30 May: Rabe de las Calzadas to Hontanas

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When we started walking, just the boys and I, it was strange to just be the three of us. When Rob arrived with the girls, he kept counting heads and thinking someone was missing.
Today felt empty. Only one body fewer, but we felt incomplete.

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That said, we may have had our best walking day yet!

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We set out from Rabe, climbed the gentle hills, plodded across the first flats and soon after 11am realised we were approaching the final downhill. Kids were keen to walk on. Do you hear that? We had walked 19km, but they wanted to keep going, especially the one with the shortest legs. All the same, I made the call to stop. A sign offering 5euro beds and photos promising good facilities lured us away from our intended municipal destination and we were booked in, beds chosen and messaging home by noon.
For most of the morning the children had walked far ahead of me, completely out of sight, but at the same time entirely safe. I only caught up with them when the track turned to mud and their walking turned to playing!

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Skipping down the hill into Hontanas, Ella-Rose commented, “I seem to walk better without Daddy, but I don’t know why.” Aware good days can be followed by monstrous mornings, I think it might be a little premature to make generalisations just yet!

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Destination: Hontanas
Distance: 19km
Cumulative DIstance: 584km
416km to go to 1,000km
(today passed the 469km to go to Santiago spot – and got the stamp in our journals, so even if we just stayed on this route, we would make the 1,000 before Santiago, but we are still planning on heading north at Leon for some mountain walking…….kids are talking about definitely walking out to Finisterre and Muxia afterwards…..AND today the suggestion was made for the first time that if there is time we could take a bus back to Astorga and walk the same part we did last time again….we’ll see!!!)
Weather: 12 degree start, 16 degree max – excellent walking weather
Dinner: spaghetti made with ingredients found in the teeny tiny tienda (grocer shop with a couple of shelves) and a garlic head we’ve been carrying!! (Both breakfast and lunch were chocolate pastries – I don’t hear any kids complaining!! But don’t let me deceive you – we did also consume a loaf of crusty bread and wedge of brie as well for lunch!)

WORDPRESS tells me some of the photos have not uploaded, but when I look at the preview they are all there – so I cannot tell which ones are absent – apologies. Additionally, WordPress has changed the process and I can no longer choose the size, and I have no idea what is uploading. Hope they’re OK.

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29 May: Burgos to Rabe de las Calzadas

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He didn’t listen to the man standing outside the bus station…..the one who was telling him to stop and not go….

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An hour earlier we had been eating a final lunch together. The chef must have wondered what was wrong as half the party took turns at bursting into tears!!

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Those final moments of leaving are awful, but I think the anticipation is worse. Once the bus pulled out of the station a few more tears fell and there were some wobbly voices, but there was also a job to be done….and so we began to walk. What a good decision that was. Going back to the same room where we had just enjoyed time with Daddy would have been harder….tramping the streets, following arrows, moving onwards and upwards gave us something to do.
We went looking for blessings and we found them…at one point the pollen was falling so thick and fast it was like being in a swirling snowstorm. We thought we were silly walking along the street blowing out to avoid inhaling some of the white puff-balls….until we noticed everyone else was doing it too. It was quite amazing.
Later we found poppies…

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Even better was the vespers we spontaneously decided to attend at the monastery. We were ushered into the front row (worst place to be when you don’t know what to do coz you’re always too late realising everyone is now standing up or kneeling or whatever!), given prayer books and shown love. We were showered with love even though we did everything wrong. And our particularly fragile child, hurting with the parting, was particularly touched that we had to respond a number of times with, “No estoy yo solo”, which I translated for the kids as, “I am not alone”. It was good to remember that while we walk on without Daddy, we are not alone. Our Heavenly Father walks with us, and indeed has prepared the way. We were also able to talk about how many of the people we walk for are also separated from their fathers – but permanently due to death. We are blessed to be able to choose to sacrifice.

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Destination: Rabe de las Calzadas
Distance: 15km
Cumulative Distance: 565km
435km to go to 1,000
Weather: 17degrees, clear and cloudy, drizzly and not
Dinner: cheese and chorizo roll – but you should have seen the lunch!

28 May: Burgos Day 2

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If you had told the kids they would spend three hours at the cathedral this morning there may have been a revolt to make the Moors proud. But that’s how long we stayed and we had to drag them away, because the adults were hungry!
We have seen quite a few churches on this trip and our reactions to them have been mixed. Some have been very simple humble places with a feeling of peace – others have been ornately decorated, but left us cold. Burgos Cathedral – for us – was awe-inspiring. It was not that we particularly *liked* it, because in many ways we didn’t (none of us are fond of Baroque ornamentation and there was plenty of that)……but the story of how the cathedral grew over almost a thousand years and thoughts of the thousands of people who have worked on it and the magnificence and massive reconstructions and the spire that collapsed and El Cid’s actual coffer all captured our imaginations.

