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September from Gallur to Santo Domingo de Silos

Camino(s) past & future
2002, Toulouse/Aragon 2005, Cami S Jaume/Aragon 2007/9, Mont Saint Michel/Norte/Vadiniense 2011, Norte/Primitivo 2013, Norte/Primitivo 2014. Norte 2015, Cami S Jaume/Castellano-Aragonese 2016
The earlier part of this Camino is posted on the Ebro page.

Day 16- Gallur to Magallón
The day out of Gallur was extraordinarily miserable. Rather than follow Laurie’s directions, I somehow followed a series of yellow arrows which took me into the fields west of Gallur. After three hours of wandering through vineyards and no more yellow arrows, I found a staff member at the environmental station at the Embalse de Loteta and after some headscratching and consulting his office computer, we determined that I was well off the track, but was then set aright for Magallón. For those who think that this route can be done without a GPS, this instance proved us (me) wrong. By the end of the day, I wasdehydrated and was at the end of my tether in spite of munching on grapes (I will now keep an eye out for Borsao wine from now on).

Another two hours in the strong sun at 35°C brought me to Magallón, a delightful little pueblo with a charming plaza by the ayuntamiento and the church of Saint Lawrence. After a difficult day, I thought that there surely must be a pension so that I could stay in the village and enjoy sitting in the plaza with a cool drink as the evening settled in and the sky turned indigo velvet. Not a chance– the only accommodation as at a restaurant south of town (La Chimenea). Another few kilometres would not hurt me so I turned up to find out that the hotel was closed for the month. However, the barman was so struck by my bedraggled and dehydrated state that after a quick word with his colleagues, he told me that they would open a room for me. After I recuperated and ingested a few litres of water in the shower, I had a decent meal of a salad and entrecote– they noted my delight in the melon at dessert and they brought me a second helping. The staff was another example of the warm and natural hospitality which so often characterizes the Spanish response to the weary pilgrim https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/30489592296.

Day 17- Magallón to Borja
Winding country roads the next morning brought me to Borja. I was not up to a long day, so determined to stop here. Finding a place to stay was not so easy but the Hotel las Ruedas on the way into the town had comfortable little stone cabins out back, perhaps more reminiscent of Texan motels in the 1950s, but clean and comfortable– the staff was initially brusque but warmed up quickly. Like the others, I headed into the Boveda for my lunch, with a revuelto of setas followed by solomillo with more setas, and finished off with a cheesecake with berries– normally I am not a fan of Spanish desserts but the waitress assured me it was an exception, and the fruit balanced the tartness of the cake. The bottle of Borsao went well with everything and helped me with my siesta. This was perhaps the best 17€ menu I have ever experienced– such a meal would have set me back over $80 in Ottawa. https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/30228040110

Day 18- Borja to Tarazona
As I headed out the next morning I ran into another misleading yellow arrow, taking me west on the C/Sopez— after a few km I realized that I had gone astray, and so headed back to my starting point. A posse of teenagers affirmed that I had really taken the wrong turn and sent me on my way up to the Sanctuario. After a stiff walk up the incline I arrived at a small group of houses and the Sanctuario. I took the tour and found the exhibition about the fresco a bit odd with its display of the global enthusiasm for the painting. Having seen it, and having looked at Doña Cecelia’s other work, I think that it was not a botched restoration but rather an attempt to build an artwork from it. In any case, there was a little café at the far end of the terrace so that one could sit with a pincho of tortilla and enjoy the incredible view over the valley https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/30439563661

Yellow arrows took one to the field of windmills and eventually down to the village of Bulte– the path was overgrown in parts and I would recommend that the pilgrim go to the village by the road. From there it continues down the road to where the Camino takes you off to the right. Here is where I would underscore Laurie’s use of the GPS– without it, this would be an extremely difficult route to follow, and that was really very obvious from the road. Her description of the geography as being a bowl of descending ridges is a fair one. I had no GPS and if I had tried to navigate this stretch without one, I would likely still be there.

Having had enough of being lost the day before, I simply walked the road to Tarazona. After several hours of an amazing landscape of a mix of so many shades of desert brown and about 5 km out of the city, a van stopped and offered to pick me up as he had seen me and thought I was having trouble walking— I hesitated and he laughed at me, saying that a “malo peregrino es mejor que uno peregrino muerte” and then gave me a ride into Tarazona.

I stayed at the Hotel Restaurante de la Merced de la Concordia which unbeknownst to me was right beside the local Conservatory– after my shower, I lay down and was sent to my siesta by the music produced by a posse of cello students at practice. The evening mass in the teeny church on the square was made extraordinary by the presence in the gallery of two dozen music students forming the choir, with a professional at the organ. The elderly priest came in, not to the usual silence, but with Boccherini’s Entrada thundering out for the two dozen of us in the pews. After the mass, I went to the sacristy to get my credencial stamped and the priest said that he had been ill for years and this was given to him as perhaps the only church he could run at his age; he was happy working with the conservatory students and could think of no better fate. They were serious and full of life and they were a gift to him.

