May the force be with you, pilgrim!

Day 19 – 5th October 2015, Burgos to Hornillos del Camino.

Hello friends!

In my last post I neglected to mention that Alan and I were so appalled at the atrocious service at the restaurant where we had pizza, we decided to look elsewhere for dessert (even though ice cream was on the menu). By the way, Alan kindly reminded me that the name of that restaurant/ cafe thingy was Bonfin, and not surprisingly it has received some terrible reviews on trip advisor. The name is quite ironic really, from the French it means good end. A good end of or to what I wonder! Only go there if you want to be ignored or scowled at because the food isn’t anything to shout about and you would be waiting a month of Sundays for service. This experience reminded me of the notorious Wong Kei restaurant in London’s Soho, where, in the past, the waiting staff had cultivated a bad reputation for insulting and mocking their diners.

So, we, the intrepid pilgrims, went in search of something sweet and enticing for dessert and stumbled upon the wonderful Cafe Ibanez, where we received a warm welcome. I ordered a cup of velvety smooth hot chocolate (forget Cadbury’s, this is real, thick and gooey hot chocolate) and a slice of yummy carrot cake. I hadn’t seen carrots for a long while and so I counted this as one of my five a day.

Alan and I thought it would be a fantastic start to the day if we went back there for breakfast. Our chocolately plan was thwarted as Cafe Ibanez was not open that early in the morning. Never mind, there is always an enterprising Bar/Cafe owner somewhere waiting to entice hungry and bleary-eyed pilgrims in for a nice little desayuno along the Camino and we found one. I ordered the obligatory zumo de naranja, cafe con leche and chocolate croissant. By this time on the walk I was dearly missing my Dorset Cereals muesli and my porridge. Now porridge would be great for pilgrims, it has a low GI, it is warming and fills you up at least until second breakfast and you can add different things to it like blueberries or apples, flax seed, bran, seeds, honey, cinnamon or, for the Scottish folk among you, salt. So there you have it, a niche in the Camino market…how about a mobile porridge van to scoot up and down the Camino route, dishing out hot porridge, customised  to suit every pilgrim’s requirement? “Make mine skinny and nutty (like me) with honey on the side please!”

Fuelled up and ready to go, Alan and I set off into the bleak, drizzly morning. We passed fellow pilgrim John from Australia near Burgos cathedral, who was enjoying a rest day in Burgos and catching up with friends. I felt sure we would see him again on the way. I can’t say that I enjoy the stretches of the Camino into and out of the cities. They can feel like hard work, especially walking on cobbles and beside traffic. The route out seemed to go on and on and when we finally left Burgos, the route led us to a large bridge and major roadworks. Here the Camino had been churned up and temporarily diverted by large bulldozers and diggers, into a very roundabout trail through pale, sticky, clay-like mud, which sapped my energy quite quickly. On top of that the grey clouds were gathering and I could see we were heading straight for a storm! (Meanwhile, in a parallel galaxy, according to WookieepediaKamino, also known as the Planet of Storms, was the watery world where the Clone Army of the Galactic Republic was created. After the clone wars, Clone Army troopers were rechristened Imperial Stormtroopers. I wondered whether I had unwittingly slipped into a wormhole that connected these two parallel galaxies, or perhaps the Meseta was in fact messing with my head…if only I could ask Steven Hawking).

We trudged our way through Tardajos and Rabe de las Calzadas and then, finally up on to the infamous Meseta. I had read a lot about the Meseta. Received wisdom seemed to pigeonhole this entire stretch of the Camino into the ‘boring’ or ‘head wreck’ category, or more politely, a place offering the opportunity to think through stuff. At this point, I wasn’t really thinking much at all really beyond putting one foot in front of the other into the headwind, which was getting stronger by the minute. The mizzling rain soon turned into a horizontal deluge. As the drops lashed my face and ran into my eyes and onto my contact lenses, I felt strangely exhilarated but could barely see where I was going. It wasn’t long before I felt the rain on the inside of my borrowed Altus rain poncho. I was soaked through! Ultreia and a last push up and over the 950m Alto Meseta and down a steep slope into a peculiar sounding place called Hornillos del Camino. Here, on the edge of the village we found a cafe set back from the road, where we ventured in to rest for a while and dry off. Thankfully the cafe had a lovely wood fire and they served up egg and chips! What a find!

The storm continued to rage outside for a while and in the meantime Alan and I debated what to do next. We had hoped to make for Hontanas in the afternoon, but I felt quite tired and wet through and felt glad we had managed to walk 21km so far. I checked out availability at the Casa Rural next door, the very charming La Casa del Abuelo as I was grateful for the opportunity to be in the warm and dry off. I was happy to stay there. About half an hour later, Alan felt the call to press on, especially as the weather had lifted a little. And so, as with Laurie, came another parting of the ways but not of spirit. One important thing I have learned so far on the Camino is that every person has to walk his or her own walk. Even if you begin walking the walk with a friend, or perhaps meet up with a new pilgrim friend en route, sooner or later the Way will call you forward at your own pace and rhythm, in order for you to discover what you need to learn. I knew I wasn’t ready to walk another 10 km or more that day, especially if the weather could close in again. It was time for Alan to press on according to his intuition. I wondered whether I would catch up after the Meseta, but then I checked myself, what does catching up mean when I am walking my walk? I hoped Alan would reach the next place safely. Maybe the force from the parallel galaxy would be with him!

Meanwhile, in my galaxy I showered and changed into warm, dry clothes and put my wet clothes to dry in front of the fire in the lounge and chatted to a Norwegian guy called Olaf for a while and then I tried to write some more of my blog. As time went by on the Camino, I found it more and more difficult to write every day as I often arrived at my destination feeling tired from the day’s exertion and yet I had so many thoughts going around in my head. The experience of the Camino is really very rich indeed.

As the sky darkened, I went outside in search of a pilgrim meal and bumped into Roisin, who I had met in St. Jean Pied de Port, Belorado and Villafranca de Montes de Oca. We popped into Casa Manolo, as this seemed to be full of pilgrims and found ourselves joining two Brits, Kenny and Mike at a table in the bar for a bit. Kenny and Mike lived in the border country at home. Kenny had already walked three Caminos before, but this was Mike’s first, like mine.  Soon Roisin and I were called to a table to eat. The pilgrim meal was OK but nothing special. I think I had had enough white asparagus by then. I felt really tired by then so was happy to eat and then make my way back to La Casa del Abuelo to a lovely comfy bed and fell into a deep sleep.

Would I meet my old Uni friend Alan again on the Way or my new pilgrim friends Roisin, Kenny and Mike? Stay tuned in to find out…

Peace, love and light,

Sarah xxx


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