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How is San Bol?


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I stopped for the night at the refugio at San Bol this time last year and a lovely young Dutch woman -- named Naisa, I think -- was the hospitalera. She hoped to stay semi-permanently and had plans for some improvements. I've often wondered if she was still there and, if so, how things were going for her. Has anyone been there lately?

From reading other posts, I think I am not the only person who is overwhelmed with memories and nostalgia as the one year anniversaries of my stays in various places and first meetings with other pilgrims roll by. I am so happy to still be in touch with several of these fellow pilgrims. And how I wish I were able to be planning another pilgrimage soon!

Buen camino to all,
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Hi Martha,
I stayed at San Bol in 2007 and it was close to one of my top 5 places to stay. There were two Rastafarian Italians running it then (one an aspiring chef) and it had a reputation for being a bit wild! There was no limit on how long you could stay and no curfew and the music (all on musical instruments kept in the room) went on until the early hours. I had my best sleep there - probably due to what they young guys were smoking!
I've since heard that it has been repainted, cleaned up, and that a conference centre is to be built in the camping field. How awful that would be!
I would like to go back and spend a few days there - explore the abandoned ruins near by and just walk those wide open spaces again.


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Hello Martha,

yes, the camino memories are also with me - and keep my spirits up. I'd so much like to be there right now.......

On my camino this May, I passed San Bol to have a coffee (as signs invited you so friendly to stay there even just for a small pause).
The hospitalero at that moment was a very friendly Spanish man, who proposed not even coffee but the last part of a chessnut cake...
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There didn´t appear to be anyone there the day I wandered by. :( I wanted to stop for a coffee & have a look-see, but the place looked deserted. Perhaps they had closed for the season or were on a supply run.

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Love it or hate it! Babelfish translations in the "hate it" category from Eroski:

Date: 25/08/2009
Author: nananiero@gmail.com

It was already two years ago, but he was the worse thing of the way with difference. In fact, unique the bad thing. They noticed us that there was hour of no closing, but we did not imagine that four in the morning a group of neohippies until poles of drugs and alcohol would continue pounding the guitar.

Within the very small and full shelter of excrement, by all means. The hospitaleros were not of the town, were German and Italian. In order to go of celebration, wonderful, but to make the way, frightful.

You run to hontanas
Date: 2009-07-17
Author: girl@hotmail.com

And nor it happens myself to stop in san bol… he is the worse one of all and she has a bad energy…
very negative… something rare… is not worth the trouble…
The first poster says:
It was already two years ago, but he was the worse thing of the way
Gees - people can be critical. Heaven help them if they ever come to Africa to go on a wilderness trail where they sleep in a Kraal, or go on the Karoo Pilgrimage and sleep in a Bushman's hut!
We stayed at San Bol two years ago in September. The two young guys were wonderful!! When we said that we wanted to sleep there they told us that there was no curfew, that pilgrims who could play musical instruments might play all night but that we were welcome to stay as long as we liked. (Perhaps they thought to warn us because of our obvious age!)
We decided to stay - and I'm so pleased we did! We had the best meal on the whole camino and had an absolute ball singing after dinner by candlelight. Where else would you find a Spaniard playing guitar, a Frenchman on a flute and a German on the digeriedoo, and 8 other pilgrims singing 'Cottonfields back home' - wow, I even remembered the words!
There was wine with dinner but I didn't see much other alcohol or drugs and I stayed up until late. Perhaps the smoke that drifted through to the sleeping area was more than just the candle wicks burning but so what? And so what if the music and laughter went on half the night? We were warned, and it was better than plastic bags rattling! At least we all got to sleep in late the next morning. The Italian Rastafarian gave me a little metal shell pendant for making the bunk beds in the morning.
I wonder what those cretans made of Manjarin - or if they dared to stay there. I'm sure they were relieved to reach Santiago unscathed and untouched by those basic, almost medieval type shelters.
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
I hope that things have changed considerably over the last 10 years but for me San Bol was a friendless place with almost hostile German hospitaleros and I chose to continue despite very inclement weather.
As I said, 10 years ago but I found the place then a "bit weird".
Arroyo San Bol is not for everyone, but we have a lively relation to the place and always stop there when passing through to see if anything is needed. The hospitalero situation is rather seat-of-the-pants. They have to go into town when they have an opportunity, so don´t hold that against them.