Tarazona with its cathedral and river winding through it is one of the cities to which I would think of returning as if a small baroque church in a lesser square with the powerful voices of young musicians would not be enough temptation.

Day 19- Tarazona to Vozmediano
Trying to work from wifi and a smartphone has its disadvantages and I ended up booking a room in a place called Vozmediano. Looking at a map, I realized that I had erred and it was 8km from Agreda and not on the path. Or was it? Apparently it was on the Camino Antonino, so I headed out of Tarazona to follow it. After the village of Los Fayos with its cave dwellings carved out from the cliffs, from which Laurie headed off by the Embalse de Val, I headed on for a few km, and then followed this Camino to Vozmediano, meeting a number of recreational hikers from Madrid who kindly shared their lunch of fruit & chocolate with him. This is a spectacular part of Spain, and its gentle green slopes were a refreshing relief after days of stomping through hot and dusty plains. https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/30410959822

I had booked into the Encanto de Moncayo under the erroneous Tripadvisor-caused impression that it was in Agreda but its presence in Vozmediano was not disagreeable to me. It is clearly a village which does well out of tourists in the summer and I was one of the two clients in the restaurant that October night.

Apropos of civil war memories, the Calle General Mola (who had initiated the nationalist uprising) was still with us, as was the dictator Primo de Rivera https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/29894726573

Day 20-Vozmediano to Soria
The walk to Agreda was peaceful and agreeable. This is a nice little town with a lively plaza and several places to stay, and I should have overnighted, but for some reason I had decided that I was going to bus it to Soria that day to avoid the 38km stretch which, frankly, would have been too much for me.

Day 21-Soria
Soria is another of Spain’s secret cities, and is far better for a rest stop than places such as Burgos. I had my beard trimmed in a sidestreet pelluqueria for 6€ to the excitement of the trainee student who was set to work on me under her boss’ careful supervision, who did the final eyebrow trim herself. This is a far better idea than schlepping a beard trimmer and charger across Spain. I got a sello in my credencial and the two initialled it.

Another sello was obtained at the Circulo Amistad Numancia where the poet Machado spent his days. This is a fine establishment and I wished Ottawa had one. Both Santo Domingo and San Pedro Cathedral had splendid romanesque carving, in itself worth the visit to Soria https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/30527709095.

I stayed at the Hotel Leonor in the hill above the old cathedral– there was a small chapel opposite at the side of a park and, hearing singing on Saturday night, I assumed it was a mass of the first vigil, but found out that I was sitting in on Romanian Orthodox vespers, leading up to the Liturgy. Aware that this would go on for some while, I took my siesta and returned just for the end of the service, and chatted in French with one of the young priests. Apparently there was an agreement between the Romanian Patriarch and the Spanish bishops and about fifty churches had been loaned to serve the immigrant population. As I left, they were beginning to set up tables for an evening meal– this was evidently a community event for people far from their homeland.

Day 22-Soria to Cidones
The provincial turismo staff (the municipal turismo, a block north, never seemed to be open, but the provincial office had extended hours and no closed days) drew me a map to steer me out of the city, and I dutifully headed out through well-marked paths in a large recreational park (its cafes and restaurants closed for the season) and country roads not far from the N-234, with the hulking mountain (Fuentetoba?) to my left all the way. https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/30539676285

About 20km (I hang my head in shame when looking at Laurie’s daily kilometrage!) I arrived in Cidones and checked into the Posada del Indiano. This extraordinary and eccentric establishment, with fantastic wall-paintings in the rooms, was clearly intended for weddings and other events. But my huge bed was very comfortable (and perhaps the second most expensive accommodation I had in Spain) and, when it became clear that the local café/restaurant was closed, the desk clerk made me a monstrous jamon y queso boccadillo, along with a salad, and fruit, which restored me

Day 23-Cidones to Abejar
A well-marked route by back roads and the occasional path took me to Abejar— I had experienced plenty of walking drama on this trip so had no objection to just cruising along through the parklands, which were quite deserted. I took the opportunity for a refreshing dip in the reservoir by one of the beaches.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/30500936186 https://www.flickr.com/photos/oursonpolaire/29906548454

About a kilometre out of the town, the path got inexplicably lost in a series of pastures, but I was able to make my way by a small millrace– they could have laid out a better path. While theoretically Abejar had a number of places to stay, one hotel (Puerta Pinares) was closed for the week, and the other (la Barossa) was full. It seemed to have a lively dining room. I headed back into the pueblo and found that I had passed by the Hostal Fuentefria, somehow thinking it was a bar. It was good value (I think it was 45€) and was one of the nicest rooms I had on this Camino– the two women who ran it were very friendly and hospitable and we watched the news together (some drama over the PSOE leadership, if I recall aright) in the bar after dinner. One remarked that there were few pilgrims coming through– when I asked why she thought that this was so, she said that the route was “muy duro.” Indeed.

