Walking West – Leaving

Day 14 – Burgos to Hontanas, 22.28 miles

One last look at the Cathedral before leaving Burgos.
Leaving Burgos, the pilgrim must pay careful attention to the signs – they are not uniform in placement or form…
The opulent Burgos Cathedral left behind; this little place is more my style. It even comes with an on-duty nun to bless your pilgrimage.
The wide-open space of the Meseta; now time to deal with the hard-to-navigate space between my ears.
The Hontanas sunset.

Leaving civilization…I forgot to mention that I left the austere pilgrim life and treated myself to the gifts of the city – a private room (sans snorers) at the Hotel Silken Gran Teatro, a paid tour of the Cathedral, and a fantastic tapas dinner at Casa Pancho. But one night of luxury was enough for me.

I was excited for this day, the pilgrim is swallowed by the Meseta. It is my favorite part of the Camino Frances because of the wide-open spaces and the simpler walk.

Leaving Burgos, simple walk it is not. You have to wiggle and wind your way through the old town, zig-zag through the new town, navigate the university and the suburbs – all without consistent signs (form or placement – see photo evidence below).

Safely out of town, it’s a slog (11 kms) to the first little town (i.e., coffee and breakfast). There are two good options after the slog – Tardajos and Rabé de las Calzadas. And yes, I took advantage of both, one can never have too much coffee (well, up to 4 cups, apparently).

The Ermita de la Virgen de Monasterio is on the way out of Rabé de las Calzadas, it is a beautifully simple contrast to the Burgos Cathedral. The cathedral’s architecture is stunning and there is a crowd of people touring it. And since it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has security, processes, and velvet ropes guiding the traffic through. Not so at the Ermita. The small, one-room church is simply designed and has open doors. The best part – a nun stationed inside the front door stamps your credencial, lays hands on the you, prays for your pilgrimage, and places a necklace around your neck. This for every pilgrim that passes through. No fees, no rush.

Leaving this place, your steps are a little lighter.

I didn’t have a plan for the end of the day, the options were Hornillos del Camino (normal stopping stage) or Hontanas (nearly 11 kms beyond). I stayed in Hornillos before and had a good experience, but the longer walk to Hontanas beckoned.

I stopped in Hornillos for lunch and a draft beer (somehow related to the enlightenment of man). While there, I overheard the scuttlebutt of the surrounding pilgrims – “there are no beds here in Hornillos” and “I’ve heard that the Meseta is fully booked in every town!!” I normally don’t give in to this gossip, I like to believe I am adaptable and can overcome whatever is thrown at me. For some reason, I panicked. I chowed down my lunch, guzzled my beer, and hustled over to the Municipal Albergue.

After waiting in a long line, I got one of the last beds in town. With the night’s sleep secured, I settled into my space (the lower bunk of a crowded room) and sat on the edge of my bed. For some reason, I wasn’t feeling the vibes – could have been the snoring napper across from me, could have been the unfamiliar crowd. After 15 minutes of staring at my feet, I put my shoes back on, grabbed my backpack, and found the hospitalera in charge. I told her I was leaving for Hontanas and would like to donate my Hornillos bed to someone who needs it.

A few other things happened, a few hours passed, and then I walked the distance to Hontanas. The walk was hot and exhausting and good. It was not a normal A to B journey, but it happened the way it needed to. I think I know why, but I’ll leave it for when I write about synchronicity in Santiago…

By the way, the Albergue Juan de Yepes in Hontanas gets my vote for the Best Albergue on the Camino Frances.

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