Friday, November 23, 2012

Day 38: The Day I Lost Karolina

Dscn2481bSeptember 18: On my way out of Burgos, I walked passed the large cathedral near the center of town. I never went inside, but the exterior was more than impressive. So large, such intricate detail—it was a magnificent piece of work. Absolutely magnificent! I just took a few pictures and pushed on out of town, though.

The walk out of town was nothing short of terrible. Lots of traffic along busy roads. Going out of town didn’t have alternative paths to avoid all the ugly parts of city walks like the walk into town had, so I just pushed through as quickly as possible, taking photos of any interesting statues and art along the way.

I passed one supermarket along the way, but it hadn’t opened yet. My food supplies were running low, and I hadn’t found any supermarkets in the core of Burgos the day before. I still had some food, but it was running low and I had hoped to resupply on the walk out of town, so it was a little disappointing to have found a supermarket but then to learn it wasn’t open yet. I could have waited for it to open, and I would have waited had actually been completely out of food, but things weren’t quite so critical so I pushed passed without resupplying my food.

Which is why, when I finally got out of Burgos and into the small town of Tarjados, I stopped at a small store and bought a bacon and cheese sandwich—to help preserve what food I did still have in my pack for later in the day. The sandwich didn’t look like much, but it turned out to be quite good and very filling. As I looked around me, though, I realized that I didn’t recognize a single other hiker. It’s not unusual that I didn’t know any other hikers around me, but I usually at least recognized a few faces. Since I left Burgos, though, I hadn’t even recognized anyone! Where did all these hikers come from?

Two of them I eavesdropped on had been discussing their zero day in Burgos. They didn’t call it a “zero day”—the hikers out here haven’t had the corrupting influence of the Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest Trail like I’ve had—but that’s what they were. A lot of people I did know had also been talking about taking a day off in Burgos. It seemed that all of these people I didn’t recognize had probably been a day ahead of me on the trail since Saint Jean and I caught up with them because I had not chosen to take a day off in Burgos.

But I missed my friends. I knew that all of them hadn’t planned to stay an extra day in Burgos, though. Where were those people? I knew Karolina hadn’t planned to stay in Burgos another day and expected to find her on the trail somewhere further up ahead. I assumed she had to be ahead of me since she stayed in an alburgue and wasn’t allowed to sleep in like I did. I’d catch up with her eventually, I figured, and I hoped she wanted to camp out again.

After leaving Tarjados, the trail improved dramatically from the miserable road walk out of Burgos. It was an eventful walk on to Hornillos del Camino where I took another break and caught up with Vivian again—the first person I recognized all day! My guidebook breaks down the hike from Saint Jean to Santiago into “stages,” and Hornillos marks the end of the stage out of Burgos and where most people who left Burgos would likely quit for the day, but for the first time, lodging was severely limited and a large number of pilgrims decided to push on towards Hontanas another 11 kilometers or so further up the trail putting in a fairly long 30+ kilometer day. For those pilgrims, it was their longest day ever. For those wanting to avoid their longest day of hiking ever, many of them took rides into nearby towns with additional lodging and would get a ride back here in the morning. How inconvenient! And for me, completely out of the question since I was determined to avoid using modern transportation until my hike was done. Anyhow, walking a little over 30 kilometers wasn’t different for me, and I had every intention of camping out anyhow.

Dscn2484bBut I still hadn’t found my little Polish camping buddy, Karolina, and it was getting late enough in the day that I was starting to wonder if I would see her. I suspected she must have been ahead of me—surely she left Burgos before I did—but what if she reached Hornillos and since she hadn’t seen me, decided to quit for the day and got a ride off the trail to other lodging? I could walk passed her and not even know it! For all I knew, I could have walked passed her when she was indoor using a restroom somewhere along the route, but nobody I had seen or talked to had seen her. I suspected she must have gone ahead, either to stay in Hontanas for the night, or maybe in the hopes of finding me and camping on the trail. I pushed onward. I still hoped to run into Karolina before then, but my hopes were fading quickly.

Out of town, the trail climbed up and entered the area known as the Meseta—a high plateau that other pilgrims had been bad-mouthing since Saint Jean. The section between Burgos and Leon was described variously as boring, ugly and miserable depending on who you asked. Several hikers I know intended to skip that section completely and ride a bus to Leon to pick up the rest of their hike. Those who didn’t have enough time off of work to hike the entire route would invariably choose to skip the Meseta section—the most boring, ugly section of the trail. If rumors are to be believed.

I positively LOVED it, though! The treeless plain seemed to stretch to eternity—so open, so grand, so remote. Without any obstacles to dull it, the wind blew across the land with the fury of a storm—but there was no storm. “If this is boring and ugly,” I thought, “I can’t wait to see what the rest of the trail has to offer!” Leaving town, alone, I turned on my iPod again and practically skipped my way up the trail, slashing the air with my trekking pole in sync with the music on my iPod.

