Camino de Santiago: Day 12 (Christina)

From Villa Franca to Burgos (41.4 km)

Determination is my friend on the Camino today.  As I prepare my pack at the crack of dawn this morning, I hear people complaining about the cold weather and the hard hills ahead of us for the first 5-6 kilometres.  Sure enough, as I head out the door at 6:30 am, I am greeted with biting wind, probably just a few degrees above zero Celsius.  And then I see the first hill, right in front of me.  My feet are still hurting me mainly on the balls of the feet so that every foot strike feels like a nail is being driven into the sole of my feet.

The sun is just peaking out over the distant hills and I take a few moments to admire the beautiful scenery.  And then I think about something my friend Angus wrote in one of his comments, that he thought I was a very determined and strong person.  Well he´s right and today I will draw on my strength and determination to get me through the day.  I am determined to conquer these hills, to get out of my funk, to have a good day and most importantly to get to Burgos before the shops close so that I can buy a pair of running shoes.  Today is Saturday so I must get there today since everything will be closed tomorrow.  It means I must cover many kilometres.

Burgos is my goal today….a rather lofty ambition given the condition of my feet.

I march up that first hill, ignoring my feet, attacking the ground with my walking sticks.  I walk with such zeal that I am passing people, something that I never do.  I barely break a sweat because it is too cold.  But the cold envigorates me and gives me energy.  Soon I find my pace and even my feet seem to know that today they must cooperate because we have a big day to get through.  After a while, I don´t even notice the pain.

Before I know it, I am at the first town.  I´ve covered 12 km of hilly terrain in under two hours.  This is really fast for me and I am encouraged to keep going hard.  I walk mainly through a forest for the first part of the morning.  But then the land opens up offering beautiful views of acres upon acres of barley swaying in the wind like the ripples of waves on the sea.

I think about two stories I heard the night before, told to me by an old Dutch man who was originally from Indonesia.  The first story happened ten years ago on a trip he made back to his home in Indonesia.  While he was visiting his family, he met a young man in his early twenties who was also from Holland and was originally from Indonesia as well.  He was there in search of his mother´s  family.  His mother had died when he was a young child and his alcoholic father had as much as abandoned him in Holland.  He was desperate to find his mother´s family.  During his search, he made friends with the older man who offered him much fatherly advice and assistance.  Well, the young man did not find his family.  Before returning home to Holland, empty-handed, he made a serious request to the older man.  Will you be my father?  This took the older man by surprise and at first did not understand the question.  The young man said he needed a family and wanted to adopt the older man as his father.  Well, this was a strange request. The older man said he must talk to his wife and and two sons back in Holland.  Long story short, the young man meets the wife and kids, tells them his story, and they all agree to welcome him into the family.  From that time forward, the young man called the older  man and his wife, pappy and mammyand the sons are his brothers.  The young man is now in his thirties, with a wife and children of his own, and the wife calls the older man and his wife, pappy and mammy and the children call them grandfather and grandmother.

The second story is quite different from the first.  It happened when the older man was a young boy, living with his family in Indonesia.  His father was the village shaman, a healer with special gifts.  One day, the young child sees a vision, it is the ghost of his grandmother and grandfather.  It terrifies him.  His father explains he has a gift to see the spirit world.  Well, he wants nothing to do with this so called gift. From that day forward, he rejected everything his father represented, thinking it was all quackery.  He has a brother who followed in his father´s footsteps.  But this older man was adamant that he wanted nothing to do with any of this nonsense.  He prides himself in being practical with his two feet planted firmly on the ground.  No new age crap for him.  He is doing the Camino as a physical challenge and is completely closed to experiencing anything beyond that during his journey.

These stories make me think about being open or closed to new experiences, new ideas, new people, etc.  Interesting how we can be both at the same time.  Open to some experiences, like this older man taking in a stranger as a son, and closed firmly to others.  I look at myself and wonder which am I, or am I also a little of both.  I decide I want to be a more open person, and the Camino is a good place to start.  I want to be open to new experiences and people, to be less skeptical of things I don´t understand, and to be less judgemental.  I know I began the Camino feeling very open and I had many interesting experiences, but these last few days I have closed myself off and it feels like the Camino closed itself up too.  I am determined to stay more open for the rest of the Camino, and in my life in general.

I must walk 32 km today to the outskirts of Burgos from where I plan to take a bus the remaining 8 km into centre town.  Some pilgrims would be shocked to learn that I am actually planning to take a bus.  They would say I am breaking the rules.  My view is that there are no rules, each must walk their own Camino in their own way.  And today, I know 32 km will be my limit and I must get into the city to buy my running shoes.  Common sense prevails.

Just another thought about my Camino journey.  I am walking from St. Jean Pied to Port to Santiago, a distance of 780 km.  I know for a certainty that I cannot physically cover this distance in the 29 days we have available for this journey.  This means I will need to take the bus occasionally which as you know I have already done.  The journey is what is important to me, more than being a purist and saying I walked the whole damn thing. Not everyone shares this view on the Camino, so I just wanted you to know this is what I am doing.

Roads strewn with pepples were my curse on the Camino.
of today’s walk was along paths such as these. 

I am amazed that I keep my pace right to the last few kilometres when I start to fade a bit as my feet are just throbbing.  I reach Villafria and stumble upon the bus stop and actually catch the last bus downtown.  But when I arrive in downtown Burgos, all the stores are closed.  Turns out to be a holiday today. Doh!  This means no running shoes for me unless I hang around until Monday something I don´t really want to do.  I will decide in the morning if I continue to walk or hang back for yet another couple of days.

At the municipal albergue, I run into Chris.  I am really surprised that I have caught up to him. We end up spending the rest of the day and evening together, getting caught up with each other.  It is interesting how the Camino can bring things up unexpectedly.  We find there are some things between Chris and I that have surfaced and must be dealt with.  Well we have lots of time on the Camino to figure things out.

The Cathedral dominates the Burgos historic centre. I would love to return
to this beautiful city one day.

Today has been my best day walking on the Camino and it all began with the decision to tackle the day with determination and strength, both which came from within.  I walked strong today, full of purpose and determination.  I covered a lot of ground.  I got out of my funk.  But I did not get my running shoes….determination can only take you so far!  Life is good again on the Camino.

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One Response
  1. Angus says:

    Hi Christina,

    I’m glad to see you out of your funk. It all comes down to how we choose to view our circumstances.

    A great quote from Chuck Swindoll on Attitude:

    “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

    Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.

    The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

    And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes. “