Day 16 (35 KM)
Burgos – Hontanas
Up early (no surprise) we sneak out of our room careful not to wake Sue and Jerry…fully. We walk in the darkness of a sleeping Burgos. Saturdaynight must have been something as revelers can still be seen straggling home. This is the only time I have ever felt uncomfortable in these cities. Maybe it has to do with my past life, still a little wary of things that wander aimlessly about during hours one should be sleeping. (We of course don’t count). Finding the yellow blazes/arrows and Camino signs in the dark is a cross between an Easter egg hunt and the picture game “Where’s Waldo”. Takes some creativity and determination. We fumbled our way out of town and eventually landed on ” natural tread” as they call anything but asphalt or cement. We walk through open space that leads to farmland and wheat fields. Upon first glance the tread appeared to be gravelly, however closer inspection revealed the “gravel” to be grains of wheat thickly scattered about the path left over from an earlier harvest.
As we walked in the early morning light, steam rose from the close cut wheat fields giving our walk a somber yet peaceful setting. From behind we hear a familiar voice. “Hey guys”, it’s Melie. Seems she decided to get an early start as well. We walk and talk as the morning sky brightens. Our first stop is at a small village with an open bar in which to get our morning café con leche, and who should appear, but Sherrie (actually her name is Cherena, just didn’t pick it up on account of her bloody accent).
We thought she’d have been days ahead of us and we’d be lucky to ever catch her. Turns out she’s been “stalking” us via my blog and has been trying to figure out where we were. Seems she had to spend a couple extra days in Burgos due to an unexplained illness which resulted in a fall from the top bunk. The medical authorities “treated” the fall (bruised knees) but had no answer for what made her ill enough to faint off the bunk in the first place. So up she walks (with Kerrie, a male bloke, from Oz as well) as we sit slurping our café con leches. A joyous reunion ensues and stories flow like wine. This time we exchange numbers and she tells us she may have secured a job Spain…English speaking one that is. Paul asks her if she’s going to try and speak in an American accent so they learn “proper” English. She laughs. She is unsure if she will be able to finish the Camino as they are to call any day now about the employment. Before we head back out, I tape up her knee again, as this is to be her first day back out walking after 3 days and a nasty fall. We walk and talk a bit, and then she carries on ahead. We come to a small village, and stop to rest our feet and have a bite to eat. Melie had gone on ahead from our breakfast stop and was to stay in this town, where we didn’t know, but once again fortune smile upon us and she walks into the last eatery (bar) at the end of “town”we have ducked into. (And this was after we had walked to the end of town and back again…looking for a place to stop). Timing is everything. We dine together, and it’s hot so it is time to change from dark long pants to shorts. Melie invites me to use her room at her albergue that avoid changing in the cramped quarter of the establishment’s WC. The place is awesome and she almost talks me into talking Paul into stopping here. The draw to stop gets even stronger when I run into Cherena one more time on the patio outside Melie’s albergue. Nope, keep to the plan. Stupid plan. Should have stopped. Good people is good company, and often that is hard to find. Not to worry, we are still in contact, and more good people have graced us with their presence, and even some odd ducks as well. Thus we carry on.
Long expanses of rolling fields that once were covered in rolling amber waves of grain stretch nearly as far as the eye can see. Stacks of harshly shaped sun bleached rocks frame the fields and lie like burial mounds. Remnants of sparse dwellings housing ancient civilizations peek above the rich soil bearing testament that the path we walk is nothing new.
All at once the road dips and reveals a town hidden from view by the mesetas (plateaus), Hontanas. Here we will spend the night. We wander into town, and end up finding an albergue that only charges 5€. Their marketing worked as well (they placed cement benches about 2k out of town with their name on it) as we were somehow drawn past two other albergues and ended up at this one. Two large cervesas later, a conversation with a card carrying communist (who by the way made his money…way more than us…working for a large corporation and then gifted his vast earnings to his children so the government couldn’t have it, and had enough left over to travel the world) who pompously asked us what we thought about “gun control”, and “don’t you have enough guns” (NEVER), and thankfully the church bells began to ring (loudly)…for 10 minutes, which we took as a sign that we should go to mass (it was Sunday).
This church was in stark contradiction to the last few we have been in. It’s interior was bright white stucco with small stations of the cross and simple wooden benches. The church was filled with a handful of peregrinos and local town folk. This priest said mass with such great efficiency (to include a peregrino blessing in-between) it was over in 25 minutes, timed perfectly with peregrino dinner time. Seeing that this place (to us) is a no frills place and pretty much in the middle of nowhere, we wondered what the priest thought when he got assigned here. Was he once a young priest full of vigor thinking he was going to go out and preach the word of God to exotic cultures and the far reaches of the world? What did he think when he got assigned here? Did he ask to be assigned here? How long has he been here? Does he realize he has the privilege of preaching to people from all over the world, just based on this Church’s location? Or is it a “been there, done that”, here’s my peregrino homily (that he says every week), now go eat dinner and get up and walk tomorrow. ‘Figure it out people. What I say here is not the point. What you do with it is.’ Maybe, it was short, so we’d have this discussion.
Be Strong! Austin Strong!