Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Day 37: On to Burgos!

Dscn2392bSeptember 17: I spit off from Karolina early in the morning. As much as I’d enjoyed her company, I had two reasons for going ahead: One, I wanted to get into Burgos early enough in the day to have time to explore the city and Karolina walks slower than I do, and two, I was still concerned that I might have been wearing out my welcome with her. I still wanted to camp with her again in the future and didn’t want her growing too annoyed with my presence. =) And anyhow, we both wanted to stay in Burgos for the night so camping wasn’t in the cards this day. So I decided to give her some space and hike on ahead. We could catch up again later.


Early in the morning, I met up with Charles, the priest from New Zealand that I first met while eating dinner in Saint Jean. I hadn’t seen him every day since we left Saint Jean, but we had crossed paths most days. His feet were hurting him a bit, but I was more curious about his complaints about the “race” into town each day. Alburgues were filling up overnight and he was waking up early in the morning and walking as fast as he could to be certain to get a bed at an alburgue before it filled up—often as early as one or two o’clock in the afternoon. “It’s not fun,” he told me, “having to race to get a space.”


But of course, everyone else also wants a bed, so they too wake up early and rush to get into town. “Then I sit around town all afternoon bored to tears.”


I had heard about the lack of beds in the alburgues, but hadn’t realized that it had turned into a race each day for many people. The lack of beds at all I thought was surprising since we were now well into September and past the peak hiking season when the trail is most crowded. If the rumors I’ve heard are correct, however, more people have actually been hiking the trail this September than in July and August—an unheard of event! One person even told me that the trail had more people this year than it did in the last Holy Year (when pilgrim numbers tend to soar). I’m not sure why this year is so different, but by all accounts, it’s been an unusually crowded trail this year.


“Well,” I told Charles, somewhat happily, “that’s not something I’ve had to worry about since I’ve been camping out. No racing for me!” Well, okay, I’m “racing” to get into Burgos this afternoon, but not because the beds are full. Rather, I wanted to get into town early enough to have time to sightsee and play the tourist. And I’m just one less person filling up all those beds in the alburgues. If more people would camp, the crowded conditions would be gone in a heartbeat!


I continued on ahead of Charles, then I decided to pull out my iPod to listen to. I’d been carrying an iPod Shuffle since I left Le Puy—the same one that Amanda bought for my birthday while I was hiking the PCT two years earlier—but I listened to it almost never the entire hike so far. When I arrived in France, I had forgotten that tiny, little, one-inch long cord that would connect from the iPod to the computer’s USB port so I wasn’t able to charge it. Which is an even bigger problem when you’ve arrived in France and the charge is already run down to practically nothing.


Dscn2395bThe missing cord had finally caught up with me in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, included in the mail drop my mom had sent, so I did have a fully functional iPod since arriving in Spain. But I practically never used it since I had more fun chatting with all the English-speaking people along the route. I was starting to regret that I even brought the thing since I never used it, but today, I decided it was time to use it. I planned to walk rather quickly to get into Burgos early in the day, not stopping to chat to people along the way. And a funny thing—when you have those iPod earbuds in your ear, people are less likely to talk to you and slow you down. =)


So I cranked up the music and positively skipped down the trail.


Despite my rush to get into Burgos, however, the journey comes first, and I’m always on the lookout for alternative paths that are more scenic, less crowded, and have less walking on pavement, and I was a little disappointed when I realized I had missed such a turn. I was in the midst of hikers—upon reaching the top of a hill with a nice viewpoint down towards Burgos, I counted over 50 people on the road ahead of me.


I knew an alternative path was coming up soon, but I missed the turn and was immensely saddened when I realized my error. I had to get away from the crowds of people! Another kilometer ahead, though, I saw another path along a dirt road. It didn’t appear to be marked on my maps, but I decided to take it anyhow since it looked like it paralleled the main path. As long as I could see the main path—and I’d recognize it easily even from a distance since that’s the one hundreds of pilgrims were following—I figured I couldn’t be too lost.


