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LIVE from the Camino West from Montserrat

alansykes

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Except the Francés
Covid having cut my 2020 camino short, I have been fortunate to be able to restart it in 2021 at Montserrat. While supposedly under lockdown, the NHS very kindly provided me with a couple of new knees, the more recent one exactly 6 months ago, so now seems as good a time as any to put them both through their paces.

The albergue at Montserrat Is still closed, but the local Amics are allowed to lodge pilgrims in rooms at the Abat Oliba hostal (on the same floor where the albergue normally is), which was fine, 10€. They also very kindly organised a pilgrim blessing for me, after vespers in the chapel behind the moreneta.

As I decided my first day would only be the 16km or so to Castelloli, I could have a leisurely morning up the top. And this year the monastery museum is open again, so I was able to enjoy my favourite Caravaggio for the first time in 15 years, as well as many other masterpieces from el Greco to Dalí.

Rather than follow the usual marked pilgrim path along the road towards the motorway, I took the footpath to the lovely Santa Cova, and then down the mule path (or GR5 "sender dels Miradors") to Collbató. It's a bit of a scramble in places, but nothing too extreme.

The next village on, el Bruc, is unremarkable except in that it can claim to be the first place French troops in Spain were defeated in 1808. An almost certainly apocryphal story claims that a local drummer boy was drumming in the narrow gorge and the echo made it sound as if there were thousands of troops defending the spot, causing the French to retreat.

Anyway, a few km from el Bruc I was reconnected with the yellow arrows, and so on to Castelloli, where I enjoyed an excellent menú del día in Cal Betis, the first bar in the village. They gave me the number code to the albergue, in the former presbytery next to the church. Very large, very comfortable, plenty of hot water to wash clothes and self, free.

Castelloli to Jorba

One of the bars in Castelloli opens at 7, so I was able to have my coffee and be on my way as dawn was breaking. Not that it's a long day but the heat is still nudging the 30s in these parts, so getting a few km under my belt as early as possible appeals. Igualada is the first major town on this route, and a last chance to see the jagged edges of the magic mountain receeding into the heat haze. On the outskirts is a rather fine statue of Antonio Franch ("el Heroe del Bruc") with palm outstretched, looking a bit like a bronze traffic policeman. And just outside town is the really very lovely Romanesque chapel of Sant Jaume, with a wide crack in the apse caused by an earthquake in 1429.

The hospitalero of Jorba is also the parish priest, who also acts as a caterer, so is clearly a very busy man. He is very keen to repeat that he doesn't open until 6 (I think it was 5 to when I saw him at his door and went up). The albergue is fine, but I'm glad I was alone, as I felt rather squashed in a very narrow room with 3 bunks. 10€.

IMG_20210928_074739.jpg
 
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Past OR future Camino
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
I am glad to learn that the museo at the Monastery is open-- I highly recommend it. IIRC it has one of Picasso's earliest works (The Altar Boy, 1896) and some fine Ramon Casas. Perhaps it's one of the best small museums I have ever seen.
 

LTfit

Veteran Member
Wish you and your 2 new knees well (says the physio). This sure will be a test for them!

Glad you found a better way leaving Monserrat, don't believe we knew about an alternative.

Yes, that priest in Jorba is a busy bee. When we stayed in the albergue he was occupied with a communion lunch and had little time for us. Laurie and I were alone too, actually during the entire Camí Sant Jaume (through Huesca) except for one or two stops. Will be interesting to hear how you find the route through Zaragoza.

As always I enjoy your posts.

Ultreia!
 
Past OR future Camino
Next up 2022?
I'm very glad to read your posts, as usual full if interesting nuggets of information, and details of the conditions you're finding now, post covid.

While supposedly under lockdown, the NHS very kindly provided me with a couple of new knees, the more recent one exactly 6 months ago, so now seems as good a time as any to put them both through their paces.
Yes, right off the bat, from the sound of it ! ~
I took the footpath to the lovely Santa Cova, and then down the mule path (or GR5 "sender dels Miradors") to Collbató. It's a bit of a scramble in places, but nothing too extreme
May they go well and keep well! Wishing you a very buen camino.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Except the Francés
Jorba to Cervera

The truck stop just outside Jorba opens early, so the necessary caffeine was obtained before sunrise again. Then it's a really fairly brutal continuous ascent for 15 km almost all on tarmac, and mostly within sight or sound of the motorway. At the top is La Panadella and its Hostal Bayona, providing a very much needed top up of caffeine. I bumped into an Italian Ignaciano pilgrim on the way up who told me it was a nice place to stay, and if I'd walked from Igualada I might have done, but not arriving at noon.

Anyway, the descent was very pleasant, mostly through woodland trails, with my favourite pale blue chicory flowers in abundance, and another lovely chapel of St Jaume, this one at Pallerols, also romanesque but with gothic extensions. At some point in the descent I made my first footsteps in Lleida province.

It's a bit of a slog up to Cervera, through the impressive city walls. Unusually for the Catalans (?uniquely), they supported the Bourbons, so Felipe V, when he shut down all of Catalonia's universities, opened up a new one in Cervera. Very handsome, taking up much of the old town.

Not for the first time, I got me to a nunnery. This time of the Hermanas de la Sagrada Familia, but now run by Emaús Rural. Again I was alone, in a large room with several beds and bunks, 10€.

Wandering the town later on (limping somewhat after 30+km on my new knees) I encountered a very convivial march with flaming torches and brass/wind music, commemorating the 4th anniversary of the 1 October independence referendum - one of many taking place throughout Catalonia.
 
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JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Past OR future Camino
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
Jorba is wonderful ; though it is indeed a bit of a shame that you missed out on Igualada.

But it sounds like you're keeping up a decent pace.
 
Past OR future Camino
Next up 2022?
It's a bit of a slog up to Cervera, through the impressive city walls.
Alan, did you approach Cervera from the East, staying North of the Autovia, or from the South, crossing it again and following the Riu Ondara at Vergos de Cervera? I've two possible tracks (turquoise in map below) and wonder which you'd recommend.
(Actually, I was thinking that one of the many other possibilities from Sant Pere dels Arquells (dark blue lines) would be worth exploring , after all that walking near the motorway.)
20211004_125753.jpg

Cervera sounds wonderful. A nunnery to stay in, a university, and flaming brass bands? What more can one want? Hopefully there'll be something open first thing in the morning for cafe.

May your knees be at peace with the distance!
 
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alansykes

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Except the Francés
Cervera to Castellnou de la Seana

The first of the flat days. The camino largely follows the (largely flat) valley of the Ondara. A few huge new 120000€ tractors were crashing about bailing straw or ploughing the ground for winter wheat, otherwise nothing. At Tàrrega the camino splits, and most people head towards Huesca, while I carried on towards Lleida. Mostly dirt tracks, mostly now through high maize waiting to be harvested. At the small village of Castellnou de la Seana there was a most welcome bar, the Modern, which has the key to the (polidiportivo) albergue (10€). The friendly barman had spent several years as a lorry driver in England. I told him he should go back as there is a ridiculous shortage now, and mentioned the current going rate. Clearly more than when he was working there, as he spent the next half hour shaking his head in disbelief and occasionally muttering "¡Cinco mil euros POR MES!"
 
Past OR future Camino
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
Cervera is a lovely little town, with a postwar cultural centre which has the feel of Franco's Spain, and an a;y;untamiento with great stone carvings. There is a small museum in the building where Isabelle the Catholic spent her wedding night with Ferdinand; the guide elicited much laughter from the teenagers she was addressing by noting that there was no mirror on the ceiling. But the place had a good half dozen cafés stuffed with students who seemed happy to practise their English on me.

I stayed at the Bonavista, which has seen better days but was still clean and comfortable. On my last visit I was adventurous enough to try the Chinese restaurant and realized that I should keep my Chinese cuisine expeditions to the suburbs of Toronto where I can count on the real thing. LIke Spanish food in Oshawa, Ontario, Chinese food in Catalonia is ..... well.... not very Chinese.
 
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lindam

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, VDLP, Invierno, Portuguese, Madrid, Ingles, Fisterra, Muxia, Catalan/Aragones/Loyola Norte
Thank you for sharing your experiences along this lovely route. Having walked it a couple of times (and also in reverse following the Ignatian route), I could picture the places you described along the way. You seem to be advancing admirably with your new knees. All the best to you as you continue on your way!
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Except the Francés
Castellnou de la Seana to Alcoletge

The Modern opens at 7, fortunately, so coffee and tostada before another day of unseasonable 30+ heat (according to the tv news, nearby Lleida was the hottest place in Spain that day, presumably not counting the lava flow in La Palma). Flat, flat, flat, but fortunately very little tarmac. A few well placed villages for coffee, but the last one, Bell-Lloc de Urgell, unfortunately had a dry fuente, so I was out of water by the time I got to Alcoletge. The village (1.5km off the camino) was on the republican front line for 9 months during the civil war, and badly bombarded by the fascists. The luxurious albergue (well equipped kitchen, washing machine, fridge, comfy sitting room, 9€) is above the Centre d'Interpretació del Patrimoni de la guerra civil, on the main drag. I was the fifth person to sign the visitors´ book this year, so I assume most people carry on to Lleida.
 
Past OR future Camino
06,CF;13,CP;17,SSal;19,Ingles
Covid having cut my 2020 camino short, I have been fortunate to be able to restart it in 2021 at Montserrat. While supposedly under lockdown, the NHS very kindly provided me with a couple of new knees, the more recent one exactly 6 months ago, so now seems as good a time as any to put them both through their paces.

The albergue at Montserrat Is still closed, but the local Amics are allowed to lodge pilgrims in rooms at the Abat Oliba hostal (on the same floor where the albergue normally is), which was fine, 10€. They also very kindly organised a pilgrim blessing for me, after vespers in the chapel behind the morenata.

As I decided my first day would only be the 16km or so to Castelloli, I could have a leisurely morning up the top. And this year the monastery museum is open again, so I was able to enjoy my favourite Caravaggio for the first time in 15 years, as well as many other masterpieces from el Greco to Dalí.

Rather than follow the usual marked pilgrim path along the road towards the motorway, I took the footpath to the lovely Santa Cova, and then down the mule path (or GR5 "sender dels Miradors") to Collbató. It's a bit of a scramble in places, but nothing too extreme.

The next village on, el Bruc, is unremarkable except in that it can claim to be the first place French troops in Spain were defeated in 1808. An almost certainly apocryphal story claims that a local drummer boy was drumming in the narrow gorge and the echo made it sound as if there were thousands of troops defending the spot, causing the French to retreat.

Anyway, a few km from el Bruc I was reconnected with the yellow arrows, and so on to Castelloli, where I enjoyed an excellent menú del día in Cal Betis, the first bar in the village. They gave me the number code to the albergue, in the former presbytery next to the church. Very large, very comfortable, plenty of hot water to wash clothes and self, free.

Castelloli to Jorba

One of the bars in Castelloli opens at 7, so I was able to have my coffee and be on my way as dawn was breaking. Not that it's a long day but the heat is still nudging the 30s in these parts, so getting a few km under my belt as early as possible appeals. Igualada is the first major town on this route, and a last chance to see the jagged edges of the magic mountain receeding into the heat haze. On the outskirts is a rather fine statue of Antonio Franch ("el Heroe del Bruc") with palm outstretched, looking a bit like a bronze traffic policeman. And just outside town is the really very lovely Romanesque chapel of Sant Jaume, with a wide crack in the apse caused by an earthquake in 1429.

