Tag Archives: Villar de Mazarife

Camino Day 25 – Villar de Mazarife to Hospital de Orbigo: a straightforward day

Tuesday 12 September 2023 – The prospect of a shortish walk, just 13km or so to Hospital de Orbigo, and the desire not to arrive before check-in was likely to open at our destination, led us to have a relaxed start to the day. Iñigo cooked us some eggs to go with toast and endeared himself to us even more, should that be possible, by producing some tea for our breakfast that he called “Twings”, but which proved to be Twining’s finest Earl Grey. We even imposed upon his hospitality by having two mugs apiece. We have no shame.

Once his other guests had buggered off, we had a chance to chat to Iñigo about his background and that of the extremely charming guest house that he runs. He’s Spanish, but his wife is half-Swedish; he loves Sweden and I think has taken some of the décor elements from Scandinavia. They live in Mallorca (with him presumably spending the season in Villar de Mazarife) and run an interior design business, hence the assured expertise behind the beautifully-judged shabby chic nature of La Santa’s décor. The place had fallen into ruin through 40 years of neglect and had largely to be rebuilt – a project that took four years – but they kept to the original floor plan and have created a place that we found it a pleasure to stay in.

We started out at about 0930 on a journey that was about half-and-half paved roads

and farm track.

The tracks on both surfaces were somewhat straight

and reminded us that we were headed towards a reasonably substantial range of mountains which we will have to cross in order to reach Santiago de Compostela. They also ran through a very wide-ranging system of irrigation channels, substantial enough that they register on Google maps.

So we passed quite a variety of irrigation tactics.

All this to water largely a single crop. It’s amaizing.

The route, frankly, was not all that varied. Worse still, it didn’t lead past any refreshment stops for the first two-thirds. So even a resting place

and a (very fine) weeping willow

offered any kind of photographic interest. Indeed, there was a little frustrointment* when we came across this:

which was a clear 10km on from the one we saw which said 301km. Perhaps the designers suffered from discalculia? **.

The tedium was relieved when we reached Villavante,

which was more interesting and also enabled us to get a coffee.  The albergue we stopped at had a very charming pair of flower vases by the door,

and the village generally had some noteworthy features.

The Martini glass water tower

had swallows’ (or possibly martins’) nests all around its stalk

and there was a garden which provided its own booty pic.

As I was taking the shot of the water tower, a tractor drove past demonstrating just how much attention has to be paid to watering the crops hereabouts.

We passed a water mill, the Molino Golachas

which is now a decent-looking b&b, if the internet is to be believed; and eventually reached Hospital de Orbigo, via a bridge.

Not just any old bridge, either – a medieval one, and very extensive, too.

The surface charm it exuded was swiftly dispelled by the fancy footwork needed, in crossing it, to avoid the very significant amount of dogshit lying around; there was so much it almost looked as if there was a competition between the town’s dog-owners as to who could find and remedy a few square inches unfouled.

When we arrived at the hotel, we discovered that we had, after all, left Villar too early, for there was half an hour before we could check in, which was a bit of a nuisance; but check in we eventually did, into the Don Suero Quiñones, named for, yes, that’s right, one Suero de Quiñones, also called Él del Passo (“he of the pass”), who was a Leonese knight, nobleman, and author in the Kingdom of León. He gained fame for his Passo Honroso, a pas d’armes (passage of arms), at the Órbigo River in 1434.  This was basically (I summarise, here) a jousting contest and he beat everyone. Amazingly, the town celebrates his feat of arms to this very day

with an event lasting two days. For this, there is a vast space reserved alongside the vast bridge

and indeed the whole town is given over to it with special parking, camping, VIP areas for people in 15th-century dress and so forth. It must be a huge amount of fun, but it leaves enormous areas of open space unused for the other 363 days.

You can find some photos of the event on this page, and there’s a longish YouTube video featuring some actual jousting if you’d like to watch it.

I was particularly amused by a piece of fencing alongside the bridge.

Someone, somewhere, cocked up. (“You had one job…”)

The town itself is quite handsome

and there are a couple of buildings in it which feature courageous design decisions,

as I discovered on a post-prandial walkabout.

Despite having to wait to check in, the hotel seems a decent one. We had a good lunch there and the room is a model of efficient modern design; and we have extra pillows! So we can reasonably hope for a comfortable night before we depart tomorrow.

The target, when we leave, is Astorga, which will mark the start of our crossing the aforementioned hills. We have two climbs, actually, both to about 1500m, but the second one will be the harder, and is not for a week or so.

The blue dot is us, and the green markers are the course which we will be taking between here and Santiago.

Stats, then: Relive reckons we did 14.8km today, which takes us to 513.3, or 319 miles. There is a considerable disconnect between this figure and what the official mileposts (kilometreposts?) are telling us.  If the length of the Camino is 780km, then we have 267 to go, not just a few shy of 300. Only time will tell.

In the short term, though, we have just 17km to deal with tomorrow which is another relatively short walk. The weather forecast is for cool but dry conditions; let’s hope Accuweather is right. I’ll update you when I can, so please stay in contact with these pages to see how we get on.


* A combination of frustration and disappointment and (c) swpics.co.uk
** Look it up. Do I have to explain everything?

Camino Day 24 – León to Villar de Mazarife: the road (gratefully) less travelled

Monday 11 September 2023 – We’d both thoroughly enjoyed the decompression of a rest day (and two Nice Lunches) at the Colegiata, but we were nonetheless quite keen to get back on the road, so we were seated in pole position outside the breakfast buffet room ready for as swift a start as possible.

