Showing posts with label Genny. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genny. Show all posts

Monday 20 June 2022

Camino de Santiago Week 2 summary - Logroño to León (Electric wheelchair style)

It was fantastic to return for a second week to the Camino de Santiago commencing in  Logroño where I had finished in October 2021 It was like home-coming in its familiarity and simple functionality. Your commitment is to the path, and following the yellow arrows keeps you safe and leads you to food, shelter, safety and ultimately Santiago de Compostela.

* Week 1 of my Camino journey is available HERE  

Once again my journey involved a long drive via Switzerland to Logroño where I garaged my VW van. Over the next seven days I travelled from Logroño to León, a distance of about 300km, on my Genny Mobility self-balancing wheelchair

Progress to date: 2021 Saint-Jean-Pier-de-Port to Logroño. June 2022 LogroñoI to León
Santiago de Compostela in the west as the ultimate destination
                Map data ©2022 Google

This section of the Camino traversed different landscapes than my 2021 trip. From the satellite image above you can see the green woodland section west of Logroño that leads to the high agricultural planes of north central Spain. The section west of Burgos is called the Meseta, a high upland plateaux that is largely big open fields of cereal crops. Many pilgrims choose to miss this section, getting busses directly from Burgos to León and avoiding the long uphill climbs and days of open repetitive views

Although the landscapes are generally similar in this section, progress was easy on my wheels and the riot of wildflowers a delight. Travelling faster than most walking pilgrims nothing was arduous or unsatisfactory, rather insightful and meditative    

At times I would journey with others, getting better acquainted with people I had shared a meal with or met at some earlier point however mostly I would travel alone at my own pace. This could be faster or slower than others depending on the terrain and many times I would overtake people who would later catch me up at a steep hill or when breaking for coffee or lunch. Most days I was comfortable covering between 30 and 40km

The path ascending to the Meseta leaving Castrojeriz 

Early June was great weather with fresh early mornings getting hotter till early afternoon where I would settle into whatever albergue I was staying in. Often it was late afternoon or early evenings that was the hottest and I would rest, read and dry washing
There is much good art on the Camino

In my 7 available days I ventured as far west as the Cathedral city of  León. This was a journey of about 300km which I considered a real achievement. I had covered 13 day sections as defined in the guide in my 7 so approaching twice the pace of the average walking pilgrim. According to the guidebook I have 13 sections left to Santiago de Compostela

I am uncertain if I am rushing, keen to continue but also not wanting to finish. What I'm not doing is the various Cathedral visits or city break days to explore museums and galleries. This may be a missed opportunity but may also be a limitation of being a wheelchair user as often access to these old buildings and sites involves access limitations which can be really disappointing   

With these mixed emotions I have already booked a return of another 7 days this coming October
Santa Iglesia Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Santa María de Burgos

From León I got a series of busses via Burgos back to my starting point in Logroño to collect my VW van

Camino credentials

- Buen Camino -

* To view all these posts in chronological order please scroll down or click HERE

Sunday 12 June 2022

Camino de Santiago 13 - Sahagun to León (Electric wheelchair style)

My final day on the Camino and I would complete the biggest stretch to date at 55km. My destination was León where I would bus it back to my VW van garaged in  Logroño

Leaving Sahagún early I encountered the stragglers from the previous evenings fiesta. The mood was good and I was cheered on my way

The morning after...

Starting through adobe villages and small towns the route was mainly adjacent to tiny roads through Bercianos del Real Camino, Mansilla de Las Mulas and Puente Villarente before entering the urban landscape of León

I ate up the miles on this increasingly urban route before rolling into León. This sort of journey is lovely on my wheels. Walking on hard pavements on a hot afternoon in town is not ideal with a heavy rucksack on your back however for my Genny Mobility wheelchair it is a natural habitat. One difference travelling by wheels is your dependence on pavement ramps. There is always a way up or down a curb however, with block after block and intervening streets the easiest way is not always the marked Camino route. Head down in a map on my mobile phone trying to regain the route I dropped down a large curb that tipped me over the handlebars. Although not particularly painful it is hard on my wheels and tends to get a lot of attention. Kind people want to help and someone upside down in a wheelchair is a magnet. In embarrassment rather than pain I dusted myself off and straighten my handlebars. The urban bits just needed getting through and with broad pavements and renewed attention I quickly reach the historic centre

León is a fantastic vibrant city on a summers day. I arrived to a chess tournament outside the cathedral and the streets were packed