The hospitalero of Jorba is also the parish priest, who also acts as a caterer, so is clearly a very busy man. He is very keen to repeat that he doesn't open until 6 (I think it was 5 to when I saw him at his door and went up). The albergue is fine, but I'm glad I was alone, as I felt rather squashed in a very narrow room with 3 bunks. 10€.

View attachment 110395
Great to read of your current camino, and I trust your NHS knees will serve you well. The story about the drummer boy reminds me of one, which I think is safe to tell, as it is lost in the mists of time: battle scene in Scotland. English King keeps on sending soldiers up the hill. None return, and there is a fierce noise of battle. Eventually, when finally one last brave stalwart arrives back down to the King, he blurts out: "Sire, there's two of them!"
I will follow your posts now I have seen this thread. 👣
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Past OR future Camino
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
Alcoletge is another great place, mainly for that superb Albergue.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Except the Francés
Alcoletge to Alcarràs

Beautifully clean clothes courtesy of the albergue's washing machine, and significantly less dusty tracks thanks to some overnight rain. The short walk to Lleida is not exciting, and certainly not helped by quite heavy commuter traffic followed by lengthy industrial parks, tantalisingly within sight of the old cathedral tower. Once across the Segre river, things improve enormously. A very handsome tree-lined promenade takes you all the way through the city, with detours to see the various sights, including yet another mediaeval Sant Jaume chapel.

The camino then follows the Segre for another couple of pleasantly shady hours - from what I've read, the last shade for several days. I was tempted to have a dip in the river, but the banks were heavily covered in brambles, so not inviting.

Alcarràs is an almost entirely unremarkable town, but I stayed in the very pleasant hostal Can Peixan, on the main drag, 25€. The dueño is very pilgrim friendly, and I suspect I was charged less than the going rate. His wife is a marseillaise, so of course we talked about fish. And his mother may not be from Andalucía, but her recipe for gazpacho is as good as any I've had. Normally by this stage of a camino I'm about a belt notch lighter, but the food this last week has been so good I don't think I've lost any weight at all. I expect things will deteriorate in Aragón.
 
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alansykes

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Except the Francés
Alcarràs to Fraga

After the industrial pig farming and cereal of the stages before Lleida, the camino now passes through intensive fruit, with neat rows of trees in every direction. Also a lot of roads - 2 motorways, the N2, and various industrial parks. Meaning that I got more than enough coffee stops between the two towns.

At some point the camino crosses the border from Catalonia into Huesca province in Aragón, although the only visible sign is that the hunting notices change from "caça" to "caza", and I'll no longer have to worry about using the accent grave. Also, I might be advised no longer to use my mask with the Català independentista flag on it, an occasionally useful icebreaker in Catalonia, but unlikely to help getting a drink in a Spanish bar.

Fraga is neatly bisected by the Cinca river, smooth and silvery green and very tempting. Before crossing the river you visit the partly Romanesque church of San Pedro, where the parish priest will give you a voucher (funded by the town hall) for a free night at the Hostal Trebol, just over the bridge. The priest told me about 40 pilgrims a year take advantage of the scheme. Looking at the calendar, he assumed I was aiming to hit Zaragoza for the fiestas del Pilar. Which stupidly hadn't occured to me, and will make finding somewhere to stay this weekend almost impossible. A plenary indulgence would be nice, but a bed is nice too.

The Trebol is a perfectly pleasant 1 star, with a most welcoming dueña, and breakfast from before dawn. A very generous and, in my experience, unique way of providing pilgrims with somewhere to sleep. Thank you Fraga.

Alan, did you approach Cervera from the East, staying North of the Autovia, or from the South, crossing it again and following the Riu Ondara at Vergos de Cervera?
I didn't cross the motorway, or go into Vergos de Cervera, passing through well tended allotments and then up through the city walls to the Plaça Major and the impressive campanile, a 100 yards from the nunnery/albergue.
 
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lindam

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, VDLP, Invierno, Portuguese, Madrid, Ingles, Fisterra, Muxia, Catalan/Aragones/Loyola Norte
Fraga is neatly bisected by the Cinca river, smooth and silvery green and very tempting. Before crossing the river you visit the partly Romanesque church of San Pedro, where the parish priest will give you a voucher (funded by the town hall) for a free night at the Hostal Trebol, just over the bridge. The priest told me about 40 pilgrims a year take advantage of the scheme. Looking at the calendar, he assumed I was aiming to hit Zaragoza for the fiestas del Pilar. Which stupidly hadn't occured to me, and will make finding somewhere to stay this weekend almost impossible. A plenary indulgence would be nice, but a bed is nice too.
I guess my husband and I were two of the 40 who took advantage of this kind offer two years ago. Hopefully you will not have issues finding a place to stay in Zaragoza. It is a marvelous place to explore. I had hoped to return one day but as we have now left Spain, it seems unlikely. So many treasures await you. Enjoy!
 
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alansykes

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Except the Francés
Fraga to Candasnos

A really great day, slightly to my surprise. Leaving the Trebol at dawn, the camino goes steadily up for about 5km to the desert of Monegros, with fabulous views back towards Catalonia and a glorious sunrise. All dirt track, and, other than a rabbit or two and an eagle (possibly not good news for the rabbits), no other living thing. Once up the top, it's flat and utterly barren. Normally I don't much like either, but somehow this was almost sureally beautiful, and through the clear bright morning light you could see the faint outline of hills far to the north, which I assume can only have been the Pyrenees - according to the local paper, the first snow of the season fell on them yesterday. Tramping steadily on, I fell into that pleasant, meditative almost trance-like state that all hikers encounter, sometimes only emerging from to realise they're miles off track. Which, fortunately, I didn't, merely stopping at a petrol station about half way along for a not very tasty but most welcome coffee, and some extra water - 5 litres needed today. The complete lack of shade makes the heat feel worse than it is, but at least it's very dry heat, unlike the uncomfortable humidity of the Segre valley. A couple of km short of Candasnos is another petrol station and a wayside hostal, which I decided to stay in. The menú del día was quite good. The hostal less so, but the alternatives in town apparently might be worse - the Montserrat Amics say "malgrat las limitaciones, encara és millor opció que quedar-se al poble de Candasnos".

The desert sunset was spectacular, with a murmuration of starlings as well.
 

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Learn how to Get "Camino Ready " 2nd Edition. In English, Spanish, German and Korean
Past OR future Camino
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
@alansykes. The Colina, the truckstop in Candasnos where I stayed 5 years ago is now permanently closed (prices were posted in pesetas), so the only place is Pilar's. I suspect you made the right decision. In Bujaroloz I stayed at the Hostal Monegros III, which was comfortable and had a friendly innkeeper.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Except the Francés
Candasnos to Bujalaroz

Another wonderful day alone in the Monegros desert.

An advantage of staying in a dump is that there is no temptation to linger, so I was out before 7, with Leo still bright to the east, apparently stalking Orion and his dogs. I passed the Pilar hostal in central town, and it looked no more inviting than my Cruzazana.

The desert was more undulating than the previous day, and more fertile, with irrigation channels and wells, even some stunted pines to go with the desiccated gorse and broom, and a few rosemary bushes with pale blue flowers "born to blush unseen, and waste its fragrance on the desert air". At the halfway point was the pretty and apparently prosperous village of Peñalba, with a spotless and friendly truck stop. An astonishing number of trucks do crash along the N2, and even more on the nearby motorway. Fortunately the camino is mostly out of sight and sound on a parallel dirt track. Nearing Bujalaroz it's flat again, and almost entirely maize, recently harvested or soon to be - there was a queue of 4 tractors at the agricultural co-op in town, all with heavy trailers full of maize, waiting to off-load their harvest, and a golden mountain of the stuff already unloaded.

A short day, so I was installed at El Español (although the Monegros III looked good too, as did Las Sabinas in the centre) soon after one, with the temperature still only in the mid 20s. A very comfortable friendly hostal, with immaculate en suite for 30€ - the same price, but very different value for money, as the previous night.

Another fantastic sunset, and then bright bright stars, almost entirely free of light pollution.
 

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alansykes

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Except the Francés
Bujalaroz to Pina de Ebro

Last day in the lovely Monegros, so might as well make it a long one. The beauty of the badlands continued to thrill, and with slowly changing ridges and distant hills, it was never quite the same, certainly never dull. The only real drawback was the almost complete lack of shade. I could have done with even the "shadow of this red rock" but there was nothing but my shadow at morning striding before me, my shadow at noon walking beside me, and my shadow at evening limping behind me (sorry, Tom, but that's how it works when you're walking westwards all day round the equinox).

The day's main distraction was a group of 18 people straggled out on the camino heading towards Bujalaroz. They turned out to be "Jesuits West", apparently mainly from California, on a private tour from Loyola to Manresa, mainly by bus, but with walks most days. There was much "gee" -ing when I told them I was heading for Santiago. Idly, I googled them when I arrived, and discovered the singles rate for their 16 night tour was $8190 (not including flights to Europe).

The camino stays close to the N2 for
20km, where, at noon, I got to the Venta de Santa Lucía, a restaurant - sadly shut on Saturdays. You then leave the road far away and the next 4 hours were all out of sight of any human, with a few ruined buildings slowly being reclaimed by the desert.

The heat was not quite as bad as feared. But I was certainly relieved when I got to Pina de Ebro's polígono industrial and suddenly there were vivid oleander, roses, bougainvillea and other thirsty colourful plants, contrasting to the dusty monochrome I'd been through.

I loved it, but it was a long day: by some way the longest on my new knees. They didn't complain at all, although my feet (and calves) did. On weekdays a bus calls morning and afternoon at the Venta de Santa Lucía, so it would be possible to cut that stage in two (there is some dispute about the distance between Bujalaroz and Pina de Ebro, gronze putting it at 38km and mundicamino at 34 - my feet say gronze is probably closer).

I really enjoyed my time in the Monegros, an utterly unexpected treat. Reading about them (in my blissful cool air-conditioned bedroom in Bujalaroz) I was astonished to learn about a supremely crass €34billion scheme (supported by the junta of Aragón) to build 32 casinos here, 70 hotels, 200 restaurants, some golf courses, five theme parks, an international airport and a new 100,000 population town. Fortunately the financial crash of 2008 put paid to that idiocy.

IMG_20211009_110652.jpg
 
Past OR future Camino
Next up 2022?
Last day in the lovely Monegros
Not everyone loves these kinds of landscapes, so perhaps these days are part of the reason this arm of the camino gets dismissed as "not as nice."

Thank you for sharing the delights, Alan.

I was astonished to learn about a supremely crass €34billion scheme (supported by the junta of Aragón) to build 32 casinos here, 70 hotels, 200 restaurants, some golf courses, five theme parks, an international airport and a new 100,000 population town. Fortunately the financial crash of 2008 put paid to that idiocy.
What is it about deserts and gambling? Thank God for the crash - one Las Vegas on the planet is more than enough.
 
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alansykes

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Except the Francés
Pina de Ebro to El Burgo de Ebro

Crossing the sluggish, wide, bird-rich, green Ebro, you soon join the camino del Ebro, and also the markings for the GR99, which follows the river much more closely than the camino does. Conveniently about the half way point of this leisurely day, more coffee was at bustling Fuentes de Ebro, where the Belchite variant of the camino del Maestrazgo-Bajo Aragón joins you - perhaps next year?

