Estella, Spain to Astorga, Spain

15-05-08 Thursday – Estella to Navarrete
5 hrs. 20 min. 12.2 Av. 66kms Total 1,752kms

We woke up at 06:30 and were on the road by 08:15. We rode the +/-2kms back to Estella and found the post office so we could send back our extra pair of shoes, the maps of France and a couple of other items with a total weight equaling 3kgs.
The climbing started as soon as we left town and it was pretty much up and down the whole day with some hills reaching a tough 10%.
Even though I had bought the Michelin 573 map (Pais Vasco/Euskadi, Navarra, La Rioja) to help out some we were mainly following the St.Jacobs fietsroute by Clemens Sweerman part 3 Pyrenneeen-Santiago en terug. This book is in Dutch but has loads of information, maps and shows the route profile. Well worth having.
I have calculated that if we do 50kms per day we can make Santiago. So far we’re doing better and hope in the next couple of days to do a couple 100kms days. According to our book after Burgos it seems pretty flat for a while. Also the day after tomorrow there is a hilly section of 90kms without a camping. I’m afraid it could be a tough day.
Today we have seen many spectacular vistas with high jagged mountains in the background. I just hope all the pictures come out good. Also need to buy another SD card in the next couple of days.
We had a nice shower just before Lagrono but made it into town easy enough. This town is big but very well built with many cycling and walking paths. Also many parts seem quite new and on the suburbs it just looks like a huge construction site.
We would not mind coming back to Lagrono for another visit, we got some good vibes about this town.
The further we continue on the Camino the more pilgrims we see, hundreds of them also quite a few cyclists. Many of the cyclists though are not camping therefore not fully loaded as we are.
We also thought for a brief moment that we could (in the future) walk the Camino, but we just love cycling too much to do anything like this.
The camping at Mavarrete is quiet, clean, the beer reasonably priced and the friendly hosts. A nice place to stay overnight.

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Cresting another hill near Iguzquiza, on the NA1110. On top of the peak is the  Ermita de la Cruz church.

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Looking north from the NA1110.

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Looking south from the NA1110. Click to view larger.

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Still on the NA110 heading to Sansol.

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Looking north from the NA1110 near Viana.

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Church in the center of Lagrono.

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Camino signs everywhere.

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We stopped for lunch in this nice park outside Lagrono.

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The track turned rough a bit later on.

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Looking back.

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Looking back at Lagrono in the distance. We had ridden over those hills behind the lake. Click to view larger.

16-05-08 Friday – Navarette to Sto.Domingo
3 hrs. 13.0 Av. 39kms Total 1,791kms

Woke up at 08:00 and left camp around 10:00. It was raining all night long and into the morning. We had waited a while for the rain to stop and even thought of taking the day off but in the end we decided to just go for it. So we put on our rain gear and hit the road.
We quickly found the N120 which was a little bit busy but doable and we made good time. We were glad we left camp because about 45min. later the sun even came out and we would have felt bad taking the day off.
There was one longish climb of about 300m over 20kms which on a busy N road with more trucks than cars wasn’t much fun but we managed OK, with plenty of stops for water and pictures.
On the way to camp we saw this woman pushing a buggy along the busy N120 and after a quick look we continued on. Later on when we were contemplating about staying at this camping this Dutch couple showed up with their camper and we looked but could not find the receptionist, the place seemed dead, and a few minutes later this black cat crossed the road in front of the camping so I said it’s a bad omen and we should leave the Dutch couple bought it and turned the camper around and left LOL.
We stayed for a few minutes longer than we saw the woman pull up with her buggy and an old dog she called Quick. We chatted for a bit and we found out she’s doing the Camino with her old companion. She took the train to St. Jean pied de Port and started from there. We pitched our tents next to each other and continued chatting over a couple beers. What a nice person she is and an amazing adventure she’s undertaken as they do not allow dogs in the pilgrims hostels so she needs to find other accommodations each night. She has a funny Danish name that for the love of God we cannot remember “sorry”.
The camping is supper clean but also supper expensive for a Spanish camping at €19.
We had a few more beers and I cooked pasta with a cheese sauce before we finally went to sleep.

