Day #11 El Camino
Saturday 23rd September
VillaFranca > Burgos
38-40km? Sigh. It felt like forever.
Leaving the setting of a horror film – a rather nice accommodation actually – I left with great intentions for clocking some serious miles. It was about 35km to reach Burgos and although I don’t have an exact deadline, I didn’t like the idea of breaking up that distance in 2 days. It seemed like a waste of a day to walk 20-25km and then do an easy 10km the next. I figured I might as well bash it all out in one go and enjoy a Saturday night in the big smoke! I’m a stubborn bugger at times and ignore naysayers or sage advice. With a flask of hot water boiled and some snacks packed, I put the head torch on and left just before 7am up the steep first hill. I’d been rubbing some kind of magic gel into my upper knee muscle on the left leg (I still haven’t googled what it’s called) as I fear I have tendonitis. Another pilgrim has had it and had to catch a bus to take a few days off, I don’t want to sit still too long especially due to injury, but I do need to listen to my body. Hindsight is a wonderful thing said he who ended this day in absolute agony.
The hill climb wasn’t as bad as the graph showed and I powered through the first 12km with ease to reach the first town. The walk was somewhat scary in the dark up-hill through a forest, it certainly was the setting for a good murder! I passed a few people but not many others were around. I always think dark thoughts in these moments and figured I was about to come to my end via a pack of wolves or an axe murderer. I blame this growing up watching a shitload of horror movies, great but shitty ones at that!
I’d stopped for an empanada and coffee espresso even though I didn’t feel like having one. I figured I should. This is where a few familiar faces turned up but as I took off again I was alone. There was a French guy who’d been averaging 40km a day and had walked already something like 1200km from France before meeting the regular route. I met him briefly but as expected, he was gone soon enough. I doubt I’ll see him again. He’s done the Camino 10 times. Why? I don’t know. I guess he hasn’t seen The Way.
The scenery was Ok for the first part, being in the forest and dark was fun, then the sun slowly came out and the paths turned to gravel and rock and tiny hills. These were not only painful but boring. Little did I know it’d get worse. We approached a peak, possibly the highest in the area and some Spanish sign told me it was high (but not too bad) so we had to give it some respect. At this point I could see Burgos in the distance and it didn’t seem too far away (HUGE FUCKING MISTAKE) and I looked at the clock, being 11.30am or something like that I figured “if I can see a place, I can get there”. The sun grew stronger and the tiny hills and gravel road took its toll, but I was adamant I’d get there. After stopping for a beer in the sunshine at an outdoor café, my spirits were lifted when the son of the owner was falling about the place on rollerblades. He came crashing into the table knocking over a beer. It could have been a scene from Fawlty Towers. I pictured him delivering meals on wheels.
I gave him a pencil with Australian animals on it which he gave zero fucks about and continued on my way.
As the city got closer, the distance got bigger. There was a confusing sign signalling an alternative route but I stuck with the bigger yellow arrows to be safe. Turns out the alternative is via a river or park. I went via the airport, highway and industrial concrete jungle for another 7km. It was one of the worst walks I’ve ever made. My feet were in pain, my lower calf muscles were in agony. I changed shoes thinking it might help but it got worse. I just wanted to collapse. To make matters worse, it was HOT and there were buses going by and I couldn’t see why I shouldn’t get on one.
Then a guy from Czech strolled along, he was a truck driver and build like a brick shithouse. Everything was positive for him and he had an upbeat view on life. He’d pre-booked a hotel and was walking there and convinced me to do the same. With a quick phone call there was a room waiting. Originally I figured I’d end up in the centre of town in an Albergue or find a café and book something last minute. The luck of meeting him (who I’d seen a few times this last week but never spoken to before) and striking up a conversation and agreeing on a whim to get a room at the same place turned out to be a great thing. It seems there was a festival happening in Burgos this weekend and being a Saturday night, all accommodation was either booked out or quite expensive. Even though it was a horrible walk 2km beyond the city centre, I was glad that a bed was waiting.
Picture any war film and the hero who is wounded hobbling in a dramatic scene and times that by 10. This was me, I was a complete mess. I wanted a stretcher. I wanted a bath full of ice. I definitely did not want the slowest receptionist to check me in. I got him. This guy was a numpty. He took forever to read my passport and fill it in. He even used white out!
Whenever anyone else in the room was having an unrelated conversation, he looked up and joined in. I beamed at him with disdain and just wanted to get the key to the room. If I had the energy I would have strangled him.
I got to the room around 5.30pm. I’d been walking for 10.5hrs with staggered breaks. It was 30’c. I walked approximately 38-40km with perhaps 10kg+ on my back. This was from memory the most tiring day, and most gruelling I’ve put my body through. I wanted to cry. I was going delirious. The big plan to be in Burgos for a crazy Saturday night fell flat on the back just as I did. I would not leave the room for another 18 hours.