San Juan de Ortega to Burgos, Burgos to Hontanas
Our arrival in San Juan de Ortega was a true relief, but we weren’t the last to drag ourselves in. Even at the waning hour of 5pm, behind us the two pilgrims we had met at the top of the pass were still making their way through the endless pine forest. The two pilgrims arrived in after the pilgrim meal. Their names were Sonia and Bar, and we convinced them (after some astonishment from myself at wanting to continue to walk today!) That star gazing was a lot more enjoyable first thing in the morning, then after a full day of walking. So we set our alarms, and bright and early out of bed we rolled to head into the dark crisp morning air, illuminated by thousands of twinkling lights shining above us. The stars faded and Bar and Sonia marveled at the brilliant hues of pink and orange as the sun rose out of the horizon. They were glad after all that we had dragged them out of bed.
We walked all day, over rocky terrain and into the city streets of Burgos, chatting and learning more about our fellow pilgrims. Sonia and Bar had met each other at the beginning of the trip. We entered Burgos at mid afternoon and said our goodbyes till dinner time where we would catch up again.
Burgos is the last city before entering the Meseta, the second stage of the Camino journey, known too many as the hardest not physically but mentally. Burgos is the historic capital of Castille, part of Castile and León, and the city is rich in history. From its megalith Gothic style cathedral that occupies much of the town centre, to a plethora of museums and other historic sites, there is plenty to see in the city itself.
Several of our fellow pilgrims including our new friends Bar, (the Israeli Texan) Sonia, (Germany) and Tim (Alaska). Who we met on our first day of walking, all sat down for cocktails and dinner at a restaurant outside one of the many cathedral entrances. It was an evening with good food, multiple languages and a quick (almost run) back to our Albergue so we didn’t get locked out at our slightly later curfew of 11pm.
Our first day into the Meseta was hot and windy, my knee was fairly tolerable by this point, however to add insult to injury the blister that had developed had popped and stung as it rubbed on the heel of my shoe. But that wasn’t my main concern. My ankle throbbed, not good. Not good at all. So a slow start to the day as I limped my way into the desert plains VERY SLOWLY. My ankle was almost more debilitating than my knee as it was on the opposite side to my blister. We arrived at Hornillos for lunch with me almost about to wet myself. Trying to find a toilet on the Camino can be a real struggle, and the plains more so.. There isn’t even a tree to hide behind!
By midday I was struggling again, both physically and mentally, I just couldn’t believe after my knee almost coming right that this had happened! Still, we pushed on. Into the barren flat track that lay before us, Royce had met a Korean woman earlier in the day who agreed to walk to Hontanas with us. She taught us about Korean culture and how eating and food is so important. The Korean people don’t say. “How are you?” Like we would in New Zealand or in the UK they ask. “Have you eaten?” And to say that you had not would invite a lengthy conversation of “why not!” Not only that, we discovered that Korean and Maori (the native New Zealand language) sound very similar. Much to our amazement our friends pronunciation of Kia Ora (hello) was like that of a native New Zealander! Likewise, my pronunciation for the Korean word for Hi (안녕 Annyeong) was so close our friend stopped in her tracks!
The windswept plain just kept going! One dusty field after another, a few patches of green tried to take back the landscape as we walked on, and on, and on.
“Why are we still walking!” I cried in dismay, the wind catching my words and hurling them into the void. The map said the town was only 1km away but there wasn’t anything but more rolling fields. Then at last we crested a small rise and the ground fell away revealing a small town of sand-coloured brick and a church spire at its heart. We limped in at 5pm and found a drink and some dinner.
Later that evening after several minutes of sold ringing from the church bell tower we found ourselves in the bar across from the Albergue. Not just any bar either, an Irish bar! In the middle of a Spanish desert! And for that evening there was (in true Irish bar style) live music going on.
A short Spanish woman with close cropped blonde hair sat on a stool in the pub’s corner, her guitar and music stand almost dwarfing her. She sang in haunting notes, and upbeat jigs both Spanish and English. The music carrying the packed pub full of pilgrims into the night as we sipped our sangria and Guinness.
Thanks for tuning in! don’t forget to leave a like and a comment. Royce is on another adventure this coming week so head over to instagram and keep up with his adventures. see you next time and find out if my ankle held! Until next time, get out the gate and get adventuring!