50 Days of Camino

Kevin Soltysiak's travel log of the way of St. James, the "Camino de Santiago"

Burgos ~ Meseta

Atapuerca — Burgos

I woke up around 5h that morning, not really knowing why. I stayed in bed half-conscious until everybody started to wake up then waited for Monica to get ready so we could grab a coffee, as it was starting to become part of the routine. We walked together through hills and among sheeps until the entrance of Burgos, where we took another coffee break.

I walked alone after, Monica needing some alone time. I caught up with Krista and Saula, and they were walking with Manu and Stephan, the pilgrims that I had first met in Los Arcos. The lot of them had found a huge plush bear and were now carrying it around: they gave him a name, then another one, then made up at least one (possibly more) backstory, the gist it being that the bear was still drunk and had to be carried from town to town until his alcoholism was cured. Don’t ask me why :)

I tried to get money from his family but he had none

I wasn’t in a good mood that morning: I can’t say if it was the cloudy weather, the suburbs or something else, but there was definitely something affecting me. Monica joined again eventually, and we went for a burger before splitting away to our respective accomodations. I decided to book an airbnb and enjoy some privacy for the first time in many weeks.

I was also hoping that people would be in the mood to stay up late that night but in the end, only Loïc and Christian were game. We drank some beers with a few other pilgrims, until it was time for them to go back to their albergue… And we got there too late. It was barely after 22h but everything was closed! I texted a friend that was inside the albergue but he could not open none of the doors.

We wandered a bit and try to find another open albergue, without success. We came back to the first one and luckily, we found a way to get them back in from the side alley… Had we waited a little bit more, the door to the alley would have been closed as well and either they were out for the night, or I would have had to bring them to my room! I’m glad I didn’t have to impose that upon my host. Once I was sure they were in, it was time for me to walk back to my place and get some rest.

Burgos (2)

I took the morning very slowly, enjoying having my own space. No snorers, no alarms, nothing to bother me. Once I was ready to leave, I joined Loïc for a quick breakfast, then Monica and Emilie for drinks and tapas. Spain is amazing in that regard: in many places, when you order a drink you get a tapas and it will only cost you between one and two euros for the whole thing. One could make a whole meal of it. Many tried to :)

Loïc decided not to stay one more night in Burgos and to walk to the next place, but I didn’t feel like walking that day. I checked in to the same albergue that locked out my friends then we went to see the town’s castle with Monica and Paul, a pilgrim from Seattle which had a fatherly vibe to him. I saw him mostly between Burgos and Leon but we had many interesting conversations; he was good at listening and good to listen to.

We went inside the tunnels under the castle, and I’m glad I wasn’t claustrophobic! After the tour, we went for drinks and then for dinner with other pilgrims that weren’t part of my usual group and were around 10/15 years older than Monica and I: it gave a family-dinner feeling to the whole thing, but in a good way :) After that, remembering the lesson from the previous night, it was time to go back to the albergue.

Burgos — Hontanas

It rained when we left town after our coffee. We had grey weather here and there, but until then it was only when we were taking a break in cities. We had been lucky enough to always walk under good weather, sunny most of the time; it seemed only fair that after a month of having it easy we would at least suffer one day of shitty weather. And I took it personally: every time it stopped raining and that I felt it was ok to take off my rain gear, it started raining again right away…

We stopped around noon for lunch and were joined by Paul and Amy. Once we were done, I stormed off on my own, wanting to be over with this day as soon as possible, but it only got worse and worse. Though it had stopped raining, the path to the next town was going through fields, and what would have been regular dirt under the sun was now mud, with no solid footing nowhere.

It annoyed the hell out of me: I wanted to be done with it but the fasted I tried to go, the harder it was to walk. I saw a few pilgrims trying to remove the mud off their shoes, and I did the same. Obviously, it proved to be useless until we were out of the fields. Had I been smarter, I would have calmed down and walked slower, but I’m not that smart. I only cooled down once I reached Hontanas and had a beer :)

Loïc, Krista and Saula were ahead in another town so I checked in the first place that seemed good enough. I met a few new pilgrims there, including France, from France (or as I wrote in my notebook, maybe it was the other way around), Sean from New Zealand, and Aaron from England. We had dinner together and then it was time for me to sleep.