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A very wet start to the day. Outside the camping with Navarrete in the distance.

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A panorama of the area we cycled through just before Najera, taken from the N120.

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Going over the Rio Najerilla looking north.

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And looking south.

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And looking North at the fine Spanish weather this spring. This was taken from the N120 before Sto.Domingo.

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Having a beer at the camping near Sto.Domingo with the nice lady from Denmark with her companion Quick. Well Quick just had the chips.

17-05-08 Saturday – Sto.Domingo to Cavia
7 hrs. 45 min. 13.8 Av. 107kms Total 1,898kms

We woke up early this morning as we knew we had a long day ahead of us and a long climb to make things more interesting.
We were up at 06:30 and on the road by 07:45. We said goodbye to the Danish lady and Quick and left. We rode the couple killometers or so to Sto.Domingo but nothing much to see there at this time of the day so we just stopped into a bar for a half dozen mini omelet sandwiches and looked for the N120. When we did find it and went over the small bridge we saw the Danish lady pushing her buggy with Quick inside it along the N120 and we took a few pictures that we will send to her if she gets in touch with us.
Yesterday I thought the N120 would be more quiet being a Saturday but I was wrong, still many trucks. But they were mostly very courteous and gave us plenty of room.
Off course you always have the odd jerks that need to ride very close, we were glad we have the rear view mirrors so we could prepare. In the end we made good time.
After Villafranca Montes de Oca the hill started with a 3km long 6% climb to Puerto de la Pedraja which we blew over quite easily. On the way up we ran into this young Spanish couple doing the Camino on their bikes but again not fully loaded they were staying in hotels, more like credit card touring. They first flew past us but then about a km later we past them while they were walking their bikes up the hill 😉
From the top we had some great views and one of the most fantastic down hills of the tour. When we stopped for more pictures we also met these two Brazilian guys also touring light doing the Camino.
I would like to say (again) that if you want to do a tour you should consider doing the Camino. It’s very nice meeting people from all over the world.
Just before Burgos this heavy storm blew in and we were lucky to take refuge under the E-5 bridge. We stayed there for the duration and about 30min. later the young Spanish couple came by all drenched.
These guys have to learn to look at the sky once in a while and when a big black cloud is closing in and find a place to hide.
After the storm we rode into Burgos and were treated to a very nice city. It seemed as nice as Lagrono  but bigger, and their Cathedral is one of the prettiest we’ve ever seen. We wouldn’t mind coming back here and stay a couple days to check it out thoroughly.
Getting out of the city was another story, we managed to get lost again and it took some hard ridding over unpaved roads through farmland to get back on track. Found our way in the end, after several unnecessary kilometers because of the bad directions from the gas station attendant near Cavia.
The camping is right next to the E-80 in a very exposed field where it got very cold at night, also the field was being used by those four legged lawnmowers so we had to be careful where we set up the tent and were we stepped. There was only one other couple staying here, they were from England and were heading home for a couple months in their camper. The showers were really bad so we just had a quick wash with the Wetties (small moistened disposable towels).
But we had a very long day and were beat. We checked out the kitchen and ordered a couple steaks with some local wine and afterwards slept like babies.

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Came across this nice church while trying to found our way out of Sto. Domingo.

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Facing South on the Rio Oja.

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And looking North.

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The Danish lady on the N120 walking the camino with only her pet dog along. Respect.

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The way to Santiago.

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Showing off our bikes again.

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Some of the vistas from the top of Puerto de la Pedraja were really nice. Click to view larger.

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The great downhill. That dot ahead is the one of the Brazilians we had a chat with.

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Cycling path along the Rio Arlanzon in Bourgos. Everything was still soak wet from the heavy storm.

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The towers of the cathedral in Bourgos.

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The very nice gateway into the cathedral area.

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And close up.

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A panorama of the cathedral. Click to view larger.

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And the front. Click to view larger.

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And the happy couple posing in front.

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Back on the cycling path trying to get out of Burgos.

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A tiny village between Burgos and Quinta de Cavia restaurant/camping/hotel.

