Large Headed Madonna with Freaky Baby Jesus

Had a great sleep and didn’t get up until quite late – it’s very quiet here – all I could hear was the distant ringing of cowbells and the murmuring of the nearby creek. No traffic at night either, and blessedly few squawking children.
After a late breakfast we took a ride down into the village of Villoslada de Cameros to try to find a bank – no luck, but did find a nice cafe for a coffee. It was a fairly busy square and many of the people that came and went through it had dogs. The little girls were all dressed in their Sunday best with cute little shoes and bows in their hair.
One of the little dogs sat at the door of the cafe and waited very patiently for his owner to come out – he was so cute (the dog, that is).
Many of the houses had banners/posters up of the madonna and child. At first I thought they looked kind of like a buddha, but on closer look we figured out what it was. The madonna looks kind of Chinese – with a very large head – and the baby Jesus looks like a teenager in miniature – altogether a bit freakish.
Back at the campground we did some laundry – free! Well, I’m not sure it was supposed to be but when I asked the lady in the bar she told me to wait an hour then ask again. We waited, and since the machine was empty we filled it up – I didn’t see anyplace to put coins or tokens so took a chance and pressed some buttons. Eureka – it started.
A little later I checked on the progress and the machine had stopped – full of water but seemingly dead. Colin got the helpful man with the long hair to get it going again – he kept saying it was ‘no problem, no problem’ and that it was the machine’s fault. Eventually the laundry was done – free in the end, and hung to dry on the rack.

Another dinner at the cafe/bar – this time they were out of the chicken sandwich I wanted as well as the lamb chops Colin ordered. We both settled instead for the scampi and chips – very nice and crisp again.

The wi-fi isn’t too bad up near the cafe so I was finally able to start posting again – over a week behind, but better late than never.

After another very nice quiet night I roused from my tent around 8:00 and did a tiny bit of chi gong down at the creekside listening to nothing but the water and the birds. We went up to the cafe for a coffee and some wi-fi, then a bit later went for a walk up the road.
It was a lovely stroll and we shortly came to a nice creek-side park with gravel path – there were signs every now and then with descriptions of the local flora and fauna. It was totally peaceful until two cars arrived and discourged about eight people, including two very loud children – how to destroy the peacefulness.

A small shrine just aross a bridge was our turning-around point. Once again it was the large-headed madonna with the freakishly old looking baby – funny but kind of creepy at the same time.
Back at the campground we stopped at the cafe – it was quite busy and so loud I almost went back outside, but it was too cold to sit outdoors.

A little later we went back for dinner, having to leave Mo in the campervan again. We had to wait until 8:00 to order, and once again they didn’t have what we wanted as first choice. However my second choice of pizza was the best pizza I’ve had in ages – very nice crust and with toppings of ham, artichokes and olives – a really tasty combination.

Vuelta a Burgos – Final Stage

9E8873A0-3019-47E9-91FA-2A71CD83DE54The morning was bright and sunny, although a bit chilly on the mountain. I took Mo for a nice long walk up past the barricade – the paved road turns to hard dirt/gravel after a short bit.
It winds around the side of the mountain going up at a nice easy grade – there are marked walking trails everywhere and some great views along the way with cattle and a few horses grazing in a field.
There are some lakes, but I only walked far enough to see a small slough before turning back to make some breakfast – leftover mashed potatoes with mushrooms, onions and cherry tomatoes all fried together.
The race wasn’t expected to finish on our mountain until at least 4:30 so we had a whole day to take walks or sit and read. Hundreds and hundreds of people had walked up from the lower parking area and were doing to same thing, although without the comfort of table and chairs.
We took a short walk down to the finish line – they’re erecting the barriers that come all the way to where we’re parked.
Just as we returned to the campervan we were told – very nicely – that we would have to move, but we should be able to get in right behind the large trucks that were unloading the barriers. No problem – they even directed us in so we’re almost the first in line for getting out later.

