Day #13 El Camino
Monday 25th September
Burgos > San Bol
Distance walked: 27km
Although comfortable in a hotel, I was restless and woke at 4.30am. I couldn’t get back to sleep so figured like Forest Gump I’d just start running. I could be mistaken for looking like him too. My beard is growing long and I’ve been told on more than one occasion I look homeless. With my walking sticks and backpack I could pass for any one of the murals painted across the country of the pilgrims depicted.
I was up and showered at 5.30am and out the door in time to see the cleaner of the building mopping the steps. She looked at me as if I were breaking in or robbing the place or perhaps a homeless person who’d found their way into the foyer to sleep for the night. I would have assumed the same. It seemed unusual that someone was in the foyer so early rummaging in bags but I made sure she saw my shell and pilgrim passport so she was safe. I did a final repack, found an ATM, got some cash out for the next week and set off for the next stage. Annoyingly I’d arrived late in the day on Saturday and only had Sunday in the biggest city I’d be in for another week. No shops of use were open and I didn’t want to waste a morning for a Farmacia or Supermercado to open. This means I’m out of band-aids and the search for Tiger Balm or vitamins and anything else essential would have to come at a small town or wait until a week later until I got to Leon. I laughed knowing that I’d likely arrive to Leon on the weekend and miss out again on business hours. Rested but still weary and worried about niggling injury, I took the start easy. I was walking by 6am and the sun didn’t hint at rising until 7.30 or 8am. The walk into Burgos was torture, the only good thing about walking out of Burgos was not seeing it. I could tell it was ugly, but I only saw the few metres in front of me with my head light. I seemed to be walking through a mix of industrial estate, swamp land and perhaps the “wrong side of the tracks” and it wasn’t the most enjoyable hour and a half by myself. I came across many groups of stray cats who seemed shocked to see a human on their turf. They were like a gang and all I had were 2 sticks to defend myself. If they’d called my ‘being brave’, bluff and ran at me I was in danger of being eaten alive. I wasn’t physically well enough to out-run them! I got to a path between long grass and with just my headlight on I again feared this would be a perfect place to mug someone. There was no one before or after me and the only other eyes I saw were in the light, low to the ground. More cats. Fuck they’re scary when they come into your flashlight and disappear. I was happy to see sunrise even though I was passing highways and overpasses. It got until 8.30am before I stopped once for a sip of water. 2 and a half hours of walking and to be honest, I’d been awake since 4.30am. I was a zombie. I don’t even remember walking. By the time 11am came around I’d walked over half of my goal today. Maybe 2/3rds. So, I stopped for a coffee and tortilla to rejuvenate. And who did I run into? The bloody German who I’d loaned my good sunglasses to. He was surprised to see me as was I to see him. I’d made up the kilometres by walking long days. He’d gotten the flu and took a bus into Burgos. He asked how or why I went so fast? I said I had to catch you to get my sunglasses back! After my hilarious quip, we both calmed down and then I learnt that he had genuinely lost my glasses in just 2 days. He’d lost his own a day before. Why did I expect he’d be able to hold onto mine? He then offered me a stone as a peace offering. Bloody hippies! I don’t want more rocks in my pockets. You just can’t trust the Germans. Too soon? He was feeling ill and not walking as fast as I was today so I powered on without him and said I’d try to reserve a bed in the place we both wanted to stay if it was possible. I continued on and wanted to get there early. A buddy in Australia had recommended one place in particular, an Albergue with just 12 beds in a tiny place called San Bol. I have no idea why this was meant to be but it turned out to be the best place to stay in so far. As I approached it I saw that cyclists were coming by me and I thought if there’s only 12 beds and these bastards get in front of me I’ll be upset. They’re not REAL pilgrims! There was no town. From a distance it looked like an old farmhouse and nothing else to offer. You had to turn down a path to get to it. I would have walked by it too if I hadn’t been told to go there. As I walked in there was another guy leaving and it made me think they were already full. It was only 12.15pm and I was too late!
Then in his best Czech accent he said something about the place looking “weird and too hippie” for him and “is not even open yet”. I now know why the place was recommended to me. My friends know what I like. As it turns out, I was first in line. Nobody else had turned up, or perhaps they had and decided to move on. Either way I had time to read my book and relax until the doors opened. With no Wi-Fi and nothing else to do I was able to read a chunk of my book and do little else but relax. The German showed up and he and I built a stone figure on the hill and I enjoyed the afternoon sun. In the evening the guests all joined together for a communal dinner. There wasn’t much choice, there were no shops or restaurants for 6km! It was a great mix of Germans, Spanish, Hungarians, Canadians and myself all getting along well. After staying in places with 90 -180 people this was a welcome change and something I want to do more on this trip. Dinner was a chicken paella, wine, dessert and salad. All in all, this was a refreshing day after Burgos and just what I needed.