Homer's Travels: Camino De Santiago - Atapuerca To Burgos

Monday, September 05, 2011

Camino De Santiago - Atapuerca To Burgos

The day started out foggy and cold.  I left town, walked along a military reservation, up the hill, passing sheep grazing in the fog.  At the peak a sign said something like:
"Not Since the pilgrim dominated in the mountains of Navarre and saw the fields of Spain has he enjoyed a more beautiful view than this."
- Translation assisted by Google Translate
Unfortunately the view was obscured by the morning fog.

On the way down the hill I kept passing pilgrims standing in the weeds alongside the Camino taking a whiz.  What irritated me most was they were less than an hour away from the albergue.  Couldn't they have done this before leaving?  Couldn't they have held it a little longer?  Couldn't they have been a little more effective at hiding themselves?  I saw one guy peeing a yard from the picnic table where his friends were making breakfast!?!  Really!?!  I'm proud to say that I never went to the bathroom along the side of the Camino.

The Camino, after a brief rural stretch soon entered the outskirts and suburbs of Burgos.  You walk around the end of the airport runway, pass industrial areas, and walk forever beside the huge Bridgestone plant.  This is a stretch of the Camino many skip and take the bus.  I can understand this but I walked it all.  (I later found out there was a slightly longer alternate, scenic, route that bypassed all the industrial area.)  I made it at record speed - 3.1 mph (5 km/hr).  I really wasn't walking that much faster.  I just took fewer breaks along the way.

Despite being ugly, it was a short stage and I reached the albergue early - I was second in line.  I walked around looking at the nearby Cathedral and all the old buildings.  It was cold this morning 50 - 59 °F (10 - 15 °C) and I was chilled as I waited.  A reporter showed up to interview some of the pilgrims.  Her efforts were frustrated when a school class walked by and pretty much ruined her interview making noise and mugging for the camera.  Made me laugh.

My left foot was hurting a little bit and I discovered I had my first blister.  When I'd gone ten days with no blisters I'd thought I wouldn't have to worry about them then, day thirteen, I get my first.  It wasn't anything big, just the size of a nickle, on the ball of my foot.

I warmed up a bit when people I knew started showing up - HT, LO, EN - whom I greeted with hugs.  I checked in and did my chores - the routine was definitely entrenched by now.  The albergue was a multi-story dormitory.  It was clean, had a lot of facilities, and it even had an elevator ... which I never used (just felt wrong for some reason).  When I was done I went down to the dining hall and ran into SZ, NV, and GV.

I spent the day touring the city with GV.  We went through the Cathedral where I bought a rosary for the Wife.  We ran into JM and RF who I'd not seen since Torres Del Rio.  RF was heading home soon so we said our goodbyes.

Along with my pilgrim friends, I also ran into our tent protesting friends.  They were camped out in the Plaza Mayor.  This time they didn't wake us up with Spanish expletives.

Eventually all this walking around the city made us want to sit down and the only place we could find out of the wind and in the sun was in a niche on a bridge.  We sat to rest our feet and people stopped to take our pictures - more pilgrims in there natural habitat.  I wonder how many times I've been photographed along side the Camino.

That evening we (EN, SZ, NV, GV, and I) went out for dinner.  Along the way we ran into MA who I'd not seen since Puente La Reina.  We asked him to join us and he suggested a street lined with restaurants.  We picked a place, went in, were seated, and ordered food.  Soon after, CL (and friend), GU, LS, JN, ST, and SP all showed up at the same restaurant.  We were all together again.  This was CL and friend's last night on the Camino.  A lot of people do not have the time to do the whole Camino so they do it in stages.  At the end of dinner we all said and hugged out our tearful goodbyes.  This was just a preview for me as I would have to say goodbye to everyone as they left Burgos and I stayed to let my ankle heal.

We went back to the albergue and I started saying my goodbyes.  It was tough.  There were too many goodbyes in Burgos.  I'd come to realize how important these people had become to me.  I dreaded being alone again.


The next morning I was going to stay in bed til everyone left but just couldn't do it.  I got up, packed my bag, and headed down to the common room.  I sat down with SZ, NV, and LO who were trying to wake up.  NV was eating some cookies.  LO was also eating cookies.  Those cookies would be the bane of my health and blood test numbers.   These were Principe cookies (The link takes you to a boxed cookie but in Spain they were sold in a convenient tube that fit in your backpack water bottle holder).  I thought eating ice cream every day might do me harm but these cookies would become overpowering.  After leaving Burgos I ate a tube of Principe cookies (16 - 17 cookies per tube) every day until I reached Santiago de Compostela (that's twenty tubes and I ate more after Santiago de Compostela).  No need to wonder anymore why my blood glucose numbers were so bad.  I started calling them Pilgrim Crack.