If you want hygienic, predictable or hotel-like accommodation, walk on by. If you look for earthy people who enjoy a good time and have a laid-back, no-worries attitude, this may be the place for you. San Bol has no indoor plumbing or electricity, and the "mod cons" are rather basic. If that is not a problem for you, (and you have some good earplugs and/or a tent), you´ll love it.

San Bol is for the sweet, earthy, "touchy-feely" artistic type pilgrim. If that´s not your scene, don´t knock it. Just walk on and find something more to your taste a bit farther on.

If you don´t mind bathing in a cold-water, spring-fed trough, and singing ´round the campfire, this is your albergue. Don´t miss it! San Bol is unique, by anyone´s account, a real Camino situation!

So it sounds as if Naisa didn't stay -- a shame, I think, since under her care the place was clean and welcoming. I think she said she had given up her job and sold her possessions and had been walking and looking for a niche to serve in for the past six years. She hoped she had found a home in San Bol.

Things were tame when I was there -- no music, unfortunately, but a peaceful night's sleep -- sort of. I did wake up and need to use the facilities in the middle of the night, but was afraid if I made the trek down to the composting toilets, I would wake the dogs of the campers on the way and they would then bark and wake everyone. So I squirmed as long as I could stand it and then sneaked out the front to use the bushes.

San Bol was a welcome antidote to my stay the night before in the new Burgos albergue, where I slept on a shelf surrounded by unfriendly 5am bag rattlers. I was clearly not the typical San Bol type, but I was comfortable and felt rested there -- and hey, how often do you get to wash up in a spring? And this boring looking middle aged American woman had the pleasure of exchanging smiles and greetings with a cool young Rastafarian Frenchman on the camino for the next few days!

I think I was first atttracted to San Bol by the legend that if you washed your feet in the spring there, you would have no more feet problems on the camino. Sadly, it didn't work for me, but even so, I'm glad I stopped.

I noticed from a Spanish forum (maybe the Eroski one that Falcon cites) that the mention of San Bol really seems to antagonize some people. Oh well, for better or for worse, it is a special place -- but no conference center please! Thanks to all who chimed in. And if anyone knows what happened to Naisa, I'd be interested. I hope she's settled in a good place.

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Martha, I am so glad I´m not the only one who found the new Burgos albergue to be, um, "industrial." I know they put a lot of work into it & the downstairs area is very nice, with 2 washers & 2 dryers, several computers & 2 kitchen areas, but the rest felt a bit impersonal & somewhat of a let-down after the Taj Mahal of albergues, the new one in Santo Domingo. (perhaps my view is a bit colored by Little Napoleon, the young hospitalero who took great offense at the fact I took the bus to Burgos, even after I pointed out he had already let in 5 people who were on the same bus as I was & didn´t squawk, possibly because they were men...if he thought I wouldn´t yell back because I was a woman, well that was his big mistake. :twisted: )

BTW, down the steps from the albergue in Burgos is an awesome Doner Kebab, so if you´re tired of the pilgrim menu & want something cheap, good, & filling, hit that place. And yes, they serve beer in large quantities.

I stayed in San Bol the 2sept. this year. My first night on the camino was in Burgos in the new albergue that was clean and not expensive but very different from San Bol. Next day I was walking with a Danish woman and after 26km we were so tired also because of the heat that day that we decided to stay no matter what. We didn't have any food and didn't think we could get any there but we were really just happy to get a bed. It was lovely there with a cool mineral water pool for our aching feet and with tall trees surrounding and a really quite place. Judith a very nice Hungarian woman is hospitalera there and she gave feet massages and made us a lovely meal. There was also a nice Spanish hospitalera there with here. She is supposed to stay for 2 months. We were 16 all in all (some slept in tents) and everybody helped cutting vegetables and preparing the meal. Afterwards there was singing and Judith made some kind of hot punch that "was on fire" and song hungarian songs for us. She really likes to sing that woman. (she might be a real witch with this hocus pocus punch thing on fire-but a nice one anyway)
So I really liked San Bol, it's one of the experiences i won't forget, and i'd like to come back there.
interesting experiences and it would seem that who you are decides on whether your experience is positive or negative - I rather liked Sil's honest and warm reminisces ... seemed to sum up the experience of all that I have spoken to who have stayed there ... the thing is, I suppose, is that this is a place that is remembered ... the anecdotes from here are never "oh, this amazing/awful/wonderful thing happened but I cannot remember where it was" ....