We had nice big salad for lunch, read for a bit, then headed back to the finish line just before 4:00. We wandered around ‘back stage’, then chose our spots.
I was just behind the barrier next to the podium stage and no one was getting in front of me as that area is roped off for one tv camera guy and he wasn’t in my way. There was a group of fans from Ecuador right across from the finish line and podium – all dressed in their yellow tops with a large flag in front of them – they were very enthusiastic.
I was able to watch the progress of the race on the jumbo tron to my left – the climb to the finish starts in the town of Quintanar de la Sierra and is about 13 km long.
The winner of the day – and of the overall race – was the young Colombian Sosa from team Evil – oops, I mean Ineos – unfortunately he rides for my least favourite team.
I quickly went ‘behind the scenes’ and got a nice photo of the winner giving his first interview, then hustled across right next to the fans in yellow for the podium presentations.
As soon as they were done we went back to the campervan, having already packed things up we were ready to go in minutes. Since we were at the beginning of the line we made it out in very good time – much quicker than we’d expected. We did have to weave our way through the throngs of people walking down to their cars, but we made good progress.

At the bottom of the mountain we had a bit of a navigation screw-up – I confidently told Colin to turn left when he was sure we should turn right. Oops – I was wrong and he wasn’t too happy about it, although we didn’t go far before we were able to turn around and get back to the proper route.

We made our way to one campground just outside Vinuesa that we’d thought might do, but didn’t like the look of it so kept going to another one further north. We turned up a small road at the village of Villoslada de Cameros and went 3.5 km before coming to the other campground – this one looked very nice so we checked in and hooked up the electrics. The fridge still isn’t hardly working unless we’re plugged in so it’s nice to be able to keep food cool again.

The campground is inside a ‘natural park’ and is on a nice little river – very pretty place. We went to the campground bar/restaurant for dinner and sat outside – for once Mo wasn’t allowed inside, but as it was a pleasant evening we would have been outside anyway.

Dinner was very good – although there wasn’t any table service. Colin’s food had appeared at the bar inside, but I didn’t get mine for awhile, and only after noticing it sitting on the bar and going in and retrieving it did I get to eat.

Anyway – it was good, and they even had ketchup for the fries, which were perfectly cooked – nice and crisp and not soggy or mushy.

Vuelta a Burgos Stage 4 – Roman Ruins

Finally having a decent sleep I showered, ate a small breakfast, and we were on our way just after 9:00. We headed first towards Burgos to do the shopping we couldn’t do yesterday because of the early closing, then continued on to Lerma, where the race ended two days ago.
We then navigated our way to the town of Covarrubias where we hoped to stop for a coffee, but unable to find parking continued on our way along today’s race route. We passed the top of the only climb of the day, then kept going to the beautiful town of Santo Domingo de Silos.
We parked in the ‘bus only’ area at the bottom of the town – there were no buses there, but plenty of cars. It seems to be a bit more ‘touristy’ than some of the places around here – we passed a monastery/museum and found the square in the centre of town where tomorrow’s stage will start.
We sat down for a coffee – a bit of an ordeal as the staff wasn’t that friendly and other customers were considerably more pushy than Colin was in ordering at the bar inside. I was sitting outside with Mo when a large group of locals arrived and proceeding to drag tables and chairs and sit next to us – one chubby lady continually banging up against the back of my chair, but never once saying ‘excuse me’ or even acknowledging that she’d hit mine.

The coffee was pretty good, but I’d forgotten to bring my honey so had to make do with a small amount of sugar instead. After a nice glass of wine I walked around the village a bit while Colin stayed at the table with Mo and a cold glass of water.
On our way back to the campervan we stopped to look at a couple of statues and sculptures, then got on the road again back to the top of the one climb of the day. There was only one other campervan there when we arrived, although a few more cars joined us later.
There was a three man break a few seconds ahead of another, then two minutes later the whole peloton flew by.
We followed the race down the hill, and where they turned right we went left to scoot ahead to the finish at the Cuidad Romana de Clunia – Roman ruins on a hilltop.
We checked out several spots to take photos from, and ended up on the roof deck of the line referee’s truck – I just looked in the door and pointed up and the guy said ok! It was nice not to be crowded and it’s another different angle.
There wasn’t any room at the top after the finish line so as some racers were still coming up to the finish others had already turned around and were on their way back down.
For the podium presentations I moved from the truck’s roof to the ground at the corner of the podium stage.
It wasn’t too hard getting on the road, what with all of the team cars and buses in the same field as us – we drove to the town of Quintanara de le Sierra, intending to stay the night at the campground we’d been at last year, but it was full to bursting and we didn’t feel like squishing in.