18-05-08 Sunday – Cavia to Carrion de los Condes
6 hrs. 13.4 Av. 79 kms Total 1977 kms.

Woke up at 06:15 and on the road by 07:45. Last night it got very cold being so exposed next to a motorway. We had put everything on to keep warm at night.
This morning we took the advice of the camping manager the night before and followed the dirt track that runs next to the E-80 to the next bridge at Estepar so we could get back on the Camino. The dirt track was a bit rough and there were small lakes all along and we were glad we had the Ortlieb panniers.
At the junction at Estepar there was this truck stop with Motel and a good kitchen so we stopped and got some sandwiches before continuing on to Bilviestre de Muno and on to Iglesias. Right after Iglesias there was this nice climb were we saw some deer in the fields below very nice indeed but it did start to rain again which brought the mood down again.
A bit further on and we had to turn left and head to Hontanas were this real nice and long downhill began all the way down to Castrojeriz. After this we had about 50kms of open wheat fields all the way to the camping at Carrion de los Condes.
Between Castrojeriz and Boadilla del Camino we stopped for a most pleasing picnic in the middle of nowhere were we could only hear the birds and the wind.
For the last 10kms the wind turned and became a headwind it also picked up to around force 7 which made the going real tough. The camping here is ok at €11, very basic and it’s in town so easy to get re-supplied. We went out for diner in the evening  and checked out the pilgrims menu and at 9 euros pp for three course’s and wine, it was a pretty good deal.
Again we saw many people walking the Camino and a few cyclists but nobody fully loaded like us.
As far as the scenery goes it was very nice just to be in wide open fields and passing by nice little villages with their churches and also the great vistas we saw all the day long, but the weather could have been better.
We do hope it improves in the coming days.

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On the early morning climb out of Vilviestre de Muno.

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Vilviestre de Muno is behind those hills center of picture.
It was tough going along this section as the road was rough, it was threatening with rain and quite cold

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The village of Iglesias below, you can see the road we followed into and out off the village.
The deer we saw were on the climb behind the village.

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On the plateau after the village of Iglesias

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Convento just before Villaquiran de la Puebla.

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These two holes in the wall were they offered bread and wine to the pilgrims at the Convento

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Entering Castrojeriz with its hill top monastery, Santa Maria del Manzano.

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Having a very nice picnic on the BU 403 before Boadilla del Camino.

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This was a perfect spot to stop with nobody around it was really peaceful.

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All full of sweet rolls and hot tea we continued on the BU 403.

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Enjoying the ride on these rural roads.

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Still on the BU 403 heading for Boadilla del Camino.

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Statue of pilgrim in Carrion de los Condes.

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Iglesia de Santa Maria del Camino.

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There wasn’t a tower in these parts not occupied by the storks.

19-05-08 Monday – Carrion de los Condes to Leon
7 hrs. 45 min. 13.7 Av. 106kms Total 2083kms

Woke up at 07:00 and on the road by 08:15, this morning we need an extra 30 min. sleep to recover from yesterday.
The day started out as usual, we took the wrong turn after Carrion de los Condes but it turned out to be the right way as it was a paved road, but fearing we would miss something we got back on the Camino which turned out to be one of the worst tracks of the tour and for the next 6kms or so we had to struggle trying to reach Calzadilla de la C. and the N120 heading for Sahagun.
On the way we met Peter from Belgium, he said he got permission from his wife to do his first tour ever to Santiago. He’s got a tent but stay’s in pilgrims hostels when he can. We don’t quite agree with this as it takes room/space away from people who are walking the Camino.
In Sahagun we stopped for a short launch and then continued on to Mansilla were we found the camping closed, which was good because on the way there we saw a few strange characters hanging about.
We decided to continue on to Leon where we had this very difficult climb to the camping above Leon only to find it also closed.
After Mansilla the Camino turned to make a semi circle to Leon but we decided to stick to the N120 which shaved quite a few kms from the route.
We were very tired by now and a bit worried as there was this heavy storm blowing in with lightning, it went right over Leon, but we missed it with the delay of looking for the camping.
Now from this point trying to get into Leon was a bit nerve wrecking. We had to follow the N120 for about 100m towards what the signs said was going to turn into a dual carriageway were bikes are not allowed. But just before this happens there is an exit that heads right into town.
Now the traffic here was very fast and not nice at all to cycle through.
They should make an easier way into this town for cyclists.
According to the book that we are following there are a few hostels in Leon but the first one we checked out was a real shit hole so we continued looking for one ourselves and after half an hour we found a real nice place.
After unloading our stuff I put the bikes in the basement and locked them. We than quickly went and found the tourist office before it closed and got some information on camping’s in the area but found out there isn’t any camping for quite a while so we decided to head for Astorga, find a good/clean hostel and take a day off. Because there are a couple serious hills coming up afterwards.
After diner we had a couple of beers and called it a day, tomorrow we head for the mountains.

