Stage 6 - Across the Meseta

7-13 September

breakfast The route out of Burgos is rather less taxing than the route in, and we were soon out of the city and into tracks between villages. My companions at this point were the two German women and the Spanish man I had met along the way. All of us traveling as individuals, and for different reasons. They are pictured here at breakfast. Breakfast was for me the 'reward' for having completed the first 10 kilometers or so of the days walk. As many bars don't open until about 9am and I started walking normally at 7am it was in any case often the first opportunity to buy a cafe con leche. On our way out of the city we were approached by a nun who was handing 'miraculous medals' to all the pilgrims. I met a number of pilgrims wearing them later on - including some who had little connection with the Catholic Church or the medal and the tradition that goes with it. For anyone who kept their medal and wants to know more about it see this website.

The Camino across the Meseta The Meseta is the huge central plain of Spain, roughly a circle 250km in diameter, and about 900m above sea level The agriculture is largely cereal crops. In the spring it is very green, but by the summer it turns yellow and becomes very dusty. By the time I was there the harvest had been and gone, and so the land was a patchwork of yellows, browns, the white of chalk and the terracotta of red clay soils. In places it is very flat, in other places it is crossed by rivers in wide valleys and so presents a more undulating terrain. This picture shows the path descending into one of those valleys towards the end of my first day on the plain.

Some find the Meseta rather monotonous. I found the great expanse of open land and patchwork countryside very beautiful. That was helped by superb weather, with blue skies and high broken cloud and a gentle breeze most of the time. Perfect walking weather and quite photogenic also.

Convento di San Anton There are several particularly interesting locations along this part of the journey. This picture is of the ruins of the Convento di San Anton, originally a large hostel for pilgrims, and the road still goes under its arches. A small refuge has now been opened in the ruins so it has been returned to its original usage.

According to my journal - I wrote two or three pages a day in a small notebook - this was the first day when I walked entirely alone. Somehow this felt right, and of course I met up with people I knew at various stopping points, especially at the hostel at the end.

Rollo, Boadilla The day ended at the village of Boadilla del Camino, which boasts this rather fine 15th century column or rollo seen in this picture. The village has two hostels. The municipal one is very basic, but there is also a rather nicer privately run one which has a lounge and a pool.

sculpture, Boadillo

Artwork of one form or another and from all periods is seen along the journey, some of which has already been illustrated. I was rather struck by this sculpture of two pilgrims in the grounds of the hostel. Certainly they look as tired as I felt at the end of the day. But it was a lovely warm afternoon so I soon recovered and even my socks dried quickly!

Santa Maria la Blanca Towards the end of the following day's walk I came to the village of Villacazar de Sirga, which is dominated by the most magnificent church of Santa Maria la Blanca. This shot tries to give an impression of the soaring Gothic arches. The church also has wonderful portals. Church architecture along the camino is quite varied, though Gothic and Romanesque are the dominant styles. Sometimes magnificent exteriors would lead to rather disappointing interiors. At other times a fairly ordinary exterior would open into something rather more beautiful. In Villacazar the exterior promised much, and the interior did not disappoint.

My next stop was Carrion de los Condes, where it seems I must have drunk some dodgy water, so by the next day at Ledigos I was quite unwell, and I was not alone. The following day I only managed a few kilometers before getting a lift from the pilgrim service to Sahagun and booking in to a hotel. The proximity of a bathroom was important! No photos from this phase as I was no really concentrating on such things.

Meseta The next day I was feeling better to I ate something light and decided to continue on. For much of the day the Meseta was about as flat as it gets, as illustrated here, and it was hard to believe we were some 800m above sea level. I eventually reached Reliegos a walk of some 30 kilometers. But I had pushed it too hard and was unwell again. At this point I was on the verge of giving up. I looked up some flights on the internet, discovered one good deal a few days ahead, and planned to get to the English College at Valladolid and from there head home. With that thought I headed to my bunk.

sunrise The next day I had to walk a relatively short distance (about 5 Km) to Mansanilla de las Mulas, a small town with a bus station. I was feeling rather dejected, but in my dejection I was greeted by perhaps the most magnificent sunrise of the entire trip. I managed to appreciate it (and photograph it!) despite feeling very low. Anyway I got to Mansanilla, failed to get in touch with Valladolid, and got a bus to Leon.