My sister Romaine asked in a comment referring, I think, to my commentary on room-reservers and day trippers, if the hostels were getting hostile.
Nah. Crowded to and sometimes beyond capacity, but never hostile. The pilgrim albergues are still friendly, welcoming refuges and the pilgrims, day trippers and backpackers alike, still all look out for each other and help each other.
Still, on a couple of occasions it's seemed to me that groups of older day trippers have arrived at an albergue with an air of expectation about them that the albergues would be more comfortable the they were; They were expecting more privacy, more amenities, more hot water, and they sure don't like to be given the top bunks. One time I heard one pilgrim say to another regarding the albergue staff, "Do you believe it? All they speak here is Spanish.."
But there are still plenty of back-packing pilgrims on the Camino,
...though even the young backpackers are calling ahead and reserving the rooms. I guess that's just how it is on the Camino these days.
Anyway, yesterday, fortified by an albergue breakfast that was a true celebration of bread,
- you consume more bread on the Camino than you will over the course of rest of your lifetime - gluten-free folks beware ! - we started out on the long 22 kilometer - 13 mile - trek from Agés to Burgos.
We started out walking in an ethereal misty fog,
....that lifted as the morning rolled on and the sun came out. Which was a good thing because for the first few miles the path was quite rocky.
At one point we had to negotiate a patch of solid uneven rock.
The road into Burgos is kind of a rough slog, for which reason many pilgrims, especially the older ones, of which there are quite few on the Camino, many more than last time we were here, hop a bus for the last 10 kilometers or so. There are actually two ways by which to enter Burgos. The standard way, the way most pilgrims take, requires walking on concrete sidewalks - hard on the feet while toting those backpacks! - along miles of industrial highway past the Burgos Airport, factories and big-box stores. After all the weeks of walking through mostly scenic and rural settings this environment is kind of a jarring dose of urban reality. You then must pass through a run-down part of town before finally reaching the pretty old part of town by the famous cathedral.
The other way of reaching Burgos is called the River Way The River Way is about 1 kilometer longer than the highway way, and goes through fields then along the river and through a city park and leads you to a nicer section of town close to the Cathedral area.
The reason more people don't take the River Way is because it's hard to find and confusing to figure out. On our first Camino we took the highway approach. but this time we managed - with some head-scratching and near misses - to figure out the River Way, which was a considerably more pleasant approach.
We reached the old city of Burgos at about 4:30 pm and were trudging up the hill towards the municipal albergue, which is located right next to the cathedral and is a big, modern, tightly-packed, tightly-run, 120-bed, 6€-per-bed facility hidden behind a 16th Century stone facade, when a group of young, weary-looking, still backpack-laden Asian pilgrims approached us from the opposite direction waving their arms in warning.
"All albergues full, all albergues full!", one of them cried, "no albergue beds! Hotel!"
We understood the dreary message and turned around to begin looking for a hotel or hostel.
A few minutes later we ran int two young American pilgrims who told us that, though they'd arrived early in the afternoon, it was only by the skin of their teeth that they managed to get beds in the municipal albergue, which was completely full by 2:30. Aside from a small religious albergue with a few beds, the municipal is the only pilgrim albergue in Burgos,
The first hotel we tried was full. Now, tired out from our 13-mile trek and bummed over not getting an albergue bed, we were also starting to feel slightly panicked in spite of our vow of faith in good Camino Karma, We were trudging aimlessly through the tourist-crowded streets looking for another hotel.when a middle-aged man, obviously a pilgrim, approached us and asked us in accented but very good English if we needed a hotel. When we told him yes he suggested we try the place where he'd found a room.
"Right over there," he said, pointing to a building not far behind us.
So we hurried to the hotel our fellow pilgrim, a Swiss man who's the doing the Camino by bike, pointed out to us.
Located in a pretty square, It turned out to be a lovely, kind of upscale-looking place called. Hotel Norte Y Londres.
View from the front of the Hotel Norte Y Londres:
Gross, sweaty, and none too hopeful, we dragged ourselves to the front desk and asked the receptionisto if he had a room.
"Si," he answered, but explained that all he had left was a triple for 60€ - about $69 - and that it was the last room left in the hotel.
Camino Karma, forgive me for doubting, thought I.
And though our room was cheery, comfortable and spacious,
View from the window of our room::
...we were still in the grip of exhaustion-fueled post-bed-anxiety coupled with the frustration of not getting an albergue bed, so that we didn't at first realize how extremely fortunate we were not to have snagged a coveted albergue bunk amidst a closely crowded sea of pilgrims and where we'd be shooed out the door at 8 am sharp.. It was only a little later, when Tom started to experience the sore throat, head ache and runny nose that herald the arrival of a cold, that we realized our luck to have landed in this quiet, comfortable room.
This morning Tom woke up achy,congested, and miserable from a restless sleep but nonetheless extremely grateful, as was I.
I booked the room for two more nights.
Burgos at night:
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
"Equal And Opposite Reactions"
by Patti Liszkay
Buy it on Kindle:
or in print:
The Book Loft
of German Village,
Or check it out at the Columbus Metropolitan Library