Greetings from Fromista!
Quite a lot has happened since my last update! Many miles traveled, sites seen, and people met.
First, to address the question on my family’s mind: I’m so pleased to report that my foot is almost back to 100%! Every day is a little better than the last.
It just needed some rest, so I lowered my daily mileage and took a full day of rest in the large city of Burgos.
I’m continuing to find that the best albergues are the ones which are the ugliest on the outside. A few days ago in Tosantos I had another awesome experience at a place run solely on donations. The hospitalio (man who runs it) has volunteered there for 14 straight years. Many years ago he walked the Camino and found this albergue to be something special - and it certainly is! The pilgrims sleep on mats in a small, but clean room in the building’s attic. There were enough mats for about 15 people, but thankfully there were only 10 of us that night, so we were able to spread out. All of us pitched in and made a hearty dinner together, and after the meal, the hospitalio said that there was a tradition in this albergue. So he led us upstairs into a small chapel and sat us down on the slanted floor. Once we were settled, he explained in Spanish that it’s good to listen to other pilgrims and hear their stories. I think everybody already knew that at this point in our journeys, but he then took out a binder full of loose leaf paper and handed each one of us a page written in our native language. They were letters from pilgrims who came three weeks before us - pilgrims who had presumably finished the Camino very recently. The one I received talked about gaining compassion and the spirit of self-sacrifice along the route. I’ve heard plenty of pilgrims’ stories by now so this one didn’t strike me as particularly unique, but I still love the concept of the whole ritual. Whether she finished the Camino or not, I hope the woman who wrote that message found her compassion and spirit. After we were finished reading our letters the hospitalio explained that if we wanted to we could write a similar letter and drop it off with him tomorrow. In three weeks, after we had reached Santiago, he would share them with pilgrims.
So far, my biggest regret on this journey is not taking the time to contribute a letter.
The day after staying in that albergue I arrived in Burgos. Burgos is the second largest city along the Camino, and probably my favorite stop so far. Its buildings remind you of its history while also incorporating the modern age. I arrived early and had time to explore its grand cathedral and local cuisine in the afternoon. That evening I found a random pub and watched the Spain/Portugal World Cup match. It didn’t seem like any of the locals there knew English, but we still celebrated the goals together! The World Cup season is such an exciting time to be abroad.
I spent an extra night in Burgos to help rest the foot. Like I said, it’s much better! I spent most of the day perusing churches and Burgos’ Museum of Human Evolution. Some of the oldest remains of a human subspecies were discovered here and they have a giant museum that houses their findings.
That evening, for the first time since Paris, I treated myself to a private room so that my dad could FaceTime me into my grandma’s funeral service. I couldn’t physically be there, but listening to the stories, tributes, and even the poetry helped lay her to rest.
Finally, perhaps the biggest news is that I picked up a bike in Burgos! With all my rest days, I had gotten two days behind schedule. I’m determined to make it to Santiago without the help of an engine, so I found a place that rents out bikes for segments of the Camino. I’ll spend just three days cruising through the Spanish plateau called the Meseta, which actually reminds me a lot of rural Nebraska. Today’s ride was mostly flat and I covered a whole 60 kilometers in just 6 hours! For a frame of reference, it would take me roughly three days of walking to complete 60 kilometers, so I’m quickly making up some lost time and should even have enough time leftover to walk to the coast after reaching Santiago! I have to make the most out of my time here!
Biking is a nice change of pace. Zooming down a big hill gets the adrenaline going and it’s so satisfying to see progress made in such a short period of time. That said, I’m glad I’m not biking the whole Camino. Biking is a little more isolating since you rarely strike up conversations as you go. Plus, I started to get accustomed to really soaking in the surroundings and smelling the wild poppies. However, it is really exciting to see people who left me in the dust several days or even weeks ago. I had been walking so slowly for so long that I couldn’t keep up with any group of people for extended periods of time. Today I passed by several people who I haven’t seen in a while and showed off my new wheels to them!
So far I’ve tracked nearly 210 miles. That’s slightly more than the driving distance from Lincoln to downtown Kansas City. Tomorrow I should hit my halfway point.