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We all learnt a lot through listening to the excellent audio guide and then a couple of the kids sat down to copy a picture of El Cid while the rest of us watched a video of the history of the cathedral.

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It was a wonderful way to spend a cold wet day in Burgos.

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Destination: no change – still Burgos
Distance: almost 20km for most of us and another 4km for the Mama who went hunting for chocolate for Daddy to take home
Weather: wet and 13 degrees
Dinner: salad at the pension, because we like our veges, and then fries, chicken and doner kebab meat afterwards
And the daily pastry sampling:

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This lady saw the kids peering in the window while Mama made the purchases and wrapped up some biscuits for them too!
And final silliness of the day on the way to dinner – we thought posing beside these dudes would make us look skinny!

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27 May: Burgos

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Sort out phone issues – check
Buy bus ticket to Madrid – check
Book accommodation for the place we will arrive at late the day Rob leaves – check
Find a supermarket – check
Find special places to eat the next couple of days – check
Buy some little somethings for the family – check
Find an Opinel knife for Rob – check
Let the kids spend some of their money from Gran and Grandpa – check (oh, the fun they had doing that)
Take a squiz at the cathedral (but save The Visit Proper for tomorrow)

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Wander, wander, wander coz it seems we just can’t stop walking…..and take some touristy photos with some of the many statues around town

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Destination: no change – Burgos
Distance walked: 21.4km trotting round town then the Mama did another 3 looking for undies for a child who has managed to lose the elastic in two pair – and we only brought three each! We’re not counting it towards the final total though.

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Weather: absolutely gorgeous, got to 17 degrees
Dinner: who cares when we had these massive custard buns for lunch? (and a cream bun with almonds on top very soon after breakfast!!)

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26 May: Ages to Burgos

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We waited in line at the municipal albergue. Although we had had a very slow start (didn’t get away until after 8am and then you wouldn’t believe it, but the fact that toothpaste had been put on the wrong toothbrush tipped yesterday’s Miss Superwalker over the edge and the mama sat with her on the side of the road for a very very very long time until she was ready to walk With A Good Attitude)…..so as I was saying, although we hardly got going until lunchtime, we made good time and were waiting in line at the 130-bed albergue before 3pm. I presented our pile of credencials and the hospitalero explained there were only two beds left. Without the delay – in fact one minute sooner and we would have been in front of the group of six that got those beds we felt like collapsing into! Time to traipse round town looking for somewhere without a “completo” sign pinned to the door. We decided that was not the moment to talk to Smallest Child about the consequences of her actions!
Anyway….we ended up in a very nice little pension, funnily enough, with some of the folks we have been seeing for the past few days….and then a bunch of us all ate at the same restaurant this evening too, so although we were not at the usual type of albergue we have been frequenting, we still have the camino community feel.
That said, we have switched gears. We are officially on holiday for the next two and a half days. No one will keep us awake with snoring. No alarm clock will wake us at 5 and there will not be the rustling of plastic bags and sleeping bags being stuffed into packs. We have sheets to sleep between and beds instead of bunks to sleep in. We do not have to be out of the room early. We will be in the same place for more than one night. We will not don our walking clothes in the morning, but will wear our “after clothes” all day.

Destination: Burgos
Distance: 24km to town, another 2km looking for somewhere to stay
Cumulative Distance: 550km
450km to go to 1,000km (then we continue on to Santiago and maybe Finisterre and Muxia on the coast)
Weather: 6 degree start, but doubled during the day – feels cold to us kiwis!!
Dinner:

20140526-210741.jpg First plates…..followed by fish or hamburger pattie and salad and fries……accompanied of course by bread, wine and water….then the children were Cultural Disappointments and chose icecream cones over the local rice pudding for dessert! They missed out.

25 May: Tosantos to Ages

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“what we saw today” was going to be today’s post, but when Ella-Rose walked SO INCREDIBLY WELL we decided that had to be the focus.
After hesitating about getting in to Burgos we changed our minds and decided to get there in two days to give Rob a bit of time for chorizo and cheese buying!
So we knew today was going to be around the 24km mark, which is about seven more than she is happy with! Not long after first lunch (a peach and slice of apple cake), she obviously decided she was done, but she walked on. An hour later she was still lagging behind, but at the same time still walking forwards. Ultreia. Onwards and upwards.
After 20km and second lunch (cheese in croissants, salted nuts and corn and broad beans – yes really) she tripped off down the hill with a new lease of life for the final 4km.

