06 to 09 July 2015 – Camino de Santiago part 2, to Leon

I think I ought to slow down now I’m forty, maybe take it easy, kick back and relax…nah…maybe when I’m seventy.

Here are my routes and stats for the last few days.

I should probably be calling this route the Camino de Frances rather than the Camino de Santiago, as the latter refers to lots of different pilgrim routes that end up in Santiago de Compostela, as far as I can tell anyway. I’ll be following a different Camino de Santiago South to Seville, along the Ruta de la Plata.

–> 06 July – to Burgos
Just 68km covered today, to get to Burgos, taking 4 hours and 30 mins of pedalling.

My room in Santo Domingo dela Calzada - doesn't take long to make it messy!

My room in Santo Domingo dela Calzada – doesn’t take long to make it messy!

I paired up with Richard again for the day’s ride, and will do as far as Leon. After a brilliant night’s sleep and a wonderful birthday with Mum and Dad we set off in good time, keen to avoid as much of the heat as possible; the hottest part of the day tends to be from 15.00 to 18.00.

My parents had a lie in, but intended to follow us to Burgos before heading back towards the coast tomorrow. We bid them a temporary ‘adios’ and pedalled off, stopping in a small town 10km down the road for breakfast, along with several other walkers and cyclists with the same idea.

The espresso I had may have been decaf, but it definitely perked me up, as did the tortilla sandwich. The route took us west, passing gently through more small towns and villages, farmland and endless fields of corn. Unfortunately the N120 was much busier today as there was no motorway running alongside it, so the cycling wasn’t as fun; it reminded me a bit of the E04 in Sweden – not very relaxing.

Mum and Dad passed us just as we started a very long climb, up to over 3,500 feet according to my Garmin, which is higher than the pass over the Pyrenees to Roncevaux. The climb was tough, but this was mainly due to the traffic and heat. I did get a shout of ‘allez allez’ from workmen half way up which spurred me on.

We had a break at the top, and munched on some of the sweets and energy bars I got for my birthday (thanks Will & Louisa, Seb and Anna!). After another stretch we stopped at a roadside restaurant for a spot of lunch, and to get out of the annoying hot wind that had sprung up.

Lunch break - bring it on

Lunch break – bring it on

The road remained fairly high for the rest of the day, but at least it was mostly flat, and we were able to cycle next to it on the walkers trail for quite a while. We arrived at a campsite on the outskirts of Burgos at about 15.00. Mum and Dad had already arrived, post a visit to the cathedral in the city to see the tomb of El Cid, and had a cold beer waiting for us which was much appreciated; very hot day again.

My parents had to head South to another Parador after a little while, and are now on their way home, but it was great to see them; see you in a few months, if not before if you decide on another visit! I spent the rest of the afternoon having a siesta, reading, and chatting to Richard; typically the wifi was broken so no blog updates possible.

Just before 10 o’clock a friendly face appeared; River arrived having pedalled all the way from Santo Domingo dela Calzada, a great effort considering he only used the walker’s trail, which adds on several kilometres and has more steep sections, and he’d already been into and out of Burgos looking for the campsite. Needless to say he was shattered, so we fed him some beer to recuperate, and he cooked up some noodles he’d carried all the way from Wallmart in America.

Tomorrow we planned an early start, breakfast in Burgos and on to Carrion de los Condes.

–> 07 July – to Carrion de los Condes
I was expecting about an 85km ride today, but it turned out to be 93km, in about 6.5 hours of decent but hot riding.

Morning in Burgos

Morning in Burgos

We were up at 06.00, and it was still dark which was a novel experience for the morning, and pretty cool if not chill to start off with. We were just about ready to set off by 07.00, however after yesterday’s ride River was understandably a little tired, so we didn’t leave the campsite until closer to 07.30, pedalling the few kilometres down the road to Burgos for some breakfast.

The cathedral in Burgos is pretty impressive, as is the city itself. It would be good to have a proper look around it and visit the tomb of El Cid, however at this point we were more focussed on breakfast and getting some distance done before it got too hot. River joined us for breakfast, but then decided to go at his own pace and stop before Carrion de los Condes. Whilst in the cafe we saw pictures and film of some pf the bull running in Pamplona on TV. It looked pretty harsh, with masses of people running through the streets alongside, or being chased by frightened bulls.  We saw film of several people being trampled or bashed up against walls, and one person lying in a pool of blood, perhaps after being gored; not very pleasant but the Spanish seem to love it, even though people are killed every year.