The rich, wide fertile plain of the Ebro could not have been a greater contrast to the arid previous days. And dozens of people, some working the land, others just out for a stroll or a bike ride on the long holiday weekend. I probably saw more people in the countryside in 24km than in the previous 200.

Gronze says the albergue in El Burgo de Ebro is closed for covid, so I was a bit nervous about where I would sleep. Fortunately it isn't, and somebody from the town hall turned up almost immediately with the key. It's a small but perfectly formed albergue - two bunks, loo, shower with instant hot water, free. If all four beds were occupied it would be a squash, but I doubt that happens often - I was the 9th person to sign the visitor's book this year.
 
Past OR future Camino
Next up 2022?
You're moving right along, Alan. I hope those knees continue to behave themselves!
I'm very much enjoying your account, feeling into the landscape as well as touching on the practicalities of the route. I wonder if you will encounter any Ebro peregrinos?
 

mspath

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
For those of us who are still dreaming of walking in better times your daily accounts are perfect. "Two bunks, loo, shower with instant hot water, ..." describes the necessary basics.

Thanks again for sharing your daily journey.
 
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alansykes

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
Except the Francés
El Burgo de Ebro to Zaragoza

I learned a new word today: galacho. Where the river's flooding tries to find a new course, sometimes leaving an oxbow behind it. The meandros around here are spectacular - in one place the river meanders in a mazy motion for 35km which could be covered in a straight line by 7. Come back in a couple of million years and it will be a much simpler walk. Loads of storks nesting on any available pylon, an occasional cormorant skimming the river, and once a heron lazily making its improbable flight.

Zaragoza in full fiesta del Pilar - celebrating arguably the oldest alleged Marian apparition, in front of Santiago himself - was amazing, and a bit scary. Getting into the cathedral was, if not impossible, certainly uninviting. Emperors and popes, queens, saints and cardinals have all kissed the Pilar, but I doubt anybody will be doing so again any time soon. The atmosphere was lovely, but the sheer crush of people felt like a virus super-spreader in progress - although the police were very actively making the few people who weren't wearing them put on their masks. Lots of women in the colourful traditional Aragonese long dresses, and a km-long 2 hour queue for them to add their flowers onto the huge mountain of them in front of the Pilar. A lovely sight but perhaps not the best day to hit town in a pandemic.
 

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alansykes

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Zaragoza to Torres de Berrellén

The Goya museum had a temporary exhibition "Picasso: Diario íntimo" which was an unexpected pleasure, including an early cubist work, possibly the last he painted in Barcelona before leaving for Paris. Quite how it was a "diálogo entre dos genios" I didn't get.

The passage out of the city is much less industrial than the way in. I sensed I must be in a university suburb when, in the loo in a bar, I read the graffiti "Tobias Smollett: hijo de puta". As literary criticism goes, it has the merit of brevity, if of little else.

Somewhere near Uterbo I first saw the distant hazy outline of the squat grandeur of Moncayo, about 4 days ahead. Still no snow on its 2300m height, as far as I could tell. At some point round here Don Quixote got his first view of the Ebro "y el verle fué de gran gusto a Don Quijote, porque contempló y miró en él la amenidad de sus riberas, la claridad de sus aguas, el sosiego de su curso y la abundancia de sus líquidos cristales".

Gronze says the albergue in Torres de Berrellén is still closed for covid. It isn't, and I picked up the key from the very pilgrim friendly Café Aroa and was soon installed in the luxurious 2nd floor suite overlooking the main plaza. 6€.

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The photo in your last post - I assume it's from Zaragoza?

the squat grandeur of Moncayo, about 4 days
Looking forward to reading about who and what you encounter up there in the Mons Caius. A griffon vulture, or footprint left by a wolf, perhaps? In the meantime may you enjoy the quietly flowing Ebro and all she offers.
Buen camino!

Quite how it was a "diálogo entre dos genios" I didn't get.
Goes off, chuckling...
 

alansykes

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The photo in your last post - I assume it's from Zaragoza
Yup, the Aljafaría Palace, built in the 11th century, shortly before the reconquista of the area.
to reading about who and what you encounter up there in the Mons Caius. A griffon vulture, or footprint left by a wolf, perhaps?
I expect the former at least, as one of the lesser summits of the range in called La Buitrera. Lucky Caius to have such a beautiful mountain named after him.


Torres de Berrellén to Luceni

Alagón, 6km from TdB, is a good place for coffee, with its earliest known Goya, its crumbling mediaeval synagogue and its handsome centre, busy on its market day. Also the crystal clear morning view of Moncayo getting closer - but still 60km off. The next few km are less of a pleasure, on a narrow, busy fast road with no verge, heading towards Cabañas de Ebro. Which is one of the places that claims to be the inspiration for the episode of the "barco encantado" in Don Quixote. A few km Iater I met a couple of German women walking the camino Ignaciano. They were thrilled when I told them that Alcalá de Ebro, where we were, is also the "island" of Barataria, where Sancho Panza was briefly, and rather effectively, the governor. There is a statue in his honour.

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I got curious, as is my wont.
And here is a summary of some of the species living up there:

BIRD SPECIES​

RESIDENT: Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Eurasian Woodcock, Tawny Owl, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Blue Rock Thrush, Dunnock, Eurasian Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Citril Finch, Common Crossbill, Chaffinch, Rock Bunting, Eurasian Jay.

SUMMER: European Bee- Eater, Egyptian Vulture, Short-Toed Eagle, Red-rumped Swallow, Water Pipit, Tree Pipit, Rock Thrush, Northern Wheatear, Common Whitethroat, Bonelli’s Warbler, Red-backed Shrike, Ortolan Bunting.

OVERWINTERING: Eurasian Bullfinch, Brambling, Alpine Accentor, Redwing, Wallcreeper.

MIGRANT: Greylag Goose, Common Crane, Dotterel.

OTHER FAUNA

MAMMALS: Roe Deer, Wild Boar, Wildcat, Badger, Pine Marten, Crowned Shrew.

AMPHIBIANS: Palmate Newt, Marbled Newt, European Tree Frog, Midwife Toad.

REPTILES: Smooth snake, Snub-nosed Viper, Western Green Lizard, Common Wall Lizard, Slowworm.

FISH: Brown Trout
(From this webpage)

In addition to yhe magnificent Eagles and Vultures, I hope you get to see this beauty, the Blue Rock Thrush:
 

alansykes

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Luceni to Mallén

Most of the 10km of the way from Luceni to Gallur is on the nasty fast busy road, not a pleasure at all. But after it's all dirt tracks. Shortly after Gallur, over the canal imperial de Aragón, you are on a ridge looking over the Ebro plain. Far to the east there was a faint but distinct line of high hills. I think it can only have been the Pyrenées - there's nothing else between the Ebro and France - 100 and more km off, visible thanks to the astonishing gin clear air and totally cloudless sky.

I came this way rather than going up to the Castellano-Aragonés vía Borja as I've walked the Ebro from the sea to Gallur, and from Logroño to Tudela southwards, but never Gallur to Tudela. Also Borja, despite being the ancestral cradle of the family that gave the world two popes, several cardinals, a saint and lots of colourful sinners, is, bluntly, a bit of a dump. Which Tudela isn't.

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? The Ebro bridges and the Pyrenees from just north of Gallur, c11am, 14-x-21
 
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visible thanks to the astonishing gin clear air and totally cloudless sky.
An amazing vista.
May the weather gods continue to favor you, through Tudela and onwards. (I'm scatching my head, peering at my maps and wondering where the heck you're headed. Don't let on, please. It's extermely entertaining, this puzzling.)
 

JabbaPapa

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There's a small Sierra in that direction, but yes, it's the Pyrenees.
 

alansykes

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Mallén to Tudela

I'm glad I went this way. Partly because I can now say I've walked every step of the Ruta del Ebro from the sea to the Puente de Piedra in Logroño. More importantly, it was a really nice walk, possibly the best stage on the Ebro, certainly up there with the couple of hours from the warm springs at Foncalda to Gandesa.

Just after Mallén you cross into Navarre, and a few km later go past the abandoned station of Buñuel. The surrealist and his ancestors came from Teruel province, not here, but I liked to think it might have been in his honour that a graffiti artist had tagged the station walls repeated with the word Louie.

The best bit of the day was the 5km on the canal imperial de Aragón after Ribaforada. There's a pleasant dirt track going beside the wide pale green canal, and you get to see the water gates, some of them open to irrigate the fields of crops. Just before the canal comes off the Ebro itself, there's a really lovely public park, El Bocal. This was established when they were making the canal in the 1789s, and is a km long series of avenues of trees, neatly tended herbaceous borders, well-watered lawns, the oldest oak tree in Navarre, shady places to sit and enjoy it all, and, of course, loads of fuentes. Very, very pleasant, and, other than a single gardener tending a huge vegetable patch, I had the place entirely to myself.

At busy Tudela, the helpful woman in the turísmo confirmed that I had indeed seen the Pyrenées the previous day - an event so relatively unusual that it apparently made an item on the local TV news. On really clear days they can also be seen from the summit of Moncayo - 150km and more, but also 2km higher up.

This is the oldest oak in Navarre:
 

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JabbaPapa

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The best bit of the day was the 5km on the canal imperial de Aragón after Ribaforada. There's a pleasant dirt track going beside the wide pale green canal, and you get to see the water gates, some of them open to irrigate the fields of crops.
It's a great path, though it was rough this year in the full summer heat, and it was an unusually hot day when I was on it.
Just before the canal comes off the Ebro itself, there's a really lovely public park, El Bocal. This was established when they were making the canal in the 1789s, and is a km long series of avenues of trees, neatly tended herbaceous borders, well-watered lawns, the oldest oak tree in Navarre, shady places to sit and enjoy it all, and, of course, loads of fuentes. Very, very pleasant, and, other than a single gardener tending a huge vegetable patch, I had the place entirely to myself.
That's a great place, and I'm glad you too were lucky to arrive there at the weekend when it's open.

I was particularly glad to reach it this summer from all of that heat. Was a fantastic place to cool down for an afternoon rest.

The youth hostel at Tudela is fine, but my favourite memory of that part of the route is from Ribaforada, and an amazing plato of roast mutton with mint sauce. That's one eatery you may have missed ...

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JabbaPapa

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BTW, you seem to be keeping up a good pace ; but if by any chance you're at all apprehensive about the lengthy stage between Calahorra and Alcanadre, there's a variant I took via San Adrián, Andosilla, Cárcar, Lodosa. Cárcar notably is very beautiful, and San Adrián is rather pleasant as well.

That would break up your day's hike into stages, as well as providing some opportunities for R&R and food along the way. Somewhat tarmacky, but there are some farming dirt road possibilities if you've got the right map app to find them.
 

alansykes

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Tudela to Tarazona

A day with no yellow arrows, as the official camino Castellano-Aragonés goes west from Gallur. This way is very comfortable, mostly following the Camino Natural del Agua Soriano (which, with some odd gaps, will take you all the way to Soria capital), or the camino de los Templarios. Virtually the whole day is on the vía verde Tarazonica following the disused railway line between the two towns. Moncayo's bulk spends the day getting steadily greater, and hazier as the heat increased. There are a few villages not far off the track if you want to detour for coffee. At some point the way returns you to Aragón from Navarre, and tomorrow I will arrive in Castilla y León, making 3 autonomous regions in 24 hours.

