Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Our Camino, Part 4

Nearly two weeks after our rest day in beautiful Pamplona, we planned our second one in the city of Burgos. By this time, we were nearly 200 miles into our 500 mile journey. 

Rest days are complicated. In theory it would seem prudent to schedule time to relax and recover, perhaps take in a museum or cathedral. In practice though, a rest day was interruptive and expensive. On the one hand, a body in motion wants to stay in motion, so we woke up early wanting to get on the trail. It seemed unnatural to sleep in, to just mill around and not walk with purpose. We also had to pay for a hotel rather than stay in an albergue, as they want us gone early so they can prepare for the next day's influx of pilgrims. On the other hand, we had time to get some things done. 

At this point we had decided to have our backpacks sent ahead to our next destination by a forwarding service. I'd been experiencing significant lower back pain and didn't want to aggravate it further. So we bought day packs to make sure we could carry things with us that we needed during the day as we walked. 

I got a haircut, a massage and for the first time ever, acupuncture. That's right. I let somebody stick needles in my forehead, back and hands. It hurt, but it actually alleviated my pain. Felix, the acupuncturist, said it wouldn't last long, because spinal stenosis requires ongoing treatment and he was right. But being pain-free for just a few hours was awesome. 

The last thing we did on our rest day was visit the Catedral de Santa Maria, a massive 13th Century gothic cathedral. It was overwhelming with room after room of marble statues, paintings, fat baby angels, Jesus in various forms, but mostly nailed to a cross. I was more interested in the architecture, the soaring arches, long marble hallways and massive stained-glass windows. Oh, and the casket of El Cid, the famous Spanish warlord who I can only think of as Charlton Heston, is sitting at the end of a long hallway. (I'm sure there is a better name than "hallway", but I don't know what it is.) Overall, we enjoyed our visit.

The massive cathedral in old town Burgos. The town square always makes for the best people watching.

This pilgrim looked like he needed a good long rest and perhaps some new clothes. Relaxing post-Camino?


Early morning departure from Burgos.

Leaving Burgos means the start of the most dreaded section on the Camino Frances, the Meseta. It is said that more pilgrims leave the Camino here than at any other spot. It's not just a spot, either. It's nearly 200 kilometers of high, flat, dry and arid landscapes with little shade for protection. It is known for its sameness, like the roadrunner speeding along past the same rock over and over. Some folks take the bus through the Meseta, others, like our friends Cathy and Helena from Australia, rented bikes, while others still go by horseback. 

On our first day on the Meseta, it rained hard and all the dust and dirt turned to thick mud. Our waterproofed Oboz didn't stand a chance. By the time we arrived at our albergue, our feet were sloshing around in them, causing us great concern that we could develop blisters if we didn't get them off right away. Also, we had to make sure they dried by the next morning, so we stuffed them with newspapers and put them in the afternoon sun. Fortunately, this did the trick!

We both had fabulous rain gear. We had sent our rain pants on to Santiago, a decision we did not regret.

I look pretty happy, right?

Rain man.

The Meseta is not all flat. 

Waiting for the albergue to open.


Always looking for whatever privacy I can find.

While at the beginning of the Meseta we found ourselves swallowed up by a couple of Asian tour groups. It is not unusual for folks to begin their Camino in Burgos, or any other point for that matter. In order to earn a Compostela in Santiago, one must only walk the last 100 kilometers, or, if on bike or horseback, the last 200 kilometers. So at larger cities along the Camino, lots of folks jump right in. As these two large tour groups were about a day apart, we decided to slow down and let them both get ahead of us. Plus, the most adorable albergue in all of Spain was recommended to us by Emilia and David from Australia, and arriving there early would essentially give us a half of a rest day. On our way there we ran into friends and even though they had walked less than five kilometers for the day, they too, decided La Finca was the cutest albergue in all of Spain and they also had to stay there. We ended up having a lovely, restful afternoon and a fabulous dinner. Plus, we were successful in our efforts to ditch the tour groups and once again found ourselves with time alone on the Camino. Bliss!

This was my adorable bed at La Finca. Steven’s was up the stairs on the right. So comfy and private!

Rich, Monica and friend. Monica started her Camino two days after us and was caught in a massive storm in the Pyrenees. Lots of pilgrims were rescued off the mountain, but she took shelter in an abandoned barn.

About three-quarters of the way across the Meseta, on our Day 24, we passed the official halfway point of the Camino Frances. It seemed as if it had taken us forever to get there, yet we were still settling into our daily routine and looking forward to each and every day ahead. 

The official halfway marker on the Camino Frances.

We took nine days to cross the Meseta and reach the city of Leon. The first half didn't seem much different than what we had already been walking, but it was the second half where the Meseta lived up to its reputation. We walked on a few hot days and the flat, dry path seemed endless. At one point I sat on an old stone bench in front of some church ruins and I just couldn't get up. I was so tired and thirsty and I had run out of water. Lisa, another pilgrim we were walking with, offered me her water. It looked milky because she had put electrolytes in it, and it was lukewarm, but it was thirst-quenching, at least for the moment. 

