Camino Postcard 11: Castildelgado to Belorado

22nd June 2019
Correction: After writing this and Camino Postcard 10 I realised (thank you Ellena!) that we didn’t stay in Castildelgado but Redecilla del Camino.

21.4.19. Today was Easter Sunday. Rusurrexit Sixut Dixit! It should have been a good day, a great day. For Ellena, Carolin and myself, however, it was a dog day; one to get through and then forget (Tony walked on ahead of us today).

The albergue in Castildelgado didn’t provide food so when we left it, we reckoned on eating breakfast in the next village or town that we came to. When we arrived there, however, we found no cafés, let alone one that was open. Maybe we would have better luck in the village or town after that? No, no luck at all. Both places were locked up and had their backs to the world.

Looking at my copy of Brierley, I see that there were two towns on our route – both marked in capitals and bold – Viloria de la Rioja and Vilamayor del Río. If we visited either of them, they left absolutely no impression on me: in my journal, I mention the caféless villages and then go straight on to the path that took us to our destination for the day, Belorado. As I think back to Easter Sunday, I can see in my mind’s eye the two villages and the road but no other towns.

The path that we walked down ran for a boring age beside the road – nigh on ten kilometres, according to Brierley’s map. The clouds were heavy and the countryside boring. Ellena’s knee was sore and swollen after her fall yesterday and all of us were in a funk.

We decided to stop at Belorado. Would we get accommodation there? To make sure we did, I downloaded the Booking.com app to my phone and used it for the first time. I would use Booking.com to reserve rooms several more times during and after the Camino but would never quite be comfortable doing so. Not because of the app but because of what nearly happened at Belorado.

No, it’s not an accidental photograph but an action shot of the laundry room!

We arrived on the outskirts of the town and were delighted to find our albergue-hotel right in front of us. One of the restaurant/café staff was handling the check-ins but when we told him that we had booked online he seemed to have no record of it. There were still rooms available, thank goodness, but it was not encouraging that we might have been turned away despite everything seeming to work on the app.

Fortunately, this was our only bad experience with Booking.com. More unsatisfactory ones were to come at Belorado. Firstly, we were made to wear the kind of wrist bands that you are given at concerts. Why?? We were not in a compound or secure area. Secondly, after taking our rooms and gathering our clothes together to wash them as one, we had to navigate a laundry room where only a few of the washing machines and driers actually worked.

They did not do so satisfactorily. Our washing machine finished before the timer indicated that it was done and the drying cycle had to be repeated two or three times before drying our clothes properly.

We ate dinner in the restaurant area – eventually. The service was a little slower than I was comfortable with.

After dinner, we defied the dogness of the day and dipped our feet into the outdoor swimming pool. Of course it was c-c-cold but it still felt good doing it rather than lounge in my bed being anti-social.

In the evening, we considered what to do tomorrow: Ellena’s knee was still swollen. She didn’t want to take the bus but walking on her knee could not be the right thing to do. We made no decision, leaving it until the morning.

Camino Postcard 10: Cirueña to Castildelgado

22nd June 2019
Correction: After writing this and Camino Postcard 11 I realised (thank you Ellena!) that we didn’t stay in Castildelgado but Redecilla del Camino.

20.4.19. We left the strict hippie at 7:45am and hit the road. As you can see below, our path took us into the countryside and along never ending paths that cut through green fields. We passed through Santo Domingo, which marked the end of the Brierley Nájera-Santo Domingo stage and headed on to a little village called Grañón.

We left Cirueña with Tony but lost him underneath a bridge when he stopped to tend to a dreadful looking blister on his foot. It had left what seemed like a large part of his skin flapping. I don’t know how he was able to walk on it. He did have one advantage: a nurse for a sister who was able to give him advice from home.

We found Grañón at the top of an incline. Thankfully, one of the first things we saw after reaching the top was a café. We ordered beer/cold drinks and sat down at a table on the grass to enjoy them.

Presently, Tony rejoined us. Like my mother, he could make friends with a brick wall so it wasn’t long before we were chatting to pilgrims we had never met before before we all went on our separate ways.

The path out of Grañón threaded its way down a slope. As we walked, something very alarming happened: Ellena suddenly fell over. She landed on her knee. Fortunately, after getting up again, she was able to continue.

What had happened? Her kneecap had popped out. This wasn’t a surprise – she had mentioned that it might happen just a few days ago.

How could she bear to walk? She had fallen onto the dislocated kneecap, knocking it back into place.

Just writing the above makes me squeamish and think that if it happened to me, I wouldn’t be able to move again, but though she will disagree, Ellena is made of tougher stuff – much tougher stuff. Yes, she was in pain, but she endured. We continued, and after passing through Redecilla we decided to stop for the day in a small town called Castildelgado.

Here, all our fears about not being able to find a bed were washed away – we came to a lovely little albergue which was almost empty. It cost five euros and you could see why, but it was comfortable and in a beautiful location.

Next door to the albergue was a bar, and it was here that we drank large beers for the first time in Spain. It was just like being back home! And it was such a momentous occasion that the beer man took a photo of us for posterity.

Tony, me, Ellena and Carolin and four beer ‘grandes’

What a happy moment! It makes me happy now remembering it. I wish I was back there…

The skies were blue and the weather hot so we took our beers outside and sat down at a table next to a church that had one carving on its wall: a skull.

Presently, Tony left to have a lie down. Ellena, Carolin and I kept drinking (slowly, obvs.). We met some interesting people, including a Canadian guy who had just had two knee replacements and had already done the Camino ten times, and a young man from Germany named Lars. He was 18 and was walking with a thirty something woman whom he had met in Pamplona. They met on the day that her walking partner had returned home. The woman (I call her that because I’m afraid I can’t remember her name) wanted to continue but not by herself – what to do? Enter Lars. Cometh the hour, cometh the man with a backpack full of beer. They got on like a house on fire and were great company. That’s the Camino for you.

After we arrived in Castildelgado, 20th April 2019 became a day that I didn’t want to end; sadly, however, it did. After a nice meal in a tiny restaurant in the back of the bar, we returned to our seats outside and continued drinking. I was the last of our company standing, returning to the albergue at 9:30pm (getting no judgement from the hospitalera, Strict Hippie please note) before climbing into bed.