and asked if everything was alright.

The mother explained that she was in shock as she had just found out that her best friend died yesterday in a car crash. Only 45 years old. She wasn't really sure what to do as she was far away from everywhere, whether to continue the Camino or not.

The Singing Monk comforted her and immediately said that what was necessary was to do a "dinner for four" to cheer her up. We would cook for the Swedes in the albergue kitchen...the challenge had been set.

We crossed over to the mini market and bought what we could find, sharing the cost between us both.

Cooking started immediately and we set quite an acceptable meal given the limited food available in the market:
- cojonudo asparagus
- cooked vegetable salad
- loaf of bread
- spaghettis with tomato, onion and bacon
- wine

By the time we had set the table it was five of us as there was plenty of food. A Japanese chap in his thirties was allowed to join the feast.

It was also quite a fun dinner with lots of different stories. The Japanese is called Hijame (or something close) but he tells people to call him Jimmy. He is on his third Camino walk! I still don't understand walking it more than once. I guess I will have to wait until I finish before reaching any final conclusion.

The Swedes really appreciated the effort we had put, took a picture of us and then gave us gentle hug before going to bed.

I think it was the first evening that I felt some sort of group spirit been formed. However, the truth is that after Burgos we will probably not see much more of each other - that's what rest days do...you end up with people who started walking on different days. Nevermind - the Camino needs to be walked alone they say, and its always interesting to meet new people.
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