Villafranca Montes de Oca and Burgos

Two nights ago. I still owe you photos. We’ve been traveling larger than usual distances each day and that’s left me a bit too drained for photo transfer, selection, and editing.

Dinner in Grañon was as great as I expected. We all worked together to set out tables and dishes and chairs, and enjoyed a raucous meal in a many languages. Then we formed assembly lines to clean the dishes and clear the room.

Afterwards we went into the choir of the church for a prayer. We all sat in the wooden seats against the walls, tea candles on each arm rest. One of the hospitaleras lit a candle and explained that we should think or say a prayer or wish or whatever comes to our minds. She encouraged us to say it aloud but it wasn’t a requirement.

When the candle reached me I stared at it for what seemed like forever until finally I spoke. I confessed aloud for the first time that since the winter I’ve only allowed myself a single prayer, which is for the safety my niece and her family, excepting myself. It’s hardly rational, but I guess I have a notion that if I don’t allow myself any other pleas, this one becomes more powerful. (My scientific mind scoffs and my heart tells it to shush.)

I also expressed thanks for the company I’ve had on the trip, meeting eyes with the Italians as I did so.

After this a woman told me she would pray for my niece and sister too. I got a bit teary, I admit.

In the morning Danilo left early. We hugged and said we’d see each other again. I packed my things and said my goodbyes to Michele, Lidia, and Chiara. Fierce hugs and watery eyes. I told them “Ci vediamo,” and set out.

As I left town the church bell chimed seven. The sun was barely beginning to light the sky. I made my way out into the hills, alone for the first time. As the sun rose the ground was orange and my shadow in front of me long and blue.

I passed Viloria, where Sarah had stayed the night before. Assuming she’d left by now I continued to Tosantos. She caught up with me shortly after, announcing herself with a playful surprise pounce. Having walked alone for the morning I was very happy to see her. We traveled together to Villafranca Montes de Oca, a tiny hamlet with no apparent place for anyone to actually live. Just a market, church, the municipal albergue, and a grand looking hotel/albergue up on a hill that sported a well-manicured lawn.

We went there at first, surprised a bit when a peacock met us at the door. She was just leaving as we came in. Disculpe.

Discovering that the albergue had no real kitchen, we went to the municipal instead. Sarah had been carrying lentils for somewhere around 100 years and was eager to finally cook them. First we had tea out back and then grabbed some beers and went to the hotel’s big fancy lawn to enjoy the sun and talk.

We described our homes to each other, in New Zealand for her and LA/Florida for me. And we talked about places we’d gone and what we’d seen. And why we are here on this Camino. For her, the Camino is one etapa as a part of her stay in Spain, learning the language and working at an NGO and meeting with friends all being other etapas in that collection.

For me… well, I mostly discussed with her the same things I wrote in my previous blog entry. Adventure yes but also happiness and ambition and contributing something of meaning and value to the world. All the thoughts swirling in my head these past two or three days.

Dinner was awesome. She’s a great cook. We shared a bottle of rioja and received consejos from and older Spaniard we often see walking and talk to. He and she actually found themselves in a lengthy and deep conversation to do with suffering and choice. She’s well beyond competent with Spanish so I had to focus carefully to follow.

This morning we took off early for Burgos, 37ish kilometers away. We passed over the hills easily and decided we could do it. After a break for breakfast I gave her a head start — from time to time she likes to walk alone at her own pace, which can be break-neck or meandering, depending.

I walked with Sue, who I had not seen for many days. We talked about her family and the Camino and stopped for Coke in Atapuerca, where Sarah passed us. Sue didn’t want to end the day but she was a bit anxious about crossing over the hills when she’d already walked a bit. She asked me to walk with her to distract her, which I was very happy to do. She’s a joy. On the other side we said goodbye near her albergue, and I continued on.

Muscles, joints, ligaments, all quite happy. But lo and behold, chafing. For the first time on the whole trip, and it had to happen on the longest day. I passed through village after village and found them devoid of markets and pharmacies, so I plodded on very uncomfortably and painfully. After an eternity of highway and sidewalk I reached the outskirts of Burgos and found a market to buy some relief. Then I carried on into Burgos and arrived at Albergue Emaus, a parochial albergue where we’d enjoy some quiet compared to the municipal, along with a lovely mass and communal dinner. Our hospitalera, Marie Noëlle, is a wonderfully kind woman who has taken great care of us tonight. Sarah is quite lucky to be enjoying a private room, because the only other woman here tonight is married and has a room with her husband. I’m sharing a room with two Italians and a German, all quite friendly.

Earlier Sarah and I enjoyed beers and olives in the plaza where the Cathedral lies, after first touring it. All in all, Burgos has been lovely once I got passed the outskirts of town.

And now I lay me down to sleep.

-Daniel

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