The last stage of the Vuelta a Burgos is always a climb up the same mountain, so we just headed up to the top parking area and parked it for the night. We’d passed several other campervans along the way doing the same thing – they close the road fairly early on the morning of the race, but with our photo passes we still would have been ok.

Vuelta a Burgos Stage 3 – Foggy Finish

Having had a not great sleep I didn’t get up until almost 8:30. After a quick cup of tea I proposed that we head up to the mountain top finish asap – we could always come back down if we wanted, but waiting too long and being turned back would be a big downer.
We managed to find the road to the mountain by following the race book we’d been given – it certainly wasn’t well marked with signs or anything. We ended up behind an suv taking a generator up, and were followed by another official vehicle.

From time to time we passed a parked campervan on the side of the road, and at one point on the narrow, twisting road we encountered two other large vehicles coming down towards us. The guy in front of us with the generator wasn’t pleased – we couldn’t pass each other and it was kind of a stand-off – we won. The generator guy waved his arm for the other campervans to back up and move to the right and we waited a couple of minutes before they gave in and did so.
The guy behind us got out of his vehicle and directed generator guy through, then did the same for us, including folding in everyone’s side mirrors so they wouldn’t hit each other. Colin cleared the second large campervan with just inches to spare.

After that it was clear sailing to the top of the mountain. Having the magic ‘press’ stickers on the window was again very helpful – we got to park right behind where the team vehicles are going to be as they arrive.
We wanted to see what actual finish area was like so walked up the road to the small area at the very top of the mountain. We think it must have been a military installation of some sort long ago but is now abandoned.
The views of the area are at times great, but it depends where the fog has moved to.
As we headed back down to the campervan we were greated by a strange sight – a row of young fellows stretched out and resting on the edge of the road, just like a bunch of lizards sunning themselves.
Back at the campervan we got out the table and chairs to read in the sun – had a bit of lunch and watched the fog roll around. Many cars have been coming down the hill to park behind us, and many people are walking up and down.
The race volunteers seem to have it fairly well organized – they’ve put orange cones all down the road with space on the right for the team cars to pull into as they arrive behind their racers. There’s no room for the team buses so the racers will either have to ride back down the 8km to the town, or get a ride in one of their cars.

At about 3:30 we started back up to the finish line to choose our spots. We ended up just a few feet past the line, right next to the video referee’s truck, and within sight of one of the jumbo-trons showing the race.
As the race approached the fog got thicker – at times I could barely see across the road. We knew exactly where the race was at and how far they had to go, but even then I could barely make out the first racer as he rounded the corner just below us.
Three minutes after the day’s winner had passed in the fog, it lifted and was almost clear for the last few racers.
By the time we were halfway back to the campervan to get ready to leave the fog had closed in again. All of the team cars had pulled in ahead of us awaiting their racers.
It really didn’t take long before we were allowed to leave – we just pulled in after the team cars and getting down the mountain didn’t take nearly as long as we’d expected.

We decided to go back to the campground we’d been in before near Cavia, and Miss GPS took us on the ‘scenic route’ but we eventually made it. We stopped at the Lidl’s just south of Burgos but it had closed early – festival day or something, we think.

The young lady in the campground restaurant was glad to see us – we headed straight there after hooking up the electrics. Had a glass of wine, then another very nice dinner with more wine. This place is great – the wine today was free! Or at least they didn’t bother charging us – either way it made up for the very slow service. They were rather busy so it wasn’t the waitresses fault – they’re all quite nice to us.

