One of the attachments I’ve worked hard to maintain has been my morning writing routine. On the Camino, it has been difficult to find places to which I can retreat early to think and write. Ironically, big city Burgos was one of the most difficult. Though nice, our hostel had no common area and there was no coffee shop near us that opened before 8am. I found two 24 hour cafes within about 15 minutes walk – I decided I’d do it.
Any big city is a little unnerving in the dark at 5:30am. I was surprised to discover that there were many people wandering about in Burgos at when I started on my quest for coffee and they were mostly young adults. The first 15 minute walk took me to a place that was closed. Google was wrong. Annoyed but undeterred, I walked to the second one. Along the way, I encountered groups of young adults. I thought, are they still up from the night before? The answer was “yes.” About half way to my destination, I came across a club with music thumping and hundreds of people in a crowd outside. I could see inside as well and every inch of that place had a body occupying it. I crossed the street to avoid the crowd but there groups spread all up and down that broad avenue. Loud, intoxicated young men were sparring with each other along the sidewalks while others were more focused on their romantic interest. I kept walking, just waiting for some display of machismo challenging the solo walker in his sandals and with iPad at 6am.
Fortunately, no one paid any attention to me. I walked on and discovered that the second place was closed as well. Burgos travel rule number one: don’t trust Google when it tells you there is such a thing as as 24 hour cafe. There were still many people wandering about. I was stunned that the Burgos party was still going as I read 6:15am open my watch. I was now about at least 30 minutes away from our hostel and decided to give up on my quest.
When I returned, Sally was awake and we decided to get started earlier than usual. I finished the post I had started the night before and we packed up to leave Burgos. We were headed to Hornillos del Camino today, a 13 mile walk that would take us into Spain’s Meseta. The Meseta is a massive high plains area that lies between Burgos and Astorga – about 10 days for the pilgrim. Long, open paths battered with wind and offering little protection draw mixed reviews from pilgrims. Many bus around the “boring” and “uninteresting” nothingness of this area. Others claim it is a truly beautiful part of the Camino and where the pilgrim begins to turn thoughts inward as she crosses walks for miles and miles without distraction. I am excited to experience it.
Today will be a day of rain, our third poncho day since starting the Camino. It has also gotten colder – the temperature will not rise above 50 degrees today. We layer up and begin our walk with ponchos on. The first 90 minutes of our walk is our exit from Burgos. Though not as long as our walk in, I had hoped it would not so long. We moved out of the city center and down narrow streets crossing the river and getting back into the park that runs along the riverfront. As we moved along, more and more peregrinos began to appear. By the time we were on the broad gravel path leading into the countryside, there were perhaps 100 pilgrims spread along in their many colored ponchos.
Just outside the first town, Tardajos, we encountered our friend, Marguerita. It was a pleasant surprise. She had stayed a couple of nights in Burgos but felt called to get back on the Camino. We were happy to see her; I really thought she might give up on the rigors and find a more pleasant path to Santiago or possibly shift her plans altogether. She said there was a moment when she made the decision to leave Burgos and push on toward Santiago. We were not able to talk very long and I hope to learn more about that moment.
By the time we reached the second town along today’s path, the line of pilgrims had spread out and we were nearly alone when we climbed up into our first experience of the Meseta. Averaging about 2000 meters high, the broad plain is rolling with barren, rocky hills. We could see our gravel and mud path winding for miles ahead – there were specks of ponchos in the distance. The wind was blowing hard and we had to hold our ponchos down to remain (mostly) dry.
The path was muddy and our pant legs covered. Our feet remained mostly dry – I am still changing socks every 2-3 of hours. Our ponchos cover our backpacks so everything is protected. The hood of the ponchos is difficult to get situated and I found myself frequently pulling it back up so it didn’t cover my eyes. I begin to wonder about the cold – we may need some additional gear before we get into the mountains of Galicia. No need to worry about it yet.
We walked about five miles on the open plain yesterday. In our silence, my mind wandered across many subjects. After moving past the physical discomforts, thoughts of work, our grandchildren, our kids, and home in general came in and out of my mind. We’ve encountered numerous walkers who are on their third, fourth, fifth Camino. They are attached to the lifestyle. We are such compulsive animals – “enough” is truly a challenge for our species. We all suffer from it. Sitting here, writing this, I cannot imagine wanting to repeat the Camino. Considering the 290 miles between me and Santiago, I pray for the fortitude to finish.
Hornillos del Camino is a tiny blip on the map. I’ve begun to realize how important the Camino is to these towns and their inhabitants. The Way is truly a commercial path through the north of Spain. A river of travelers feeding an entire economy. Last night, we stayed at Casa Rural Abuelo. A Casa Rural is kind of like an AirBNB in that it is an entire home that is rented by the room or bed. This is our first Casa Rural and it is a true family affair. Three generations are involved in operating it and we have been in the middle of their life. Aunts, uncles, cousins have all been here. Abuelo lit a lovely fire in the family room – a luxury for which I was hoping before we arrived yesterday. The downside was a rather loud evening as travelers settled-in across the three stories of this home – a group of Spanish Camino tourists (given this name by me because they walked some portion today and had their luggage delivered to the Casa Rural) was particularly loud last night. We also had kids from the family running through and slamming doors into the evening – actually, everyone seemed to be a door slammer.
There is an upside. I have the entire family room to myself this morning. It is now 7:15am and I have not heard a peep…though I have been tempted to slam a couple of doors as payback. It is still quite dark outside. We are supposed to have a rain-free day which will be a very nice change from yesterday though the temperature right now is 37 degrees. We had a chance to FaceTime with Madison (our oldest daughter), Cooper, and Reagan (our grandchildren) yesterday – a true highlight for our day. As I consider those who repeatedly take 6 weeks or more to pursue the Camino, I decide that they must not have something so precious as our family in their lives. Our November 19 flight home seems like a lifetime away.