I reach Belorado at lunch, stop at a small store and buy a chunk of cheese, two tomatoes and bread. I could have stopped at one of the many cafes or restaurants but simple food is all I yearn for. I rip chunks from the baguette and break off a generous piece of cheese. The best part is biting carefully into the tomato and sucking out the juice.
I don’t see another pilgrim that afternoon, going along with my theory that August could be a great month to try this walk. A few are sitting outside the albergues resting at lunch, escaping the sun. I pass through Vilambistia, Espinosa del Camino and stop at a small bar in Villafranca-Montes de Oca. From here to San Juan de Ortega there is a wonderful eight-mile forested section which climbs up to the summit at Valbuena and then gently slopes down. There is little at San Juan de Ortega, just a church, bar and albergue.
By the time I arrive it is 7pm and I have thirty-one miles on the clock for the day. Not in the mood for company, I walk a further mile, by small part intuition, and another by memory. It was a good choice; the land flattens out and a forest borders the Camino. I set up the tent just nestling in the trees as the locals pass me waving and shouting a ‘Buenos Dias!’
Mt Hood Hiking Trail Map Photo Gallery
The temperature plummets and I put on all the clothing I own, whilst wrapping my sleeping quilt around me tightly. Then, it starts raining. For an hour the parched countryside receives relief, and as I listen to the raindrops on the tent, they lull me off to a deep sleep.
Having moaned about the heat, when I leave my camp spot the following morning I complain because it has turned cold. I had been walking in shorts and a T-shirt but trousers, a long-sleeve shirt and jacket are struggling to keep me warm this morning. I’m glad to see Atapuerca appear at the end of a long, straight road and I enter the one bar that is open. Frozen faces return my gaze, hands cupped around hot chocolates and coffees.