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The Buzzards Begin to Circle

April 14, 3013, Day 15, Villafranca Monte de Oca – Cardenuela (27 km)

Outer Journey

A lot of up and down walking today and a varied terrain.  An accrued ascent of 500 meters to 3,773 feet.  Some highways, some roads, some farms, some woodlands. We walked over the mountains to San Juan de Ortega (population 30) and through the towns of Ages and Atapuerco to my finally destination…not by choice, Cardenuela (population I would guess is 10).

Outer Journey

I walked most of the day on and off with my Irish Camino mates but there pace was faster.  But, I would usually catch up with them at rest stops.  My plan was to stay the night in Atapuerca because it is a famous UNESCO world heritage site.  Remains of our early ancestors, dating back 900,000 years have been found there.  It seems that they were cannibals.

On the way to Atapuerca, I passed by the small, idyllic town of Ages.  It was simply lovely.   I was tempted to stay; however, I felt I had much more walking in me.  I did stop at a small store and bar called Cafe Alquimista.  The owner was truly an alchemist when it came to making hot chocolate and homemade fig cake.  In Ages, I ran into one of my old walking friends from Canada.  He was not doing too well.  He throught his hernia was erupting.  His walking companion had gone on to the next town.  I suggested I walk ahead to find him.  Unfortunately, I got distracted by his health and left my friends, my walking sticks, behind.

I found my Irish friends and his walking companion in the next town, Atapuerca.  The Irish clan was heading to the next town, another 7 kilometers and the Canadian went back for his friend.  I decided to find a place to sleep in Atapuerca.  However, all three albergues gave me the creeps.  Maybe it was the cannibalism.   So I decided to walk the 7 kilometers to the next village.

That was almost a mistake!  The climb was  difficult.  Almost treacherous.  The path was all small sharp rocks and it got very windy.  I thought I would blow away.  The path was almost barren.  I saw no other pilgrims.  I contemplated making a shelter under the trees but I saw several buzzards flying over head and told them to buzz off…I wasn’t giving up yet.

At the high point there was a cruel looking iron cross with a bunch of stones under it.  That was almost the last stone…so to speak.  There were also  signs pointing in two directions and neither had any Camino markers.

I just wanted to be home…or anywhere but there.  I did what I could and chose a direction and walked what seemed like for hours to nowhere.  There was nothing in sight.  Finally, I see a town in the distance and walked and walked to it…althought in hardly seemed to get any closer.  And then it was gone, behind a different hill.

Eventually, I reached a small town of maybe 6 houses and a church.  I didn’t see anyone.  I was determined NOT to walk another step, though.  I knocked on the door of a local bar.  By the way, bars in Spain are small restaurants.  The owner’s daughter opened the door.  I told her I needed an Albergue.  She said the next one was 12 kilometers away in Burgos.  I told her that there was no way I could make it.  Was there somewhere to sleep in this town.  She said there was a closed Albergue.  It had been closed for two years.  They planned to reopen it this summer but it was not ready.  She would inquire with her father if I could stay there.  Her father agreed.  The Albergue wasn’t too clean and didn’t have heat but there was hot water.  I felt a little strange staying there but I was also grateful.

After taking a shower, I prepared my bed which was near the window.  I glanced out the window and I saw three Pilgrims walking down the street.  I called to them out the window and asked if they needed a place to sleep.  They were over joyed because it was after 7 pm.  They said how did you find a place to stay.  I told them to go to the bar and ask for a bed.  I was relieved to have the company.  I ended up having a wonderful evening with the three Pilgrims from South Africa.  The family at the bar cooked us a meal.  Later that evening, all of the families relatives came in to the bar and they played cards and talked into the night.  It worked out well!

Buen Camino!




  1. Deirdre

    April 30, 2013 - 11:59 pm

    What a day and what a story! That chocolate and cake sure look good. I’m glad it worked out well in the end. Buen camino!

  2. Linda Lundquist

    May 1, 2013 - 12:44 pm

    Dear Alie, I felt as if I was on the journey,right next to you,when I read your blog today. The Dun we climbed together on Iona came back to me and I honor you for such strength, courage and wisdom. How your life is changing as you walk this famous trail! All the best…Love you, Linda

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