Sunday, September 15, 2013. I awaken ready to begin the two-day walk to Burgos, though I know I will get a bus into the big city’s outskirts, having been told that it is a horrendous walk into this lovely city. But this morning I am nauseous, and am not sure why. It’s a new symptom, and I don’t want to chance having to find bushes again. I see that not only is there a bus to Burgos at 9:55 (the hotel staff tells me to be there by 9:30 or earlier . . . ), but there are several people sitting in the lobby waiting to catch this same bus.
We all straggle down the long hotel walk to the main street, turn right as instructed, and look for the bench. Good thing we got there early. The 9:55 bus arrives at 9:20, and is nearly full. About a dozen of us get on and settle in for the perhaps 45 minute ride. As in Logroño, the bus destination is the terminal in Burgos. Then the fun begins. Finding the center of town, finding the albergue to which my backpack will be delivered, finding a place to sleep for two nights that is affordable, etc.
I hear my name as I exit the terminal and there is Lizzy, one of the Canberra women, sick today and bussing it, waiting for her companions Chrissy and Sheila to arrive later in the day. She and I take turns reading maps and signs until we just decide to follow the spire of the magnificent cathedral in the center of the old Burgos.
I will visit this cathedral later today or tomorrow, but first things first. After, what else, a cafe con leche, we split up, and I begin to wander and use my phone (now that it works!) to find an affordable hotel for two nights. Very long story short, I end up in the Hotel Norte y Londres about three blocks from the Cathedral (which is the center of everything here, apparently), and armed with a map marked with the location of the main post office and the Hostal ___ where my pack will be delivered, I head for the hotel to check in and get settled.
On the way, I see another hotel, quite close to the main plaza, and go in to inquire about their rooms. They are “Completo” tonight, but tomorrow night have availability at a lower cost than my other new place. I book tomorrow night’s room. Continue to my “tonight” hotel. A lovely young woman, Teresa Alonso, greets me at the desk and will prove to be a delightful help during the next 24 hours. By tomorrow morning I will realize that I’d rather spend half a day talking with her than wandering the old streets of Burgos, looking for another, yet another, church, monastery or cup of cafe con leche.
But in the meantime, there are errands to run, even here. Down to the main post office to claim the box I sent to myself from St. Jean Pied-de-Port, and then to the Hostal ___ to pick up my pack. Ah, no pack until three o’clock. So back to the hotel, shower, get organized, avoid going to the Cathedral. Today.
Returning from another trip to the hostal to retrieve my backpack, I glimpse, down the block on the Camino path into the Centro, Matthe’ and Elma from Amsterdam. They have just walked into Burgos and tell me that I was smart to take the bus. Matthe’ describes the Camino path into the city and it sounds brutal, as Brierley describes it as well. I am so happy to see this couple, and know this will be the last time, just because of the stages we are each walking. We talk for a few minutes and they move on. There are many of these encounters with people we will never see again.
Meeting people on the Camino is an interesting experience. Why do we talk with one person and not another? Why do we exchange names sometimes and not others? What do I notice about the various nationalities, groups, individuals? Now there’s a question for a long post, but for now, I want to say that I see no really deep pattern among the people who talk to strangers, but for the fact that generally the French don’t talk with anyone but their own countrymen and women. Aussies, Brits and Irish are incredibly outgoing and friendly, at least in this venue. The Germans do talk with others, but generally hang with their own. The Japanese never seem to say hello or acknowledge other peregrinos in any way. I’ve not seen them even say “Buen Camino” as everyone else does. If I had $1.00 for every time I said or heard “Buen Camino”, I could buy my own jet plane. It is a dependable good wish among all peregrinos . . . but for the Japanese, apparently.
The Brazilians seem to be some of the friendliest people on the planet, in my experience on this walk, as evidenced by my encounters over the Pyrenees. The Spanish are welcoming (the ones who aren’t walking) and friendly (the ones who are walking). The bicyclists typically ring a bell or shout out so we will know they are coming up behind us. Single peregrinos sometimes stop and keep pace with one another, but not always. I’ve met single walkers who are no longer single, having wanted to meet another solo who is compatible in pace and whatever else they need. I might mention that I am not one of those people. I am very friendly on the path, at the dinner table, in the albergue, but I walk alone. Sounds like a Johnny Cash song.
I must say I enjoy seeing some couples or individuals again and again as we move across the Camino, like Matthe’ and Elma. Others are less interesting to me, but we still recognize that we’ve shared cramped bunk quarters or a delicious Pilgrim’s dinner together in this town or that. And sometimes these familiar faces show up in unexpected places.
As I begin to “food hunt” for some dinner around Burgos centro, wanting to postpone my visit to the Cathedral for tomorrow, I hear my name and look up. It seems to be the thing to do. And the voice says, “Joannah, it’s Gay and Rick from Oklahoma!” Ah, I met them on the path from Viloria de la Rioja to Villafranca yesterday. I had taken off my boots and Rick needed to do the same. Rock stumps appeared intermittently between the path and the highway, and we had availed ourselves of them as temporary foot clinics. We talked for perhaps ten minutes and I went on, or they did. Many of these interactions blend into one another, and our brains can only remember a few details. Until the next time we meet.
Rick and Gay are sipping on cold drinks, sitting at an outside table, belonging to one of the half-dozen bars situated to the left of the Cathedral. Sangria sounds good to me, and I accept their invitation to join them. We spend an hour tasting a variety of pinchos (tapas, if you prefer, but here they’re pinchos) and making small talk. Rick is one of several men I have met with blister problems at this stage, and is under doctor’s orders to leave his boots off for at least 48 hours, so they will bus to somewhere else tomorrow.
I walk back to my little hotel, stopping on the way to get a couple of chocolates, really wishing I could find a Panaderia (bakery) for a sweet croissant or palmier. I manage to pantomime to the chocolatier that I’d like sweet bread, and he gestures down the block, turn right, then the third left down a little street, and there will be what I want. Nodding my head, calling “gracias” over my shoulder, I follow his directions, and there, in a tiny narrow block, is a bakery where a young woman employee is ready to close the doors for the night, but she re-opens for me, and I get exactly what I want. One more stop on the way to Hotel Norte y Londres and I enter the hotel with a “take-away” cafe con leche and my sweet goodies.
Great bedtime snack. Mmmm. And a good night’s sleep by myself.