Vuelta a Burgos Stage Two – Gumiel to Lerma

Having a bit of a drive ahead of us we left the nice little campground fairly early and headed to the town of Gumiel for the start of the second stage of the race. We arrived in good time and parked right in front of where all the team buses will be, then walked around the small town a bit.
It’s a lovely place and is all decorated for the race.
The sign-in and start will be in the main square in front of the big church – another excellent and photogenic location. We found a cafe that was open and had a delicious coffee before returning to the campervan.
While I had a small bite to eat – since I hadn’t had breakfast – all of the team buses began to arrive and park on both sides of the road just below us. We walked around and had a look at all of the bikes as the mechanics did last minute touch-ups on some of them.
We had to leave Mo-mo in the campervan again and she wasn’t pleased but there’s just too many people about to take her with us. Back at the sign-in the photographer passes once again came in handy – we got to go inside the barriers and mill about wherever we wanted to get our photos from.
The riders are all so good about posing for photo with kids or stopping for interviews with tv crews – really nice to see.
Once again they had the boring ribbon cutting ceremony – I wasn’t the only one bored either before the roll-out happened.
Team Ineos (formerly team Sky) being the divas that they are were the last to sign in and consequently at the very back of the roll-out. In my opinion that’s where they deserve to be in all instances.
Once the riders had all left we went back to the campervan and drove north to another lovely town, Lerma, for the finish of today’s stage. Since we had a bit of time we walked up to the finish line and had a look around, stopping at a nice little cafe for a late lunch.
We both ordered a different kind of pizza – mine had goat’s cheese, smoked apples and bacon – a delicious combination. The waitress kindly wrapped my leftovers for me as I couldn’t eat the whole thing.
We walked back to the campervan, which was parked in the shade for Mo, left her there and went back up to chose our photo spots. Colin opted for a place partway up the finishing hill, while I went right to the top. As usual the press-pass was very handy – I got to cross the barriers and get in just below the stand that had the jumbo-tron on it showing the race. It was sunny out and starting to get very hot – I didn’t want anyone getting in just below me and blocking my shots so I parked my backpack in the way and took shade from time to time behind a bus.

The stage was won by a rider from one of the smallish Spanish teams so the crowd was very pleased. He was followed very closely by the DD guy that won yesterday’s stage so he’s managed to maintain his overall lead.
Once the main group had finished I walked towards where the podium presentations would be but decided not to stay – I was very hot and tired. But I did get to see a group of folks that must have been doing a dress-rehersal or something come out of one of the beautiful large buildings on the square.
I headed back down to the campervan and we left fairly swiftly, having a bit of a drive north to catch the end of tomorrow’s stage near the town of Espinosa de los Monteros. We located a nice little free campervan place just outside the town – a nice, but rather long day.

Vuelta a Burgos – Accredited Photographers!

We got to Burgos nice and early to pick up our accreditations – found the place without much problem, although at the end we had to ask in a photo shop where the office was.
We waited several minutes in the reception area before following a fellow down several long hallways to get to Teresa’s office. We gave her our names and she promptly brought us a large envelope containing our photo ID’s, stickers for the van, road books of the race but only one red ‘photographer bib’.

We did a bit of grocery shopping on the way back to the campervan, then went for drinks and dinner at the campground’s restaurant. I had some excellent seafood soup followed by meatballs with fries – it was supposed to be with rice but it was very tasty in any case.
On race day number one we headed into the city of Burgos nice and early to find a place to park to see the start, which is at the cathedral, as well as suss out where we want to be for the finish which is the castello on the hill right above the cathedral.

We thought we’d found an excellent place to park, then had a long conversation with one of the policeman there – even though we had an ‘official’ sticker and our badges he told us we couldn’t park where we wanted to. He directed us to a ‘campervan’ parking place a couple of miles away.

We drove to the parking area he’d directed us to and it was ok – right near the river and in shade for Mo. She wasn’t happy about being left behind, as expected, but we left her with water and under shade with a cool breeze.
Walking into the centre of the city only took about 15 minutes and we soon saw the cathedral. Burgos is one of the larger stopping points on the Camino so the scallop shells marking it are everywhere.

We got our bearings, had a nice cup of coffee, then got ready for the sign-in and start. Since I didn’t have a red bib one officious fellow wouldn’t allow me into the ‘inner area’ so I retreated a little bit back but still inside the barriers – the ‘guardia civil’ fellows didn’t mind at all.
After all had signed in they gathered at the start line inches from where I was. Several dignitaries lined up with a colourful ribbon and had a drawn-out ceremony of cutting the ribbon, then the race was on. Well – at this point it’s a ‘false start’ as they don’t really race until they’re out of the town, and they really bunched up as they went under the arch and across the bridge.
After the start was done we hustled back to the campervan to check on Mo – she was fine, but was really happy that we were back. We had a bite to eat, then headed up the hill to the finish at the castello. Since we had the ‘official sticker’ we simply followed the race route to the top, showed the race official and were told where we could park nearby.

