Camino Day 14 – San Juan to Burgos: the longest walk yet

Wednesday 30 August 2023 – There were two main testing elements to today’s walk: a cold start; and a long distance.  The alarm went off at 0545, dammit, and we went through what is now quite a well-understood exercise of hygiene and re-packing of suitcases. The picnic breakfast provided for us was copious, if not refined – for each of us a bottle of (rather weird) OJ, a ham and cheese sandwich, banana, a muffin, a slice of cake, an apple and a bottle of water (single use! shock!! horror!!!). As we left at 0700, the temperature was 10°C, which is chilly, but there was little wind.

We had a little unexpected company on the track.

The horses were not the only unexpected company. Our hopes for a spell of quiet walking as the dawn broke were rudely shattered by the presence of moaning Minnie (see yesterday’s entry), who was waiting for someone – anyone, I guess – to latch on to because she was too scared to set off on her own. Hoping further that she had sorted out her blood sugar shortage and might thus be better company today also proved fruitless, as she demonstrated no real interest in talking about anyone but herself and rarely dealing in anything other than negative sentiments.

Our jaws dropped when she told us she was a nurse.

Our natural pace was greater than hers and so once it got light and we approached the next village, we strode on, glad to be once more in our own company.  After the tedium of listening to Minnie and trying to find something positive to say, although it didn’t take long to reach the next village, it seemed like Ages.

Agés is an attractive village.

We kind of wondered if it might have been a better place to stay than San Juan; on the other hand, San Juan had its charm and its monastery, and maybe the extra kilometres might not have been welcome yesterday.

The next village, Atapuerca, is upon you almost as soon as you leave Agés.

There were a couple of fields in the area where the sunflowers had not yet finished, which added a nice dash of yellow to the scenery. Atapuerca is notable for its evidence of early human occupation. Bone fragments from around 800,000 years ago, found in its Gran Dolina cavern, provide the oldest known evidence of hominid settlement in Western Europe and of hominid cannibalism anywhere in the world. It was designated a World Heritage Site in 2000.

Enough with the history, already. Atapuerca is also where the cardio segment in today’s workout begins, with a 2km ascent up a path which at times was steep and stony.

At the top is a cross, named Cruz de Matagrande on a signpost at the bottom of the hill and Cruz de Atapuerca where it matters (Google Maps). I have been unable to establish what its message is, but what tickled me was the string of boots dangling from its horizontal.

There’s a story there if only one could find it. For example, how did they even get up there? Anyway, the views from the top are pretty fine, repaying the effort of slogging up to it.

One even gets one’s first sight of today’s destination, Burgos.

That’s a decent view of the landscape. What you don’t see because of my artful construction of the image is

a sodding great (and very noisy) stoneworking factory.

Also up by the cross are a couple of enigmatic scenes.

ChatGPT translates the above as “Since the pilgrim ascended the mountains of Navarra in Burguete and saw the vast fields of Spain, he has not enjoyed a view more beautiful than this.” Sounds great, but we’re not sure we agree.

After the descent, one begins, basically, a long trek into Burgos.

There are many different and offical Camino routes into Burgos; the one we chose took us south of the airport and then along the river into the city, but there are plenty of other options.

It seems that there’s a river, Riopico, which is of sufficient pith and moment that it lends its name to multiple local villages. The first of these is Cardeñuela Riopico, which is approached via an innovative advertising hoarding.

The village gave us a refreshment stop, which, frankly, I needed, as I was quite chilled.

The village is not unattractive,

and gives a decent view over a neighbour, Quintanilla Riopico.

Walking along the road takes you to Orbaneja Riopico, the inhabitants of which have made great efforts to make the place look interesting.

Our onward route took us past a bizarre place –

just a few identical houses right by the motorway – very strange. Then we walked past the airport and crossed the mighty Riopico!

Shortly thereafter, we passed beside a fairly industrial town called Castañares, which had little to recommend it until we hit the back streets, where there were a couple of nice corners

Note the stork’s nest on the church

and then we were into a parkland trail into Burgos.

Despite the fact that we were both at the “just want to be there” stage, there were a few vignettes along the track. For example, another instance of landscape photography being deceptive: a nice bridge

as opposed to the whole scene.

By this bridge, there was an interestingly-shaped weir

which gave us some amusement as we watched the ducks near it.

The river (Rio Arianzón) gives some photogenic possibilities.

Murals on the Arianzon bridge supports

The park has an outdoor gym for young people, yes, entirely men, to show off,

and it’s good to see the efforts that the city has gone to to make a dull road bridge a nice sight.

By this stage we were near the city centre and we made our way as directly as we could to the hotel, because, after 27km, we were quite in favour of a bit of a rest.

Our hotel

offers a lovely large room and a balcony overlooking Calle San Lorenzo, one of the Happening Places should one go looking for tapas.

Which, eventually, we were.

First, though, an essential task.

The hotel didn’t have a guest laundry, but suggested that El Cid’s just down the road, might do the biz; and so it turned out. These things are important, you know.

Content in the knowledge that we had clean knickers for the next week or more, we went in search of nourishment – mainly in the form of gin, it has to be said – and found an agreeable bar, ably served, single handed, by a very competent lad

and, suitably refreshed, wandered out into the buzz of a Burgos evening. heading for the Plaza Mayor before heading back up San Lorenzo to the hotel.

Burgos has patently got Lots Of Things To See, and we have a day free of this bloody walking nonsense tomorrow.

I should update you with the stats first, though.  Today, we covered 27.1km, so the cumulative total has risen to 280.3km, or just over 174 miles. We have therefore covered more than a third of the total distance, an assertion which is borne out by various waymarks and signposts along the route, which, by the way, aren’t necessarily telling a consistent story; at one stage we walked about 200 metres along the track and the distance to Santiago had seemingly increased from 527 to 544 kilometres, However, if the total distance is 780km, one third of that is 260km and we’ve definitely covered that distance. Oh, yes.

Tomorrow, then, we will take a rest from the Camino and we will go for a walk. Obviously. And report back at some stage on the wonders of what promises to be an entertaining city. I hope you’ll join us for that.


5 thoughts on “Camino Day 14 – San Juan to Burgos: the longest walk yet

  1. Kate Burridge

    See Shoe Tossing on Wikipedia for a boot answer. The page wouldn’t load due to our floundering wifi.
    Here pairs of sneakers are thrown over power lines – it has to do with gang/drug affairs. I am sure the boot hanging is for a benign reason!
    Those paths in yesterday’s & todays’s blogs seem so daunting.

  2. Ian Burley

    We had Moaning Minnie’s colleague Louisa the Limpet on the Corfu Trail in May. She made an impression on everyone we met, and not in a good way. When I finally get around to writing up the Corfu trip on my blog, I’ll share all the tasty details.

  3. Karin Wennas

    Moaning Minnie! Hope you won’t see her again. I had a group of Finns behind me one day, and also at the same place for lunch, and tried to walk slower and faster and whatever to escape from them. Not them particularly, as persons, but hearing the language all the time. It’s the only language I know of that I find so, so ugly. Next morning – what’s there as I’m ready to leave after a cup of tea at a hotel, if the not whole group of Finns!!!


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