So I followed the dirt road, which had less road traffic and was unpaved, and absolutely no other pilgrims. This wonderful parallel path never seemed to wander more than a couple hundred feet from the main path and I sometimes waved when I noticed a pilgrim looking in my direction, swinging my trekking pole high in the air. At one point, my parallel path approached to within 30 feet of the main path—I thought it was about to merge again with the main path, but then it veered away away, a couple of hundred feet away.


I’m a little surprised that they hadn’t rerouted the main path to the route I followed since it was better in every conceivable way. No car traffic, no hard pavement to walk on. It was positively wonderful! Whose brilliant idea was it to move everyone to a busy, paved road?


Dscn2399bEventually, my parallel path did merge back into the main path again. But I wasn’t on it long before I had another alternative path to follow. My guidebook showed three distinctly different options headed into Burgos. The shortest followed busy roads through what appeared to be an industrial part of the town. Paved and crowded with cars, it looked absolutely miserable on the map. The second option, about a mile longer, veered off to the left by the airport following dirt roads through largely empty fields at first, then followed a less busy road into the city. And the last option, another 0.4 kilometers longer than option #2, followed footpath along a scenic river all the way into the city.


A couple of pilgrims I had heard were discussing taking the bus into Burgos because the main path into town was rumored to be absolutely awful. Apparently, it’s common for hikers to take the bus these last few miles into town because it’s such a miserable walk. This sort of talk kind of irritated me. I can totally understand wanting to skip the sections of trail that are nothing more than miserable, noisy, unpleasant walks. But the part that really annoyed me was that they’re solution was just to take the bus past it even though there were two alternative options that got around that nasty little area. And come on, when you’ve already committed to walking over 700 kilometers from Saint Jean to Santiago (which is what most people were doing), what’s an extra kilometer or two of walking? It’s like they didn’t like walking, which makes it strange they’d even be on this trail in the first place. “Just take the alternative paths, you dumbass!” I wanted to shout at these people, but I bit my tongue and said nothing. Frankly, I should be glad they wanted to take the bus instead since it meant the trail would be less crowded. As much as I liked people around, I did like them in moderation. =)


Obviously, option #3 was the best of the bunch. Practically no road walking, no cars, and—if history was any guide—almost no other hikers would take it. The fools! And that’s the route I intended to follow.


I veered left at the first split and of the dozen or so hikers I could see from that vantage point, only three took the alternative path, far ahead of me. Everyone else committed to the slightly shorter but much more unpleasant direct road walk into town. The path by the airport was rather pleasant, except for an ugly barbwire fence that surrounded. It’s not a big airport—only one plane took off while I was walking past, and the trail was quiet again once it took off and left. I had to cross a busy road shortly past the airport, walking through a small suburb of Castanares, then I followed the alternative to the alternative path alongside the River Arlanzon.


Dscn2412bAt this point, the noise of the nearby roads polluted the atmosphere. BUT! I was still on pedestrian-only footpaths and the walk alongside the river was quite pretty, even if the noise of the city could still be heard in the background. I could only imagine the horrors everyone else was experiencing on the main roads into town!


I passed a couple of bridges, then crossed over one of them thinking I was in the right place that would lead to a few hotel options a few blocks away. However, I misread my map. The map in my guidebook was not very detailed and several bridges did not appear on it at all. Not realizing this, I cut off the alternative path and into town a couple of kilometers too soon. Even though I did quickly realize that I took the wrong path into town, I figured the hotels had to be close and continued further into town along the busy roads I had tried so hard to avoid in the first place. Now I wasn’t an any official path at all—I was on the Trail of Ryan. =)


I walked for about a kilometer before I finally hit a large intersection of two busy roads and could finally identify my correct location on the map and was severely disappointed when I realized that I was at least another kilometer or two away from the hotels I was going to try to get a room at. I had cut off the river path way too early! Drats. At this point, though, it would have been quicker just to keep going forward than trying to backtrack to the river path again, so that’s what I did.