The older parts of town were filled with cafes spilling onto the streets

The former City Hall in the Plaza Mayor 

Casa Botines - built by Gaudi in  1891

The majestic Cathedral Santa María de Regla de León

I stayed in the Hostel Quartiere in the heart of the old town which was the most gorgeous hostel. With the assurance of good accommodation sorted I set out to explore León

This was my final evening before returning to Logroño to collect my van and return home. After exploring the city I ate tapas and drunk cold beer on a street side bar and planned my return in October 2022


Saturday 11 June 2022

Camino de Santiago 12 - Carrión de los Condes to Sahagún (Electric wheelchair style)

Day 6 of my trip started with the now familiar open agricultural landscape but a slightly shorter journey day. I crossed the halfway point of 395km which in total had taken me 13 days from the start in Saint-Jean-Pier-de-Port to my midway point. I realise this is fast and that the suggested stages in the guide books normally make for a journey of 33 days. Often people take rest days for sightseeing or to recover the feet.

Was I rushing, was I missing out on things, should I slow down? 

Camino midpoint markers

According to a post on the Camino forum  these "midpoint markers, placed at the Ermita del Puente site right after the medieval bridge over the Valderaduey River. The sculptures were recently unveiled and they are absolutely gorgeous. Two huge statues flanking the Camino, one of Alphonse VI the Brave (1065-1109) - Promoter and Protector of the Way of St. James and on the other side Bernardo de Seriedad (Spanish name; Aeseriac: French)), an Abad considered one of the founders of Sahagún"

Passing the midpoint the sky suddenly darkened threatening a storm however after just a few raindrops, it disappeared as quickly as it came  

Street art entering Sahagún

Sahagún was in fiesta. There were many road barriers around the town as I entered then I saw the posters. The event was over 4 days and I had arrived on day two. I stayed at the Municipal Albergue built into the upper floor of the 'Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad' or Church of the Holy Trinity, which also housed the tourist office on the ground floor
A sculptured pilgrim welcomes at the door of the Albergue 

As the evening progressed we had front seat views as a procession of local brass bands accompanied by their entourages, promenaded through the town. Tomorrow night was to be bulls running through the town.


Friday 10 June 2022

Camino de Santiago 11 - Castrojeriz to Carrión de los Condes (Electric wheelchair style)

With beautiful morning light the path ascends back to the high Meseta plateaux

With caution to save on battery I got off and pushed my wheels on the steeper parts of this climb. I don't think this was strictly necessary as I'm sure I would have managed without, but the possibility of  running out of charge is always present when you travel by battery. With an electric bike you can always pedal on or even push it with relative ease. With a 2 wheeled, self-balancing wheelchair, without battery power you are dead in the water. 

There is also an issue with the time it takes to recharge my ultra high capacity batteries. With standard 5.6 Ah lithium batteries the charge time of the Segway that powers my Genny wheelchair is about 8 hours. The ultra high capacity batteries I have fitted are reported to to take 16 hours for a full recharge from empty. As I was planning covering 2 stages to Carrión de los Condes (44km) I thought it wise to preserve capacity where I could

The view back to Castrojeriz was stunning and life felt good to be on the Meseta stages.

Up on the Meseta the landscape was the same with high cereal agriculture, mountains to the north and lovely wildflowers along the path.   

The Way took me to the villages of Itero de la Vega, Boardilla del Camino, Frómista and several smaller villages. The water in the river valleys looked inviting and was always spanned by bridges that are probably Roman in origin

Crossing the rio Pisuerga 

Part of the canal system at Frómista

Storks nest on convenient high perches, in this case the top of a grain silo system  

The latter part of this section runs adjacent to a small road. Lots of pilgrims dislike these sections preferring a more remote path. I'm ok with them, soaking up the warmth and just enjoying the afternoon

In Carrión de los Condes I stayed at the Hostel of the Filipense Sisters. The accommodation was €22 with lovely beds, proper sheets and hot showers. Unfortunately it was deserted with no pilgrim merriment. I amused myself eating avocado, cheese, ham and crisps with my feet in the river 


Thursday 9 June 2022

Camino de Santiago 10 - Burgos to Castrojeriz (Electric wheelchair style)

A beautiful day on the Camino in gently rolling fields of wheat and barley.

