Valladolid to Torquemada – 80km
Torquemada to Burgos – 92 km
45% of Spain is covered by the Meseta Plateau, a high plateau which is rarely flat, and is in reality a mostly hilly highland area divided by the Cordillera Central and then ringed by additional mountain ranges, north, east and south. So, the plains we were so relieved to see a few days ago were, in fact, illusionary, at least from the perspective of cycle tourers!
We have gone from the rich red soil further south to a stark and arid land, with very few trees. Where cereal crops are growing, there are extensive irrigation systems, including an old canal system. The clay-coloured villages blend into the landscape, with only a church spire or grain elevator to distinguish them from the rocky outcrops.
The weather has been sunny, but cold. The temperature drops to around zero at night, warming up a little by the afternoon. We are still cycling in most of our layers.
Even the most direct routes on minor roads where bicycles are permitted take us either meandering down into river valleys or up through hilltop fortress towns. Although the road surfaces are generally good, our route on Monday included a tiring 20 km stretch of patched and broken asphalt on the P131.
It is a region of wind turbines; at times we were surrounded. Just before Torquemada, we passed by the castle of Hornillas de Carrato with the hills behind dotted with windmills and pock-marked with caves from gypsum mining. The approach to Torquemada is over a lovely bridge. It is an ancient town which was the birthplace of the first Grand Inquisitor of the infamous “Spanish Inquisition”, Tomás de Torquemada.
We were starving when we arrived in Torquemada, as, being Monday, we had failed to find anywhere opened for a midday meal. Lunch was 1/2 apple each, some salted peanuts and chocolate beside the road! (Note to file: stock up on oat cakes, or Spanish equivalent.) We found a bar open at 7:00 pm, but we could only get a drink. We headed back to the “hostal” for showers and to wait for the cafe next door to open at 8:30. Despite its rather shabby appearance, we had a good meal of fresh salad, fried eggs and fries, homemade cheesecake with local blackberry preserves and local wine. The proprietor, who spoke French, told us how to get onto the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, heading north to Castrojeriz.
There was a brutal cold headwind as we headed out the next morning, which didn’t let up for the 90 km ride. As we have found, we can usually find decent espresso in bars in small villages in Spain. They may not appear open. but through the door we have found a warm welcome. Villalaco looked almost deserted, but the bar was open, also serving as a restaurant and grocery store. As we enjoyed our coffees, the owner was replacing the white embroidered curtains with freshly starched ones. Just as we were leaving the village, having a look at the ancient church, the peace was broken by a continuous honking which heralded the fish seller, who parked in the central plaza and waited for customers.
We joined the Camino at the town of Castrojeriz, which is dominated by a high hill with a castle at the summit. There were a few pilgrims/hikers along the road leaving the town. After about 9 kms, the Camino turned into a track. Following the advice of John Higginson, on cycling the Camino de Santiago, we went across country to join the N110 into Burgos. Unfortunately, the wind and hills continued unabated which led to a long afternoon and evening. The last 32 kms took almost 4 hours.
We are having a rest today in Burgos and going to see – you guessed it, the cathedral!
Castle sightings: 3