I had been hoping to detour to stay in the new parador at the monastery of Veruela, from where Bécquer wrote his Cartas desde mi Celda. Unfortunately the opening, originally planned for Zaragoza's Expo 2008, has again been delayed. So I will have to wait a bit longer before I see his "escondido valle". Instead, for the third time in 7 years, by 2pm I was installed at El Galeon, a restaurant near the town centre. Being a Saturday I was lucky to get a table, as it was packed with the well-heeled of Tarazona - and the dusty scruffy pilgrim lowering the tone. Very good fish, washed down with a fruity tasty oaky Campo de Borja viura - the wine with the menús del día for the last few days has been the heavy Borja red: far from poisonous, but a bit strong for lunch.

Autumn is finally becoming visible - down at Tudela not so much, but by the end of the day, 200m higher up, some of the vine leaves and trees were turning.
 

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Virtually the whole day is on the vía verde Tarazonica following the disused railway line between the two towns.
Thank you for the report Alan. I've quoted your comment above to tell the folks who don't know that the the Spanish term via verde is pretty much equivalent to the American rail trail. I just wanted to be more explicit than your mention of using the rail line.
 
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alansykes

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Tarazona to Ágreda

The official camino route goes up the río Val and its reservoir but, looking at the map, the way up the Quieles (the river that bisects Tarazona) appeared only 2km longer, and followed the Roman road, the Vía XXVII Antonino. So I thought I'd risk another day without arrows. After the flat of the Ebro, the 15km of continuous ascent (roughly 600m cumulative) from Tarazona to the little village of Vozmediano, tucked into the side of Moncayo at just shy of 1000m up, was a change.

I was puffing a bit when I reached it, and surprised and delighted to find a couple of bars open, and quite a lot of people about, and a hotel and a couple of casas rural. A thriving-looking place, under the gaunt stare of its ruined castle. Allegedly a permanent population of 38, down from over 400 a century ago. Doubt I'd have got my coffee on a weekday.

A few 100m from the village, you pass the source of the Quieles, where it bursts out of the mountainside at up to 3000 litres a second, according to an information panel. Very dramatic, also very tasty, although not quite as cold as I was expecting.

Autumn up at 1000m plus is much more advanced, with the poplars already golden. Huge quantities of rose hips suggest that spring flowers must be quite spectacular round here as well. Once above the tree line, the roman road continues over beautiful wide open empty moorland, bliss.

By 3pm I was installed in Ágreda's truck stop, and tucking into this year's first sopa castellana in Castille. This one, as it was a Sunday, had boletus in it, yum. Mushrooms are big business up here, and people are impatiently waiting for the autumn rain to arrive, to get the harvest moving. I'm looking forward to my first sight of the Heraldo-Diario de Soria on the zinc - surely the only daily paper in the world that regularly has a fungus-related splash.
 

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peregrina2000

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I'm looking forward to my first sight of the Heraldo-Diario de Soria on the zinc - surely the only daily paper in the world that regularly has a fungus-related splash.
Yes they take their mushrooms very seriously here. One of those little towns on the Castellano-Aragonés had a small municipal office dedicated to teaching people about safe mushroom collecting. I can’t remember the term in Spanish. They also let people bring in their mushrooms to see if they were edible or not.

In my night at the pensión in Hontoria del Pinar (after that glorious day through the Cañon) I had a long chat with the owner, who told me that the town‘s monte is mushroom heaven. I’m sure you know this, Alan, but for others who might not — the citizens of lots of little towns have rights to the (communally owned???) monte nearby. For years it was their source of firewood, but now most everyone has other sources of heat, and the montes have become the go-to place for mushrooms. But only residents can enter legally. I have passed many warning signs telling me that I should not enter without a license to harvest mushrooms. The owner also told me there is a big problem with theft, that groups come and take all the mushrooms off the monte, usually when the pueblo is in fiestas and no one is looking, and then go sell them.

I took the reservoir route when I walked, but your offer of some alternatives, coupled wtih how very much I loved the Castellano-Aragonés, is making me thinkg I should return. Buen camino!
 
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15km of continuous ascent (roughly 600m cumulative) from Tarazona to the little village of Vozmediano, tucked into the side of Moncayo at just shy of 1000m up, was a change
I bet. A bit of shock to the system after the flats by the great river.

But a roman road over moorland sounds like quite a nice ample reward.

groups come and take all the mushrooms off the monte, usually when the pueblo is in fiestas and no one is looking, and then go sell them.
Really sad.
 

alansykes

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Ágreda to Pozalmuro

A short day so a possibly unwise lazy morning, only reaching the Roman fuente at Muro at around noon, just as a chatty catalan man was arriving to fill up with his week's supply of drinking water. He'd moved to the area a year ago because of the cheaper living costs, but was clearly a bit homesick, and regretted having to keep quiet about independence with his new neighbours, and was delighted when I showed him my mask with the catalan nationalist flag on it.

It's still surprisingly hot up here (high 20s, even touching 30), and I was flagging a bit on the quite steep section heading up the the mirador, but bouyed up by the intoxicating smell of drying juniper and evergreen oak. The view from the top is another spectacular, back towards Moncayo, much smaller than at breakfast, but still domineering the valley. Ahead, almost at you feet but still 2km away, is the little village of Pozalmuro. And further on the summits of Santa Ana and the Pico Frente, both clearly visible from central Soria.

The bar in Pozalmuro, where they look after the key to the albergue, is closed on Mondays, and nobody was answering the number the turísmo in Ágreda gave me. So I filled my bottle with the delicious cool water from the fuente and sat down to regroup, and wonder if I should carry on for a few hours, or prepare to sleep under the (huge) arches of the local church. I needn't have worried: perhaps 10 minutes after I'd arrived, a relatively elderly lady came up to me, walked me to the albergue, gave me the key and explained what to do with it in the morning. I try not to rely on it, but never fail to be astonished when this miracle occurs: at 4pm, a dusty, tramp-like figure arrives unannounced in an almost uninhabited pueblo. By 4.30, he's been given the keys to the kingdom - well, to a bed in a secure place with plenty of water to wash with. It really is a miracle.

And, later on, after the sunset had turned the valley to blood, an almost full moon rose out of the sierra. Bliss.
 

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peregrina2000

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By 4.30, he's been given the keys to the kingdom - well, to a bed in a secure place with plenty of water to wash with.
Is the albergue still in the big room behind the doctor’s office?

I remember when I was there it was freezing in the albergue part. So I tramped back to the bar just planning to sit there till bedtime and stay warm. The bartender asked why I had come back, since we had said our goodbyes. I just said I wanted to stay a little warmer. She took me back to the doctor’s office and turned on the heat in the front (waiting) room. She helped me drag my mattress out, and we plopped it right down in the middle of the waiting room. A short time later, the doctor came in and opened up the office because he had to see some patients or give them some medicine or something. Neither he nor the villagers who came in batted an eye at the sight of me sitting there with my mattress in the middle of the room. They just very politely walked around it and said buen camino. :D

a relatively elderly lady came up to me,

Yes that “elderly” tag is getting very relative for me too. 😁

Did you go out to see if Bécquer’s home is still standing? It was pretty precarious when I was there.
 
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Neither he nor the villagers who came in batted an eye at the sight of me sitting there with my mattress in the middle of the room. They just very politely walked around it and said buen camino
Oh my. :oops::oops::oops:
I'd have been mortified.

I hope your kingdom was a wee bit warmer than Laurie's, without any need to move into the doc's surgery.
 

lovingkindness

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...I try not to rely on it, but never fail to be astonished when this miracle occurs: at 4pm, a dusty, tramp-like figure arrives unannounced in an almost uninhabited pueblo. By 4.30, he's been given the keys to the kingdom - well, to a bed in a secure place with plenty of water to wash with. It really is a miracle...
Yes!
 

alansykes

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Pozalmuro to Soria

A long day, and a solitary one, across what I think of as Spain's Empty Quarter. The population of Pozalmuro has dropped another 10% in the two years since I was last here, and down 25% since my first visit, six years ago, from 68 to 50. Apparently in winter the number of people actually living there is about 10-12. But it's metropolitan compared to what's to come: a series of villages usually complete with glorious Romanesque church or mediaeval Berber watch tower, but incomplete of any population, never mind a bar for coffee.

On a perfect, largely cloudless early autumn day, I thought it was as close to perfection as you get: the wide horizon, the "campo ondulado" that inspired Machado's "Campos de Soria". It is a long day, but the treats are many. And the fuentes, Roman or more avant garde, all work, so even in the unseasonably heat of this year's veroño, you won't run out of water.

Is the albergue still in the big room behind the doctor’s office?
Did you go out to see if Bécquer’s home is still standing? It was pretty precarious when I was there.
Yes and yes. Bécquer's (wife's family) home is looking pretty derelict, but still just holding its own. Not for long, I'd guess.
 

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peregrina2000

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Lovely. Oh I remember those churches. One with a particularly nice entrance was overgrown with weeds so I assume it is locked up and unused.

Alan, did you stay on the highway into town as you did last time or has maybe the camino changed from my walk in 2016. This was my entrance into Soria:

I try not to think that whoever is responsible for marking the way into Soria after you cross the N-234 after Casas de Cerro Gordo is a sadist. That can't possibly be true, but I can't think of any other explanation. I think Alan walked along the N-234, but silly me, I followed the arrows. They take you across the highway, through a field and then tell you to turn right to walk along the old railroad tracks. Under the best of circumstances, this is a hard job, because railbeds tend to be filled with good sized rocks. Under the worst of circumstances, which this was, there are rocks, overgrowth, broken ties. But I kept going, things got slightly worse when I got to the spot where new construction was building overpasses, new highways, etc and there was simply no way for me to get out. I was trapped by high walls. Finally, I got to a quarry and from there was able to find a way back to the highway. I then walked along on the small shoulder for the last few kms. Not nice either, but far preferable to the railroad.

But oh oh oh, you are in lovely Soria. Hard to choose a favorite thing, but I guess it has to be San Juan del Duero.
 
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Tarazona to Ágreda

The official camino route goes up the río Val and its reservoir but, looking at the map, the way up the Quieles (the river that bisects Tarazona) appeared only 2km longer, and followed the Roman road, the Vía XXVII Antonino. So I thought I'd risk another day without arrows. After the flat of the Ebro, the 15km of continuous ascent (roughly 600m cumulative) from Tarazona to the little village of Vozmediano, tucked into the side of Moncayo at just shy of 1000m up, was a change.

I was puffing a bit when I reached it, and surprised and delighted to find a couple of bars open, and quite a lot of people about, and a hotel and a couple of casas rural. A thriving-looking place, under the gaunt stare of its ruined castle. Allegedly a permanent population of 38, down from over 400 a century ago. Doubt I'd have got my coffee on a weekday.

A few 100m from the village, you pass the source of the Quieles, where it bursts out of the mountainside at up to 3000 litres a second, according to an information panel. Very dramatic, also very tasty, although not quite as cold as I was expecting.

Autumn up at 1000m plus is much more advanced, with the poplars already golden. Huge quantities of rose hips suggest that spring flowers must be quite spectacular round here as well. Once above the tree line, the roman road continues over beautiful wide open empty moorland, bliss.