Hontanas — Frómista

I woke up early that day and left before the sun was up. I intended to catch up to Loïc and the girls so I walked at a good pace. I arrived in Castrojeriz around 9:30. Halfway before the town, I walked under the arch of church/monastery in ruins. I couldn’t capture the greatness of the moment with my pictures, but I tried nonetheless

I took a coffee break with Susan and Laurent. I had met them a few days earlier, in Burgos, and I think everybody who saw them took for granted that they were couple, but they had met on the camino. I still don’t know what they were or weren’t and never asked, since it was none of my business, but they did have a visible connection. In any case, they were good people to be around, witty and nice.

I kept walking at a good pace. There was a big hill/mountain right after Castrojeriz that made me break a sweat, but after five minutes spent on top it was already time to go down! It was a bit of a let down but well. I met Jens and Anna, a friend of his. We talked a bit to catch up, since we hadn’t really saw each other for a few days, then I took off again: I had found my zone and intended to stay in it until I had caught up.

And that happened sooner than I thought. Maybe 30 minutes after having left Jens, I recognized Loïc’s shape ahead of me. He was walking with people I hadn’t met before, Corry and Adelina. I talked with them a bit but it didn’t last long: I needed a break while they were still fresh and willing to go on.

Paul joined me on my break and we walked the rest of the day together. He was one of the few pilgrims that could keep up with my pace, so I didn’t have to worry about falling behind again. We kind of had a friendly competition between us, each of us pushing the other to go faster and do longer days. We talked about a lot of things that day, including what we thought about the inspirational writings that can be found all over the camino, and how frustration tends to be a better motivator than love when it comes to solve problems, among other topics.

Hold the door!

We caught up to Loïc right at the enter of Frómista. He was taking a break with a few goats. Paul kept going on; I might have been the fastest, but he definitely had more stamina than I, who was quite beat by the time we got to the town. We waited for Christian to catch up and then we header inside the city.

We ran a few errands and then ate on the main square with a cat trying to steal our food. It was disturbing because he was really pretty, one of the most beautiful cats I ever saw, but he made the worst sound ever! Corry and Adelina ended up in the city as well, and Loïc and Christian decided to keep going to the next town. I was too tired to follow them, so I stayed in Frómista… I caught up twice, only to stay behind twice!

Corry, Adelina and I went to find the albergue. Little by little a few others pilgrims came, including Jens and Aaron, as well as two faces that were new to me, Louise and Stera. We all sat around a table, sharing stories, listening to music and drinking wine the whole evening and got quite drunk.

However, at some point in the evening some tension had started to build up; it ended up turning into quite the argument. It made for quite a sad ending to what would have been one of the best nights of my camino otherwise.

My new friend

Frómista — Villarmentero de Campos

I woke up not as hungover as I thought I would be, but the same could not be said about everybody. Once they were awake, clearer heads prevailed and the tension from the evening before was now gone. I started walking with Corry, Adelina and Stera. At first, she’d come off as being complaining all the time (which she is, most of the time), but if you can get past that, she turns out to be quite a nice and interesting person.

Adelina and I were walking slowlier and fell behind the others. We talked about books we had read, shows we had watched, and the events from the previous night. At some point we ran into Susan and Laurent who teased me about my ability to always end up in the company of pretty girls…

We took a few breaks here and there, and while we were walking next to a river we saw on the distance a place with tipis. We considered going to see what it was, but it was not on our path and we thought it best not to let the others go too far ahead of us. One or two hours later, while walking next to a road, we heard screams coming from the road and then saw a car filled with people waving their arms towards us. It was Stera, Corry, and two other pilgrims!

They had stopped at the tipi place and they had loved it so much they wanted to stop there for the day, even though it was barely the beginning of the afternoon and we hadn’t walked 15kms; they had borrowed the owner’s car and went to look for us. I was unsure about following them because it felt like a step back, but I on the other hand I didn’t want to pass on what could be a very lovely time so I went along. We went in the next city, Carrión de los Condes to run some errands, then went back to the tipis.

The place was lovely indeed, with goats, horses and ducks running freely around. Monica was shortly there to take a break, too. We spent the afternoon drinking beers, learning knife throwing, playing with balls… That albergue was really nice. The owner seemed very carefree: I tried to check-in and pay my due many times but he was nowhere to be seen!

Hold the door!

After cooking our dinner, we went and made a fire outside. We shared stories, smokes and drinks, until at some point the drama from the previous night got reignited, though with less intensity. Two dramas in two nights was more than enough for me, so I went to bed.

Previously: La Rioja

Next: Meseta ~ Leon