As my way to celebrate the Rugby world Cup happening in Twickenham this month, I got together with a friend and rode from the Twickenham Rugby Stadium to Richmond via some of London´s best landscapes.
For those that never been to London before, this side of London is not usually part of a 1 or 2 days visit, as most tourists will prefer to stay within Zones 1 and 2 where the most recognizable landmarks are (you know… Tower Bridge, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Piccadilly, Trafalgar, etc, etc). Yet if you want to know how London works and the natural beauty the city has to offer these places are are a good option.
London is, I think, Western Europe´s biggest city. With a population of almost 7 million inhabitants (which for Europe is quite unusual when compared to Paris with just 2 million and Berlin with 3.5 million), London has managed to maintain an excellent balance between the grey of concrete and the green of nature. There are many parks and green areas in London and on this ride we cycled through 2 of them: Bushy Park and Richmond Park. We also cycled through the Crane park which is a small park part alongside the river Crane that got it´s name due to the bird and if you are patient you can still find several Crane nests alongside the river.
I think it´s fair to say that Bushy Park is not very well known to outsiders, yet it´s beauty is fantastic. There are water ways, fountains, tress, lots of green and plenty of deer roaming around.
Richmond park on the other hand is internationally known and is one of London´s biggest (perhaps the biggest) city inner park. A huge green area in the middle of the city much loved and used by its inhabitants, especially cyclists that come from all parts of the city and even outside London, like me, to appreciate the wonders that a bike ride provides. The only problem with Richmond park are the weekend drivers (sometimes a single person) that come to appreciate nature sitting inside their air-conditioned, fossil fuel powered mechanical monsters… no wonder Aliens might think of us as a highly inconsistent species 🙂
As we arrived in Richmond town centre we gave ourselves a treat of sorts in the form of a huge cappuccino and some tasty cakes (mine was a Black Forest), so this ride is divided in 2 sections:
I need to clarify a few things before I move on to report the day.
The distance travelled is likely to be between 5 – 10 Km greater than the 70 Km measured by my Garmin Edge Cycling computer. This is because some 4 Km after Castrojeriz I stopped at the top of a mountain to appreciate the view and take some pictures and turned the Garmin off forgetting to turn it back on as I left. I only noticed the mistake as I arrived in Fromista some 15 Km later (zoom the map above and look for a straight line).
I rode alone this day as Fernando decided to leave early and travelled more than I did that day.
After these two points, there is nothing else to add, thank you for your visit…
Just joking 🙂
I´ve added to the start of the video a short clip I took just before leaving the Hostel in Hornillos. Not a cloud in the sky, really beautiful and warm day.
I think 60% of the day´s route were “off-road” this day, and by that I mean dirt roads and some tracks. It means the speed is less, but the beauty of the landscape compensates in full.
I any attempt to describe the path in words will be a poor replacement to the pictures, so watch the video and ask me anything you want to know that is not in here.
The first stop after Hornillos was in the little village of Hontanas. I stopped at an establishment that is a café / restaurant / hostel that I had already seen pictures of before starting the pilgrimage: The El Puntido. Had just an egg sandwich and a coffee. Hontanas is small but has a certain charm and like many os the Spanish villages along the Camino is heavily dependent on the economy promoted by the pilgrims. There are likely more Pilgrims crossing it every day, than there are residents.
Breakfast done, I moved on in the direction of Castrojeriz, but this before Castrojeriz I crossed another milestone in the Camino, the ruins of the Monastery of Saint Anthony (according to Google) or San Anton according to the link (take your peek).
As with many of such architectural landmarks along the Camino it had served as a Hospital for Pilgrims and was the palace of King Pedro I in the past until the Ecclesiastical confiscations of Mendizábal which left it to ruins.
Castrojeriz is a place I wished I could have spent some time. I think a short walk up the hill where the Ruins of Castrojeriz Castle are would be a very interesting thing to do. The view of the small place by the church also offers nice views to the valley below.
After Castrojeriz you are in for a 3 Km climb at an ascent level of 12%. I had to push my bike most of the way up. I think it would be doable to ride it up, even on a loaded bike, if it wasn´t for the fact the dirt road that takes you up there is full of fine gravel, stones and sand, which provided little traction on the wheels. It takes a while to get up there.
At 1050m this is the highest point along this route. If you are following my posts, you´ll know there were crossings higher than this in days before, but this is is particularly challenging because of the road conditions.
It is by far, however, not the worst climbing conditions I had to face on the Camino, but this is a topic for future posts (probably day 12 post, when I will write about the crossing of the devilish “El Cebreiro”). I stopped there to film the surroundings, take some pictures and rest a little. The descent on the way down is even steeper, but easier because it is all cement paved. Make sure your bike brakes are good.