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All ready to leave the camping at Carrion de los Condes.

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The very rough walking path that we had to endure. The village of Calzadilla is up ahead.

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Back on the N120 just before Gerradillos de los Templarios, wow that’s a mouthful

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Taking a breather.

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An old arch in the center of Sahagun.

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We were lucky to have missed some of the showers.

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After taking care of business with the tourist office we took this picture of the cathedral. Click to view larger.

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Another view of the Cathedral.

20-05-08 Tuesday – Leon to Astorga
4 hrs. 45 min. 12.4 Av. 59kms Total 2143kms

We woke up at 07:00 and were on the road by 08:15. Getting out of Leon proved to be a nightmare. After a couple of kilometers we got some help from two of Leon’s finest and were told to follow them through the maze of dual carriageways and freeways out of town and they would show us the way back to the Camino.
Well after following their instructions we ended up in this village that isn’t even on the map and were forced onto the walkers path.
Normally this dirt path would have been OK to cycle on BUT, this dirt track turned out to be made of clay and after the heavy rains it stuck to our wheels and after a few meters the wheels froze. After cleaning the wheels so they could roll again we tried going over the fields to avoid the worst of the track but then I had to carry the bikes over the ditches on the side of this track, man that was a very tough morning at least until we reached the village of Chozas de Abajo were I removed the wheels once more to do a thorough cleaning of the mudguards and breaks.
We cycled though some small villages which was very nice indeed but after awhile the Camino turned to dirt track again. Now we had enough of these dirt tracks for today and after looking at the map again we decided to head a few kilometers North to San Martin del Camino and get back on the N120 to Astorga.
Astorga is a nice town, clean, it’s got a nice Cathedral and museum but do not pay to get in, everything is in Spanish which I thought they should have said something before accepting our money.
Anyway we found a good Hostel and were lucky to get a room as it was the last one.

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A very beautiful building first catered to the pilgrims than made into a monastery and now a very fancy hotel for the rich.

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A statue of the pilgrim in front of the fancy hotel El Hostal San Marcos.

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The start of the treacherous clay path, part of Leon can be seen in the back.

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We thought it would be OK seeing other cycling tracks.

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Hard work to keep from ridding on that wet clay path.

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Some sections were just not ride-able.

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Finally back on solid ground, after Villar de Mazarife.

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Another stork atop a tower.

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Still on the N120 this is after Hospital de Orbigo.

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The last kilometers into Astorga were on this ultra smooth road.

21-05-08 Wednesday – Astorga
Rest day.

When we finally fell out of bed this morning we went to take care of our laundry. Then we went to a car wash and cleaned the bikes real good. I then replaced my front breaks.
Later on we went and got lunch and got ripped off. Very greasy and over priced, we should have known better than to go eat at a tourist restaurant.
We also got some supplies for tomorrow and headed back to our room.
No alcohol this evening tomorrow is a big climb to Cruz de Ferro at over 1500m. and we don’t know how tough it will be.

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Palacio Episcopal.

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La Catedral de Santa Maria de Astorga.

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Cant help but be amazed at the detail.

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Statues on the grounds of the Palacio de Gaudi.

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Palacio de Gaudi.

Week 5 – Astorga to Santiago de Compostela