Time walked – 6 hours with a coffee break and multiple rest stops
Total distance walked – 13 miles + 2 miles in Burgos shopping for shoes (199.25 miles total)
Weather – Cold, 38 degrees F in the morning warming up to high 70’s in Burgos
Terrain – Rocky trail, steep uphill with large rock and no trail, paved sidewalk
Ray and I slept well in our private room in Atapuerca and managed to be packed and out of the door before 8 a.m. Typically my feet return to their normal size after sleeping, but I noticed that they were still a little swollen when I woke up. The balls of my feet felt puffy when I stood on them, and my ankles and heels were so stiff that I had to be careful with each step. After a few minutes, the tendons in my ankles had loosened up and the puffiness was not as noticeable.
This was the coldest morning yet. As we climbed the first hill out of town, Ray noticed ice on a nearby pond. I noticed the clear, blue sky and rolling hills. Concentrating on my steps, I was determined to put weight on my whole foot while walking. I did not want to make the mistake of putting too much strain on the ball of my foot and hurting like the day before.
Ray and I enjoy the morning sun over the land of northern Spain. As we climbed higher and higher, we stopped to look back at where we had been. In the cool crisp morning air with the sun shining brightly, we wanted to remember the view forever.
For the first time on the Camino, the rocky trail we had been climbing became just large rocks with no obvious trail. Usually the large number of peregrinos wear a path of least resistance in the trail, but there was no such path in these large rocks. The pattern of the rocks made rows of ledges that Ray and I had to individually decide how to navigate. Fortunately, the trail had already dried from the rain so the rocks were not slick. By carefully and slowly determining our steps, we made it up the rocks.
I was much slower than Ray getting up the large rocks, partly because I didn’t want to fall down and partly because I didn’t want to hurt my feet. Once past the rocks, Ray wanted to discuss my shoes and my feet. My first reaction is often to ignore the problem to see if it goes away. Ray is a problem solver and wants to discuss a problem until he’s exhausted every possible solution. Overall, I’m sure there is a balance there, but today I told him that discussing why my feet hurt was exhausting me. Eventually I promised to discuss a solution when we got to Burgos. The city of Burgos has a population of 180,000, much larger than the villages where we’ve been and should have a good shoe store selection.
Most often we are rewarded with incredible scenery after undertaking difficult tasks like the rocks we had just climbed. The honeymoon of the Camino was definitely over. More and more, Ray and I were asking each other if we thought we could finish the Camino Frances. After taking some photos, Ray and I started walking down the trail again. There are getting to be fewer and fewer pilgrims, but also fewer places to stay. I asked Ray if he still thought the Camino was a good idea. He said that he never thought the Camino was a good idea, with emphasis on the word never. He then laughed and said that he was glad we had come and thought this was a trip of a lifetime. I laughed too because in the first few days we had discussed what we would do differently the next time we tackled the Camino. Now it was looking like getting through the first one was enough, if not even too much.
Another make-shift memorial had been constructed on the trail. This one had a cross surrounded by rocks. Several of the rocks had messages written on them, and pilgrims had left things like photos and bracelets as well. I had to keep myself from getting choked up when Ray pointed out that someone had left a miniature rubber chicken. It was just over an inch long, laying on top of a rock. My emotions changed from tearful gratitude to humorous amusement.
At resting spot for peregrinos, a sign had been erected which translates, “Since the Pilgrim dominated the mountains of Navarre in Burguete, and he beheld the expanse country of Spain, he has not enjoyed a most beautiful view like this.”
Once we crested the hill we had been climbing out of Atapuerca, we could see Burgos in the distance. We didn’t know how far away it was, but it didn’t seem like it would take all day to get there, and it was downhill. The thought of all downhill was certainly appealing and helped us trudge toward Burgos.
As we descended, we lost sight of Burgos, but could see the village of Orbaneja. It was still cold, but I was needing to give my feet a break, so I looked forward to stopping at a café. When I stopped to take a photo, a fellow pilgrim caught up to Ray and I. Sometimes a lone pilgrim doesn’t lift their gaze from the road when meeting others, but more often we wish each other the common greeting, “buen camino.” Then there are the occasions when a conversation is started, as was the case with Brenden. Brenden introduced himself to Ray and I and asked us if we were from Panama. He saw the patches on our backpacks and told us that he had been through the canal many times.
