Feeling well rested after two days in Burgos, we were ready to get back on the Camino. Our next destination was Castrojeriz, which is 40 kilometers from Burgos. Although we were feeling much better, we still needed to be cautious about over exerting ourselves and having a relapse. Hence, we decided to take a taxi 20 km to Hornillos del Camino and then walk from there to Castrojeriz. We reminded ourselves that everyone creates their own Camino journey.
Hornillos del Camino felt quite deserted but it may have been the fact that we got there at 10:00 in the morning. Most of the pilgrims staying overnight had left earlier in the morning, and those walking from Burgos hadn’t quite arrived yet. We stopped in a small cafe and shared a “cafe con leche” before beginning our 20 kilometer day to Castrojeriz.
Once out of the village, the reality of being in the Meseta (Spain’s high central plateau) became very apparent. Walking through the Meseta is like walking through no man’s land with nothing in site for kilometers. It has a serene desert feeling in which your perception of distance and time become skewed. Many pilgrims skip this entire section of the walk, as they feel it’s boring to walk and walk with nothing in site. However, the Meseta is known to some to be the best part of the Camino for spiritual growth. The quiet solitude and endless walking to “nowhere”, forces you to reach into your unconscious mind and do a bit of soul searching. We’ve been listening to the audiobook version of Ekhart Tolles’ “The Power of Now“.
We both really enjoyed our first day into the Meseta. It was quiet with very few people in site along the way. Brett and I spent some time walking separately and the other part of the time walking together, talking about the world around us, our life, and our future together. We noticed many small things along the way, such as the wind blowing, trees sounding like the river, birds chirping in unison, and the tapping of our feet on the dirt.
Half way into the walk (10km) we reached Hontanas, a small village with 70 inhabitants. At the center of the Calle Mayor there is the Immaculate Conception Church and a few family pensions/cafes. Frozen from the cold, we had a “cafe con leche” at “Puente Estrella” (Fountain Star). It was an adorable family-run pension/restaurant with a lovely little bar area. If we had known Hontanas was so charming, we would have spent the night.
After warming up with our coffee, we continued on 10 km to Castrojeriz. On the way, we visited the impressive 14th century Gothic ruins of San Anton Convent. Although the site is privately funded, pilgrims can stay overnight. We found a few pilgrims hanging out, some eating, another playing his guitar. It wouldn’t be a bad place to chill for the evening. We received our official “pilgrim credential stamp”, and swiftly continued on our way.
The final leg to Castrojeriz is on a quiet asphalt road. Upon approaching the village, we reached the 13th century Ex-Collegiate Gothic Church of Santa Marìa del Manzano. On the hilltop in the distance, lies the Castle of Castrojeriz. The Spanish Ministry of Culture has dedicated substantial funds for the archeological restoration of the castle and they hope to draw future visitors to the village. The town center is another kilometer further, but as we continued walking it became apparent that Castrojeriz is a ghost town. Most homes were abandoned rubble. There were no shops and hardly any people in sight. Evidence of its war torn past is very evident. Additionally, most villagers leave the town after the warm summer pilgrim season, as temperatures decrease significantly in winter.
Despite the town’s dull atmosphere, we were able to find “La Taberna Castrojeriz“, a local bar/restaurant owned by a friendly Spanish couple. Upon entering, we heard “Hey San Francisco!” from across the bar. Allen and Ronda Fabbi from Vancouver were hanging out enjoying wine with a table of pilgrims. We caught up on the past few days since San Juan de Ortega and then Brett and I retreated to the dining room for a delicious home-cooked Spanish meal.
We are so grateful for the warm people we’ve encountered thus far. Everyone is cheerful and obviously experiencing something special in their lives.
See our Photo Album:
El Camino: Day 14 (Burgos to Castrojeriz)