A couple of weeks ago on the Frances I re-met a ridiculously intelligent (or super-cool) young American Van Gogh/West Coast red bearded and softly and ironically spoken chap twice, once when he stopped for coffee and cake and chat and then later when I met him after he stayed at San Bol - I asked him how it had been and he simply looked at me and said "perfect" - and we smiled.
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San Bol June, 2004.

(from my journal -excuse my state of mind)

'San Bol lingers curiously, a memory tinged with melancholy and joy. I first encountered Uwe as he reclined in a stupor by the wine fountain outside Estella. He had passed the night embracing his ‘demon’, fortifying his soul for the weeks and months ahead as hospitelero at San Bol. We next met outside Burgos, in the lingering light beneath majestic trees, the air redolent with kapok fiber and seeds, suffocating as others readied themselves for the night. Uwe touched my soul. Searching for Life, on the Camino he said he ‘seen’ his death. He invited me to stop by at San Bol.

(Tardajos) I passed the night outside, sleeping on concrete, breathing midnight air, avoiding the claustrophobia of a room filled with immodest humanity, of people clambering over each other in the dark, dressing, packing, eating in a frenzy to depart.

The next day, feet dragged down by mud, glutinous clay hauling me horizontal in the early dawn, I eventually ceased motion. Enthralled by birdsong and flitting swallows, swaying wheat and poppies I gazed awhile, forgetting time. Hornilas was deserted, apart from a cock-eyed rooster and crazy Paulo, an Italian executive angrily cleaning his boots. The sun soared. Humid vapors furiously embraced us as we approached a field of rock piles, a proliferation of pilgrim art mushrooming in the distance.

Approaching San Bol masses of red and yellow flowers entwined with velvet grain and crops swirled in the wind as a manic pilgrim jogged furiously by. Uwe was at San Bol amidst Hindu art and a chapel to all religions and I was greeted beautifully. I stayed a few hours then slept outside amongst the candle-lit ruins of San Anton. '

I wonder, what became of Uwe?
I just have to comment on lovingkindness' post. How beautifully you capture that crazy mood, high on walker's adrenaline, a more gentle kind. The Italian "angrily" polishing his boots. How I loved that. This is what brings us back, over and over. Seeking new routes, new places to indulge in a little madness and share in that of fellow Pilgrim souls.
I do hope you will keep posting.
As for San Bol, it was not kind to me and a little kitten on a cold blustery day. Maybe I'll go back one day. Maybe I am too old to be enthralled by that kind of thing. Maybe I find my "perfection" in the "birdsong and flitting swallows, swaying wheat and poppies". I guess I don't need faded angels on the ceiling anymore.
Tracy Saunders
I just walked by, and it is still there! I know that is not much information ...
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Hi Priscillian, thanks for the encouragement. I will be setting off from Cadiz - Seville - SdC next week so you might just hear some more from me. Cheers.
An Update on How Is San Bol:

In a word, San Bol is transformed. I was there on 30 March, when the carpenters were finishing up. It´s set to reopen April 1, with new windows, stairway to the loft, new mattresses and a kitchen, electric light, plumbing, heating, hot and cold running water, even an espresso machine... everything a tourigrino could ask for, at just 5 Euro per night.

The amateur Mother EArth paintings are gone, replaced by a professional-looking clean paint job and lovely carpentry and double-glazing. No more camping allowed. No more candle light, late night concerts, long stays, spliffs, donativos, or partying... or as the boss told me, "no more scary hippie shit."

It´s enough to break your heart.
But still, up in the treetops, The music goes on.

And Judit, the Hungarian hospitalera from last year? She´s running a shiny new hostal in Hontanas.

End of an era.
What a pity! San Bol was the one place I wanted to go back to and spend at least a week. In my opinion it was one of the few genuinely basic, traditional, almost medieval shelters.
If the renovators decide to move on to Manjarin we should all form a protest march! Who needs another up-market albergue in a wilderness area.
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
:( not me..........such a pity.
Received this update from a freind:

" Arrived at San Bol - newly renovated by a Cuban gentleman who greets you warmly and carries your bag into the dormitory - only 10beds. He cooked a wonderful chicken pealla and we all ate together. It has a medicinal spring and apparently might be sited on an old leper colony that no longer exists. It´s in the middle of nowhere and a very welcome refuge. The host left us for the evening and asked that the last person to leave lock up and return the key to the first supermarket on route the next morning. So trusting, and a real inspiration of hospitality. I was the only English speaker but was fascinated by the way he spoke with such gentleness about how he had a business in Cuba and had much money and had renovated the albergue using his own money."
Forget all the old tales about San Bol. I spent a great night there in April 2010. The Albergue has been refurbished at great expense by a business man who also has a small supply store and a spanking new Albergue in the main street of Hontanas. The same Gentleman cooked a fabulous paella that night. There are limited facilities but all is spick and span and the Albergue is most respectable.A lot of effort and money has gone into this project . I can throuroughly recomend San Bol , none of the magic has been lost. Do have a look yourself , even if it is just to say hello to the Hospitalero.
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good to hear this good news.
Judit, the Hungarian lady who was hospitalara there and alternately at the new place in Hontanas through the summer, is hospitalera-ing at Calzadilla de la Cueza through the end of November.

In late May 2012, the San Bol experience was delightful. Was then being cared for by a lovely lady who prepared a three-course meal with red wine. She was so helpful and flexible. I loved it! Friendly, clean, comfortable with soft green grass to lie in and recuperate and icy cold spring water outside to wash clothes in. Since thanks to the generous carer of this gem of an albergue. 10/10
I stayed at San Bol in April/May 2012 as well and loved it! I never saw it in its 'hippy days' (which i would have loved) but I think its a brilliant albergue nontheless. I got in quite early in the day and spent the afternoon relaxing under the trees. I loved that it was not part of a town, it allows pereginos to interact...I was travelling alone at this stage and met some great people some of whom I then hiked with on and off for the rest of the walk.

I would definately stay here again should the Camino Frances call me back.
€2,-/day will present your project to thousands of visitors each day. All interested in the Camino de Santiago.
We stayed in San Bol last night and loved it. A friendly Spanish hospiteralo met us at the door. Peaceful setting, cozy albergue, wonderful communal dinner. Cost is five Euros or twelve if you want the communal dinner (you may cook your own food if you like, the communal dinner is an option and not a requirement). We had a fantastic time and we got a lot of sleep! There is no electricity or heat, so bring a sleeping bag if you go in the cooler months (there are blankets). San Bol is now open from March to or through October. There is a shower and hot water. This is a truly beautiful place out in the middle of the Meseta - two thumbs way up.
I was doing my first aid stand just outside Rabe by the spring, and took a couple of exhausted pilgrims there and met Judit.
She invited me to stay and eat and I parked up outside. I liked her. The next day was her last and she asked me to return, so I did, with a huge watermelon and a couple of bottles - she was sad to be leaving.
The dome gives astounding acoustics and I remember standing underneath it and singing a Hindu song about Rama Krishna by candle light (a few of us took turns) - just resounded, resonated .. marvellous.

I went in for coffee next morning and said farewell to her as she finished packing her car - she was so sad to be leaving - I wondered where she ended up.

So she is at the new hostel in Hontanas? I will be there the middle of April and will look her up :wink:
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Loved this place in 2008! No running water, but the beautiful historic Magic Spring waters!! But all things evolve, and I am glad to see there is still a "shady place in the desert".....as during that walk thru the Meseta......that dome and spring water, sure felt loving and refreshing!!
I stayed there this may and can confirm it is still a lovely place. A very welcoming hospitalero cooked a delicious paella for dinner, it was warm and cosy and in beautful surroundings. Perfect for peace and recuperation after encountering the hordes on the camino this year. I had walked the Aragones and seen very few pilgrims.

Highly recommended, but not if you prefer more crowds and a lively nightlife, continue on to Hontanas.
Re: How is San Bol? Installations for nature's call?

