Burgos at Last

August 18, 2013

I’ve only walked for ten days but the Camino has taken a toll. My pace has slowed from about 3.6 km/hr to 2.8 km/hr. The walking is slower, especially on the downhills, and the rest breaks are longer and more frequent. I’ll have some deep thoughts tomorrow but today is all about getting into Burgos to meet my wife Kathryn. Her flight to Madrid lands at 10 am and she’ll take a train to Burgos that arrives at 4:30 pm.

So the march begins.

The first part of the walk today leaves Ages and quickly reaches Atapuerca where human remains over 900,000 years old were found. It reminds me of the Mel Brooks routine about the world’s oldest man. Google it.

The route continues over a large hill and finally the city of Burgos comes into view. There’s another prayer circle at the summit of the hill before descending into rolling wheat fields where hunters are using their dogs to flush birds from the rows of cut grain. I’m used to hunting in the USA where you have to stay away from roadways and buildings. It’s a lot looser in Spain and the hunters are hunting within 100 yards as you walk by.

The Camino eventually crosses the freeway and follows the length of the Burgos aeropuerto to a road intersection. This is a critical option to your experience entering Burgos. If you turn right, you’ll walk along the sidewalk along a busy roadway for the next few hours. If you cross the road and walk about ten minutes, you’ll follow the river all the way to the cathedral.

Luckily, my friend Nancy had alerted me of this option and I found the river easily. If I hadn’t, I would still be out on the road mumbling to myself and scaring passersby. The path started out pretty simply but got nicer and nicer as you got close to downtown. Since it was Sunday, a lot of people were enjoying the walks alone, with family or with friends. Those of you who have spent time in Europe know how the people love to walk. By the time I got to the bridge that would take me to the cathedral the walkway was packed with people. I passed through one of the arched entrances into the plaza in front of the cathedral. Our hotel was situated on the plaza as well so I checked in and waited for Kathryn to arrive.

Notes from today:

Left Ages at 0815, arrived Burgos at 1600
Total time 7.75 hours
Total distance 22.0 km
Average speed 2.8 km/hr

20130819-174725.jpg

20130819-174741.jpg

20130819-174755.jpg

20130819-174810.jpg

20130819-174818.jpg

20130819-174834.jpg

20130819-174845.jpg

20130819-174854.jpg

20130819-174904.jpg

20130819-174914.jpg

20130819-174936.jpg

20130819-174942.jpg

Advertisements

Taking it Easy

August 17, 2013

After two nights in a donativo albergue, I’m ready for a real bed. A donativo is an albergue run by dedicated volunteers who serve two weeks at a time. The albergues are typically associated with a local church, and the experience includes a communal meal, evening prayer service, sleeping mats on the floor, and a simple breakfast in the morning. Sort of like a slumber party for grownups.

The word donativo means that you make a voluntary contribution when you leave in the morning.

When I left at 0745 this morning, most of the other pilgrims had already hit the trail. This is fine with me because the mornings are cool and it’s a great time to walk by yourself. Since there was no wifi last night, I posted my last blogs along the trail today. I took a lot of breaks (note my average speed below) but both my legs were hurting and I didn’t want to push the pace too hard.

The second half of the day was spent without villages so it was a pretty quiet experience. I was considering stopping earlier than I planned but I took a long break, changed my socks and felt like a new man. I’m really glad that I continued because the last hour was through a shaded forest and I got to walk a labyrinth. Now I can walk into Burgos tomorrow to meet Kathryn. She lands at 10 am in Madrid and will take a train to meet me. Monday will be a rest day.

Notes from today:

Left Losantos at 0745, arrived Ages at 1600
Total time 8.25 hours
Total distance 22.1 km
Average speed 2.8 km/hr (it’s not a race, right?)

20130817-182805.jpg

20130817-182819.jpg

20130817-182831.jpg

20130817-182840.jpg

20130817-182855.jpg

20130817-182912.jpg

20130817-182924.jpg

20130817-182940.jpg

Settling into the Camino Flow

August 15, 2013

Today is the Feast of the Assumption so it’s a national holiday in Spain. Last night, there was a procession of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child through the streets of Azofra. A folk dance troupe led the way around the small village. The procession started and finished at the church where mass was held at 8 pm. As soon as Mass ended, the disco cranked up in the town square and the bars started getting crowded. For those who haven’t been to Spain, the normal dinner hour is 9 pm. You’re lucky if you leave your table by 11 pm. It’s a very civilized way to live.