I checked into the Carrales Hostel, not really a hostel, but that’s what it’s called. I checked my email and had one from Vivian who’d arrived in Burgos already. I thought she was well behind me at this point, but she skipped ahead on a bus from a couple of days back. I was glad she did so since it gave me an opportunity to meet up with her again. =)


We met up for dinner and she complained a lot about the “race” to the alburgues each day saying how stressful it was not knowing if there would be a bed available or not and that she was killing her feet with the race, and that she just wasn’t having fun because of it.


I didn’t really have any good suggestions for her for the problem, though. “If you carry a tarp and a sleeping bag, you can just sleep outside like I do,” I told her, but I knew she’d never do that. Nope, she was a princess she had told me earlier in the hike, and she liked being a princess. =) She wasn’t a camper. Vivian was also the second person today who complained bitterly about the daily race to the alburgues. The problem was apparently a lot worse than I had imagined, and I was glad that I wasn’t a part of it. The freedom that a tarp and a sleeping bag provided were worth every ounce. =)


Eventually, we split and went our own way. I found a small shop with some food idems and I needed to resupply my food. The selection was awful, but I picked up some corn flakes for breakfast—not especially filling for my breakfast needs, but it was still better nothing. I also tried to buy a bag of bread, but the lady took it away from me saying I couldn’t buy it. WTF? “But… but….” I stammered. Why was it on the shelf if it wasn’t for sale?


And she pointed to an expiration date on the plastic bag. It had expired two days earlier. Frankly, I didn’t really care. Somehow, I didn’t think I’d die if I ate the bread—it looked perfectly fine—and even stale bread was better than no bread at all. But the woman ringing up my order didn’t seem to agree and felt that no bread was better than stale bread and refused to sell it to me. Then to add insult to injury, she also took away the bottle of Coke I was trying to buy.


WHAT? Surely that couldn’t be expired too! But she took it back to the refrigeration case and pulled out another one from the back. “It’s colder,” she told me as she replaced the one I had taken. Sheesh! At least she was going to let me buy a bottle of Coke. For a second, I was worried she wouldn’t let me do that either.


Then it was back to the hotel for the night.


One of the larger crosses along the trail.


For the first time in what seemed like eons, there were actually
clouds and it was overcast for most of the day. But this
particular cloud fascinated me, the way it pierced through the
other clouds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cloud quite like this one!


I blindly followed the paved road like everyone else did here, but
I’m pretty certain that the dirt road that continues straight and
up the hill was an alterative path I could have used.


I followed this alternative path instead—a huge improvement over the
busy, paved road that everyone else followed.


At this point, I had remerged with the main path again. But I absolutely
LOVE this photo. Something about that flower hypnotizes me. =)


A small restaurant along the trail that’s packed with pilgrims, and
they’ve lined their packs up against the wall.


Here’s the junction between the ugly walk into Burgos or the pleasant
one. The pleasant one is a kilometer longer. But see all those
dots on the road? Those are pilgrims so decided that they’d rather
take the miserable walk into town instead. Very few people took the
nicer (but one kilometer longer) option. I would, though!


Walking alongside the barbwire fence that surrounds the airport.


A church in Castanares.


A footbridge over the River Arlanzon.


So much better than that ugly road walk everyone else is doing. As
nice as this area looks, however, it does not escape all of the
city noise. It’s still a much more pleasant option walking into Burgos, though!


I took this photos from under a bridge crossing the River Arlanzon.


I accidentally found myself on THIS miserable roadwalk when I left
the riverwalk too early.


I have no idea what this art is supposed to represent, but
they’re awfully cute. =)


I would have expected to see this in Pamplona!


Colorful artwork in a roundabout.


Okie Dog said...

All your pictures are great! My favorites from this group are:
Second sunset
Clouds you never have seen=Amazing!
Bridge=so lovely
Flower= you chose the correct word, it is truly beautiful and that word, too.
Now if I can just see the letters to post this, my failed tries are too numerous to count.

Anonymous said...

I just love northern Spain, especially the Basque area's. Burgos is ok, but Miranda de Ebro is so much better. Happy trails GT,
Be Safe,