Few kilometres later I passed by the San Nicolás de Puente Fitero pilgrim´s hospital and had to stop for a moment to take a picture and think of my son, also Nicolas. Few meters later I crossed the 11th century built Itero del Castillo bridge over the river Pisuerga and found myself in the province of Palencia. I then rode to Itero de la Vega e turned left towards Boadilla del Camino.
Short after Boadilla you will ride about 2 to 3 kilometres alongside the Canal of Castile (Canal de Castilla) until you reach the locks in Fromista. Beautiful place to walk / ride a bike.
The sun was high and the day was hot, so I stopped in Frómista for about 1h to rest and eat something (a pizza, which was not very appetizing actually).
From Frómista I took the P-980 road to Carrion de los Condes passing through several small villages along the way.
Carrion de los Condes is one of these small towns along the Camino that probably deserves a longer stay as well, but I decided to move on and only stopped to take a few pictures and ask for directions.
After some 4 – 5 Km on a small asphalted road, the PP-2411, I rode another 12 Kms on a dirt road all the way to Calzadilla de la Cueza.
I had the intention of riding all the way to Ledigos this day as this was the place Fernando told me he would stop for the night, but when I arrived in Calzadilla I saw a Hostel advertised for 5€ that had a swimming pool. What more could you want, right? I was also no feeling very well (probably too much sun and too little sunscreen) so I decided to stay there. The problem, however, was that there were 2 hostels side by side. The municipal hostel (without a pool) and the hostel Camino Real, the one with the pool. They both charge 5€ a night, but I end up staying in the municipal hostel, which despite not having a swimming pool was very good also.
Good shower, with warm water and gave me the opportunity to wash some clothes by hand and the bike, which was extremely dirty from all the dirt roads I took this day.
I had dinner in the “Camino Real” restaurant down the street and met Cristina and Pete from Holland and we decided to share a table and have dinner together. As we started to talk we were joined by Michael from Devon in the UK, an experienced pilgrim, who has walked the Camino many times before and said he planned to do it every year, since he was retired and had the time to do it. The year before he did it in 29 days and this year he was giving himself 39 days.
I wish I had the means to contact some of the people I met, but strangely I have never written down their phones or email address. Hope they are doing well.
Well, that’s it for the 6th day. If you are following my Camino posts you have my promise that I will write all 14 post I plan to, but it may take some time.
Decided to try something new… This is my first, and possibly last, attempt to create something people have called a “Bike VLog“. I´ve been watching a few over the past weeks. They are generally edited “best moments” of someone riding a bicycle to work or for pleasure.
My choice was to record my ride to Windsor yesterday, something I do quite often. I thought of recording this ride especially for the people who don´t live in the UK, as Windsor Castle is a major tourist destination here.
The problem is that it took me more than 1 hour to get there (I usually to do it in 40 to 45 min) and I don´t have the time (nor the will) to spend hours editing it. If you ever wanted to know how it is to ride in England, this long video might offer some insights.
In all Bike VLogs I´ve seen the riders usually narrate the ride and talk about their day and their lives. They share a bit of their lives with the audience and it is kind of interesting. So this is what I tried to do… keep talking. That is not a problem for me (I am a big talker), but as I ride alone most of the time, this was quite unusual. Not sure how interesting it will be for you to listen to my “bla bla bla” for 1h, but I am not here to judge myself. I am sure there will be plenty of people out there doing this for me already. Please be kind, I am taking myself out of my comfort zone here.
OK, let´s get on with this then… I recorded the ride from the South Hill Park, a landmark of Bracknell to Windsor Castle, a landmark of Windsor. I also recorded a little 10 min walk I did around the Windsor Town Centre for those that might be interested of knowing a bit about this tourist destination and then a recorded my way back to Bracknell, which was even longer as I amazingly managed to get lost a few times. Not used to do all this talking while riding and I got distracted and missed a few turns.
From South Hill Park in Bracknell to Windsor Castle
This was the route I took… I was not in a hurry and there are faster routes to Windsor.
Ten minutes walk pushing my bike around the pedestrian zone of Windsor.
From the Chocolate Theater Café in Windsor to Bracknell Town Centre (Princess Square shopping centre)
This was the way back from Windsor to Bracknell, via Legoland. Got distracted with all the talking and missed a few turns which took me to some places in town I wasn´t very familiar with, but I was happy for the mistakes as it gave me the opportunity to explore a bit.
This post is likely going to be shorter than previous ones, not because there is less to say, but because I´ve been struggling in getting these done and also because we rode a lot more this day, so stopped less for pictures and so on. Please message me with any questions in case there is something you´d like to know which is not here.
I left the hostel around 8am as usual, but Fernando opted for an early start and left about 1h before I did, so we rode the first 70 Km to Burgos separately and met in Burgos for lunch later.
