Things can only get better?
Belorado to Burgos
Distance travelled: aprox 50.3 km
What is it about holidays that causes friction and irritability? Is it the relentless heat or the culmination of days in the saddle that begin to sap our strength and patience?
The day promised to be one of my favourite stages of this journey; full of breakfast, we drifted silently into the moonlight, ascending imperceptibility through the morning as the sun rose. Walkers may have felt the ground rise more than us but we were lulled gently upwards, so gentle the rise that I was confused when we had reached Villafranca Montes de Oca. I missed Villambistia altogether and waited for the expected incline which never came!
8 am and we were ahead of schedule; 1/2 way through the first stage of our day. Things could only get better!
But the real climbing starts out of the village and on the trail again, there is a steep rise on a narrow, rocky path. As I push, I have taken to amusing myself by counting the steps 1,2,3….if I get to 20, I give myself permission to stop for a moment whilst the burning in my calf muscles subsides.
Halfway up, there is an albergue that was once a monastery- looked like a pretty cool place to stay: with the advantage of course that it is already halfway up the steep section!
Weakling that I am, I continue to push up as I do not have the strength to attack the continued steepness of this section but I could still enjoy the oak woods that we push through and the picturesque vistas that opened for a glimpse of how far we had climbed. Soon enough it was done, and we enjoyed the descents, long and sometimes steep as well as the art works and carvings left on the trail! Such a creative lot of people on the Camino!
In San Juan de Ortega, we met an Irish group in the café; they were seasoned peregrinos, having done parts of the route three times already. “I just love it, the Meseta, the mountains. But I don’t love the walk to Burgos!” He was aiming to get the bus to avoid the industrial entry into Burgos. “St James will forgive us for this!” he said and we laughed; on the bikes, even the urban slogs go by in a blur!
The mysteries of St James
How wrong we were! Oh, so wrong!!! Was this a message from St James? Little more than 10 minutes into the climb from Ages, the resounding crack as I changed gear and the hanger snapped, wrapping itself in my spokes. I was halted in my tracks. My partner, ahead on the trail but thankfully within shouting distance, (how often he had disappeared ahead of me on hills as I pedalled laboriously slowly) heard my lamentable cries and returned to my side.
Hanger unscrewed, it was, as they say, completely knackered! Broke! Kapput! Biking finished! We checked on the nearest bike shop to our location and oh, only 18 km away in Burgos!
I cycled my partner’s bike and he pushed, ran, freewheeled and scooted for the entire 18 km, in the unforgiving heat of the afternoon.
As instructed, I cycled into Burgos ahead of him, intending to visit the Tourist Information, book us a bed for the night and meet him by the doors to the Cathedral in about 2 hours.
I didn’t count on getting hopelessly lost nor did I count on the attack of insecurity I felt entering a city, an industrial, urban, noisy, busy city alone. I felt out of place, uncomfortable, stress rising and though I found the information point and found pensions on the map, my skills of reading and interpreting the map failed miserably!
I am not a city girl; though when acclimatised, I enjoy the buzz, I take hours to settle and being alone here made me anxious. I sat at the cathedral waiting after several attempts to find anything that looked like an albergue or a pension!
When my partner appeared, that moment of him appearing through the crowd as he walked toward the cathedral, I couldn’t have been happier. Momentarily. Until right away, he told me I wasn’t supposed to have met him at the cathedral but another church earlier on the route! We both insisted on our ‘rightness’ and stubbornly refused to believe we could be wrong!
Velobur, a bike shop with a true peregrino welcome
But together, we quickly found a place to stay and what a welcome! I told the receptionist that my bike was broken and that maybe, our Camino was over; she was very concerned, “It is Saturday afternoon! Everything closed!” and she disappeared leaving us putting our bikes in storage.
But when she appeared, she explained that she had telephoned Velobur, a local bike shop, and even though they were closed, the owner was popping down to the shop and he would look at the bike!
A new chain, hanger, truing a bent wheel later, I promised the guy I would make sure he got a good review on Trip Advisor for helping poor peregrinos on their journey! The earlier sadness I had felt evaporated; our journey here wasn’t over.
The Irish guy we had met earlier in the day was in Burgos and we exchanged stories about our day. “St James had other ideas for us today!” We all agreed; he certainly did have other ideas.
Burgos is indeed a beautiful city but I was done in today. We walked past the Cathedral and through the busy streets but after dinner, my day was finished!