The music and drinking continued all night long but it was remarkably quiet at the albergue. I walked back to the town square at 0800 this morning for coffee and the bar was still filled with highly inebriated people who were singing and harassing any young females who wandered past. I was told that the party was planned to continue for 2 more days. Luckily, the camino traveling circus was leaving town.

Like yesterday, I found myself walking with someone right away. This guy was named Marc and he lived about 1-1/2 hours south of Paris. He was in the final few weeks of his Camino from Le Puy to Santiago. He has walked all of the sections in random order and he needed to walk to Ponferrada to connect everything together. I found a lot of people take years to complete the trip. My experience will be the same.

Notes from today:

Left Azofra at 0830, arrived Granon at 1545
total time 7.25 hours
Total distance 22.4 km
average speed 3.1 km/hr

The photos below are in random order.

20130816-165442.jpg

20130816-165415.jpg

20130816-165525.jpg

20130816-165348.jpg

20130816-165549.jpg

20130816-165644.jpg

20130816-165710.jpg

20130816-165720.jpg

20130816-165738.jpg

20130816-165757.jpg

Grinding It Out

August 16, 2013

My left leg isn’t getting any better. i think it’s shin splints because it hurts almost all day. I should probably take a few days off but Kathryn is meeting me in Burgos on Sunday and I’d like to walk the entire way. So far I’ve walked almost 175 km (over 109 miles). I really underestimated how difficult this would be. Even though I’ve backpacked a number of weeklong trips, I’ve never walked 8 days straight averaging almost 14 miles a day. Even if the terrain is flat, it’s still a challenge.

Over course you meet people who are cranking out ridiculous distances. I met one guy who had done 58 km in one day and was averaging over 40 km/day. He was also carrying a big backpack and wasn’t moving very fast when I saw him.

Last night was my first night in a donativo, which are staffed by volunteer hospitaleros and where you make a voluntary contribution for lodging and meals. The accommodations are very simple, including sleeping mats on the floor and a communal meal. Cooking and cleanup duties are shared as well.

The albergue where I stayed was attached to the church in Granon. When you arrive, you are welcomed warmly by the hosts and they offer you a cold drink and (for me) an ice pack. After dinner, we enter the church’s choir loft through a secret passage and hold a prayer service with candles. It’s a moving experience and each pilgrim gets to offer a prayer for a special intention. I’m planning to repeat the experience tonight in Losantos.

I’m really looking forward to a rest day in Burgos. Only two more days until then.

Notes from today:

Left Granon at 0745, arrived Losantos at 1430
Total time 6-3/4 hours
Total distance 20.5 km
Average speed 3.0 km/hr (note that I’m slowing down)

Once again, photos are in random order. The WordPress app makes it hard to move photos around.

20130816-171727.jpg

20130816-171744.jpg

20130816-171754.jpg

20130816-171807.jpg

20130816-171830.jpg

20130816-172953.jpg

Every Day is a New Adventure

August 13, 2013

I was very apprehensive leaving the albergue this morning. My left leg was really hurting the day before – something I’ve never experienced. Perhaps it was shin splints. I looked at the planned destination for the day. It was Azofra, 14.5 miles away. Luckily there was another large town about 3 miles before it, so I decided to take it slow and re-evaluate when I stopped there for lunch.

I got an early start and and ran into a Spanish guy named Alex who wanted to practice his English. We walked together to the first town which turned out to be 1-1/2 hours away. Alex was an interesting guy and I got to practice my Spanish too. Here’s Alex. After we said goodby he took off jogging back to where I met him.

20130814-180248.jpg
After that I was on my own for the rest of the day. I took it slowly, especially on the downhills. The temperature was perfect – in the high 70’s – and the terrain was gently rolling. I tried to stop every hour to rest my leg. At lunchtime I rolled into Najera and got a coke and a bag of ice for my leg. I also took more ibuprofen and put some anti-inflam cream on my leg.

The final push into Azofra was 3.6 miles, and I spent the time thinking about my sister Mary who would have 53 today. After struggling with addiction to prescription pain pills for many years, Mary died of an accidental drug overdose five years ago. Like many families, my family has been affected by drug and alcohol addiction multiple times. Although Mary’s death was the most tragic episode, each of the situations reminds me of all the people struggling with this terrible disease. My walk today was dedicated to all those people.

