I was awake and annoyed early as a result of the disturbance caused by two male cyclists preparing for departure. At first I hoped to get back to sleep, but once I was awake I found that impossible. I could only look on in disbelief at Jeanie who was sleeping soundly, oblivious to the circus going on around her.
It was dark and cold outside (and inside), and it seemed to be taking longer than usual for daylight to appear. With no way to pass time and no comfort to pass it in, I was impatient to be off. But I wanted someone else to leave before me so I could follow them. My flashlight was a tiny, ineffective little thing and really not up to the task of dealing with darkness. Inexplicably, nobody else seemed to want to leave, so I set off anyway, but I really couldn’t see a thing and I soon returned to the albergue. Again I waited, and still there was no sign of anyone leaving. Once more my impatience got the better of me and at the second attempt I kept going.
Over the next couple of hours, a rugged, nondescript, barren landscape unfolded around me. The sandy, dry soil only supported plants of a spiky variety, or so I thought until I noticed an abundance of tiny, delicate pink flowers growing all around me. The star-shaped flowers sat directly above the soil without any apparent support. I couldn’t see any stalks. What struck me most was their ability to grow and flourish despite the tough conditions. It was difficult for me to imagine how such elegance could exist in an environment so arid. On reflection I see this as a metaphor with personal resonance. The flowers represent the delicacy of the heart, which even though it may get trampled on from time to time, has the strength to survive and prosper.
When Wolfgang appeared beside me later he talked about getting a bus through the industrial parts of Burgos straight into the city, arguing that walking through such areas did not add anything to the Camino. Sylvia and Christine (a couple of Dutch ladies) agreed, saying they would be taking the bus into the city at the earliest opportunity. Although it would have erased ten kilometres of difficult walking conditions, I declared there would be no bus for me; I would be walking all the way. Despite toying with the idea of catching a bus, Wolfgang walked all the way too, some of it with me. He was intending to stay two nights in Burgos and it was unlikely that I would see him again.
At the big, modern, municipal albergue I was shown to my bunk, and I saw that Swedish Ann was already there. Within moments I overheard Sue’s South African accent, and when I went to say hello, I discovered that Elisabeth, Manoel and Sue were near neighbours. While I really needed a nap after my shower, I also wanted a beer with my old friends, and I decided to forgo a rest in favour of friendship and fun.
After lunch we agreed to meet again later for dinner and we went our separate ways for the remainder of the afternoon. Sue and Elisabeth took a city bus tour while I headed for the cathedral, although I was so tired I didn’t get much out of the experience. It was vast and spectacular, but what I needed was rest so I returned to the albergue for a short nap. In the evening the streets were full of all the generations, dressed up and strolling in the sunshine, while lots of elderly people sat on the many benches soaking it all up. It was Friday night and there was a festive atmosphere, with a small circus act attracting a lot of children of all ages. It was very colourful and the children were excited as they sat in the miniature parade vehicles, becoming part of the entertainment while parents followed with clicking cameras.
After the unexpected show, we moved off to get away from the crowds and found an outdoor table in a little piazza surrounded by shops and cafés. It was another world, set apart altogether from day-to-day Camino life. We ordered drinks; mine was a glass of cold, crisp, fruity white wine and I felt like I was on holiday. Then Sue spotted George, a Dutch man we had shared dinner with in Ventosa, in a book shop across from where we were sitting. She reacted quickly and went into the shop to invite him to join us for a drink. We were pleased to see him – well, some of us were anyway. I noticed that Manoel became very quiet and I wondered if he preferred to have the ladies all to himself!
Once seated in the restaurant I knew I no longer wanted to be there. It was about 9 p.m., and I was just too tired and didn’t feel hungry. It was Elisabeth’s last night and although it would have been nice to have shared dinner, I didn’t have the energy for it. I would have been staying only out of politeness and I decided that was taking politeness too far. It was time for bed, so I said my goodbyes and headed back to the albergue alone.
I had had a great day.