Buenos Dias from Burgos.
This truly beautiful city boasts 170,000 very stylish souls and a 12th century cathedral to humble all the other cathedrals we have oohed and aahed at so far, with the possbile exception of Gaudi'ss eccentric Barcelona masterpiece.
After a very early start we arrived in Burgos at 10.30 am this morning, our 11th day of walking. We have covered about 295 kilometres - definitely time for a hotel treat after staying in pilgrim albergues every night so far. They range from torturous to blissful, and take my advice on this one, avoid albergues run by devout rule freaks.
The people we encounter continue to be a highlight of the trip. We tend to walk a little faster than most pilgrims (our fellow walkers Alan and Cathy have that rangy hill country farmers' gait that gobbles up the miles) and have lost most of our original companions (not a bad thing in several cases) and have fallen in with a crew that we meet up with most days.
Among them is good natured Bob from Scotland, who teaches in an American school in Valencia, charming Hilde from Norway, who was an army officer but now is training to be a physiotherapist and 18 year old Ida from Denmark, a tough kid who holds her own in every respect.
Our standard day is to be on the road by about 6.15am and walk for an hour or so until we find a suitable bar or cafe for breakfast, walk another 10km to a lunch stop and then a shorter final stretch before dragging our tired bodies into the next Albergue at about 2pm.
Today our breakfast stop conincided with the 8am Pamplona bull-running mayhem on TV, the final running day in fact.
The tiny cafe rapidly filled with local men, most smoking and some drinking spirtit shots, who cheered and groaned in equal measure as the athletic bulls stomped and sliced their way through hundreds of suicidal maniacs. Each run only lasts two to three minutes before the bulls enter a large arena, toss a few more desperados skyward before taking a well-earned break. The following half hour of TV shows slow-slow-motion reruns of the best gorings or lucky escapes.
We are gaining an appreciation for the rhythms of life in rural Spain. In summer most people siesta betwenn about 2pm and 6pm after which they hang out in the local plaza for an hour or two socialising. They return home to eat their evening meal at about 9.30pm before emerging at about 10.30pm for another session of communal bonding.
We were surprised at first at the number of young children still up and making an ungodly racket considerably later than would be acceptable in New Zealand, often looked after by their grandparents. But it all seems to work for the Spanish.
Speaking of then elderly, something very mysterious occurs in Spain. Perfectly normal and invariably attractive people pop off to bed one night in their early sixties only to wake in the morning a different species altogether.
The women have lost about 20 centimetres of height, their bodies twist to the right (yes, to the right) and the few remaining strands of hair they have adopted a strange orange hue. The men also plummet in height, all now have a severe limp, very few teeth but most mysteriously a seriously vague demeanour. Luckily the flambouyant and stylish young are not troubled in the least at their fate.
Spanish infrastructure continues to impress us. The main highways leave ours for dead, public transpirt does the job and every bridge is an exercise in functional beauty. Yet the signs of economic recession are not too hard to find. We recently walked through a little ghost town. A purpose-built town built around a golf course and huge recreation complex was utterly deserted, "se vende" signs on every building.
Yet here in bustling Burgos, recession doesn´t appear to be a factor. As I write, two raucous weddings are competing for attention outside our hotel. The lavishly attired guests are happily tramping on Frau Merkel’s dreaded austerity measures while the sun shines and the wine flows.
About 500km to go, including the feared Meseta desert.
Hasta Luego, Buen Camino
Denis Wright is a Wellington teacher and author.
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