España IV – Burgos & Seek III

Grañon is a place thats very close to my heart on the camino. Its a small village with a big church with a very nice ceremony run by the American Pilgrim Association. A very friendly and forthcoming bunch with all these special traditions to make sure that no pilgrim that stays there ever forgets them. A special ceremony in the church, cooking together in the main hostel with 30 or more pilgrims, do a little song and dance for the bread from the bakery, a nice donation based hostel down the street. The place is just good vibes all around. Too bad when I arrived there the church was of closed. People in the town were still friendly enough and I had already gotten a meal in the previous biggerish town called Santo Domingo de la Calzada. So at least I wasn’t going to bed hungry. I decided to put my tent next to the big church in the middle of the town even though this was against the rules I had decided on a week or so ago.

The next day I woke up from a lady screaming at her father, who was going for a stroll, like he was a dog. Not long after that a cop car pulled up and I prepared myself for another opportunity to learn. A lady cop and a male cop got out. This was not Guardia Civil but the Policia Local. Your average low tier, neighborhood cop. The guy actually spoke English and we hit it off right away. He asked me the usual and I answered him the usual, I showed him my solar panel and how well prepared I was. The lady cop tried to be a little bit more firm, saying that I should buy a box from Logroño but this was already a bois party señorita and the male cop and me were well on our way to becoming friends. I asked them if they had been to Logroño lately and that theres nothing open there and that the place is deserted. I also pressured them a bit by saying that all these in theory solutions are good fun but absolutely not realistic. The male cop said that I should camp near churches and not in towns and I told him I was literally next to the church and he laughed. Then I leaned into the whole thing saying that this was a real camino for me – no stamps, no bars, no pilgrims – just me, my dog, nature and God. One of the construction workers was standing close and started “looking” for a solution to get me the hell back to my own country and Im pretty sure he called the cops. I diverted the conversation back to them, since they didn’t wear mask, were using the same tools and coughing and sneezing all over each other. The worker understood the message and made himself scarce. Senorita policia was already checking my passport in the car while me and the dude cop were having a controlled amount of fun. I learned from him that Guardia Civil are the ones to watch out for, they have been given the task to check the albergues and hostels and are doing round on the camino to make sure theres no pilgrims and giving people fines. He was just their to keep the peace in the township and thats about it. At the end of it all the dude and me shook elbows and he wished me good luck. I asked him for his name and he said its Albert. I told him that I would burn a candle for him in Santiago and he seemed to like that. Fruitful my dude, fruitful. With new energy I went to the bakery and the lady there was friendly. I asked her if I needed to do a little dance to get the bread referencing the procedure from 5 years ago, she laughed and said no, not this time hahah. 

Reinvigorated by the whole interaction with Albert, the friendly neighborhood copper, I left Grañon with fire in my boots. Burgos the next big mental milestone was only 120km from Logroño and this honestly wasn’t one of the big stretches but whatever.

I came across many places that I recognized, be it slightly different from last time. Things that I am flabbergasted to see that they’re either here already or so far into the camino from what I thought. It just shows how messed up memory can be. Even digitalizing my diary over the last 5 years didn’t correct as much as you might think. 

I slept near a ruined tower and the next day fatigue set in and I was slow as shit. Farmers are apparently a necessary job here and multiple farmers saw me but didn’t call the fucking cops on me lol. I left late in the evening and after passing a few villages I ended up on a sandy road of about 20m wide with thick, dark, forest on either side of the path. A sickle moon guided my path and 20m into the forest everything just went dead and dead silent. Like absolutely nothingness, cricket madness to absolute pitchblack silence. Eyes peering from the darkness of my mind and not the forest watching my every step, and you could hear absolutely nothing. No crickets, no cars in the distance, no light but my flashlight and the scariest witching moon that you can imagine. Needless to say I did keep my blade handy, not really expecting any wild animals other than the Homo Sapiens Sapiens kind. The absolute dead eerie night silence just fucked with my head a little.

I was glad when I finally found some form of civilization again and I kept a little break in San Juan de Ortega. Outside of the forest the temperature was a lot lower outside of the forest in the clear night sky and I decided to put my tent up on the edge of town under a road sign pointing you in the right direct. 

Roadsign campspot

I had a pretty cold night and didn’t have the best of sleeps, still glad to wake up to walk another day. I was pretty far out of the small 2 albergue town and all of a sudden I heard a car standing next to my tent for the longest time. I thought it likely to them be cops but lets wait until they actually approach the tent. This went on for about 2-3 minutes and then I decided to take the initiative. As Im opening up my flap Im looking straight into the side window of a cop car about 20m away, 2 cops wearing tac-sunglasses (on a cloudy day mind you) expressively talking to each other, nodding their heads pointing towards my tent. I gazed and dazed at the ‘Policia Local’ cockfight behind closed glass for about 15 seconds before the one facing me saw that I had opened my tent and was looking straight at him, and without thinking just puts the car into gear and drives off. I cant really lipread Spanish but I have a pretty good idea of how that conversation went lol.

