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BP on the San Olav, July 2019

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Bad Pilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Far too many...
Hei alle og hilsener fra Sverige!

I walked the San Olav the 9-10 July in 2019. A Norwegian-themed Camino that stems from Prinsessan Kristina, Sankt Olav (den hellige)... You know the story. But I walked in the "wrong" direction, as I started in Covarrubias and ended in Burgos. I used the guide that our Right Honourable pilgrim Alex Walker has put together and which can be downloaded from this forum. But it was tricky using it "backwards"! Here is my story about it, and a few pictures.

Day 1: Covarrubias - Cubillos del César

I knew from before where to take off on the Camino de San Olav. I marched for about 1 km on the carretera out of Covarrubias, and then turned left at the sign that indicates the presence of the ermita San Olav.

From Covarrubias there are 3 kms to reach the ermita, hidden at the feet of the mountain. As Alex Walker says, it leaves no one indifferent. I have read elsewhere that some pilgrims are disappointed when they see it. They think it will be like your usual stone-and-brick ermita from the XIV century... And they get what looks like a rusty container merged with a recycling bin.

I hated it. For five seconds. Then I loved it! Who says how a XXI-century chapel should look?? And why in the world would modern architects try to imitate ancient sanctuaries? I wished I could have seen the inside, but it was closed. I started to walk up the mountain on what I believed was the Camimo.

Here comes the only thing I don't understand about this camino. I emerged at a sort of ridge, and the terrain evened out as I turned left. There were no San Olav waymarks but someone had put stones at the borders of the trail, kind of the remnants of a calzada romana, which I followed in every intersection. I emerged from the bushes a few hundred meters before the lonely house that Alex mentions... And I saw a wooden sign telling me to turn left and walk down the mountain, toward the chapel, again. Ok, I was walking in the wrong direction (from my point of view), but only for a few hundred meters. I turned around, walked back and soon saw a large wooden pole that safely pointed out the different villages in the vicinity.

But: The small wooden sign by the lonely house points out the way down to the chapel for those who come from the right direction. So why didn't I emerge from there??? What trail did I take from the chapel up to the ridge?!

This set the tone for the rest of this Camino, with me being afraid I would continue to be confused and finally get lost. I chose to play it safe and went straight to Quintanilla without passing through Mambrillas de Lara. The way I took was very camino-esque. The descent from the hills gives you a splendid view of the countryside below! But I guess the descent to Mambrillas is pretty much the same?

This means I passed right by the dino tracks! Cool. Pictures were taken. You can even see the claws in the footprints (last picture below)! When I was about to leave, two jeeps with dino logos turned up - kind of like in the movie Jurassic Park - and a bus full of students. I thought about hanging around and mooch during their guided tour, but decided to push on.

I made the detour in Quintanilla to see the ermita from the VII century (gasp). It's 1400 years old. Are the carvings/ornaments from the same century, or have they been added later?! If they are that old, it's amazing. See pictures below. It wasn't opening hours so I didn't see the inside.

Then I walked on asphalt to Cubillejo de Lara, which was totally unnecessary as I later saw that there was a trail running by the side of the hill. And from there on asphalt to Cubillos del César, probably unnecessary as well.

Walking in the wrong direction was annoying. The waymarks are placed so pilgrims face them. I had to look over my shoulder, and often I didn't see them at all. I have to walk the San Olav again, in the right direction, and see if it's a better experience.

In Cubillos del César I stayed at the Casa Rural that is indicated in Alex' guide. I could only afford the stay of 25 euros and decided to skip dinner. I soon realized I would run out of food! I got worried about the next day: if there were no open bars on the way - like today - I would probably starve. I had some dry bread, cheese and ham to survive the evening though.

I asked the owner of the casa rural for a bar in Cubillos del César, as Alex says there is one. She seemed strangely pensive, like she didn't want to answer my question. I repeated my question. Noo... No, there isn't a bar. She asked me what I wanted to find a bar for. I patiently said that I usually go to a bar to have a coffee or something to eat. I guess she wanted to sell me her stuff herself, because she asked me if there was something specific I needed. I found the situation slightly awkward and just asked for a some fruits. I know she provides food for pilgrims, that's all in the guide. But I was a bit annoyed that she couldn't tell me if there was a bar or not.

I discovered that there is free wifi at the sheltered benches, a stone's throw away from the casa rural! There doesn't seem to be one in the casa rural though. Add to guide! I spent a lot of time there preparing for next day's stage. I needed screenshots from Google maps, and a list of upcoming bars, if I was to survive.

If you do the San Olav in two days, this is where you'll probably stay. One stage will be 25 kms and the other will be 36 kms. Next time I will try to do it in three days, and hopefully also in the right direction...!

I saw bars along the way but none was open. They are usually checkpoints for the Camino where you can get the San Olav stamps. Sometimes there is a box outside the bar so you can get the stamp yourself even if no one is around.

There's zero action going on in Cubillos del César. All I could do was to nibble on the little food I had left and wait for the morning. I decided I would reach Burgos the following day, even if it meant I would starve to death...!

Pictures coming layer.

To be continued...

BP
 

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VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
The trails up from the chapel are confusing.
I took the road to the left before the chapel, along the side of a field, and then veering right and then going up a rocky gully. It emerged at a T intersection with the direct way up from Covarubias; the way to Mambrillas goes right.

