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  • Day10

    Burgos to Sahagon

    September 27, 2018 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    After only three days of walking the Camino, our team was already starting to resemble the famous troup of ancients featured in the TV classic Dad’s Army. Although I was pleased that my back felt a lot better, I was not so pleased when a close examination of my feet showed that I was starting to develop a blister on one toe. Fortunately, when I counted the toes themselves, the total still added up to ten.

    As the members of our team slowly filtered into the huge breakfast room of the Palazio Hotel, it was evident t that they were not as fit and agile as they were a few days earlier. In fact a couple had obviously decided to skip breakfast and have an hour or two of extra sleep instead.

    After breakfast we were told that we were going to be given a special guided tour of the old city and the cathedral. We were met by a diminutive Spanish gentleman who introduced himself as “Louis”. He then proceeded to address us in Spanish. No wonder there were a few blank looks. Fortunately he realized his mistake and switched to something that slightly resembled English. We shuffled off into the narrow streets of the central part of Burgos.

    In spite of his thick accent, the guy was actually quite interesting and I managed to learn quite a bit about the history of Burgos. I also learned that Henry’s wife Catherine of Aragon actually came from a part of what is now Spain. We explored the famous palace where Christopher Columbus had met with the Spanish King to receive funding for his expedition, although the building has now been converted to a very opulent looking bank. Our tour continued along the beautiful riverbank to the ancient Cathedral. We learnt that it had taken “only” 65 years to construct back in the twelfth century. It had been built in the Gothic style and the front entrance resembled the famous Notre Dame in Paris.

    Inside the cathedral we were told that it was strictly “no flash” for cameras, but Louis then surprised us all by producing a green laser pointer and then zapping it all over the roof and walls of the building with gay abandon. It is Spain after all.

    At 11 am we were back at the hotel and had a few minutes to prepare for the walk and get our luggage ready for the short walk to the bus. We then went on a drive to the start of our walk at Castrojeriz. Of course many of us took the opportunity to immediately close our eyes and get some more sleep.

    We are now walking on the Castillian meseta, a type of high treeless plateau. It was obvious that shade would be a rare commodity as we were surrounded by bare paddocks where crops had recently been harvested. Fortunately there was a slight breeze to temper the heat, so off we went.

    We quickly discovered that this was obviously a busy part of the Camino and we could see many fellow pilgrims stretching into the distance before us. At least the path itself was well formed and relatively flat. The plan was to stop for lunch at a small village some 11 km along the way. At least we would get a good part of the walk over before the worst heat of the afternoon.

    The walk itself went well until we were startled by a horrible sound like a huge swarm of bees. We looked up to find that it was a drone heading straight over our heads. Carlos explained that this was completely illegal in Spain, so I didn’t feel too guilty when I tried to swat it out of the air with my walking pole. Unfortunately I missed. It was certainly an unwelcome intrusion into our personal space and reinforced my own personal dislike of these glorified selfie sticks. Sometimes technology has a lot to answer for.

    The lunch stop was surprisingly good. We had a lovely sheltered area to eat in where the shade, the food and the cold drinks were all equally welcome.

    The final 6 km of the walk were in the heat of the afternoon and I could feel that little baby blister on my toe growing into adulthood. I felt a little better when I discovered that Carlos was also having trouble with his feet and stopped to remove his shoes and apply bandages to his wounds. The Camino is not an easy walk, even when you are only doing a part of it.

    The path eventually joined the tow path alongside an old canal and we were pleased that there was finally some dappled shade. When we finally made it to Fromista my GPS told me that we had walked around 17.5 km, making our total walk in the past 4 days about 75 km. And that does not include the many extra kilometers we have walked around the towns we have been staying in.

    After a couple more cold drinks we climbed into the bus for the transfer to Sahagun. It did not take long for most of the passengers to fall into a coma. I only awoke when we pulled up outside the huge modern Puerta de Sahagun Hotel. This was easily the biggest hotel we had stayed in so far. The foyer alone seemed to stretch so far, it felt like we were in an airport terminal.

    When I finally finished the 2 km walk along the huge corridors to my room, I was thrilled to see that the room was also huge and modern. It had every modern convenience you could imagine – even a bidet in the large bathroom. I soon discovered that the only thing the room did not have was wifi. This was a huge disappointment for such a huge modern hotel. The only place I could check my email was way back down in the foyer (another 2 km walk from the room).

    I decided to forget the email and attend to more urgent matters. After removing my shoes and socks, I went straight to the bathroom and submerged my feet in beautiful cold water. I could almost hear the steam rising when they first hit the water. Simple pleasures are sometimes the best.

    In spite of the disappointment with the lack of wifi, we were all eagerly looking forward to the evening meal. Unlike the previous few nights, we had been promised that we would have a choice from the full menu. That way everyone would have something they really liked.

    At the prearranged time of 7.30 pm we were all eagerly waiting in the foyer. There was a small problem – the restaurant was not ready for us. We waited, and waited, and waited some more. Finally at 8 pm we got the message that they were ready for us. We made the long (very long) walk through the foyer, through several other empty restaurants, another corridor, a couple more rooms and finally into the restaurant that had been prepared for us. I felt like we must be half way back to Roncesvalles by now, the place was so big.

    We were seated at a huge table but soon discovered that there were only three menus for the fourteen of us. That was the first problem. The next one was that there was only ONE waiter for the whole hotel. I did not ask whether his name was Manuel or whether he was from Barcelona, because I already knew the answer.

    It only took us an hour or so (and a huge amount of confusion) to place our orders. If it had not been for the assistance of Carlos, we would have still been there. After another long wait, the word came back from the kitchen that some of the items on the menu were no longer available (probably gone off). This necessitated more changes of orders. Manuel disappeared for long periods of time, then reappeared with the wrong items. It quickly degenerated into a farce. I could only imagine what would have happened if Gordon Ramsay could have seen what was happening.

    I eventually got the bowl of “scrambled” that I had ordered for starters. It was supposed to have seafood in it, but I think that meant that there was one prawn that had to be shared between about 6 people. While all this was going on, the time ticked by relentlessly. It was soon 9.30 pm, then 10.00. Most of us just wanted to go to bed. It had already been a long day.

    When everyone else had received something that might have been what they had ordered hours earlier, I was still waiting. I looked at the blank space in front of me and no longer felt hungry. After Carlos made some enquiries on my behalf, it became evident that the sweet and sour pork that I had ordered was also “off”. I don’t think it had ever been on. At least those who had ordered something called “jaws” had been supplied with a substitute. It was that sort of night. Actually it was hilarious. It is situations like this that can really make a trip memorable. I know when we look back in years to come, I am sure that we will all laugh about the weird night we had in the enormous hotel in Sahagun.

    My substitute dinner eventually arrived. I never did find out what it really was, but it was OK. We still had desserts to figure out. Some had made the wise choice for icecream, not knowing that this meant choosing your own drumstick from the fridge around the corner. The icecream eaters were instructed to form a conga line and then make their selection from the fridge. They came back with their ice creams, while the rest of us waited. I was almost asleep.

    My rice pudding was served just before sunrise the next morning. It had been a fascinating day. I will remember it for a long time. Tomorrow we reach our half way point at Leon. We will then reward ourselves with a rest day. As it also happens to coincide with the Grand Final I suspect I already know what some will be doing.
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