At least until I caught up with Hilary and Brent. Hilary I hadn’t seen or heard of since I met per in Pamplona trying to bribe other pilgrims to talk with her by offering up a six-pack of beer, so it was fun to catch up and swap our trail stories. Brent I had seen several times along the route, but never for more than a few minutes at a time and I didn’t really know him as well despite having seen him more often. He was more one of those faces I recognized than someone I really knew.

I fell into walking with them and quickly discovered that, combined, they were two the funniest freakin’ people alive. They had me laughing for miles! You’d think they had to have rehearsed their little Abbot and Costello routine, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t. They were just darned funny, slinging jokes off each other, and I really enjoyed the hour or so I walked with them.

As we got closer to Hontanus, though, I veered off to set up camp. The severely strong winds I knew would be problematic, so at first I tried to set up camp behind some large piles of rocks. I nixed that idea when I saw all the toilet paper behind it, though. On these very exposed plains, it was obvious that the few places with rocks piled high were being used as toilets. I’d rather camp directly in the wind.

Dscn2485bThen I tried setting up off the side of the trail, using the small berm on the edge of the road as protection from the wind. Maybe if I laid down, the wind would pass overhead. I tried it, and the berm did seem to dull the wind, but it was still there. And if I sat up, the berm did nothing at all so slow the wind down.

So I studied the horizon and saw a haystack way in the distance, near some wind turbines. It looked like it was probably a kilometer away, way off trail, but the haystack would definitely provide substantial wind protection, and being so far off the trail, I could be certain that pilgrims weren’t using the backside of it as a toilet. So I hoofed down to the haystack.

This haystack—or a strawstack as one of my blog readers kindly pointed out—wasn’t perfectly square like most of the ones I’d seen, and as a result, I could set up camp in a corner where the haystack could protect me from wind from two different directions. Wind-blown straw piled up around the stacks leaving a soft bed to sleep on. My only complaint was that I didn’t much like the smell of the straw, but it was a minor complaint. It was less annoying than camping in wind!

From my campsite, I continued to see pilgrims walking along the dirt road in the distance. It was rather surprising to see so many people hiking so late in the afternoon. Most pilgrims tended to stop by around 3:00 in the afternoon, and that was several hours earlier! I could only imagine that many of them had misjudged the lodging situation in Hornillos and reluctantly pushed on to the next town. They were too far away to see any details, and I wondered if one of them might be Karolina.

I was more than a little disappointed I hadn’t found Karolina this day. I still suspected she must have been ahead of me on the trail since I couldn’t imagine how I would have passed her, and I just knew she had to have left Burgos before me. Without a doubt, she almost certainly staying in Hornillos or Hontanus, no more than a few miles away. But it really annoyed me that I couldn’t find her. I wanted my camping buddy back. Maybe I’d have better luck tomorrow….

Shortly before sunset, some ugly clouds started rolling in and spit out a few drops of rain. Nothing bad, but with a 30% chance of rain overnight (I checked the weather forecast while in Burgos), I decided to set up my tarp. Better safe than sorry!

I cooked dinner—after clearing my cooking area of the thick layer of straw—cleaned up, read my book, then fell asleep. The wind didn’t bother me any, but it certainly was loud and angry all night long, trying to figure out a way around the haystack where it could get at me. It didn’t, though. =)

A statue on the way out of Burgos.

FINALLY we’re out of Burgos and on more pleasant roads
to walk on! =)

Graffiti under a highway overpass.

A hearty little brunch: A bacon and cheese sandwich, donuts, and a Coke. =)

The small store where I stopped to eat. (You can see the bright orange
top of my backpack at the right-most table.) I didn’t even
recognize any of the faces of the other pilgrims coming out of Burgos!



The infamous Meseta! Okay, yeah, there aren’t any
towering mountains or anything, but I don’t care what anyone else says—
I still think it has its own stark beauty!

This lone tree, all by its lonesome, I kind of felt sorry for.
It should be with friends! =)

Heading into Hornillos. If you could see the original image,
blown up as large as possible, you’d probably count 30 or more
dots that are pilgrims walking along this road into town!

This tracker was grading the road, pushing pilgrims off the trail
as it went by.

Vivian (on the right) hangs out in Hornillos del Camino—one of the few
people I met today that I actually already knew.

Yes, I decided, that haystack would protect me from the wind.
That would be my home for the night! =)

Finally, a respite from the wind!

These clouds were rolling in fast, and they didn’t look so

So before it got too dark, I went ahead and set up my tarp.
Better safe than sorry! =) The ground was so hard, I couldn’t
get the stakes in, so I weighed them down with nearby
rocks instead and drove them directly in the hay bales where I could.

1 comment:

anne bonny said...

Beautiful pics! Yep those are straw bales! :)