The sand path through the forest continued after the place where I camped and the weather was overcast and gloomy, the forests weren’t as scary as they were last night and I wondered what the cause of my fear for it was in the first place. It goes to show just how paranoid you can make yourself under the right circumstances. I mean during this trip I had already wandered through more forests in the dark than I can count. Going through them in the winter meant that there weren’t a lot of animals around in the first place, this particular forest just went from full cricket madness to dead silence in a matter of minutes, also the fact that I was exposed on a wide instead of a narrow path forest path also played into my senses perhaps. Or maybe it was just the fact that the last 15 days, my only personal social interactions was with people that were obligated to obstruct me. It made for some uhm..interesting learning moments..

An abandoned old construction container in the middle of nowhere and a sleek forest path along the forest and a meadow and I enter this little town. Nothing special but all of a sudden there’s a man standing outside and I recognize the place from last time in clear as day..

El Alquimista. Last time I was here I was so fucking clumsy and I threw multiple tea cups on the ground due to wobbly tables. Unbeknownst to me at first until this point – I had returned multiple times to this place in my mind over the last 5 years. Ashamed that I put this guy’s handmade cups on the ground for too many times than was socially acceptable, but also him, letting me off the hook and having half a frustrated heart attack. That shit stayed with me in the back of my head I realized…

Now I was here again.

The same man outside the door, barely keeping it open enough for the smoke of his cigaret to enter, I walked by and asked him if he was open and he beckoned me as he flung away his cigaret and entered the door. I put off my backpack and attached Lucy to it, I couldnt help but touch one of the tables lightly on my way inside and yesssss. They were still wobbly..

I enter the unlit restaurant/bar/dwelling and the sort of makeshift wooden supermarket to my left. 2 glasses of wine on an empty table on the far side of the room, poorly lit. The owner puts his cigaret next to another one still smoking and apocalyptic Spanish reality news playing on the tv, overlooking it all. The lady was already behind the counter and watched me make my selection of bare necessities. Chips/chocolate/a can of coke/tin of dogfood, BARE! FUCKING! NECESSITIES!

stone spiral at the end of the alchemist town Agés

I walked for the checkout and she couldnt help but express her sense of admiration / inquisitiveness / strictness about me, plastic screen in place over the counter and she dared to ask me a couple of questions and I was all too happy to oblige, cherishing the social contact and the love and admiration of random strangers that had made France so traversable. A stamp, yes of course! A little tip, yes of course. Tough times, nothing to spare but not losing your moral compass in the process. Some fruit and a bread being transmuted out of thin air into my checkout bag, at the end of all of the entire interaction.

Bless the Alchemist!

I took a small break at the end of town and as Im remembering how someone once convinced me that banana is actually a pepper and not a vegetable, I decided to make a banana paste on the bread she just gave me and covered it in a sufficient amount of pepper. A small honey layer on top of that and damn, thats actually pretty tastey. Mabye I was just insanely hungry. A small blister on the back of my feet that I pushed through on, my shoes are really falling apart at this point and there was a sharp decline in walking quality but I’d just had to manage. The damage done on the icey tundra in France caused the shoes to literally fall apart, the rain and the dirt didn’t help by any means but its whatever at this point.

Entering Burgos was cool, a long road into the city with a big stylistic camino shell on a white building. The streets weren’t as deserted as I thought and I asked a guy for a tobacco store. He said they were all closed but gave me a cigaret anyway. I had promised Albert the friendly Policia Local that I would go to the police station and ask to be quarantined and I wasn’t planning on backtracking on that promise. On my way to the police station I walked by a tobacco store and the lady was friendly and I barely made it before closing time. When I left the tobacco store, people from the balconies across the street gave me an applause and I took a small bow thanking them. Really fucking cool and humbling.. 

Burgos Entry

The atmosphere was cool with people seeking social contact with others from their balcony, playing music echoing through the street, songs of resilience and togetherness.. The police told me through a window that I had a dog and that they didn’t have a spot for me, “continuar?” “Si, get the fuck out of here lol”. In front of the cathedral was a statue of a pilgrim sitting on a bench looking away from the cathedral and I sat in opposite sides, facing the cathedral. All of a sudden a cop car rolled up and got out of their car. I asked them if they spoke English and a firm no was the answer. The boys were geared up for a terrorist attack with the tactical vests and I explained to the cop that came from the car that I slept in nature and was only here enjoying the view. He asked me how long I’d been in Burgos, uno dias? I said like no, tres horas amigo :). He laughed and said I should continue, I told him I was going to fumar uno cigaret and he said sure. The other cop from the car giving me the thumbs up. It looks like this layer of police enforcement also wasn’t going to give me trouble.

Burgos Cathedral

At the end of Burgos I found a couple of statues with a grassfield behind it on a little slope near an old fortification wall of the city. It was higher than streetlevel and I decided to put my tent up behind there. This was as much nature as I thought was necessary.

Me gusta Burgos ❤