Like many other Peregrinos, my first images of the Camino came from “The Way”, the thoroughly gorgeous Marin Sheen film which turned the standard road trip movie trope into a very long walk, with four disparate characters coming together in unlikely fashion to walk to Santiago in unison.
Much as I loved the film (it’s pretty much the reason why I’m here), I didn’t really expect to find such a group of people that I’d be walking with in such close concert.
So it has proved.
My experience so far has been much more meaningful – over the last two weeks, there have been a multitude of significant conjunctions between me and my fellow Pilgrims, which burn brightly in shared experience and common cause – and then – just like a planet or a moon on a different orbit, we slowly part company again.
What’s absolutely incredible about the Camino is the unbelievable frequency at which these soulful conjunctions repeat themselves, often at highly unexpected locations or after unlikely intervals.
After the relative drama of Martin’s illness on the route out of Villafranca Montes de Oca, the likelihood of reaching Burgos on Tuesday had receded and I found myself walking with Janet of South Australia (another responder) and we settled on Cardeñuela Riopico as our albergue for the night.
For a while, it looked like we were the only ones who would stop there, until Githlian and Elizabeth, an indomitable pair from New Zealand, appeared.
I’d first met them on Day 2, from Roncesvalles to Zubiri – and here they were again, with plenty to tell of the intervening days.
Spending the night in an albergue with just seven guests was a rare treat – it meant lots of time to really enjoy the power shower and an extra pillow too.
Burgos was just an easy 12km away the next morning, with a noon arrival at our chosen albergue where we were warmly greeted by Marie Noelle, the fabulous Frenchwoman who ran the Emaus church refuge with charm and authority.
There I reconnected with Lea from Germany (from Day 2), Melina from Germany (Day 5) and Tereza and Victoria from the Czech Republic (Day 6).
It was wonderful to see them all again for the communal meal and pilgrim blessing that evening.
I wonder how many more of these conjunctions I might have though, since I’ve elected to rent a bike for a couple of days to cross the Meseta.
This is Spain’s breadbasket – a high plateau of generally flat, open wheat fields, stretching on between Burgos and León, often subject to high temperatures and lacking in water fountains.
The idea of pushing through this area on a bike gained strength as Janet and I approached Burgos, so when we saw a bike rental firm, the die was cast.
So Wednesday saw us leave Burgos at 8.30 and arrive in Frómista, some 66km further along the Camino at 5pm.
We’d covered three 20km walking stages in one day, even with plenty of stops along the way.
It’s an entirely different thing to ride a bike on the Camino, after 13 days on foot.
The advantages are clear – it’s getting us between villages and water fountains more swiftly and we’re carrying less weight on our backs.
But we’re somehow seeing less – partly due to the careful focus on the path ahead and partly due to that increase of speed.
Puzzlingly, that increase of speed doesn’t prevent my Fly Escorts from keeping pace with me, the little gits.
That speed has fundamentally changed my trajectory, compared to my fellow Pilgrims from earlier days, although I did also see Alberto from Italy again as we approached Frómista.
Janet and I have already agreed to reduce our pace and range over the next two days, for that reason.
Some regard using a bike as “cheating”, but I’ve said before that everyone does the Camino as they see fit – and that holds.
Getting too far ahead of friends made earlier on this path is the thing that plays on my mind the most.
I hope our paths will cross again.
Blisters: 0 (9) a relative day off for the feet
Trips, Slips and Falls: 0 (1)
Applications of Factor 50: 4 (67)
Filling of Water Bottles: 2 (31)
Guide Book Left Behind At Scene Of Medical Emergency: 1
Guide Book Located After Medical Emergency But Not Returned Due To Finder Getting Lucky The Previous Night And Not Being Able To Meet Up To Return It: 1
Unsuccessful requests for Parmesan cheese: 0 (1)
Unrequested dish of Parmesan cheese presented: 0 (1)
Acceptance of pathside lemonade stall opportunities: 0 (2)
Wrong turns taken: 0 (2)
Mobile phone chargers left behind: 1
New mobile phone chargers bought: 1
Number of times “Buen Camino” was said: Way up – at least 150/200, based on our ability to whizz past people at 12-15km/h
Unlikely Song Repeatedly Played By My Brain: I Will Wait by Mumford and Sons
Song I’d Have Preferred My Brain To Repeatedly Play: If I Should Fall Behind by Bruce Springsteen
Poncho deployments: 0 (2)