Day 12 – San Juan to Burgos

Everyone gets up far too early. It’s barely past 5 when the rustling starts. We are unable to sleep, and have actually gotten a fair amount of rest since lights were turned off so early the night before. We decide to head out, but its pitch black. Dorcinda finds her headlamp, but I must’ve forgotten to pack mine, so I rely on her light as she walks ahead. (Later, I would find that I had packed not one, but two headlamps, but they were tucked away in a hidden pocket of my pack.)

I’m a little nervous walking in the dark, and can hear ominous rustling off in the woods to my right. I’m worried about sprained ankles and animals. This is a purely modern phenomenon, I think – no medieval pilgrim would try to get such a predawn start with wolves or highwaymen on the roads, without the light of the sun to guide him.

We hear rustling very close to the road and stop short. Dorcinda’s light illuminates the rear half of an animal, a white rump and leg. She pans slowly to the left and I hold my breath in anticipation. It’s a cow. Placidly standing just off the road in the woods. A little later, I’m startled by the sight of a cow even closer, just a few feet away from me, with horns and everything. I’m legitimately afraid for a second. This thing could totally kill me in the dark, as revenge for all the burgers I’ve ever eaten. Stealth cows. Ninja cows.

We stop for breakfast and coffee at a charming little place called El Alquimista in Ages. Everything is lovingly organized, shelves neatly stocked with food and drink, with dark wood floors and ceilings, and vines tangling in the ceiling above the entryway. The pride of place, however, goes to a wooden fertility statue, between the bar and the bakery counter. It’s massive erection reaches to its nostrils. We snap a photo and send email it to Mom while we’ve still got wifi access. We’re joined by Brenda and Steve for breakfast.

Close to Burgos, we encounter a Canadian from Nova Scotia with one of those names that works either as a first or last name. I thought Dorcinda was racing ahead to talk to the guy, but she says he stopped her to say hi as she was passing him. Kirby was a cornball, cheesy as hell, sounded like a school teacher.

You have a wonderful singing voice, I’m very much enjoying it, he told her. Thanks, she said, and intended to keep walking. But he kept engaging. His parents, who hated nicknames, gave him a name that would be unusual and hard to nickname, so they searched up and down the coastline to make sure that no one else had named their kid Kirby before the name.

We take the “scenic” way in to Burgos. We’re not sure where, exactly the path diverges, and as we stop to discuss, a security guard standing outside a factory sees us and points us to the river route.

What a guy, we think! A manifestation of Santiago himself! Jesus, not the devil, at the crossroads. As we hesitate, two young men from Montreal approach and start talking to Kirby, after noticing the Canadian flag on his pack, and we take the opportunity to ditch them.

Half an hour later, we are walking around the Burgos airport. The first sign of civilization after that is a scrap yard. Where’s the goddamn river? Where’s the scenic route? That was no manifestation of St James, it was the Devil himself, leading us astray! We stop for lunch, and at the bar, older Australians ask me to translate their questions about the bus. One of their group is ill, and they’re taking a bus ahead to keep their schedule.

We continue on, and eventually, reach the river and a park that extends all the way to Burgos. Okay, we think, maybe that guy was not the devil. Maybe he was just a helpful security guard who was pointing us to a route that was poorly named. The park seems endless, though, and our pace flags dramatically as we trudge through it.

We skip a goodbye lunch with Jeff and Maddy (Dorcinda doesn’t even tell me about it!), who are bussing from here to Leon, and make for our hotel. We reserved a duplex, but for some reason, it didn’t quite register that that meant more stairs. Oh joy.

The showers are good though and we steal soap and shampoo. I had bought soap in Pamplona but lost it almost immediately. We meet Steve and Brenda for dinner and Brenda tells about her choice between a laid back job near Valencia and a higher-paying but more stressful position back in the Netherlands. She says the Camino is helping her think about it, but it seems like her mind is already made up to stay in Spain. We get one more drink after Steve and Brenda leave, then crash, with the luxury of not setting our alarms for the next morning.

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