Notes from today:

Left Navarette at 0730, arrived Azofra at 1500.
Total time 7.5 hours, total distance 23.2 km.
Average speed 3.1 km/hr

Bintang shirt on the Camino!

20130814-182312.jpg

20130814-182356.jpg

20130814-182408.jpg

20130814-182422.jpg

20130814-182216.jpg

Rain

August 13, 2013

Surprise! It rained last night during dinner. A bit and thunder and lightning too.This was a real blessing because it had been very hot all day and the rain provided welcome cooling. The forecast for today was highs in the 70’s and I planned to get an early start because I had a few more miles to hike than yesterday.

Unfortunately, I woke up at 0640 which is 40 min later than usual. The usual rustling which begins at 6 am never happened. By the time I got my stuff together and had breakfast, it was 0830 or about an hour later than usual.

Tim and I walked to Logrono together where we said goodby as he headed for the train station. He is heading to Barcelona where he’ll stay with friends until he goes back to Wurzburg to work on Monday. I’ve enjoyed my time with Tim because he reminds me of my son Bennet. They’re both artists (Tim is a ballet dancer), they both have fashion model sisters and they both like to travel light.

I walked alone for the rest of the day and I took it easy because my right ankle is really bothering me. I’ve never had problems with it before, but I’ve also never walked 66 miles in 5 days before. I should probably take a rest day but that means I’ll have to take a bus to meet Kathryn in Burgos next Sunday. I’ll see how I feel the morning.

Notes from today:

Left Viana at 0830, arrived Navarette at 1445.
Total time 6 hours 15 minutes.
Total distance 21.2 km.
Average speed 3.4 km/hr

20130813-171932.jpg

20130813-171947.jpg

20130813-172012.jpg

20130813-172032.jpg

20130813-172109.jpg

20130813-172121.jpg

The Soul of the Camino

August 12, 2013

From my experience last year, I knew I would meet some interesting people on the Camino. The act of walking strips away the human condition and leaves the true soul behind. I believe that’s the reason that the Camino is so addictive – once you’ve experienced the movement of souls along a common path, with a common objective, it changes the way you relate to others. You tolerate, you forgive the human condition, while you yearn for interaction with the soul.

Over the past few days, I’ve crossed paths with Mark, Susanna and Nina from Germany. They’re walking with their fox terrier Hancock. They’ve tolerated my German and we’ve enjoyed a few albergues and meals together. Last night in Los Arcos, we enjoyed a late meal in the plaza in front of the church. During the course of conversation, Mark mentioned that he had been a professional body builder who enjoyed a certain amount of fame in that world. His regimen included usage of the most extreme performance enhancing drugs. His weight was more than 250 pounds and his body fat was in the low single digits.

One day, for reasons that were lost in translation, Mark decided to give it all up. Perhaps it was his two friends that had already died. It took him three years to wean himself from the juice, but he was just as dedicated to getting himself back to normal as he was to build his body in the first place. Today Mark is still ripped, but he is a kind, thoughtful, gentle man who shares his struggles and gives you a hug that touches your soul. He gives credit for his success to Jesus and his wife Susanna. They share a glance and it warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes.

Tonight I attended the pilgrim mass and many people were there that I have met along the way. I sat in the pew behind Mark and Susanna. After the mass, the priest invited all the pilgrims for a special blessing and shared a few kind words in our native languages. Aftet the mass, Mark invitred me to the albergue where they were staying. It was attached to the church and provided simple mattresses on the floor. It reminded me of a slumber party. As the pilgrims gathered for their dinner, I was a bit jealous that I couldn’t join them. It was truly a communion of souls.

Notes from today:

Left Los Arcos at 0730; arrived Viana at 1300. Total time 5.5 hours. Total distance 18.6 km. Average speed 3.4 km/hour.

20130812-214722.jpgMy friends Mark and Susanna

20130812-214701.jpg

20130812-214758.jpg

20130812-214823.jpgMy friends Laora and Jorge with Tim

20130812-214911.jpgMy friends Angels and her nephew Bennet with a guy selling cold drinks

20130812-215032.jpg
My first tostada (half-eaten)

20130812-214740.jpg

20130812-214845.jpg