When I last was there there where no no facilities for "nature's call". One had to go into the nature to do his business. Accordingly it smelled in the vicinity of this tiny and romantic place. :|
Are there sanitary facilities nowadays?
Buen Camino
The 9th edition the Lightfoot Guide will let you complete the journey your way.
I was in San Bol in April this year and it was one of my favourite places. There is a lovely new bathroom. Great paella dinner. There is a generator they turn on for an hour or two early evening for charging phones etc while the hospitaliero cooks, but otherwise no power and only candles for lights. It was freeeeezing, though we lit a lovely fire in the little potbelly stove. Bring something for breakfast if you dont want to walk through to the next town before eating. (they provide a discount breakfast voucher for a place there)
From Eroski:
Person responsible for handling the hostel: Enrique
Remarks: Daily Dinner community at 7 pm. The hostel is run by the same hostel St. Bridget of Hontanas and offer the possibility of washing and drying clothes and pick it up the next day to go through the village.
Laundry: No. Usually washed in the fountain on the creek
Washer: No. You can leave the wash clothes at Hostel St. Bridget of Hontanas
Heating: No, but wood stove
Refrigerator: No
Hot water: Yes
Showers: Yes
Toilets: Yes
Lockers or cabinets: No
Kit: Yes
Water and soda machine: No. They have refreshments
Towels and soap: No
Coffee Machine: No
Clothesline: Yes
Kitchen: Gas stove with three burners. Community Dinner at 19 hours.
Meeting room: Table for 12 people
Dining: Table for 12 people
Terrace: Yes, there is a picnic and barbecue in the poplars
Public Phone: No
Place closed to bicycles: No
Barn and stables: are left in the open
The 9th edition the Lightfoot Guide will let you complete the journey your way.
Impresión general:
Estado de conservación: Reformado para 2010
Disponibilidad del albergue: Desde el 1 de abril a mediados de octubre
Precio: 5 euros
Plazas totales: 12
Nº de plazas en litera: 10
Nº de plazas en suelo:
Nº de colchones en suelo:
Nº de camas: 2
Descripción de habitaciones: Una sala común
Reserva de plaza en el albergue: Sí, pero se reserva hasta cierta hora
Condiciones de admisión para acceder al albergue: Peregrinos
Hora de apertura: 14:00
Hora de cierre: Hasta las 19:00 para admisión
Posibilidad de salir o no cuando se cierra: Sí
I stopped in San Bol to soak my feet in the arroyo and lie back and look at the trees awhile, but continued on to Hontanas to sleep. It was an enchanted moment for me. I keep wondering what type of trees tower there. Does anyone know?
Was a lovely place several years ago, if only the folks in Manjarin could do something similar! There, their sign post of distances expains a lot, my home here in Jerusalem is 3500 kilometers from there hut and not the 5000 as posted there. A bit more attention and TLC why Manjarin could become another San Bol.
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Didn't stay over but stopped for breakfast last month. It seemed really nice with a big huge Arthurian dining table. They do have running water, toilets, etc now
I stopped for the night at the refugio at San Bol this time last year and a lovely young Dutch woman -- named Naisa, I think -- was the hospitalera. She hoped to stay semi-permanently and had plans for some improvements. I've often wondered if she was still there and, if so, how things were going for her. Has anyone been there lately?

From reading other posts, I think I am not the only person who is overwhelmed with memories and nostalgia as the one year anniversaries of my stays in various places and first meetings with other pilgrims roll by. I am so happy to still be in touch with several of these fellow pilgrims. And how I wish I were able to be planning another pilgrimage soon!

Buen camino to all,

I was in San Bol in mid-September this year and it was all in all a pleasant experience (good company, nice treatment, good paella, relaxing environment). We unfortunately got there at an hour when all the actual beds were taken so they gave us some "pads" upon which to sleep up in the loft. The pads were pretty hard but the people there were all delightful and we spent some fine time out by the pond chatting about some very profound subjects. My companion took off walking to a town a few kilometers away from San Bol (I think it was called "Iglesias"), not on the Camino; he was looking around to see if he could buy something to snack on but found that there seemed to be no stores there. A women came out of her house and asked what he was looking for and when he told her, she invited him to come in and have a meal with her family. He said the food was great and the people, themselves, had produced everything they were eating; it was one of his most memorable experiences of the Camino.
2023 update:
Lovely sweet San Bol. 4 bunk beds downstairs (8) and a double upstairs. Judith from Hontanas comes out to prepare the paella, salad, bread and wine. There is only one bathroom/shower, but everyone was quick and respectful. I was so lucky to be with a great group of people and made "family" connections there. It's fun to walk out at 6am to Hontanas for breakfast in the dark. Very clean and well managed. I'm returning this year, and made sure I reserved a bunk there. I read through the comments and wow....how much has changed!
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I stayed there last October. Lourdes was hospitalera, very kind.. A giant paella and plenty of wine! Lovely evening, nice small group of pilgrims and no WiFi to distract us... was perfect!

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