By 3pm I was installed in Ágreda's truck stop, and tucking into this year's first sopa castellana in Castille. This one, as it was a Sunday, had boletus in it, yum. Mushrooms are big business up here, and people are impatiently waiting for the autumn rain to arrive, to get the harvest moving. I'm looking forward to my first sight of the Heraldo-Diario de Soria on the zinc - surely the only daily paper in the world that regularly has a fungus-related splash.
I took this route in 2016 and spent the night in Vozmediano at the hotel, in rooms across the street. It seems to be a holiday spot for hikers and couples (a couple from Madrid kindly shared their chocolate with me on the way in). It has a few street signs commemorating right-wing figures from days past, which might have fallen victim to renaming since then.

I had never heard of the Antonino before I had walked it and, should fate take readers to that neck of the woods, they will likely quite enjoy this trip into another Spain. IMG_4732.JPG IMG_4729.JPG IMG_4750.JPG
 
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Ah, Soria! I hope you had a pleasant evening there, Alan.

I try not to think that whoever is responsible for marking the way into Soria after you cross the N-234 after Casas de Cerro Gordo is a sadist. That can't possibly be true, but I can't think of any other explanation. I think Alan walked along the N-234, but silly me, I followed the arrows
Alan, did you stay on the highway into town
I also am curious about this, stashing whatever information anyone offers for further reference.
 

alansykes

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Soria

After the previous day's exertions, a nice rest in lovely Soria was most welcome. At opening time I was at San Juan del Duero. For the first time I had to pay a € to get in - it's free to EU citizens, one of whom, tragically, I no longer am. The cloisters' interlocking arches are worth far more to see, catching the early sun - I would argue, possibly the loveliest thing in Spain.

IMG_20211020_103402.jpg

The capitals inside are wonderful too - I especially liked the monster with snakes for hair gleefully bearing down on a horrified centaur who looks as if he's just shot his last arrow and missed.

IMG_20211020_103740.jpg

Then on up the Duero on a very good new path - a mixture of dirt tracks and wooden walkways keeping you right next to the almost still waters reflecting the autumn leaves.

IMG_20211020_101456.jpg

About an hour later, after a little climb, I got to the ruins of Numancia, an iron age hill fort partly guarded by the Duero forming a moat on three sides, and giving spectacular views forward and back. It was here that the celtiberians resisted Scipio in a siege lasting almost a year, finally committing mass suicide rather than surrender. Unfortunately, lacking a Josephus, or indeed an alphabet, they are somewhat over-shadowed by Masada. Cervantes wrote a play about the events.

Then back to the city by the Vía Antonino - seems a long time ago that I started out on it in Tudela - and a leisurely afternoon in the casino/casa de las poetas, catching up writing some postcards. And at night a full moon rose over the city, looking down on the really very energetic paseo and tapas crawl - "Soria, ciudad castellana ¡tan bella! bajo la luna".

Alan, did you stay on the highway into town as you did last time or has maybe the camino changed from my walk in 2016.
Yup, there does seem to be an attempt to move the path quite a long way north from Fuensaúco, but I didn't see the sign, and remembered not to go down to the disused railway line, entering town through the nice riverside park and island, just as Machado wrote - "he vuelto a ver los álamos dorados, álamos del camino en la ribera del Duero, entre San Polo y San Saturio, tras las murallas viejas de Soria - barbacana hacia Aragón, en castellana tierra".

Eventually, presumably the railway line to the east of the city will become a vía verde, as it is to the west.
Oh I remember those churches. One with a particularly nice entrance was overgrown with weeds so I assume it is locked up and unused.
This one (Tozalmuro)? - an advantage of autumn walking is that the weeds have died back
 

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If it seems a long time for you, more so for me. I have been following sll your posts. I was informed that you arrived in Tudela on the same day as I did, but I was a tourist, and although I had half an idea you might be in the city, you did not stand out, nor did you recognise a camino mask! Thank you for your learned sharings, I love learning something new.
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peregrina2000

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About an hour later, after a little climb, I got to the ruins of Numancia, an iron age hill fort partly guarded by the Duero forming a moat on three sides, and giving spectacular views forward and back.
I didn’t know the ruins were so close by! Did you take any photos?

I remember that the museum in town has a whole floor devoted to Numancia. I was surprised to see how carefully the information panels were written, gently trying to dispel the prevalent story that the Numantinos were the bravest and strongest of all those who resisted the Romans. What I remember reading is that the historical record suggests that it’s more likely that the Romans just turned their attention elsewhere and didn’t bother much with Numantia till it came time to come in for the final blow, kind of like a cat dangling a mouse. I don’t know if that’s accurate, but I appreciate it when museums try to present a more balanced, less nationalistic and exaggerated view of the past.
 

alansykes

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I didn’t know the ruins were so close by! Did you take any photos?
The hilltop setting is really more interesting than the remains, at least to a non archaeologist like me. To my untutored eye, a lot of it looked remarkably like rubble. Cervantes' play is interesting in that religion gets very little attention, the women's voices are as important as the men's and, while not glorifying suicide, it certainly doesn't condemn it, in direct contravention of the (then still recent) Council of Trent.

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IMG_20211021_110828.jpg
IMG_20211021_100105.jpg
 

alansykes

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Soria to Villaciervos

The turísmo gave me a brochure "Experimenta el camino de Santiago desde Soria". It includes the Soriano, which it claims goes from Soria to Langa del Duero vía el Burgo de Osma. When I went back to ask more about it - lodging, marking etc - she flatly denied that it existed. But I thought I'd give it a go as far as el Burgo, and then join the Lana at Caracena, as the Santo Domingo de Silos south section is a bit dodgy at the moment, and anyway I've been there in three of the last six years, so perhaps a bit of an "experimenta" is in order.

I left Soria on the Castellano-Aragonés' new vía verde, turning south near the handsome bulk of the Pico Frentes. A choice between two short days and one long one, coupled with difficulties arranging accommodation, left me stopping at Villaciervos, about 16km from Soria. Which gave me a nice morning in Soria, with full moon still bright long after dawn, and a last look at the wonderful tympanum of Santo Domingo. Villaciervos' truck stop is perfectly pleasant, and the local restaurant was serving venison. Bit tough, not as good as the ones my beautiful dog often pulls down on the fell at home.

Villaciervos to Calatañazor

A lovely day of total isolation, mostly through Soria's famous dense pine wood, with occasional openings, mostly following the bicycle route "La Ruta del Sureste", suggested by mapy.cz, which I'm increasingly relying on more than maps.me.

Calatañazor is amazing, an almost perfect hill village still completely encircled in its mediaeval walls, complete with castle tower at one end. There's some debate about the Arab meaning of the name, with the more romantic liking to believe it means "castle of the eagles". Almanzor, the Caliph of Córdoba who nicked the bells of Santiago de Compostela, allegedly got defeated here by Christian forces and lost his drum, with Santiago himself putting in an appearance, and doing a bit of matamoros. It's a lovely village, and I stayed in a pleasant casa rural in a well restored 18th century house.

IMG_20211022_161442.jpg
 
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Calatañazor is amazing,
That photo is gorgeous. What a sight it is even in a photo, let alone real life.

I only have a vague sense of where you're headed - and like it that way. So I don't know if this track is any use to you, or even if you're still looking for alternatives to the Lana. But looking for something else I've stumbled across this one from Burgo de Osma to Medinaceli. Likely way too far east for you (vaguely remembering you were planning to go as far as Baides on the Lana?), but it looks like 100 fabulous kms.
 

mspath

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If as VN suggests you do go to Medinaceli check out the famous Roman arch with 3 portals. Nearby in
Estación de Medinaceli are a few simple truck stop resto/lodgings which offer good solid fare. My husband and I drove through that area a few years ago.


Medinaceli arch.jpg
 
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If as VN suggests you do go to Medinaceli check out the famous Roman arch with 3 portals.
Yes, haha.
That's what got me looking at all this in the first place. It was the overlay of triumphal arches in the online atlas from Lund University.

There is much else:
Returning to this thread to add this piece that I found of interest to anyone who arrives in Siguenza with a few extra days on your hands.



20 kms away, on the Camino del Cid, is the town of Medinaceli. It was a hugely important defensive fortress, and has the only remaining Roman triumphal arch in Spain. The latter looks really impressive.

https://es.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arco_de_Medinaceli Screenshot_20211023-212153_Google.jpg



Medinaceli looks like one of those unknown but amazing places that take your breath away when you stumble into them unawares.



It has much of interest besides the arch, Roman mosaics, and salt mines going back to Roman times - there's of course a castle, plus the Collegiate Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, a ducal palace, loads of arab remains, and - much to my astonishment - even a beguinage!



To get there, here's a mountainbike wikiloc track to and from Siguenza, two different ways:


The Camino del Cid goes there too: https://www.wikiloc.com/mountain-biking-trails/ruta-del-cid-5a-etp-siguenza-medinaceli-10511616



There are at least 3 places to stay. Wprd to the wise: avoid the town during the firebull festival when it's bound to be booked out by both gawkers and protesters.
 

alansykes

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Calatanzañor to El Burgo de Osma

Somebody in the bar had been picking mushrooms, and was complaining that he'd found some hondas, but no boletus (ceps, porcini) yet. Very surprised when I told him I got my harvest of them in August usually - sometimes late July. Grape vendange very late round here too this year.

They had to give me a key to get out in the morning, as clearly no plans to serve breakfast before 9 or even 10. Leaving the castle behind under stars, I was soon back in the woods. The very first faint light was just emerging when I saw a long, low, dark animal crossing the track 50 yards ahead, about 4 times the size of a fox. It looked at me briefly and moved back into the woods. I'll never know if it was a wolf, but I like to think it was. Certainly there was a lot of wildlife about: I saw a large gangale of deer in the dawn light, and many single ones soon after, a couple of boar, and an eagle overhead. Of humans there was no sign at all. After the pretty village of Abioncillo de Calatañazor there was nothing for the next 28km to El Burgo de Osma. Nada, nadie. Not even a farmstead: it made the section from Pozalmuro to Soria look positively suburban. Wonderful deep, dark pine woods, with an occasional clearing: "and here were forests ancient as the hills, enfolding sunny spots of greenery" - or rather gold and greenery, as the oaks and poplars are rich with their autumn finery. Then patches of dehesa, some scrub, and occasional fertile-looking fields, almost all harvested, harrowed and put to bed for the winter. Just perfect under the cloudless deep blue sky.

And finally into El Burgo de Osma, busy with Saturday tourists.

IMG_20211023_111214.jpg
 

lindam

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Perhaps it was a wolf-like golden jackal that you spotted. I recall being quite startled to see one of these creatures while walking the Madrid Camino.
 
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The perfect kind of day!
Perhaps it was a wolf-like golden jackal that you spotted. I recall being quite startled to see one of these creatures while walking the Madrid Camino.
For the curious among us:
The evolutionary genetics of this species is fascinating. Sorry, Alan. Sidetracking your thread. Back to the metropolis of Burgo de Osma.
 
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alansykes

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El Burgo de Osma to Caracena

Santiago is believed to have preached here during his visit to Spain, and Astorgio, one of his disciples, was the first Bishop of Uxama. Apparently, at least in the 12th century, if I'd left the money it would have cost me to get to Compostela with the cathedral here, I'd still have been entitled to my plenary indulgence, and could have headed home. I think I'll carry on anyway.