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Nearly there – town in sight….

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Destination: Ages
Distance: 24+km
Cumulative Distance: 524km
476km to go to 1,000
Weather: never warmed up all day, but rain held off (people walking a half day behind us have been saturated for the last few days so we have been very fortunate)
Dinner: homemade empanadas straight from the oven

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Mmm

24 May: Belorado to Tosantos

Two weeks ago we hurried into Pamplona as if somehow our arriving would make Rob and the girls come quicker.
Now we’re doing the opposite.
Rob leaves in under a week – from Burgos. Yesterday the road sign stated 50km to Burgos. Delaying our arrival there makes the inevitable departure seem further away!
We could have been there tomorrow, which would have allowed plenty of time for us to walk on further with daddy, but a couple of nights ago we made a new plan, deciding to stop there with him for a few days.
Yesterday we altered the plan again.
We stopped in Belorado, had a delightful afternoon, lots of fun playing cards with a couple of Englishmen and an American girl who are all cycling the route backwards (and then some), and rather than moving on a respectable distance today, opted for the mere 5km that would allow us to stay in this place, Tosantos, we had been looking forward to.
5km would have taken our cumulative walking total to 499km, so we made sure we walked about in Belorado before setting out!
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It turned out to be a good decision. It meant we had time first thing to accompany a Spanish couple to the Emergency Department which we had found yesterday, and they in turn told us how to ask for medication for an eye infection (Rob’s). Being Saturday, the farmacia didn’t open until 10 and so we wouldn’t have been able to make big miles even if we’d wanted to. As it was only 6 degrees and we had to be out of our lodgings by 8am, we deposited ourselves in the only open bar, consumed pastries, played cards and made contact with family (yay for wifi). A big tv blared the news of today – Madrid plays Madrid in the European Cup final. Any bar in Spain will be a wild place to be about midnight!
But we would be in an albergue that would require silence from 10:30. However, that doesn’t mean we missed out on celebrations. Upon arrival, we discovered not only would there be the fun communal meal and prayer service, but it was the day for a fiesta in the village. Everyone turned out – some stood outside the church while mass went on, others zipped in and out of the church, and we stood at the back marvelling at all the Santa Maria’s that were said in unison by those who were particpating. Then we were invited out with everyone else to join the procession to go up the “mountain” (small hill) to the chapel in the rock.

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Something happened up there and we were able to peek inside (excuse the vagueness, but we really don’t know what was going on, and quite frankly it looked like it was being made up on the spot, although the romantics would like to think they were following a many-years-old tradition), then everyone walked back down again. All the while the church bell was tolled, a drummer and piper made music and various banners and artifacts were carried ceremoniously.
Dinner was a raucous affair – at least post-dinner was.
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Thirty-five people around the tables burst into song and each nationality was required to sing. It was a lot of fun.
Time marched on (especially as dinner did not start until 8) and while we were tempted to pack the kids off to bed, we let them stay up for the prayer service. They were pleased we did! Spanish, German, Italian, English, Latin – each language was used, either in prayers or song or readings. Prayers from previous pilgrims were read out and there was a time of silence. Ella-Rose summed it up: I was glad to stay up and it was cool, but the silence bit I didn’t get. I guess our church experience is not so focussed on contemplation!
Because the kids had set the table and the adults participated in the food preparations we did not feel bad tumbling onto our mattresses on the floor instead of helping with dishes….and we slept like logs.

Destination: Tosantos
Distance: 6.5km
Cumulative Distance: 500km
500km to go to 1,000km
Weather: cold!
Dinner: salad with bread and oil and vinegar followed by hearty lentil soup with more bread…and an apple

23 May: Granon to Belorado

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Water, Wind and Wheat today.
The wheat was on either side of us all the way, and a bit of barley too.
The water came from the sky. Thankfully it was not much more than a light slightly persistent drizzle. Even better, it did not last more than a couple of hours.
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The wind was quite another story. Have you ever walked in the wind? Take a moment to remember what it was like. When it’s a head wind, it blows your hair back behind you, it blows your clothes against you until they balloon behind you, it blows until the front of you is cold, it blows until it bites. It whips any bare skin. It whistles in your ears – oh the whistling; constant, non-ceasing, ever-present. Today’s wind used all its strength to chase us backwards along the path – we plodded on, slogged on, determined to put one foot in front of the other. Even in the hollows between hills there was no hiding from it. Wherever we went, it found us, pursued us, relentlessly pushed us backwards. Eventually I cried out, “Would someone turn the wind off?” The noise was incessant, and the blowing just Did Not Stop.
So we did!
We had been planning on going to Tosantos tonight, another 5km away. But we discovered Belorado to be a quaint wee place with castle ruins and a supermarket and a bull ring and a museum and medieval walls and a convent and churches (in spite of Wikipedia having nothing to say about it other than the fact that it’s a town on the Camino de Santiago), and so we decided to stay.
We zipped up the hill to the castle ruins…..much more ruin than castle! The kids explored quickly, discovered a cave and forest, and they were off.
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Such fun was to be had, such adventure. Then Daddy made it even better by suggesting they try to steal back to us undetected while we sat largely sheltered from the continuing wind on the grass beneath the ruined walls with the sun warming our backs.
After the first round Daddy got into the adventure himself and while the kids were scouting round a far hill we snuck off to ambush them!
The fun was further augmented on the way back down the hill when we saw a stork come in to land on its nest on the church tower – usually they are high above us; this time we had a prime viewing spot up above their nests.