Day 24- Abejar to Navaleno
This pleasant day was followed by a rather hellish one. Laurie’s account of the railway is far too gentle and polite. While the tracks have been removed (perhaps if they had left the ties in, one could perhaps hop the 15km to better advantage), only a very few stretches (perhaps under 10%) had it been graded. With very large stones, there was a constant risk of turning one’s ankle or falling— this was my 9th Camino and this was perhaps one of the worst walking surfaces I have encountered. Not only is it not fun, but I raise the question that it might be too dangerous for a solitary pilgrim.
If they ever bother grading it, I think it will be an excellent trail.

I don’t know where she saw the well-defined dirt path at the side. I would have loved it!

As I headed along following the yellow arrows, I soon realized that I had entered into a construction zone.
One of the monster-vehicle drivers alighted and kindly gave me directions through some construction roads into Navaleno. After another 4km, I staggered into the pueblo and was walked by a helpful women in her 80s to the friendly folks at La Tablada. At dinner I was seated by a table of women’s activists who were discussing union and social issues over mountains of chocolate and churros– as we pilgrims are the entertainment for the people along the way, I was quizzed on what I was doing, where I was from, and did I not agree with them on everything (of course I did). I had to point out that at least they had a very tall king, but the answer was that he did not do yoga like our president— it took me a minute to realize that they meant Prime Minister Trudeau (a Spanish friend notes that in Spain the PM is known as the President of the Government). Enough politics

I had considered following Laurie’s recommendation of the Cañón de Rio Lobos and if I had been less zonked and tired of solitary walking by this point, I would have done so. I have seen stunning photographs on Spanish flickr sites. But I was close to the end of my appetite for walking and would soon be taking a break in famed Moratinos.

Day 25-Navaleno to Hontaria del Pinar
I cannot recall much of this stretch, particularly to San Leonardo, but my camera reminds me that it was a pleasant walk between pine trees trying to find the arrows painted on them .
If it was awful, I suppressed it, and I remember that I enjoyed a coffee break and a visit to the ayuntamiento for my sello. Carefully avoiding any prospect of walking along railways, I sound myself in Hontoria– I had initially fantasized about staying at the CR El Medico, as Clint Eastwood had bunked here while making one of his spaghetti westerns (perhaps we should call them ensalada rusa westerns if they were filmed in Spain?) but they were being renovated. The hostess at El Chato was very helpful and I found myself in a comfortable and economical room.

Day 26-Hontaria del Pina to Santo Domingo de Silos
Somehow I missed the yellow arrows and ended up walking along the carretera until La Gallega– this was really quite avoidable and I realize that if I had a GPS I could easily have done so. While the road was quite empty at that hour, it would have been a more agreeable walk if I had been able to avoid it. Still, it was not a railroad.

The walk to Santo Domingo, as Laurie notes, is well-marked but one needs to be on the alert to follow the arrows. I was able to do so without much trouble in spite of looking all about me at the utterly spectacular scenery.
This was one of those places where the wonder of it all was invigorating and transforming. Or perhaps I was simply getting too tired to be rational. In any case this is a stretch where I think a pilgrim would be well-advised to not do this on their own– in good weather it is not a problem, but if the weather deteriorated, or if there be a mishap such as a sprained ankle, there is no real traffic in this area and it could be a while before assistance could be attained.

The last few km into Santo Domino is wearing, but there is a campsite/restaurant (I think rooms were available) at the entrance to the Desfiladero de la Yecla
to restore one for the last haul.

In Santo Domingo I stayed at a moderately pricey hostal, and not the best food I have eaten in Spain. I attended an evening mass at the Abbey shortly after I arrived, and the church was quite packed with visitors– there is a nearby church of Saint Peter for parishioners. Vespers the next evening was also worth the visit although perhaps with a grammy under their belt, the monks should know how to prevent feedback on the sound system.
Still, they might have been distracted, as four of their monks were being beatified in a few weeks as martyrs of the Civil War.

After this it was bus to Burgos and to Moratinos as I needed to take some time off, and short days and break days were not enough.

Of nine caminos, this is perhaps the most difficult I have undertaken, partly because of the heat and sun of the first ten days, and partly because of the isolation and difficulty of the trail. It is not for everyone. Pilgrims are not unknown, but you might well do the entire route without meeting another, so this Camino is for those who are able to operate on their own. And, definitely, this is a trail where one brings one’s GPS– it would have made my life easier. I would recommend it to those fascinated by the history of Spain and with a greater capacity than I to interact in Spanish. There are places I would revisit (by vehicle!!). The challenges of the trail were greatly mellowed by the warm hospitality and assistance I received along the way.

And anyone who does the Castellano-Aragonese will remember it. It is a great trip. Pay more attention to Laurie's advice than to mine.
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Staff member
Hi, oursonpolaire, many thanks for your report. I will lend you my GPS in case you want to go back and try that series of ridged bowls outside of Tarazona. You are absolutely right, though -- I cannot imagine how I would have extricated myself from there without the GPS.

Your post brought back a lot of memories, but you are right it is a very solitary walk. I think we may have a forum member on the ground soon in Tarazona, and maybe that lovely person would take on the task of getting some of these pitfalls worked out.

And Soria! Talk about hidden gems!



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