It was perfect – a short climb up a small staircase and we were at the finish line. We walked around a bit, including down to the place where the podium presentations will be held. It’s a viewpoint looking out over the city, with the cathedral right below. The edge of the viewpoint is ringed by a stone wall topped with a beautiful series of cast-brass reliefs of all of the main/important sites and buildings in the city below – it’s really quite extraordinary and very interesting.

We then went to check out the castello. No luck – unfortunately they don’t allow dogs in – the lady was very sorry as she thought Mo was adorable, but no go.

Right at the entrance were two police, a man and a woman, each with a dog. We had a little chat with them and asked if they were sniffer dogs or attack dogs and they were sniffers – not for drugs, but for explosives.
We had a little sit-down at the cafe that was right at the top next to the finish line, then took Mo back to the campervan, which was once again parked nicely in the shade for her.

We both ended up sitting on the road just inside the barricades a few feet past the finish line. The racers came around a corner just below us and up the final bit of the climb – it was great. There were two just in front of the rest and it came down to a few inches for the winner.
Down at the podium ceremonies we once again got special positions because of our badges – we were right in front as all of the presentations were made and I got some really great shots.
As the winner of the first stage the same fellow from Dimension Data got several presentations of different jerseys and different coloured flowers.

Afterwards we had no trouble getting out of the site and back to the campground near Cavia. Back at the restaurant for dinner again we were told they were out of the excellent soup I’d had yesterday, but the smoked salmon and poached egg salad was a great alternative. A main course of teriyaki salmon steak was also very good.

Preparing for the Vuelta a Burgos

It was a somewhat stormy night, with both wind and rain but I was snug and warm in my tent. I went to the loo before retiring the night before and checked on the sink spider – it had several feet sticking out of the overflow hole but wasn’t active.

I slept in a bit, then did a bit of chi gong and some yoga – three days in a row is a rarity these days but feels good. With a late start we decided to go for a walk rather than a ride, so got to investigate the trail that leads into a forest just down the road from the campground.
It was a very nice, peaceful place – nice smooth walking trails, lots of benches, little info placques here and there describing the local flora and fauna. We walked until the nice smooth trail became smaller and smaller, then turned back and went to our favourite cafe for a coffee.
Back at the campground a couple of hours later we watched as several other campers arrived, one of which was a cyclist on an electric bike and another couple in a van. The van had french plates but the couple was actually british but now live in the french alps – we had a very nice chat with them when they first arrived.
We had a really nice pasta with mushrooms along with salad for dinner, then went for another evening out at the cafe/bar. Once again it was very busy but we managed to get an outside table when someone else left. I told the owner we were leaving the next morning – he’s going to miss our business (ha ha).

In the morning we did get away at a decent time – it had poured rain during the night so some of my tent stuff was soaking wet but we weren’t going that far and I was able to spread everything out to dry when we arrived at a campground just southwest of Burgos.
Most of the drive was basically following the Camino Trail – at least the ‘main’ one – there were signs and walkers everywhere. Sometimes they’re on a little path of their own but every once in awhile they’re right on the side of the road.
We spent a quiet day just hanging out – had lunch at the campground’s restaurant and continued reading an excellent little book I’d picked up at the Charity shop several weeks ago. It’s called ‘The Little Coffee Shop in Kabul’ and I’m really enjoying it.
The next day was super exciting – we went into Burgos to get our photographer accreditations. We both got our photo credentials as well as stickers for the van and detailed race books – there was only one official photographers bib left so we’ll have to fight over who gets to wear it.
Back at the campground we spent some time going over maps to plan where we want to be for each stage, then I translated some of the info we’d been given to make sure we ‘knew the rules’ – basically we can get ‘race radio’ on Colin’s phone, and with the van’s stickers we’ll be able to drive and park where most people can’t. With the photo credentials we’ll be allowed to go ‘behind the scenes’ – it is so exciting I can hardly contain myself – I hope I can sleep tonight so I’m not a total zombie tomorrow!