The path leaves town by a pleasant tree-lined path along the río Ucero, with the first rays of dawn hitting Almanzor's forbidding castle high above. This was the front line of the reconquista for centuries, and the landscape is littered with castles and look out towers.

My 7th crossing place of the Duero was at Navapalos, where there is an atalaya - watch tower, otherwise only some falling down houses. El Cid crossed here on his way to exile, and had a "sweet dream" - the archangel Gabriel told him
Cavalgad çid el buen campeador
Ca nunqua en tan buen punto cavalgo varon
Mientra que visquieredes bien se fara lo to
Which cheered him up.

Shortly after, you leave the Duero Valley and cross over into the Caracena one, rich with walnuts on the ground providing a tasty snack. The valley walls get higher and the countryside wilder as you slowly move upstream, joined at one point by 7 or 8 circling vultures - the second largest kettle of them in Soria province, according to a tourist panel. Eventually lovely Caracena village appears, with its two romanesque churches, ruined castle, stone main street and permanent population of 9, swelled on Sunday with visitors. I was soon installed in the bar and presented with a tasty fried pepper, tomato and egg dish - I think she called it a pisto, similar to the piperade of my childhood in France. Also the key to the acogida her son has rigged up - a couple of beds, a shower, some kitchen stuff, in the bar's storeroom across the road. We had a slight argument about how much I should pay: she said the note I offered was much too much as there was no heating; I said it was, if anything, too little for what was provided plus the privilege of sleeping in such a wonderful place, and anyway, I come from the Scottish border "y del frío no tengo miedo". She eventually agreed, but made me up a café con leche to microwave in the morning, and a package of magdalenas, so she got the last word really. Sunset over the valley was wonderful, and the stars completely untouched by light pollution - Venus was blazing bright low in the west while the last burn of sunset was still visible, and Jupiter a little further south not long after and almost as bright. What a place.

IMG_20211024_165038.jpg

If as VN suggests you do go to Medinaceli check out the famous Roman arch with 3 portals.
The brochure "Experimenta el Camino" suggests a "camino del Sur", going from Zaragoza, through Santa María de Huerta, Medinaceli, Almazán, Berlange de Duero and Gormaz. Sounds very tempting, although I suspect it exists as a walkable trail largely in the imagination of a tourism officer sitting in an office in Valladolid.
 
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two romanesque churches,
It must have been a glorious place, once.
Could you get into them?

It still sounds glorious, just in a different way.
Such kindness.
And quiet darkness.
May all your stops before Santiago be as satisfying, Alan.

Sounds very tempting, although I suspect it exists as a walkable trail largely in the imagination of a tourism officer sitting in an office in Valladolid
Someone's clearly put some effort into that imagining. It may be like the Camino del Cid - as much as an automobile journey as anything.
I have to say the photos look enticing.
And they have a nice interactive map.

And learning something in the process:
the traveler must be reminded that in the surroundings of Medinaceli Almanzor was buried, who had turned this town into the headquarters of the Marca Media from where he forged various aceifas in Christian lands, the most notable being the one that led him to sack Compostela on 10 July 997.
 
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El Burgo de Osma to Caracena

Santiago is believed to have preached here during his visit to Spain, and Astorgio, one of his disciples, was the first Bishop of Uxama. Apparently, at least in the 12th century, if I'd left the money it would have cost me to get to Compostela with the cathedral here, I'd still have been entitled to my plenary indulgence, and could have headed home. I think I'll carry on anyway.

The path leaves town by a pleasant tree-lined path along the río Ucero, with the first rays of dawn hitting Almanzor's forbidding castle high above. This was the front line of the reconquista for centuries, and the landscape is littered with castles and look out towers.

My 7th crossing place of the Duero was at Navapalos, where there is an atalaya - watch tower, otherwise only some falling down houses. El Cid crossed here on his way to exile, and had a "sweet dream" - the archangel Gabriel told him
Cavalgad çid el buen campeador
Ca nunqua en tan buen punto cavalgo varon
Mientra que visquieredes bien se fara lo to
Which cheered him up.

Shortly after, you leave the Duero Valley and cross over into the Caracena one, rich with walnuts on the ground providing a tasty snack. The valley walls get higher and the countryside wilder as you slowly move upstream, joined at one point by 7 or 8 circling vultures - the second largest kettle of them in Soria province, according to a tourist panel. Eventually lovely Caracena village appears, with its two romanesque churches, ruined castle, stone main street and permanent population of 9, swelled on Sunday with visitors. I was soon installed in the bar and presented with a tasty fried pepper, tomato and egg dish - I think she called it a pisto, similar to the piperade of my childhood in France. Also the key to the acogida her son has rigged up - a couple of beds, a shower, some kitchen stuff, in the bar's storeroom across the road. We had a slight argument about how much I should pay: she said the note I offered was much too much as there was no heating; I said it was, if anything, too little for what was provided plus the privilege of sleeping in such a wonderful place, and anyway, I come from the Scottish border "y del frío no tengo miedo". She eventually agreed, but made me up a café con leche to microwave in the morning, and a package of magdalenas, so she got the last word really. Sunset over the valley was wonderful, and the stars completely untouched by light pollution - Venus was blazing bright low in the west while the last burn of sunset was still visible, and Jupiter a little further south not long after and almost as bright. What a place.

View attachment 112073


The brochure "Experimenta el Camino" suggests a "camino del Sur", going from Zaragoza, through Santa María de Huerta, Medinaceli, Almazán, Berlange de Duero and Gormaz. Sounds very tempting, although I suspect it exists as a walkable trail largely in the imagination of a tourism officer sitting in an office in Valladolid.
If you go via Santa Maria de Huerta, there is a monastery shop where they have really useful items like - foot balm! Be careful crossing the railway track. 👣
 

alansykes

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Caracena to Miedes de Atienza

An advantage of this week before the clocks change is that you can idle in bed until 8am and still be en camino at dawn. Fortified by kind María-Angeles' coffee and pastry, I was soon back down in the canyon, with the first sunlight creeping down the cliffs and onto the narrow valley floor. The Caracena gorge is, quite simply, one of my favourite places on earth. It's a bit overgrown at the moment, presumably fewer people than usual are walking, and I don't remember having to scramble quite so much last time. Every turn in the stream - how did something so small produce something so majestic? - provides a breathtakingly beautiful new vista. I don't know why it isn't a natural park at least - it's just as beautiful as nearby río Lobos - but it's probably a good thing as it means there are no ubiquitous information panels, picnic areas, sign posts: nothing except the sheer wild beauty of nature. The hot juniper, rosemary, wild thyme and lavender would have meant that, had I had a fall, at least the marinade was ready to hand. Other than an eagle overhead, I saw no other living thing in the 5km between Caracena and Tarancueña.

The rest of the day isn't bad, but anything will be an anticlimax after that. Heading slowly up after Ritortillo de Soria, you pass from Old to New Castille, with a last look back over lovely Soria from the 1380m of the alto de la Carrascosa. It's still wonderfully clear, but I was surprised to get a last glimpse of Moncayo's distinctive saddleback in the haze far to the east. And then down a goat track, also overgrown through lack of use, to Miedes de Atienza, where there is an albergue in the old school building.


It must have been a glorious place, once.
Could you get into them?

"have been"? - it's still glorious. The bar has the key to San Pedro. Possibly to Santa María as well, but after ~30km from El Burgo de Osma, plus rootling around the castle (also worth a visit, about a km above the village) and San Pedro, I was pretty much done.
 
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alansykes

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Miedes to Atienza

No coffee, but an otherwise pleasant short day to Atienza, mostly off tarmac. Last time I arrived in Atienza exhausted at dusk, so had no real chance to look around "uno de los pueblos más bonitos de España". Arriving in time for a good lunch (arroz negro to start, yum) after under 20km was a distinct improvement. It is a very pretty village, with handsome arcaded streets under the impressive bulk of its castle. I was asking the barmaid where I ate about walking up to the castle. She was much more interested in the fact that it apparently appeared in an American reality TV show called "un juego de tronos" than that el Cid considered it "una peña muy fuerte". And sure enough, when I got up to the top, on an information panel, there was a picture of an uncomfortable-looking iron throne in front of the castle. The sunset from up there was another memorable one.

I treated myself to a hotel rather than stay in the albergue (apparently now in the swimming pool complex, not the old school where I slept 4 years ago).

IMG_20211026_120840.jpg

IMG_20211026_190748.jpg
 
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"have been"? - it's still glorious.
Haha...yes.
My English was pretty lazy.
From what you wrote that was clear; I should have said "bustling," or "flourishing."

She was much more interested in the fact that it apparently appeared in an American reality TV show called "un juego de tronos" than that el Cid considered it "una peña muy fuerte".
And sure enough, when I got up to the top, on an information panel, there was a picture of an uncomfortable-looking iron throne in front of the castle.
Sigh.
The substitution of the imaginary in place of what actually happened is everywhere.

That said, I'm very much enjoying a side by side reading of this thread and our virtual camino in February. I missed a big chunk in this part of the world thanks to an internet blocade here, so I'm playing catch-up. Reading the planning thread in reverse.
 
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It's still wonderfully clear, but I was surprised to get a last glimpse of Moncayo's distinctive saddleback in the haze far to the east.
Amazing. I just measured it (well, OSMand did), and as the crow flies it's exactly 110kms - almost the same distance in the other direction gets you to Pina de Ebro, which is 3 kms longer.
 
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Kanga

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Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
If as VN suggests you do go to Medinaceli check out the famous Roman arch with 3 portals. Nearby in
Estación de Medinaceli are a few simple truck stop resto/lodgings which offer good solid fare. My husband and I drove through that area a few years ago.


View attachment 111907
Beautiful photo, Margaret.
 

alansykes

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Atienza to Mandayona

Shortly after leaving Atienza, two huge Vs of geese flew noisily far overhead, one heading north, the other south. Don't remember ever seeing them in Spain before. 9km of lovely woodland paths brings you to Riofrío del Llano, where the camino coming from the Sigüenza detour joins the main Lana route. After that there was quite a lot of tarmac, which I don't remember from the Sigüenza option. But virtually no traffic. At Baides there are a couple of bars and (allegedly: I saw and heard no evidence of it) acogida in the social centre. Then a stiffish 200m climb on tarmac brings you to the south side of the río Dulce valley, with the clifftop church of Mirabueno visible on the far side. Then I was on a pleasant agricultural trail and only about 3km from Mandayona, looking forward to a caña, when a farmer in his car stopped me and said there were toros sueltos in an upcoming field, and the camino wasn't safe. He insisted on driving me back to the main road and telling me how to get to Mandayona from there. Normally my innate bolshieness kicks in when somebody tells me I can't walk on a public track, but for some reason I was feeling docile. I was much less so at the end of 3km on a fast, narrow, busy main road, but with the reward at the valley floor of filling my bottle and stomach with the delicious Dulce water - possibly the tastiest in Spain. And then another couple of km of dirt tracks by the river to Mandayona, where the barman called the town hall and the albergue key arrived within 5 minutes. A room with one bunk in the medical centre complex, loo and shower, donativo. I'll never know if the bulls were a real threat or if the farmer was just being officious and unnecessarily adding several km to an already quite long day - my 3rd this camino over 60,000 paces, according to my mobile's pedometer.

