At 7:00 am we woke in our hotel in Burgos to a loudspeaker – some guy talking in Spanish (it could have been Latin) about Ave Maria. Then he started singing some song – not “Ave Maria” (I can actually recognize “Ave Maria” in Latin) but something about the Virgin Mary. Iris looked out the window and in the pouring rain hundreds of people were massed in a procession with umbrellas. They went by outside the hotel and the loudspeaker music was lost as they walked up the street.
We asked about it later from the hotel clerk and from the nearby pension clerk who both shrugged as if they never heard anything. Like it didn’t happen.
The pouring rain turned to snow, which turned back to pouring rain and we roamed around the city looking for slacks, breakfast, looking at the sights, and looking for a place to stay that night. Before checkout time at noon we left the hotel and checked into the pension room that we had rejected the night before. It had a great view, a dilapidated bed and bathroom down a long hall, but there didn’t seem to be many other residents.
Walking around without the backpacks was a treat. We found slacks for Iris, an Internet connection and a great place for lunch. We ate chicken and what we declared was the best hot chocolate in the world. We found groceries and postcards.
Some things continued to be frustrating. I could not change money – the banks were only open in the morning. Iris thinks she may have to go to the doctor for a urinary blockage – she cannot urinate – is it a kidney stone? The weather forecast is for cold tomorrow: snow turning to rain.
The information office was closed. The office is only open part of two days a week (not the days we are here). Shops all take a siesta in midday. How do people buy anything? We are obviously still not on a Spanish schedule.
There is a large statue of El Cid in the central square. Who is El Cid? Some movie with Sophia Loren comes to mind.
If it is nasty tomorrow we should not go on. We planned for hot weather once we got out of the mountains and do not have proper cold weather clothes. If Iris needs medical care there is none for the next several days on the trail and there are several hospitals and medical centers here.
Rabe de las Calzadas
Iris had $200 in US currency that she wanted to convert. That’s why I needed to find a bank instead of an ATM machine. I don’t know why I do these chores instead of Iris except that I volunteer like a modern day Sancho Panza. Anyway Iris was ill and needed to spend the time in the bathroom.
I found a willing bank on my second try and after showing my passport and filling out forms I managed to convert $200 to 149 Euros. (I can buy a thousand shares of Bank of America on E*Trade with just a mouse click but here, need to fill out forms and prove who I am to exchange currency.) I returned to the pension to find that Iris still was unable to go to the bathroom.
Why we decided to press on is a mystery to me. Weather may have been the deciding factor. It was not cold and rainy as we expected. Actually, it was pretty good weather.
However, Iris’ urinary problems did not seem to be any better. Without talking about it very much we decided to continue.
It was a flat walk through the city and into the country, and we stopped at a grocery store for food and then at a café for coffee and a bathroom. I was getting better at finding bathrooms.
On the outskirts of Burgos we found a bathroom in a university building and then one in a café in Tardajos. We passed two Irish gentlemen who were sauntering along slower than we were and talked to a friendly Korean who stopped to eat lunch with us. He told us that the snow this time of year was so unusual that it made the news in Burgos.
We walked through some flat fields to Tardajos, a small town where we found a number of pilgrims waiting at the albergue. It did not open until 4:00. Having only walked about six kilometers we decided to press on to Rabe de las Calzadas only 1.5 kilometers further.
There are two albergue in Rabe. They are across the square from each other. While I checked out Liberanos Domine, Iris checked the other. The proprietor took her by the shoulders, turned her around, and pointed her toward the door. No language difficulties there!
Leberanos Domine was very quiet and clean, even though it was almost full. There were three or four rooms with about six bunks in each and three baths with one or two showers in each. The manager checked us in, cooked meals, did our laundry, and generally made us feel at home.
There were six of us in the room, the two Irish gentlemen, an Italian couple, Iris and I. Iris had a lower bunk and put up her cocoon, but it was inoffensive. I was feeling the difficulty in getting to an upper bunk (and worried about hurting my ankle in jumping down) but one of the Irish guys was heavier than me and he had a worse time. They were both in good spirits, though, and they lifted mine.
Iris was very upset at the Italian girl coughing all the time (which I failed to notice) and asked the manager for another room. However, it was full by this time and we were stuck with the beds assigned. Iris has no ability to cope with communal living and this is getting stressful for me. I barely noticed the Italian girl’s coughing and couldn’t imagine making a fuss about it.
Dinner was served at 6:45 or 7:00. There was noodle soup (I suspect made with beef stock which Iris shouldn’t eat), wine (which Iris didn’t want), salad with noodles (wheat, which Iris couldn’t eat), and tortilla potatoes (as I mentioned before, this was a perfect dish for Iris but we did not yet know that.) Desert was yogurt.
We went for a short walk through the town and it was very cold and windy.
We kidded with the Irish men a little bit about economics, politics, and the Camino. When I expressed my doubts as to our ability to get all the way to Santiago, one of them said, “Well, now you can tell people that you walked over the Pyrenees. That’s no small thing.” It’s wonderful to talk to someone who is very positive in their attitude.
Later, we talked with the Korean guy, who we ate lunch with. He was probably about thirty years old and spoke good English. He had been working for a car manufacturer in Germany and was taking this pilgrimage prior to moving back to Korea and moving in with his parents.
Sitting on a bench outside of the albergue at twilight with the cold wind blowing through the town he summed up the trip for me:
“You begin this pilgrimage with the intention of thinking big thoughts – spiritual, sophisticated thoughts about grand scheme of things. You end up worrying about the pain in your legs and the aches in your body, where you are going to sleep tonight, where you are going to get food, and do I have enough water.”
Iris spent the evening trying to get some British guy to translate into Spanish what she wanted to say it to the next doctor that she came across – that she had a urinary tract infection and wanted a lab test to see if she had a kidney stone. The Brits were not very helpful, probably feeling uncomfortable with the topic, probably wondering if Iris was nuts. I was wondering where she thought she might come across a doctor.
At about 10:00 Iris had an allergic reaction. It was bad – not bad enough for the eppi-pen but bad enough for benedryl and bad enough to scare us.
The two Irish guys did snore a lot, and the Italian girl did cough. Iris said she didn’t get one wink of sleep. It got very stuffy in the room and we should have opened the window but I slept well and didn’t notice any of this. Iris was upset all night and into the following morning.
This was an important stay for me in terms of the overall trip because it pointed out the insurmountable difficulties we faced. The day’s walk was flat and leisurely and not very long and yet we were tired. The albergue was the best we could hope for, yet there were lots of people crowded into a small space and Iris had difficulty coping with communal living. We opted for dinner and breakfast just because we needed a break and the food, although delicious, was uneatable by Iris. I slept well; Iris did not sleep at all. The proprietress and all of the pilgrims were friendly and there was great conversation but that was not good enough to make it a pleasant stay for Iris.