Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 5. Burgos to Fromista (70 km)

Victory. . . . Victory? . . . Victory. . . . Victory!

We have conquered the first leg of our pilgrimage, and can now say that we are on a quest!

We spent the night at the Burgos shelter for pilgrims, which is very basic but very nice. They even lent us two sleeping bags to make up for our unpreparedness. Raúl was a little cold (his sleeping bag had a distinctive “scent”, so he didn’t get inside it), but I was hot and slept almost the way the good God brought me into the world. In any case, we were off by 8 am, ready to tackle the Castilian Plateau.

The first 10 klicks were on the shoulder of the N-102 county highway, which is not very exciting. Once we reached Tordejas, however, we went down a vicinal road which gave way to a dirt road within a few thousand meters. From that point on, the ride went through steep paths that went up from an erosional valley up to the Castilian Plateau. Then we would bike 2 to 5 kilometers on relatively flat roads (but sometimes we would find a big pool of water, and then we would have to wallow through the mud), and finally we would have to go down into the next drainage to start the story all over again. We thanked the blazing sun and a cloudless sky for relatively dry ground, but now and then we would find patches on the plateau that were a true mire, and had to cross daintily so we would not splatter mud all over our face. The plateau would be so hard to cross during a rainy day!

Somewhere half way through the day we met a large group, and of course made the small talk that is expected from pilgrims. Well, it turns that they were four families, with all the kids, who had hired a mini-bus for a weekend family outing, and they were following only their favorite parts of the camino. They asked us where we were from, and exploded with comments once we told them we were from Mexico. The kids were absolutely fascinated, and they kept asking us how long it had taken us to get to Spain. The right answer would have been that we had started from Tierra del Fuego a month ago, and had pedaled across the Atlantic, but had trouble fitting the bikes through the Strait of Gibraltar and had wasted a couple of days there. Alas, I did tell the true, so their enthusiasm promptly waned away.

We kept on our way, stopping at Hontanas (30 km) just long enough to drink a caña (a glass of cold beer), admire their beautiful church, and tell the story of El Medio Pollito when we saw a windvane(remind me to tell you that story one day). By 1 pm were entering Castro Jeríz (41 km), where we admired the Colegiata de Santa María, the Church of San Juan, and the long arcade of the Municipal Palace. We stopped here for a very abundant lunch. Very abundant!

We retook our way around 2 pm, feeling at peace with the world, and right away faced a brutal 12% slope that went on for over a kilometer. It is needless to say that we walked the bikes, making short bursts of 30 to 50 m, and then taking a breather. When we made the top it was only to drop like a stone in an 18% downslope, which we again walked because it looked really scary on the bike.

After that came a flat, long stretch, for which we were very thankful. Just as we were entering Fromista (70 km), we stopped to admire the Canal de Castilla, a fabulous piece of hydraulic engineering of the XVIII century. The canal extends for 200 km, and allowed for transport of grain through barges. At the place we stopped included four gates to lift (or drop as the case might be) the barges over an elevation difference of 15 m (45 ft).

Fromista was our destination for the day, and we were grateful to make it there at 6 pm, in time to find a hostel, take a shower, have dinner, and drop exhausted for a well-deserved night of sleep.

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