If you do the San Olav in two days, this is where you'll probably stay. One stage will be 25 kms and the other will be 36 kms.
Not necessarily.
There are places to stay in Mambrillas and Revilla de Campo; you're not necessarily stuck with Cubillo.
;)
 

Bad Pilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Far too many...
Day 2: Cubillos del César - Burgos

I did have a few things to eat for breakfast, but I had to economize. I left at 5 in the morning since it would be a long stage (36 kms). I knew that the first small bars along the way wouldn't be open. On the other hand, I wanted to reach Burgos as soon as possible, as Burgos meant Food!! Burgos is the Latin word for Burger, right? I'm pretty sure.

I understand that the bar in Quintanalara isn't up and running at 5:30 in the morning. I can accept that the one in Revilla del Campo hasn't opened before 7. But as time and kms passed, I grew more and more impatient - and hungry - when everything was closed. I arrived before 10 in Modúbar de la Cuesta and I was jumping up and down in exasperation in front of the sealed doors of the bar. I sat down on a bench and started to gnaw on a lump of old bread, which would probably be my last meal before starvation. Then I got a phone call from my mother, which held me back for ten minutes. When I packed my things to leave the bench, a car drove up and a woman started to unlock the doors. I was saved!

Just as Alex writes, that bar is friendly and busy. I was the first costumer of the day, but it soon filled up with locals and a lot of cyclists. I asked if 10 was the usual opening time, but the lady said that they normally open 9 - 9.30.

I swear there wasn't much left to eat in that bar when I left. I flew on wings all the way to Emparedada de Modúbar, and then to Cardeñadijo whose name sounded familiar to me. Yes, the San Olav merge with La Ruta de la Lana, kind of, in that village. That is: you have to deviate a few hundred mtrs from the Lana to get there, which I had done once before. So when I reached Cardeñadijo on the San Olav, I recognized the place. I knew it would be an easy walk to Burgos.

I have to admit that it was a beautiful second and last day on the San Olav. Even when I was suffering the most I said to myself: Dang I'm hungry, but at least these are beautiful places! The walk between Modúbar de la Cuesta and Modúbar de San Cibrián was idyllic in the perfect summer weather. The cliff that forms the backdrop of Los Ausines and its barrios is impressive, with a small, small ermita on the border of the ridge. Try to spot the ermita in one of the photos below, if you can! In one of those barrios, Sopeña, there is a bar that Alex doesn't mention in the guide. The bar looks like it could be alive if you arrive at the right time of day.

I can add to Alex' guide that one now can avoid most of the tarmac by walking on the Vía Verde, the ancient railway that has been turned into a comfortable gravel road. For example, on the endless stretch for several kms on the road between Revilla del Campo and Los Ausines. The much softer Vía Verde runs parallel to the road. Alex also mentioned he only found two functioning fountains. But there is one in almost every village!

Finally I arrived at the plaza with the cathedral in Burgos. Strangely I didn't see as many pilgrims as I thought I would. Perhaps they arrived earlier, slipped into something more comfortable and were now merging with the tourists in the square. I stayed in La Pensión del Camino on the Calle San Juan for 26.50 euros. I used my Lana credential and just got the stamp from the pension. For hard-core San Olav pilgrims, there is a special San Olav credential to get in Burgos (which is the actual starting point).

I would like to walk this route again, in the right direction and with shorter stages!

/BP
 

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Bad Pilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Far too many...
Not necessarily.
There are places to stay in Mambrillas and Revilla de Campo; you're not necessarily stuck with Cubillo.
;)
I know,

I meant if one is to make the two stages as equal as possible! But Revilla del Campo would be more in the middle, perhaps?
 

Bad Pilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Far too many...
The trails up from the chapel are confusing.
I took the road to the left before the chapel, along the side of a field, and then veering right and then going up a rocky gully. It emerged at a T intersection with the direct way up from Covarubias; the way to Mambrillas goes right.
Ok, do you mean you took another road directly from Covarrubias? I think I saw that in one of your screenshots. That would avoid the chapel. But I went past the chapel, and must have taken the wrong turn there!

I think I remember a split in the path behind the ermita. I took the largest one, following the Camino logic of staying on the largest trail if there is no indication. But I was walking in the other direction...!

I'm almost certain now that pilgrims walking in the right direction emerge from the smaller path... And I should have followed it walking up the hill.

Oh well, next time...!
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Ok, do you mean you took another road directly from Covarrubias?
Nope. I turned left before the chapel onto a dirt road that went along one side of a field, and then followed it as it swung right, turning into a path that went up a gulley.
Part way up there was a switchback that turned and countored out of the rocky gully going north, eventually coming to a T intersection where it met the way that came up directly from Covarrubias.
In the screenshot, the yellow line is roughly what I did (on the phone, sorry it's not so tidy). That map may show where you went? The chapel doesn't show up at that scale, but it's past where the yellow line goes off to the left.

But Revilla del Campo would be more in the middle, perhaps?
Yeah, I'd guess so. And there's a nice place to stay there. When I got to Revilla the bar near the church was open and the lady made me fresh tortilla. I was hungry, too!
And I missed that via verde before Los Ausines...the road was torture. Sure do like your pics!!
 

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