Stage 17, Sep 21, Burgos, no km, no time

Surely not a wasted day. There is so much to see and to do in Burgos, that the day was gone in a whiff. Keynote activities were the quest for a decent breakfast in a location kissed by the morning sun and a wifi hotspot with a decent bandwidth. The main tourist areas are provided with free Wi-Fi connections (you need to register though) but with such a tiny flow of bandwidth that only competes with the even tinier water flow of the showers in some Albergue. To finish up a 5′ Skype conversation with my wife, it took more than 30′ where most of the exchanges were: “Hello, can you hear me, can you hear me?”. Anyway not a major issue all things added up (literal translation into English of the Italian expression: tutto sommato). I had to check out the Albergue at 8am, leave the backpack there, and to check in again at noon. So I had 4 hours to kill and apart from the breakfast and the various fragments of Skype calls, I decided to pay a respectful guided visit to the gothic cathedral.

The visit costs euro 7, one third of my daily allowance,  but surely was worth of it. Apart from hosting the remains of “El Cid Campeador”, knight and hero of Burgos who was instrumental in the war against the Ottoman Empire in the eleventh century, it also hosts incredible artistic masterpieces. Three hours were absorbed easily in touring the massive cathedral with two cloisters and incredible architectural hazards. It was build to rival the French gothic cathedrals of Reims, Amiens and Paris, and master gothic architects from Colon were invited to grant Spain with a place of honor among the other European cities if the Holy Roman Empire.

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At the end of the visit, the time was just  ready for the check-in at the albergue. Already a long line was forming of the anxious pilgrims that left the previous starting point at 5am in fear of not finding a place to sleep. By right the albergues open at noon and by 3pm in best cases are already full. This one in particular can host 460 people, and this will give an idea of the enormous influx of pilgrims even in this relative low seasonal part of the year. Anyway after about one hour I managed to settle down in my new small quarter for the night.

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It is incredible how talking about feet and related parts is the key subject of conversation with other pilgrims. With no modesty, everyone seems quite proud to take off the socks and enumerate the blisters, calluses and other amenities of that sort. Even more incredible is the level of attention received by the occasional listener, who in turn also takes off his or her own socks and compares the gravity of the injuries. Quite common is also the distribution of wisdom in terms of most appropriate remedies, such as self inflicting a pain below the middle finger nail, to help out the pain on the feet (this one is also mentioned in Coelho’s Pilgrimage book) or blocking the blood circulation also on the middle finger with a tight rubber band. It seems that most issues are connected the middle finger! To my particular case, my audience nodded in consensus to a suggestion from a Danish lady, reassuring me that I should have wrapped the leg with fresh green leaves to suck off the infection. Honestly this last remedy I did not try, but I had some good time with the middle finger.

One way or another, the heat in the affected areas has cooled down quite significantly (miracolusly ?) and I feel confident of restarting tomorrow with a short walk of 10 km. I will take a cab to take me midway to the next destination. I am sure that on the occurrence also medieval pilgrims would have climbed on an oxen cart…..

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Stage 17, …., part 2

The walk from St.Juan started with all sort of good feelings, which in reality were mostly a representation of my desire than of reality.

As usual, when I woke up at 6am, half of the dormitory was half gone already and the other half (except me of course) was busy with packing and repacking their belongings. I thought of  indulge in some laziness and let everybody out to enjoy the luxury of the toilet for me only. Also I wanted to rest as long as possible to ensure that the pain in the leg could soften. With my surprise, it felt very good and strong. Just a small hint of pain in certain foot twists, but I ingnored it believing that I could just proceed avoiding that particular movements. That was the first delusion.

The second was the outdoors temperature, which was highly overestimated. The dormitory was indeed quite cold, but given the previous glorious afternoon sunshine, I expected something like 13 degrees. When I finally packed and stepped outside at about 7:30am, the thermometer on the Albergue’s wall indicated 3 degrees! I was totally ignoring that St.Juan is 1080 meters high! The stars were bright in the clear morning air and giving a certain solemnity in leaving that tiny conglomerate of human dwellings along the road into the pitch dark. Given that Spain is on the same time zone as Central Europe, the sun rises this time of the year at 8:30am and the benefic warm rays do not become such before 9:45, at least at that altitude.

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Maybe, in the effort to generate some internal heat, I may have accelerated the pace over the guard level, and by reaching Atapuerca, some 8 km past St.Juan, I sensed that the leg pain was far than healed but still quite bearable.

Is worth to mention that Atapuerca is the site of quite remarkable anthropological findings, where the ancestors of prehistoric settlements of humanoids were discovered and now is filed as an UNESCO site. The remains date over 90,000 years ago, and have ascertained that those early European ancestors, were cannibals. This may explain why it took so long and endless wars, for Europe to become an united entity, and to some respects, we are not there yet.

Longing for a breakfast stop, I entered in one of the many pilgrims’ bar y tenda along the way. Tenda stays for grocery shop, where I bought a bocadillo (sandwich), tomatoes and a peach, my usual diet for lunch.

With a refill of energy fuel I reached after a short while the summit of the Cruceiro, where I left thanksgiving stones in memory of my parents and also for my in-laws for having given life to my beloved wife. Nearby, as a contribution to a spiral-shaped spontaneous giant sculpture, I also left down a few well-wishing stones for some of my friends.

The city of Burgos appeared in the distance with its relevant contribution of noise and pollution.

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After a short while, the leg started burning internally very intensely and I had to reduce the speed considerably. The approach to Burgos is endless and very tedious and to make it more pleasant I chose the approach via the river.

For the last 7km, I was in agony and very concerned on the reason of the pain. The ankle and the lower right leg was now visibly swollen in comparison.

Once arrived in the Albergue, I managed to take a shower, wash my laundry with the help of Maria from Andorra, and than hop on a taxi to the nearest medical center.

Thanks God, I took with me the Italian Health Card that covers emergencies in the whole Europe territory.

In less than half hour, and without spending an Euro cent,  I have been visited and diagnosed with a tendinitis and inflammation of the nearby tissues. Prognosis: medications for 8 days and 3 days of rest!

Take it easy, I said to myself and decided to be reasonable and stay in Burgos one more day. Tomorrow will check any improvement and eventually decide what to do.