The “Camino” is about a time to reflect as much as it is about anything else and reflection and meditation is best done alone. On the subject of inner thoughts, one of the things I noticed during the Pilgrimage was that even for people walking in pairs, they tend to be very immersed in their own thoughts and often walked in complete silence. Of course there is laughter and sharing, but for many the pilgrimage has a spiritual meaning and provides them with the time they need to reflect about their lives so far. I honestly believe this is something every one of us should schedule in our calendars from time to time.
Time to reflect about one’s life, but not seated in the living room couch feeling sorry for oneself. Walking or riding a bicycle has a strange, but wonderful effect on thinking. Something about the fact you are not only mentally, but also physically active makes the reflection a truly enjoyable and positive experience, even if there are tears involved (or for the manly men, those bugs that hit their eyes). It somehow allows people to see themselves from a different perspective as the mind is thinking, but not overly caught in an inward attention since the body is also busy avoiding the obstacles of the track/road and taking care of those things we take for granted, such as breathing, heart rate, muscle fatigue, etc. Have a walk around the block today and think about this. Take the initiative! It doesn´t need to be an 800 Km pilgrimage, but perhaps a weekend trekking a mountain or something like that. It is very therapeutic.
Now, back to day 5… and I believe this is not going to be as short as I thought 🙂
I left Santo Domingo on the familiar N-120 road and with the exception of 4.5 Km on a dirt road used by the walking pilgrims (which follows parallel to the N-120 though) I stayed on it all the way to Burgos. About 3.5 Km after Santo Domingo, one of the lanes of the N-120 takes a strange and rather confusing turn to the right and if you continue straight on it, like I did, you end up getting on the wrong side of the road or you take the parallel dirt road, used by the walkers, like I did. If you are not keen on doing the walkers´ path, I´d advise you to stick to the road and save about 1 Km of your journey. Even if you do take the dirt road you will be able to re-join the N-120 at a little village called Grañon, 4.5 Km later, so no big deal.
As for the rest of the way to Burgos, I´ll ask you to watch the video and let the pictures “talk”.
I really enjoyed this ride. The road is nice and smooth, surrounded by green fields of wheat and other plantations. It was a cool, but not cold, day… so perfect conditions. The road is mainly flat, but when you get to the locality of Villafranca Montes de Oca you have a long, but manageable (6% ascent), climb of almost 4 Km in front of you. It is the highest point in the ride at 1,155m and I managed to climb it without having to push the bike. There was a bit of fog on the top that day. After the climb, the road is pretty much flat again all the way to Burgos.
Burgos is the next big city in the Camino, the capital of the Province of Burgos and once the capital of the Crown of Castile. I arrived in Burgos shortly before 1pm and Fernando was already waiting for me there. We went to the tourist information centre to stamp our Pilgrim´s credentials and had lunch at one of the various restaurants on the footsteps of the cathedral. I wish I could have spent more time in Burgos as it looked like a really interesting city. I did not enter the cathedral, but from the outside it looks majestic.
Apart from the Cathedral, Burgos has also a very interesting gothic architecture such as the gateway arch of Santa Maria, the old entrance gate to the town.
After Burgos we rode another 27 Km to Hornillos del Camino were we stopped for the night. We decided to stay on the N-120, but if you want to save about 10 Km of your journey, after you pass the town of Tardajos, turn left into the minor road that leads to the village of Rabé de las Calzadas and then take the walker´s path to Hornillos del Camino. I can´t talk about the conditions of this route for cyclists, as I have not done it, but looking at Google maps it doesn´t appear too bad (looks like it is a dirt road). I think it would save you lots of time. We got there about 1/4 to 5 in the afternoon.
In Hornillos we stayed at a newly refurbished Hostel called Meeting Point. When we arrived there were already lots of people in the garden enjoying the late afternoon´s sun, playing guitar and singing. The hostel was 8€ a night and we also used the washing machine to wash some of our clothes (4€ incl. Soap) which dried quickly as there was sun light for quite a few hours after 5. The hostel was great, however, the problem we faced in Hornillos was the number of pilgrims staying there was greater than what the village appeared to be able to handle. We could find only 1 restaurant in the village and the waiting queues were huge. We end up buying a sandwich at what appeared to be the only other commercial place open that night, and eating in the hostel´s kitchen, which gave us the opportunity to share some wine and hear some more fascinating stories from some of the other pilgrims staying there (Aussies, Korean´s, Dutch, Germans, just to name a few). It was great!
Well, that´s it… so much for a short post, right? 🙂
People that know me, know I can rarely keep it short… So much to tell. I hope it was worth reading, though. I shall soon have the “day 6” post ready, likely as short as this one… 🙂