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Destination: Belorado
Distance: 17km
Cumulative Distance: 494km
506km to go to 1,000…a few days more to Santiago
Weather: windy, wet and cold (12 degrees tops)
Dinner: bread and thick soup – chorizo and bacon with garlic, onion, carrots, lentils, peppers, tomatoes, peas, sweetcorn and alphabet pasta – delish!

22 May: Ciruena to Granon

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Water, wind and waiting….
It’s been a good day for charity:water discussions and we found a great water fountain.

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We’ve been noticing all the irrigation – massive quantities of water are moved around and consequently crops green the landscape.

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Then there was the wind……a gusty blustery wind that we had to walk straight into! It blew away any warmth in the sun and dropped the temperature to a number that would be winter for us in NZ! Furthermore, it accompanied us the whole way (not that it was far – we were doing a short distance in order to end up at the parochial albergue in Granon, which we have heard wonderful stories about)
And that brings us to the waiting:

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As Tessa said, “We don’t seem to be having much luck with our churches.”
So we have booked in to the other albergue in town and will wait the day away and initially thought we might be able to go to the other one tomorrow BUT it took less than half an hour to walk every street of the town and we are wondering what we are going to do for the rest of the day (it’s only 3pm) and cannot imagine a whole day here! Besides, the cynic in us suspects the sign may have been on the door for longer than just today and that it might still be there tomorrow leaving a long stream of pilgrims thinking they missed out by just a day!

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So we’ll spend the evening in a bit of a hippie-ish place with amateur paintings on the walls, joss sticks burning, wine bottle candle holders…..communal dinner at 8pm, which may call for an update later.

destination: Granon
Distance: 16km
Cumulative Distance: 477km
533km to 1,000
Weather: WINDY and COLD (all of us are wearing thermals and some of us are wearing everything we brought!)

Update:
Writing a script for a little movie piece filled in some time – more on that tomorrow perhaps.
Mass at 7pm filled in some more time. Not being familiar with Catholic liturgy, very little was understandable. The Lord’s Prayer, the passing of the peace, random words like Father Son table bread wine alleluia sanctification camino and pilgrim caught our attention. But even if we had not understood the call for pilgrims to come forward for a blessing, the old men in the congregation left us in no doubt with their friendly hiss and hand signals to urge us us to the front.
A discussion with a Polish lady filled in time until dinner and then continued over the food (oooh the language skills are rusty after 25 years – although she kindly pointed out we could communicate and that’s the most important….and now we know how to say “to google” in Polish, a word that wasn’t even invented when we were there!)
And what food it was.
Fresh salad, bread, pasta, a most tasty lentil soup and wine were on the table. Rob and the kids were called away and taken down the road to the bakery. After they had sung the national anthem in English and Maori they were presented with baked potatoes straight from the oven, which they carried back up the street, wearing coloured wigs and singing, “Food glorious food…….”
It was not the evening we had planned or hoped for, but it turned out very special nonetheless.

Ciruena

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A ghost town.
There’s a big flash golf club.
There are rows of apartments, streets of duplex houses and even some standalone houses on huge sections.
And most of them have ForSale signs in the windows. None of them look occupied. That, despite the fact that there are great facilities – the community rubbish bins are all lined up, there is a green turf soccer field and basketball court, there is communal fitness equipment, and the children’s playground has a flying fox as well as all the usual equipment.
There are just no people.

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But there are people in Spain with nowhere to live. There are even more with no jobs.

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We met this enterprising pair today. They had set up “shop” at the top of a climb and offered cold drinks, fruit, biscuits and camino trinkets for whatever you wanted to give. They had a steady stream of business, but I wondered how you could make a living on-selling a box of food each day. Most probably, they can’t. Which might explain why they invited us to take their photo back to New Zealand and find them a wife!