In a little over two days the landscape has gone from virtually subsistence upland farming to, shortly before Mandayona, a vast hacienda with 8 foot high partly electrified fencing, a drug baron-style automatic entrance gate bristling with surveillance devices, a heliport, a stupid nationalistic slogan painted on the gate and "vigicaza" signs everywhere. I think I prefer the uplands.

as the crow flies it's exactly 110kms - almost the same distance in the other direction gets you to Pina de Ebro, which is 3 kms longer.
I didn't see Moncayo until just after Zaragoza, but hadn't been looking for it. When I saw the Pyrenees from Gallur I came up with 100-110km for the foothills. Sadly those long views are suspended as a front has moved in for the holiday weekend.
 
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In a little over two days the landscape has gone from virtually subsistence upland farming to, shortly before Mandayona, a vast hacienda with 8 foot high partly electrified fencing, a drug baron-style automatic entrance gate bristling with surveillance devices, a heliport, a stupid nationalistic slogan painted on the gate and "vigicaza" signs everywhere. I think I prefer the uplands.
@Bad Pilgrim mentioned that corridor of fencing.
It sounds like peregrino prison. Did you have trouble with gates?
That was his experience:
The only obstacles, literally, are the gates that you have to figure out how to open between Mandayona and Baides. I had to climb one or two of them, because I just didn't get through the locks. There are fences on both sides, like you are walking in a corridor, so you can only choose to walk forward - or admit defeat and return to Mandayona.

"Fence" and "corridor" doesn't sound very scenic, but this is a beautiful stage whith many wild animals: both on the right and the wrong side of the fence
(I will refrain from voicing my opinion, except to say that people with the most money often seem to be the most miserably paranoid. They can have their fences, and their fear. No, thanks.)
 

alansykes

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Mandayona to Jadraque

I've left the Lana and am now in theory on the Camino del Arciprestre. Whether Juan Ruiz ever walked from Hita to Santiago seems dubious at best, let alone from further east - with or without his entertaining-sounding friend trotaconventos. The arrows cease to exist very shortly after Mandayona - it doesn't matter much as you're still on the well-marked GR160. Shortly before Matillas - and the first coffee of the day - the Dulce flows into the Henares, which you follow to Bujalaro, where there is a statue to the unknown emigrante. Although no doubt still a problem, la España vacía diminishes the further down the Henares you walk. By the time you get to Jadraque there are dozens of pristine new terraces and villas, and few of the ubiquitous sad collapsed and collapsing houses of eastern Guadalajara and of Soria - even commuter trains to take people to work in Madrid in not much over an hour.

The castle, high above the town with spectacular views over the valley and on to the Guadaramma sierras, is included in most bucket lists of "dramatic castles to visit in Spain" - Ortega y Gasset wrote "estaba en el cerro más perfecto del mundo”.


IMG_20211028_162839.jpg

Sadly, it's just the exterior and the setting that make it onto the list, as the interior, partly built by Cardinal Mendoza, was bashed about during the wars of succession and independence. It is called the castle of El Cid on the assumption that it is the Castejón of the Cantar - the name Jadraque wasn't used until much later. I had hoped to see the Zurbarán in the church of San Juan Bautista, but of course it was closed. The floodlit castle was one of the indelible memories of this camino.

IMG_20211028_211338.jpg

. Did you have trouble with gates?
No, I got picked up by my farmer on the fenced section before the gates. So perhaps he did do me a favour.
 
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alansykes

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Jadraque to Cogolludo

I hadn't meant to deviate from the camino del Arcipreste to Cogolludo, but incompetently forgot about Todos los Santos. Which meant that there was virtually no accommodation that I could see in Guadalajara (capital) the whole weekend, other than 200€ a night or so for a Marriot or some such. So deliberately slowing my progress seemed the best way to get round the block.

Cogolludo is on the edge of the Sierra Norte de Guadalajara. The walk from Jadraque, kindly organised for me by mapy.cz, involved virtually no tarmac, some lovely views back to Jadraque's castle, a wonderful stretch up through dense woods, no coffee and the first rain to fall on me in the whole of October.

Cogolludo is a really pretty hilltop village with an astonishing renaissance palace built by a nephew of Cardinal Mendoza. The nephew had been ambassador to the Vatican and brought an Italian architect home with him to build his gaff - the first such in Spain, the guide claimed. The glorious front and parts of the four interior courtyards are all that survive, but it's still madly impressive. On the hill above are the ruins of a Calatrava castle. It was demolished in 1810 by general Léopold Hugo (Victor's father), so that it couldn't be used by the guerrillero "El Empecinado". I stayed in the very comfortable welcoming pensión "El Palacio". Highly recommended.

IMG_20211029_153630.jpg The first flowers were already putting in their appearance in the local cemetery. The Palacio's kind dueña has warned me that there is a fiesta in Madrid coming up which may make next weekend a problem as well. Sigh.
 

JabbaPapa

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The brochure "Experimenta el Camino" suggests a "camino del Sur", going from Zaragoza, through Santa María de Huerta, Medinaceli, Almazán, Berlange de Duero and Gormaz. Sounds very tempting, although I suspect it exists as a walkable trail largely in the imagination of a tourism officer sitting in an office in Valladolid.
The Medinaceli part of that route sounds unlikely from a practical perspective, as the only real option from Medinaceli to Almazán is the old main road parallel and right next to the motorway.

I did myself consider the start of that route out of Zaragoza, though from Santa María de Huerta I would go > Almaluez > Taroda > Morón de Almazán > Almazán.

But possibly a detail in the brochure about that "camino del Sur" is wrong ; as I can see a possible Santa María de Huerta > Medinaceli > Adradas > Vilasayas > Caltojar > Berlange de Duero > Gormaz. That would make more sense. Almazán may have been misplaced for Adradas. Terrain is a bit rough, so some tarmac looks unavoidable, though there are things like a possible loop through Radona to get away from it.

Unless it's Ontalvilla de Almazán that's been put as "Almazán" ?? There's one trail out of Radona to a place to cross the motorway, up the old main road a bit (couple K), then there's li'l dirt and or tarmac routes/trails to Ontalvilla de Almazán then > Vilasayas > Caltojar > Berlange de Duero > Gormaz. That might be cool.

There's an interesting looking canyon on this route, between Fuentegelmes and Bordecorex.

hmmmmm, does look like you'd need to carry your own food between Medinaceli and Berlange de Duero, as I doubt there are any supply points in the pueblos between ...
 
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The Palacio's kind dueña has warned me that there is a fiesta in Madrid coming up which may make next weekend a problem as well. Sigh.
So deliberately slowing my progress seemed the best way to get round the block.
Perhaps you could ask mapy.cz to arrange a shortcut? If you can get to Torrelaguna, it's a straight shot via to Manzanares el Real and the Camino de Madrid on the Camino Mendocino.
 
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alansykes

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On to the Camino Complutense

I had been hoping to walk the Camino Mendocino from Guadalajara to Segovia. In a rare (and fortunate) attack of forward booking, I'd tried to ring, email and WhatsApp ahead to check if the albergue in Viñuelas, first stage from Guadalajara, a long way from anywhere else and with no other options in town, was open. It isn't, although I only finally confirmed this after the párroco in the (pleasant, mudéjar/gothic) church of Santiago in Guadalajara had already stamped my credencial. So tomorrow I will instead make my first steps on the Camino Complutense from Alcalá de Henares, which merges with the Mendocino near Torrelaguna. I should have taken @VNwalking 's advice and tried to break west from Cogolludo, but had really wanted to see and stay in Guadalajara. So it goes.

Alcalá de Henares' population has risen a little since Cervantes was born here. Since I was born in 1960 it's risen from 25,000 to 200,000 - more than double the entire population of Soria province. It was a bit scary walking through the suburbs down huge architecturally soulless brick canyons 8, even 10 stories high, half a km long, with each street probably having more people living there than all but a couple of the towns and villages I'd walked through the previous weeks. The horror, the horror.

Back into open country mañana, please.
 

Aloha From Kauai

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Covid having cut my 2020 camino short, I have been fortunate to be able to restart it in 2021 at Montserrat. While supposedly under lockdown, the NHS very kindly provided me with a couple of new knees, the more recent one exactly 6 months ago, so now seems as good a time as any to put them both through their paces.

The albergue at Montserrat Is still closed, but the local Amics are allowed to lodge pilgrims in rooms at the Abat Oliba hostal (on the same floor where the albergue normally is), which was fine, 10€. They also very kindly organised a pilgrim blessing for me, after vespers in the chapel behind the moreneta.

As I decided my first day would only be the 16km or so to Castelloli, I could have a leisurely morning up the top. And this year the monastery museum is open again, so I was able to enjoy my favourite Caravaggio for the first time in 15 years, as well as many other masterpieces from el Greco to Dalí.

Rather than follow the usual marked pilgrim path along the road towards the motorway, I took the footpath to the lovely Santa Cova, and then down the mule path (or GR5 "sender dels Miradors") to Collbató. It's a bit of a scramble in places, but nothing too extreme.

The next village on, el Bruc, is unremarkable except in that it can claim to be the first place French troops in Spain were defeated in 1808. An almost certainly apocryphal story claims that a local drummer boy was drumming in the narrow gorge and the echo made it sound as if there were thousands of troops defending the spot, causing the French to retreat.

Anyway, a few km from el Bruc I was reconnected with the yellow arrows, and so on to Castelloli, where I enjoyed an excellent menú del día in Cal Betis, the first bar in the village. They gave me the number code to the albergue, in the former presbytery next to the church. Very large, very comfortable, plenty of hot water to wash clothes and self, free.

Castelloli to Jorba

One of the bars in Castelloli opens at 7, so I was able to have my coffee and be on my way as dawn was breaking. Not that it's a long day but the heat is still nudging the 30s in these parts, so getting a few km under my belt as early as possible appeals. Igualada is the first major town on this route, and a last chance to see the jagged edges of the magic mountain receeding into the heat haze. On the outskirts is a rather fine statue of Antonio Franch ("el Heroe del Bruc") with palm outstretched, looking a bit like a bronze traffic policeman. And just outside town is the really very lovely Romanesque chapel of Sant Jaume, with a wide crack in the apse caused by an earthquake in 1429.

The hospitalero of Jorba is also the parish priest, who also acts as a caterer, so is clearly a very busy man. He is very keen to repeat that he doesn't open until 6 (I think it was 5 to when I saw him at his door and went up). The albergue is fine, but I'm glad I was alone, as I felt rather squashed in a very narrow room with 3 bunks. 10€.

View attachment 110395
Would love to hear more about your stay at Montserrat; while I won't' be starting from there, I am going there for three nights right before, mostly because its a place I've always wanted to visit, and to prep my mind a bit before taking a train to SJPD. Buen Camino!
 
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It was a bit scary walking through the suburbs down huge architecturally soulless brick canyons 8, even 10 stories high, half a km long, with each street probably having more people living there than all but a couple of the towns and villages I'd walked through the previous weeks. The horror, the horror.
This is a much longer conversation.
But yes. Hives for worker bees.