 After the small villages of  Villalbilla, Tardajos and Rabé de las Calzadas the path ascends. This is the official start of the Meseta, a high flat plateau dipping into occasional valleys with isolated villages often with houses of adobe construction (bricks made of earth straw and other organic materials)

The ancient and deserted village of Hornillos del Camino 

After Hornillos the path ascends again into beautiful postcard fields awash with poppies

Poppies are an emblematic species and dear to me. A plant with an ancient association to humans, poppies are the source of opium that has been used since prehistoric times for medicine and pleasure. The connection with the first world war where it's seed's capacity to germinate and flower in disturbed soils saw it colonising in landscapes torn apart by war. If those battlefields had looked anything like the riot of colour and beauty of the Camino poppies you can imagine hope entering the world again    


This was to be be along day where I covered 40.4km. I continued beyond San Anton where a small road cuts right through an archway of the now ruined monastery. There was an option to stay in a tiny albergue built into these ruins but didn't provide electricity which I'm dependant on to charge my wheels for the next days travel 
Ruins of an ancient monastery - San Anton houses a basic Albergue built into the site

My destination for the night was the small town of Castrojeriz built into the hillside beneath a ruined castle. I stayed in the Rosalia Pilgrim Hostal that had good reviews and deserved them. The Rosalia turned out to be a 16th century hostel built over several floors with a covered courtyard where I ate the Pilgrims menu.

Others staying at the hostel made the the stiff walk up to the castle ruins. I washed and dried my cloths and researched the next days route

Entry to this Albergue was via a series of steps at the back door which I was helped through by the proprietor. Minor obstacles like this were ever present on the Camino. I do not know how a pilgrim completely dependant on their wheelchair would manage unsupported but for me there were always people to help 

Wednesday 8 June 2022

Camino de Santiago 9 - Villambistia to Burgos (Electric wheelchair style)

The route today left the big open agricultural landscapes and climbed into the wooded hills to a height of 1120m. The terrain was a mix of planted conifers and local indigenous oak woodland mainly on clay or stoney soils. 

A constant climb into woodlands

Conifer plantation

The straight lines of a conifer plantation make for an alien environment where the heavy shade stops everything but hardy grasses and bracken from growing. I was to discover that within 2 weeks of crossing this section,  the path had been closed due to raging wild fires in the area

At higher altitudes remnants of the natural upland heath remained in glades. Heather and rock roses bloomed along with the odd orchid. There is a simple monument marking the site of a shallow grave from Spain's the civil war. Its easy to forget that until relatively recently Spain as a large and diverse nation had a very difficult past
San Juan de Ortega
The path drops down to San Juan de Ortega where there is an Albergue and small café that was doing good business. I stopped for a homely lunch with a small coincidental meeting of English pilgrims.

After another short stretch of woodland the path descends into the small villages of Ages and Atapuerca before rising again into a section of path with extremely difficult rocky terrain. Genny can handle most moderately rocky paths but very steep slopes, deep eroded gullies and places where rocks will snag the underside are not easily passable. I have developed a technique of putting Genny into slow mode, depressing the seat whilst guiding from the rear operates with full power as though there is a passenger riding it. This requires lots of practice and good control but this mode can sometimes get you over obstacles that are otherwise impassable

Most of this terrain was negotiable threading between the stones however I was assisted in a few places by helpful cyclists who had resorted to pushing their mountain bikes to the summit. The Cruz de Matagrande sits at altitude 1050m. The following photograph from my sister taken on a bleaker day shows the cross at the summit and the difficult rocky path 

A long ride down the other side leads through woods and fields eventually reaching the suburbs to Burgos.

Burgos is a delightful city. A blend of the ancient alongside wide treelined streets. The city is built on the river 'Rio Arlanzón' and Burgos is a UNESCO world heritage site named as a 'City of Gastronomy'. Ironically it was difficult finding somewhere to eat at a time that suited pilgrims. I risk generalising when I say that the Spanish seem to do most things late. Mornings seem to not happen till 9 ish lunch is 14:00 or 15:00 and people seem to not eat their evening meal at about 22:00 I guess being on the western end of the continent, the sun rises and sets later than the rest of Europe. The smaller villages servicing the Camino are open for coffee if nothing else so maybe its the Camino running in a different time zone altogether..

In Burgos I stayed in the Municipal Albergue de peregrinos Casa del Cubo, a big hostel sleeping 150 over several floors. This had excellent disabled facilities including single story beds as opposed to the more frequent bunks. 

Gothic Cathedral of Saint Mary of Burgos

14th-century city gate, Arco de Santa María