We walked for several kilometers with Brenden, who was originally from Ireland but had lived in Brooklyn, New York for over thirty years. We told him that we were originally from Kansas City, and he smiled great big. He had worked for TWA and then American Airlines, before retiring. He had several stories to tell about his career, and I was grateful as it passed the time more quickly. Brenden claimed to be one of the oldest pilgrims currently walking the Camino Frances at age 85 and 1/2.
When Ray and I stopped in Orbaneja for a bite to eat and a quick rest, Brenden ordered a coffee, but was ready to press on toward Burgos as soon as he finished. We wished him well on his journey and hoped that we would see him again.
We lost sight of Burgos for several hours which made the day drag on longer than I had hoped. I did my best to think of all the positives, like how perfect the weather was for hiking with 15 pounds of gear on my back. I have not discovered a way to keep my back from sweating, but some days are worse than others. The path stretched out before us, and we started seeing more pilgrims as we got closer to the big city of Burgos.
We approached from the east and had a choice to arrive from a trail that passed the airport or a trail next to a busy highway. Ray and I opted for the airport trail although about half the pilgrims we saw chose the other route. From the guidebook I could not tell if one was shorter than the other, but I think the airport route was just a little longer. The Burgos airport reminded Ray of the regional airport in Salina, Kansas. We had both hoped that there would be some airplane activity, but the only activity we saw was a tractor mowing the grounds.
After the airport we entered the suburbs of Burgos. My feet were getting too hot and my bones were starting to ache again. I asked Ray to stop at the first place I could sit down and would try walking in my flip-flops that I had packed as shower shoes. The air on my skin felt good. A young pilgrim walked up as I sat resting on a park bench. She asked me if I knew where to catch the bus. I was a little confused by her question, and she explained that this next part of the Camino was supposed to be boring and it would be a good idea to take the bus. Ray and I told her that we didn’t know anything about the bus, and I pointed out the nest of birds across the street. We could see the mama and daddy birds flying around the nest with the babies occasionally poking their heads above their home. The girl paused to watch with us, then rambled on about a biker telling her to choose the scenic route if she was walking into Burgos. She said something about a blue bridge meant you went the right way, but Ray and I did not know what she was talking about. She left to find a bus and Ray and I continued on into Burgos.
Walking through the country, the Camino markers are easy to spot, but when we enter the city, it’s much harder. With all the signage and different distractions, we find that we have to search for the markers. We thought we were headed in the right direction when we found ourselves crossing over a blue bridge with a yellow arrow marker. At the same time, Ray and I remembered the girl mentioning the blue bridge, and we laughed.
Once we reached the suburbs, Ray and I were ready to be done for the day. The trail turned into a public walking trail along a river and there were many more residents walking and biking than there were pilgrims. At first it felt good to be walking in my flip-flops, but it got harder to hold them in my feet the longer we walked.
We walked through Burgos beside the river for three miles before getting close to our accommodation. I knew to make reservations in the city since we arrived on a Saturday afternoon. The hotel prices had been going up so I checked Airbnb and reserved a private room for half of a hotel room price. When we got close to the area of our room, I stopped tracking the Camino and put the address of the room into the map app.
I knew the area of our room was near the Burgos Cathedral, but was surprised that we were right across the street from the side of the cathedral. Ray could not stop marveling at the workmanship. I was equally impressed with the quality of our Airbnb room with a memory foam bed and marble-tiled bathroom.
After walking for miles in my flip-flops which was difficult, I gave in and let Ray search for shoe stores. After finding a bite to eat, time was running out to find an open store on Saturday night in the tourist district. Store after store had nothing suitable for the Camino and made sure we knew that nothing would be open on Sunday. Our searches for a sporting goods store on the internet were not successful either. Finally, we decided to get some sleep and revisit the problem when we had more strength.