Lisa and Steven left me behind to go look for an albergue. Though we had made reservations the day before as usual, this was the one and only time the reservation was not honored. We found out when Steven called to let them know we would arrive later than 2:00 p.m., and was informed we had no reservation. Rather than calling the previous evening as he usually did to make a reservation, he had booked it online, and their website had continued taking reservations long after they were full. So Steven and Lisa walked on to find an alternative place to stay, leaving me to rest on the bench. I thought surely this was how my Camino would end, forgotten, left to die of the thirst on an old stone bench out in the middle of nowhere. I was contemplating my demise when my phone dinged. It was Steven, he said, "I'm at an albergue just ahead, got us a room with a private bath!" I was up and off that bench like a flash! Twenty minutes later I was sitting in the shade sipping a beer and feeling pretty good! 

The young trees are nice, but provide little shade.

New purpose-built albergues lack the charm of the old refurbished stone buildings, but, hey, private bath! 

We planned our walk so that we arrived in Leon by noon. This would allow plenty of time to mosey around a bit, get our laundry done and chores taken care of without having to take a full rest day. Among those chores was sending off the title to Scoopy, as in the days prior, we had sold her to a guy in Vancouver, WA. It was bittersweet for us, but we were happy she would have a new family rather than just sit on a lot at Carrier RV in Eugene. That's a good chapter closed and we can look forward without having to worry about her. 

Entering the city is exciting, but pavement is hard on the feet. And it takes forever to get out the other side.

Street scenes from beautiful Leon.

The sculpture on the right is called, “The Pilgrim.” It is my favorite. I had better gear, but I know how he feels.

By the time we left Leon we had been on the Camino for 26 days and were 195 miles from Santiago de Compostela. In a few days it would be time to let go of our little painted rock, to climb over 2,000 feet to the second highest peak on our hike and enter the region of Galicia. Finally, we would be off the Meseta and into the mountains!

As before, we could not choose just a few photos, so here are some more of our favorites in random order.

Ruins along the Way.

A guy on this crew asked if I was from Alaska, so I busted out my Texas charm. 

Another “Princess and the Pea” moment.

Early morning vistas on the Camino.

We celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary on the Meseta. Very memorable!

Threatening skies and cool days, perfect walking weather.

A few villages were nestled in valleys and we had a fairly decent climb to get back on the high plains.

Downhill is so much harder on the feet than up.

The landscape became more dry the further we went.

One of the tour groups stopping for lunch.

Pilgrim, or peregrino, became our identity and we were proud of it!

A stork! 

Distance to major pilgrimage destinations. Canal along the farmlands.

This is what we looked like when we stopped for coffee. Well, not exactly, but you get the idea.

The Meseta, ‘nuff said.

Waiting in line at the albergue with the singing nuns, who asked that we do not post pictures of them. I was disappointed that they did not sing “Dominique”, I think that should be a requirement if you are a singing nun. Like my friend Dana says, “It’s not like you are asking them to fly!”

Up next...Hola, Santiago!


  1. I'm so impressed by everyone that walks the Meseta. Having only driven across, it looked DAUNTING!! You are rock stars for walking the Camino.


    1. Thanks, Nina! I'm looking forward to reading about your drive along the Camino, we are going to do that at some point. I hope Paul & his Dad returned in good health!

  2. As usual, the photos are mind blowing. And your narrative, Linda, makes it all very real. You are both amazing pilgrims.

    1. Thank you, Jo. Steven was pretty diligent about documenting our journey, even in the rain. He's a good guy. :)

  3. Another wonderful post, Linda. We’ve loved every step of your journey. 😊

    1. Thanks, Jim. We both appreciate that you've stuck around for the extended version. :)

  4. Your doing great , both of you should be so proud at what you have done. Great photos as always . You are Texas strong .

    1. Thanks, Vern. There were some days I had to really lean on that strength, the mental challenge was often tougher than the physical.

  5. Well written Linda. Enjoying your journey.

  6. Fabulous pics! The interior of the cathedral is amazing. Safe travels!

    1. The number of churches and cathedrals along the Way was staggering. We just couldn't see them all or we'd still be walking! But some are really worth the time, this was one of them.

  7. I'm loving you blog and getting to re-live my Camino journey. Photos and ramblings are fantastic, thank you for posting. So glad I got to walk with you a while.

    1. Thank you, Keri. I'm thrilled you are coming along for the journey, again! You and Mike will always be an important part of our Camino and we look back on those days with great fondness. I hope you are both doing well.

  8. Wonderful and grueling - my feet hurt with every post, while I'm so inspired at the same time!! That cathedral is incredible. I really love the pic of the woman with the bag and hat in the courtyard. LOL to your dying on the bench and jumping up for the private bath :-))) This is such a great story, I'm loving all of it.