15 July 2012

Camino de Santiago day 7: Tosantos - San Anton

We woke up requested by Jose Luis at 6:30 and had breakfast at 7. After some more chats with Jose Luis and the other hospitaleros we were on our way by 8:30. The ride was pretty easy in the morning, wide trails and not too many steep hills. We saw many more cyclists on the Camino than any previous day and figured we must be getting into the more popular section for MTBs.

At about 10:30am we stopped for a quick bite in Atapuerca so we could get stamps for our credencial from the town that is famous for its UNESCO world heritage archaeological site -- some of the earliest human beings in Europe dwelled in the caves in this region. With only about 20km until Burgos we called Miguel to let him know we'd be arriving an hour and a half maximum -- the locals told us it was all downhill to Burgos.

Just after Atapuerca we encountered a steep and very rocky hill (I thought it was all downhill to Burgos?!?!) which I had to walk a good portion of, not due to the gradient so much as the big rocks that I just didn't know how to climb. At the top was a big cross where passing pilgrims place stones. I placed my stone - Alberto thought it was too cheesy - and we continued on our way.

After that it really was all downhill to Burgos. The approach into Burgos was really nasty with lots of traffic, but we joined forces with another cyclist who we had been passing on and off since Roncesvalles. As we cycled along towards the center we spotted our two French friends from the hostel in St Paul les Dax! It was funny to run into them. Even though we couldn't communicate much, it felt like seeing old friends.

We said goodbye to them and carried on into central Burgos where we met Miguel and his friend Pablo, who was from Burgos and would join us for our afternoon of cycling. We spent a while in Burgos, eating good food and walking around the cathedral, before finally heading back to the Camino.

At the side of the cathedral with Miguel and Pablo

On the Camino out of Burgos
The road was nice and flat with only a few small hills. We made good at time but then the domingueros (i.e. Miguel & Pablo) needed a rest! Afterwards Pablo's butt started to hurt from all the riding and it never seemed like he made a full recovery. Still, we made good progress and reached Hontanas around 5pm. We had some cakes in a nice square in Hontanas, which seemed to be a very big stop for pilgrims. We found a Dutch cyclist who had stayed at Tosantos with us the night before--he was done for the day. While we waited for Pablo's dad to come pick him up, we made the decision to continue on another 4km to the hostel at San Anton, which the hospitaleros of Tosantos had recommended. We took the roads and were there in no time at all - and were so glad we came!

The hostel was in the ruins of a big cathedral or monastery or something -- the rooms had been built into one section of the ruins and it was just a simple room with bunk beds, the kitchen in another room, and the bathroom in another. Again, we were surprised that it wasn't full of pilgrims, but the hospitalero, Juan Manuel, told us that due to the lack of electricity and hot water, it only fills up on the very hottest summer days. We were thrilled to be there, anyway.

Entrance to the hostel at San Anton

The bedroom is on the left (where the bikes are) and the dining room on the right. 
Juan Manuel cooked dinner for us -- me, Alberto, and Miguel, plus two other pilgrims, a youngish Austrian named Gunther and a Brit named Spike. Funnily enough, Spike was a Londoner living permanently in Spain with no intention of ever returning. Despite having been more than 12 years in Spain, he still had a hard time speaking or even understanding Spanish. Very surprising, but perhaps not so much when he said he lives in Málaga, where some >300.000 Brits have settled down. We had pasta and salad, with wine to drink, which Juan Manuel added pineapple chunks to as desert. The other two pilgrims were a bit strange but we had a nice time chatting with Juan Manuel about the Camino, global politics, and life in general! He told us he spends a few weeks a year at San Anton, but it is a hard job as these things go because pilgrims wander in all day long wanting to see the ruins - he makes coffee for them and generally chats with them. The hostel is donativo (donation-only) and makes some money by selling little souvenirs.

After dinner we went for a short walk on the road behind the ruins as Miguel wasn't quite ready for bed, this being his first day. We headed to bed just as the last light was fading from the sky.

Ruins of San Anton from afar
The stats for the day:
Odometer: 82km
Moving average: 14.1kph
Overall average: 9.8kph
Stopped time: 2h34m
(we forgot to write the rest down!)

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