It was sad to say goodbye to River, who flies back to Korea in 10 days before going on to Japan, but Richard and I had to get underway. Somehow I still expect him to pop up somewhere on the route, who knows!? I’ll definitely visit him in Korea should I make it out that way in the future. Thanks for the company River, and safe travels 🙂

We followed the Camino de Santiago walker’s trail for the first part of the ride, which proved to  be great riding, if a little bumpy and hilly, with great scenery. We had to be a little careful due to the large number of walkers, some in large groups, including a priest with a small flock; lots of opportunities for ‘Buen Camino’.

In Hontanos, another small but delightful Spainish town nestled in the hills, we stopped for an early lunch break at an Aubergue; I checked in via Twitter – you find wifi in the strangest of places.

Shortly after Huntanos we joined roads for the rest of the day, which were lovely and quiet and took us through some amazing scenery, passing old convents, castles and pretty villages.

The old buildings and scenery got me thinking about what it must have been like here centuries ago, perhaps not that different, with Lords and Ladies living in the castles, and people working in the fields. It’s nice riding with someone and being able to talk about such things; we wondered how much influence the Knight’s Templar had in the area, as you see mention of them in place names, and Templar symbols occasionally.

It was tough riding due to the heat again, and the hot wind that springs up in the afternoon that dries your mouth out and can leave you gasping. We stopped in a little town called Boadilla del Camino for a break from the heat, at the local pilgrim’s Aubergue; a bit of an oasis in the desert really.

Refreshed after a cold beer, and resisting temptation for another, we pressed on completing a hard last section to Carrion de los Condes. It proved a taxing ride, up a long but gradual ascent in the heat, passing lots of very tired looking walkers. Bananas, sweets and lots of water saw us through, although it was a close thing with both of us feeling a bit light-headed by the time we arrived at the campsite at about 17.00.

There followed a pleasant evening and meal, which included salad and not just the beer and gammon in the photos above! Richard and I chatted about touring route options; he’s on the road for a year and needs to decide where to go for winter. It’s a difficult decision, but there are lots of options; he could even stop for a while and take cheffing job for a few weeks, or head down to Marrakech and just chill out.

I’m still not completely decided on my route after Tarifa, but would like to go over to Morocco briefly (Ceuta probably), before heading back up the coast of Spain to France, then Italy. I don’t know at this stage whether I’ll have time to get to Istanbul and back to the UK for the beginning of November; I think so but might have to take a train for some of it, maybe through Germany on the way home – home, now there’s a slightly strange thought at this stage. I wonder how much the Orient Express from Istanbul costs? Probably really expensive.

Tomorrow we’re off to Leon, and hopefully it’ll be slightly cooler as it’s about a 100km ride.

Oh, and we heard from River via the medium of Facebook; he’d made it successfully to an Aubergue about 40km behind us, so that’s a relief.

–> 08 July – to Leon
Another 06.00 alarm call to try to avoid the heat had Richard and I on the road by 07.00. It actually felt quite cold first thing, as it was still overcast and initially dark. We stopped in Carrion de los Condes for breakfast before heading off properly, chatting to several walkers about to begin their day’s hike. A decaf and slightly stale pain-au-chocolate later I was ready to go, after watching hundreds of swallows swooping about the town square.

From Carrion de los Condes to Leon is a long way, but mostly flat and with a slight tailwind we made excellent time, covering 60km by midday.

As with previous days we passed a lot of walkers, as well as a few other cycle tourers. One group were travelling by mountain bike, with a support vehicle, and they got a bit irritating. They’d pedal like mad, especially one of them, between towns, then stop at their van and we’d catch up; this was repeated several times. We christened one of them mosquito man as it felt like he was buzzing around us in an annoying fashion. We spoke to another tourer at our lunch stop; he was from Barcelona and as with nearly everyone on this trail, was really nice.

We stopped for lunch in Mansilla de las Mulas, which must mean Mule Town or something similar. The town isn’t far from Leon but we were tired and hungry, and this was the third place we’d attempted to get something to eat. After a successful morning coffee stop we hadn’t had a lot of luck finding a place for lunch, and I don’t think our luck much improved in Mansilla. We were warned off the first place we stopped at by walkers, who said the food wasn’t cooked properly, the second place didn’t start lunch until 13.00, and the waitress just couldn’t be bothered in the third place, but we stopped there anyway as we were out of options.