SZ was thinking about staying an extra day in Burgos to celebrate Noche Blanca (White Night) and LO and NV were considering joining her.  GV showed up and I said another goodbye as she left the albergue.  SZ, NV, LO, and I went in search of an open restaurant for breakfast.  We found a place and ordered some food and drink and talked a bit.  I said my goodbyes to them (after taking their pictures - Facebook friends can see there pictures in my Camino album).  I walked back to a hotel I'd visited the day before.  I'd made a reservation for two nights.  My room wasn't ready yet but they allowed me to drop off my bag.

I walked around for a few hours looking around the downtown area before finding a place to buy some food and groceries.  This is when I bought my first tube of Principe cookies.  I went back to the hotel.  It was still too early but they got my room ready first and I was able to get in my room early.

It turned out to be a nice little room.  The hotel, the Mesón del Cid, was located across a small square from the Cathedral.  My room, on the top floor (thank God for the elevator which I did use - I felt like I was off the Camino and I was permitted to use it), faced away from the Cathedral.  I sent all my clothes to the hotel laundry (expensive mistake ... I should have done laundry at the albergue) and took a long hot shower in my private bathroom.  It felt wickedly wonderful and made me feel human once again ... and a little guilty.

My big toe was starting to look even more nasty so I decided I needed to soak it (and the new blister on the same foot).  I took the bathroom waste basket, washed it out in the bathtub, filled it with hot soapy water and put it next to the bed.  I made sure everything I would need was on the bed (food, drink, journal, TV remote) and laid on the bed with my right leg propped up on a pillow and my left leg hanging off the side of the bed soaking in the waste basket. That's the position I remained in the rest of the day.  The television alternated between the Spanish equivalents of the Cartoon network and Nickelodeon.  My rule was no news.

Around 4:00 PM that afternoon I saw my first downpour.  Thunder, lightening and raining buckets.  It didn't last long but it was intense.  I wondered about the Pilgrims walking the Camino.

I'd been invited by SZ to dinner but I didn't think that would be wise.  I was in this hotel to rest my foot and walking around Burgos defeated the purpose so I skipped dinner.  I know I did the right thing but I kind of regret not joining SZ, LO, and NV for dinner.  I never saw them again.  I finished a whole tube of Principes that night.

That night I fell asleep sometime after 11:00 PM, the latest I'd stayed up so far on the Camino.  I was finally lulled to sleep by sounds of the Noche Blanca and the music being played outside the Cathedral.


I had the best sleep so far on the Camino.  I slept through the whole night without waking up three or four times like I'd been doing in the albergues.  My toe looked a lot better this morning and, while still swollen, my ankle felt better.  The progress I was seeing made me feel better - I hadn't separated from my Camino friends for nothing.

I got up, dressed, and went out so that they could clean my room.  I stopped in a restaurant and had some tortilla española, found some ice cream, and walked around a bit looking for the statue of El Cid.  I took some pictures of statues and fountains before I found a grocery store open on Sunday and replenished my supplies - including another tube of Principes naturally.  Then it was back into my room where I spent the rest of the day soaking my foot and keeping my ankle raised up.

I knew I was two days behind the gang.  I spent a lot of time looking at my Camino Bible trying to figure a way I could catch up.  The section of the Camino between Burgos and León is known as the Meseta.  It's infamous for being a  flat, straight, rather desolate stretch of the Camino.  It's been described as similar to Kansas.  It's where your mind has time to wander.  I was hoping that I would be able to push myself over the next eight days, the time it would take to get across the Meseta, and catch up.  I had a plan.  What I didn't realize was, on the Meseta, the gang would scatter on the winds and I would be chasing a mirage.

Days thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen were now behind me and I had the Meseta and my ambitious plan ahead of me.  I slept a restless last night in Burgos.  It was like my body had had enough of all this lying around and was raring to get back on the Camino.

Total Distance: 12.37 Miles (19.91 km)
Total Time: 4 hours 3 minutes
Total Elevation Up: 1,614 ft (491.95 m)
Total Elevation Down: 1,950 ft (594.36 m)

[Click on map for a larger version]


  1. Reading this...I think I was a day ahead of you in Burgos. Reading about the goodbyes brought back so many lovely, painful memories. For the ones leaving others behind to rest...equally painful! Nice post.

  2. ksam, you were 2 days ahead of him because we started the Meseta together. You kindly shared your water with me. Gv

  3. I'm glad you took the time to rest a little. I know it wasn't ideal, but better than having your foot fall off ;)

  4. KSam, GV: The only thing I know is that I caught up with both of you eventually.

    Miss McC: My foot would be cut off eventually - read on ;-)