There was a little rain in the cool air as we left at 0800, but we were never troubled during the walk with a need to put on rain jackets. We passed the San Marco Convento, which was looking lovely in the morning light

and which gave me a chance to take a photo that wasn’t possible the day before because of cars parked outside the parador.

There were a lot of pilgrims on the road.

I know it’s entirely unreasonable of me, but I actually resent their presence on my Camino. I dare say they feel the same about me. Anyway, there’s not much one can do about it – I suppose we could start really early, but walking in the dark is photographically unrewarding.

Things that were worth taking photos of included: a quirkily-appointed “Colonial Bar”;

an example of the difficulties of international branding;

some bodegas, which I suppose must have been in the country once, but have now been swallowed up by the suburbs;

the base of what was once a cross offering a view over the bodegas and back towards León;

and, most interestingly, a Basilica. This one, Basilica de la Virgen del Camino, was a bit different from those we’d seen before, being modern. The present building dates from 1961 but there has been a shrine on this site since 1505.

Inside was cool and not over-ornate,

with some striking stained glass.

The stained glass was behind some very funky, Gaudi-esque statues of saints on the outside of the Basiilica,

and, for the record, here’s a close-up of St. James – the reason we’re here in the first place (to the left below, complete with scallop shells).

On we went, towards a split in the Camino.

Top right is León, bottom left is where we need to be tomorrow, blue dot is where I’m writing this. As you can see, WalkTheCamino arranged for us to take the southern route. Delightfully, the hordes of pilgrims around us decided to take the northern one, so, once we’d passed some more bodegas,

we found ourselves once again delightfully alone on the track.

The Camino signposts are, sadly, much disfigured by graffiti, but at least some of it is positive in intent.

Also, the elimination of the hated Castilla name appears to have been done with a bit more subtlety than the black spray paint we’d seen before.

We’d actually had a coffee stop just before the Basilica, but we found that this alternative route led through a small and modern village called Fresno del Camino where we noted a couple of significant things.

One was confirmation that we’re nearing the two-thirds mark; the other was invitation for more coffee, which we gladly accepted.

For the whole of the rest of the walk, we were almost entirely undisturbed by the presence of other pilgrims, which suited us nicely. The going underfoot was good, being either paved road or decent track,

and we passed through a couple of small (and quiet!) but pleasant villages: Oncina de la Valdoncina, which featured a restaurant whose speciality was reasonably obvious;

and Chozas de Abajo, which was larger and more interesting. For a start, there were rumours of a bar there, and I for one was open to the idea of more coffee and possibly even a beer; and, visible from quite a distance, it featured a bizarre object.

Outside the village there was another solar farm

and yet more bodegas.

Even as we approached the mystery object, it was entirely unclear what this strangely-shaped tower was.

It’s a water tower!

“Water storage for supply”, it says. It seems a strange design, but….whatever.

The village also has a very unusual bell tower

and a house with a very unusual rendering on it.

It’s sort of pebbledash, but writ large – boulderdash, if you like. Thank you. Thank you for reading my joke.

Oh, by the way: the bar was shut. Bugger!

The countryside hereabouts is very, very flat

but eventually, in the distance, we could see the hills that I guess we will be climbing in a few days’ time.

Some five hours after starting out we caught our first sight of Villar de Mazarife

which has a water tower the like of which I haven’t seen since I worked in Sweden, forty years ago.

Greeting the weary pilgrim is an entirely enchanting mosaic.

It’s a quiet village

home to a couple of albergues, a shop and a lion.

We found our way to our accommodation, a guest house called La Santa. We had to ring the bell, since the door was closed, but were greeted gently and courteously by Iñigo, who runs a delightful establishment.

He also cooks a delightful dinner. I guess he might have been less than entirely disinterested when describing one of the albergues in the town as bad and the other as providing an OK dinner for €15 where he could do us a nice meal for €20; but he did a great job, not only for us – there were four other guests and he single-handedly produced great food for us all. Oh, and he had gin, too.

After dinner, we went for a walk. Obviously. The sightseeing fare for the avid tourist is not vast. There’s a shop – fair play, it stocked salted almonds – a really beautifully-executed mural

and a church. And, erm, that’s it, really. The church is of unusual construction. There’s an obviously old bell tower

with A Thing beside it, which we think might be for enabling access to maintain the bells; although I suppose it could be so a chap with a hammer in his hand could go up there and beat, erm, seven bells out of them to call people to mass. The rest of the church is, I would say, not contemporaneous with the tower.

and there are a couple of statues nearby. One is of a pilgrim

and the other is of a lion, although not in quite such fine form as the Town Lion.

And so to today’s stats. Relive and Garmin Connect added some spurious kilometrage and put our distance at around 30km, but Jane’s measuring app showed a more credible 21.6km, so I’m going to use that. Our total is thus 498.5km – tantaisingly short of the 500 mark and equivalent to very nearly 310 miles.

Today has been a really nice day. Tomorrow’s destination is Hospital de Orbigo, a mere 14km down the road. This will take us over the 500km total, but leave us a little short of the 520 we need to claim two-thirds of the total covered. Because we had a (for us) late dinner, we will make a late start, but should still arrive in time for me to report back tomorrow. That’s the plan, anyway; tune in then to see if I manage it, OK?