Would love to hear more about your stay at Montserrat;
Do a search, because Alan wrote more last year.
There is also this:
 
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In case anyone else is wondering about where Alan's going, not having heard of this camino (from http://www.xacobeo.fr/ZE3.01.Com_e.htm):
20211102_095446.jpg
@rayyrosa have also done a nice write-up:

And a track of the northernmost alternative:
https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trai...lcala-de-henares-segovia-en-8-etapas-14589949 (Camino de Santiago Complutense (Alcala de Henares - Segovia en 8 etapas)) at #wikiloc
 

alansykes

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Alcalá de Henares to Valdeolmos

The northern suburbs of Alcalá de Henares aren't quite as bad as the eastern ones, with a few more trees and parks. Just over the railway track is the huge city of the dead, colourful with all the neat still fresh flowers laid on the graves yesterday. At Camarma de Esteruelas - the dormitory's dormitory - I got my last coffee and finally headed into real countryside. After a short rise, the slightly daunting wall of the Guadarrama mountains appeared ahead. Due to a trick of the light and clouds, it at first looked as if they were covered in deep snow. They aren't - yet, anyway. To the west, faint in the haze, I could just make out the Cuatro Torres of Madrid's financial district.

The arrows are sparse but pretty good. At one point somebody had put up signs fiercely claiming "finca particular: prohibido el paso" but the local amigos had painted yellow arrows on them, so I trusted the arrows. The ground was quite hard going - 120mm of rain had fallen on Madrid over the holiday weekend, according to TVE this morning - but nothing especially serious (other than getting my feet wet crossing a swollen ford over the río Torote), and it's quite a short day anyway.
 

alansykes

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Valdeolmos to Torrelaguna

Rain came down most of the night, but it was crisp and clear when I finished my tostada. A really nice day, almost entirely off tarmac. Admittedly some of the dirt tracks were so sodden they were quite difficult to walk through, but not many. There were well placed villages with open bars for coffee, and one really lovely section through autumn woods with the Jarama river for company. Wasn't expecting to remake my acquaintance with it - last seen a long way downstream in 2014, crossing it on the Levante a couple of hours north of Toledo.

The last few hours head up into scrubland, and the towers of central Madrid became visible again, much clearer than yesterday (c45km away, according to maps.me), and now including a view of that peculiar pair of pointlessly leaning towers at the Plaza de Castilla. More importantly, the clouds occasionally lifted over the sierra de Guadarrama, showing the first snow to have fallen on them this season. A pair of hen harriers greeted me as I crossed the uplands.

I had been nervous about Torrelaguna, as the convent albergue number didn't work, and the posada (only hotel in town) also didn't answer its phone (and proved closed when I walked past). So I was about to ask the woman in the turismo (thank goodness, open) what to do, when she handed me a set of keys and told me I was welcome to sleep in a flat upstairs. The miracle had occurred again. Torrelaguna is a nice enough place. The book-burning chief inquisitor Cardinal Cisneros was born here in 1436 and built much of it, including the handsome ayuntamiento (originally a grain store), visible from the windows of my absurdly luxurious flat across the Plaza Mayor.

Tomorrow the first of two 700m ascents (and descents) before the final assault on the highest point of this camino.

IMG_20211103_135322.jpg
 
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alansykes

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Torrelaguna to Miraflores de la Sierra

Even better than the previous day, as there were no industrial estates and even less tarmac. 4 stars, I think. The bakery round the corner from my flat doubled as a café and was open at 7, so I had a delicious croissant still warm from the oven, and some freshly squeezed mandarin juice as well as my coffee. Ideal start. The Camino Mendocino joins the Complutense at Torrelaguna, and coincides with it for the next several km, with the result that the arrows became noticeably better. I had to be careful at the split, as there were Mendocino arrows heading left towards Manzanares el Real, but none to the right for the Complutense. For a while you're also on the Camino del Canal de Isabel II, and near some of the extensive works that go in to providing Madrid with its water. For some reason the water in the fuentes the last few days has been really unpleasant, just like tap water - even in the fuente of Navalafuente. Fortunately, shortly afterwards the camino crossed the arroyo de Navacerrada, where I was able to get my first decent water since leaving Guadalajara.

A little before Miraflores de la Sierra, the camino finally goes back over 1000m of altitude, where it will stay until the outskirts of Segovia. The forbidding bulk of the Pico de la Najarra, with its first dusting of snow of the season, dominates the town. The day was enhanced by two well placed pueblos en route, both with bars open for coffee. At Navalafuente there was also a statue of the Unknown Hiker, complete with walking poles. Slightly weird.

IMG_20211104_124022.jpg

I surmise you will be going past this place?

They say they're open for visits again, but that post was last year. It looks like quite a place
Nope, the camino went through Cabanillas de la Sierra, several km fourth south. A pity.
 

alansykes

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Miraflores de la Sierra to Rascafría

Miraflores' handsome Edwardian villas receeded along a tree-lined avenue and the day's work began. Shortly before the town's reservoir, there was a sign saying "La Morcuera: 2 hours". "Yeah, right, I thought, 700m of ascent in 2 hours, that's not going to happen". But it did: a good breakfast, fresh legs, a beautiful morning and a relatively straightforward climb over only 5km, and I was on the top by 10.30. At the top were what I assume will be the last views down onto Madrid and the Manzanares reservoir. The pass is 1796m - exactly the same height as Fuenfría - but the snow wasn't a problem: a very light dusting, only awkward when the sun partially melted it over still frosted ground.

The way down was much more gentle, almost entirely on woodland tracks, often with a thick coating of pine needles, my favourite walking surface. From under 1500m the pine turned to oak. At one point a family of wild boar crossed in front of me - the parents and 5 or 6 marcassins. Otherwise just a few people looking for mushrooms.

It was just starting to sleat when I arrived in Rascafría, where I was soon enjoying a menú del día in the Plaza Mayor. For the first time this camino I'd booked my bedroom in advance, but probably needn't have bothered, as there seemed few people about. Hope San Ildefonso tomorrow will be the same.

IMG_20211105_101040.jpg
 
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Miraflores de la Sierra to Rascafría

Miraflores' handsome Edwardian villas receeded along a tree-lined avenue and the day's work began. Shortly before the town's reservoir, there was a sign saying "La Morcuera: 2 hours". "Yeah, right, I thought, 700m of ascent in 2 hours, that's not going to happen". But it did: a good breakfast, fresh legs, a beautiful morning and a relatively straightforward climb over only 5km, and I was on the top by 10.30. At the top were what I assume will be the last views down onto Madrid and the Manzanares reservoir. The pass is 1796m - exactly the same height as Fuenfría - but the snow wasn't a problem: a very light dusting, only awkward when the sun partially melted it over still frosted ground.

The way down was much more gentle, almost entirely on woodland tracks, often with a thick coating of pine needles, my favourite walking surface. From under 1500m the pine turned to oak. At one point a family of wild boar crossed in front of me - the parents and 5 or 6 marcassins. Otherwise just a few people looking for mushrooms.

It was just starting to sleat when I arrived in Rascafría, where I was soon enjoying a menú del día in the Plaza Mayor. For the first time this camino I'd booked my bedroom in advance, but probably needn't have bothered, as there seemed few people about. Hope San Ildefonso tomorrow will be the same.

View attachment 112640
Thanks for my new word today - Marcassin. I must keep my eyes peeled in case I see one tomorrow! 😇
 
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Buen camino today, Alan, and thank you for taking the time to post these elegant accounts of your days on the road. I'm very much enjoying them - yours is the best post of the day, every day.

And oh, my. The map says you will have your work cut out for you today, starting with a warm-up past the Cerro del Diablo.
(I'm playing with my newly downloaded IGN app; here's what the midling resolution version tells me about the cerro del dia. Seriously? Puerto de Reventon at 2038m?! Wow. Fun! It looks like splendid countryside, good and wrinkly.)

20211106_095326.jpg
 
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alansykes

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Rascafría to La Granja de San Ildefonso

Étapa reina of this camino. Up there with the best of any. If I'd sat in Rascafría for a week waiting for a perfect day to try this stage, I wouldn't have got a better one than today.

"Try not the pass, the old man said" in the bar last night, "dark lowers the tempest overhead". Well, not exactly, but the gist was that it was foolish to attempt it in light of the steady sleat outside, which would be falling as snow higher up. Nonsense said the dueña of my hotel, it'll be fine, making it quite clear that I should rest my weary head upon the bedroom pillow.

At 7.45 one of the village's bars was open and making me a large tostada con tomate, and the first rays of sunlight were turning the snowclad peaks into pink icing sugar, while the valley floor remained in shadow. Not a breath of wind, not a cloud in the sky.

For the first several km the camino went up through oak and chestnut, a glorious golden tunnel - gold and silver with the snow, already ankle deep by 1500m. The snow was fresh, and mine were the first footprints to disturb it - other than a couple of deer, many rabbits, a few wild boar and a fox. By 1800m, even the pines had given up, and it was wide open beautiful snowy waste, with wonderful views over Rascafria's valley and south over the Madrid plain. In 900m of ascent in 9km from Rascafría I hadn't seen a single living creature. At the summit the snow was calf deep in places, and I had to look out for the "withered pine tree's branch", but not the "awful avalanche". Sadly, there was a quite thick bank of cloud below me at about 1800m. A perfect Caspar David Friedrich moment, but not the long view down onto Segovia I'd been looking forward to. My downwards progress was slow, partly as any path there might have been was completely obscured - I think I took fractionally longer going down than up.

A km or so from the summit is a nice little circular stone shelter. When slightly nervously planning this day, and unsure how well my knees would carry me, I looked on it as a security blanket in case exhaustion or the weather set in. I needn't have worried: I was there just gone noon, humming Mussorgsky and with absolutely no plans to spend the night there.

The cloud I walked down into broke up shortly afterwards, and I could see the incongruous slate roof of Philip of Anjou's "petit Versailles", and Segovia further off. After what seemed a slow few km on a slippery icy path, by 3pm I was installed in a restaurant very much enjoying my first plate of judiones - a filling bean stew, a main speciality of the area. Ideal fodder after pretty much an ideal day.

starting with a warm-up past the Cerro del Diablo.
Well, I went past the Cascadas del Purgatorio the previous day, so shouldn't be surprised to meet the devil.
.
. I don’t see your tracks on wikiloc, but I am hoping against hope that you have made them and will post them
Sadly, I seem to have lost the knack of wikiloc. Every time I try to record a trail it either drains my battery or loses the GPS and just records a straight line. This is my "Relive" of today:




image-7e25f020-2626-402a-a9f2-777c14ccb379.jpg IMG_20211106_123053.jpg IMG_20211106_091041.jpg IMG_20211106_113409.jpg IMG_20211106_081607.jpg image-046c6cfe-e378-4da4-9591-f2188b0aea7c.jpg image-2e14a31e-16f5-4105-ab12-7b86ba252c43.jpg
 
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Excelsior!
What a day. We your public are very glad that you had a more fortunate ending. I'd not have had the nerve to tempt fate by humming Mussorgsky, though. A night up in that hut would have been far less comfortable than the one you spent down amid the royal pleasure gardens. Grieg maybe.

I seem to have lost the knack of wikiloc
Relive is super - it's fun to click on the play button and see the photos in sequence. I haven't played with it to see if the track can be downloaded, but in any event your route for this day is easy to discern - there's not much choice.

Cascadas del Purgatorio
So the world will end in ice? (Goes off chuckling, but also wondering who named these places - devil-obsessed Carthusians at Rascafria?)
 
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