Ice cream presentation a classic

Ice cream presentation a classic

We opted for the menu, more by accident than intention, so ended up having 3 courses with some wine on the side; glad we’d done most of the cycling already. The salad followed by pork was mostly fine, however the waitress kept dropping stuff, took ages to take our order, and almost threw the plates down on the table; was a bit like and episode of Fawlty Towers really. It as actually quite funny, and at least it wasn’t expensive (€10).

Before lunch I’d felt like I had a migraine coming on, probably due to the heat and maybe not drinking enough water, however stopping for a couple of hours thankfully solved this, so perhaps the waitress did me a favour. Stopping for a break in the heat of the day, if you haven’t already finished your ride, is pretty much a necessity at the moment.

The riding today was excellent, and at a quick pace, even if the landscape got a bit boring. Richard was really shifting and I had a bit trouble keeping up with him! We made it to Leon in good time, having covered 102km, and found a cheap hostel rather than an Aubergue for the night; dormitories are all well and good but sometimes it’s nice to have a room to yourself.

We elected to stay for two nights in the hostel, needing a bit of a recovery, planning and blog catch-up day. This meant it was a night for partying, and we hit the city for a few beers once it had cooled down.

As with all the Spanish cities I’ve seen so far Leon came alive at night, the empty streets filling up with people from around 20.00. On our meanderings we bumped into Gorka, who we’d met in Roncevaux, and who had also arrived today with two Irish girls and a Belgium guy in tow. We all joined up to go out for tapas and a few more beers, before heading to an Irish Bar, which wasn’t very Irish. The tapas was excellent, and it was good to have Gorka with us to ensure we experienced the local tapas culture properly; you order a quarter beer, and get free tapas with it – if you go round several bars you end up having a complete meal. It turned into a rather late and raucous evening; we didn’t make it back to the hostel until about 4am, so I was very glad of the planned day off!

–> 09 July – rest day in Leon
After the late night it was a somewhat slower start to the day; I didn’t get up until 10.00, a record for this tour. Feeling a little rough both Richard and I opted for a slow morning, with a quick visit to the bike shop to pick up a new spare inner tube. My right hand pedal/crank has developed an annoying click on each rotation, especially when I put pressure on it up hills. I don’t know what’s causing is but I’ll need to get it sorted at some point; not today though, too hungover. If anyone has any idea what can cause annoying pedal/crank clicks let me know; probably just need to give everything a thorough clean.

Post bike shop I caught up on my blog, had a snooze, then took a wander around the city. I was initially sceptical of Leon, but definitely warmed to it and would go back again; great architecture, friendly people and atmosphere. It’s also fun pilgrim spotting; there were lots of people limping about with various suspect tan lines etc.

I went up to the cathedral to try and catch the web cam for the folks at home, but unfortunately the timing is random and I missed the window of opportunity. In the evening we went out for a meal; €12 for the pilgrim’s menu at a restaurant, including wine, excellent. Richard was heading off further West to finish the Camino de Frances, and me South to Tarifa, so it was our last day on tour together, however I’m sure we’ll meet up again in future; he only lives down the road in Hunstanton so fish and chips in Cromer may be in order (fish and chips…now there’s a thought).  It’s been a great experience riding with other people, and Richard is very easy to get on with. Not sure where River is at now but I’m sure I’ll see him at some point in the future too.

Took a few more photos of Leon which I’ll end with.

Tomorrow I head off solo again, down to Zamora, then on to Salamanca the following day. Going to be weird cycling on my own again!

4 thoughts on “06 to 09 July 2015 – Camino de Santiago part 2, to Leon

  1. toekneep

    Great post James, I was beginning to worry that you might lose it in terms of keeping up with the blog so I’m glad you are back on track. It sounds like you are having a great time now. Like a party on a bike! Makes me aware of how few cycle tourers we meet on our tours in the UK and Ireland.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. SelfPropelled Post author

      It’s been great, but quieter now I’ve left the Camino de Frances and am heading South. Just made it to Salamanca which is pretty impressive. And yes, sometimes tricky keeping up with blog posts!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. SelfPropelled Post author

      Cheers Richard, looking forward to getting to the Mediterranean now, central Spain is hot and the cycling pretty boring compared to some other parts; nice cities though, and people pleasant; cheap too away from the tourist spots.



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