Many days ago, I was gifted a new nickname by my Brazilian friend Vilmar – Johnnie Walker.
I was delighted and surprised by it in equal measure, as in my previous iteration, walking anywhere at all wasn’t very high up on my list of things to do.
After nearly two weeks of days that had been evenly distributed between exertion, engagement and ease, I was now in a gorgeously satisfying rhythm, one which I was about to loutishly disturb by transitioning from Johnnie Walker to Biker John.
The reasoning was still strong, but as we sailed out of Burgos and past several of my old Camino friends, I caught the odd look of surprise and even disappointment on faces I knew, suggesting I had strayed from the true path of the authentic pilgrim in getting on a bike.
A friend later sent me this, though.
It made me feel better about my choices.
The ease with which Janet and I completed the first 20km from Burgos to Hornillos del Camino made me feel better too – we were going at about three times the speed of a walker.
Our increased speed allowed opportunities to catch up with faster walkers and lighter sleepers, including the incredible John and Lex from Australia, as previously described.
I’m probably about a hundred kilometres ahead of John and Lex as I write this, but I fully expect them to overtake me in about three days, now I’m back to being Johnnie Walker again.
We also saw Debbie from Ireland again, who’d been part of the crew to assist Martin, which reminded me of Ferdi’s promise to return my guidebook, but he’d been rather busy with a girl he’d met in Burgos and the moment had somewhat overtaken him.
Oh well, my well thumbed and battered Brierley will be passed onto someone else now.
Pay it forward, etc.
Yet another option for traveling the Way then appeared – but as I was once run over by a donkey that was very clear that it wanted my doughnut, it didn’t appeal to me very much.
The subsequent two stages of the day still remained to be tackled and the Meseta wasn’t quite as flat and featureless as had been suggested.
At times, it was a bit of a winding path.
At others, it was ramrod straight.
Then it was a 12% 2km climb and an 18% descent on a scrabble path on the other side.
Not quite the easy option that one might have assumed.
What was remarkably helpful was the extremely accommodating weather.
Over the last two weeks, there has been just one day of rain and two days of extreme heat.
On all other days, it’s been very noticeable that helpful clouds will roll across the sun at just the right time to cool the temperature and that a playful wind will frequently position itself at your back as you climb yet another hill.
As Crowded House once told us, Everywhere You Go….
As the day progressed, our pace dropped with it and the 66km confidently suggested by Oscar as “no problem” for the first day began to feel like a real challenge.
The arrival at Frómista after about eight hours of riding was very welcome indeed.
At the end of such a strenuous day, what was needed was another great albergue in which to rest and recuperate.
Sadly, our later than usual arrival time meant top bunk beds in a very crowded hostel, largely dominated by a big group of noisy Italian teenagers walking around in their underwear and wrapping their heads in plastic, apparently to rid themselves of lice or fleas.
If we’d had the energy, we’d have gone somewhere else.
Janet and I soon agreed that we weren’t going to go as far as León by bike, if it meant a repeat of this day.
It had just gone too fast and I hadn’t seen a fraction of what I would normally see on foot.
The bikes had got us through three walking stages in one day, so they were paying for themselves in reduced accommodation costs.
But that’s not what counts.
Municipal Albergue, Frómista
From the outside, lovely. Within, less so – far too crowded and generally speaking, the least satisfactory of all the places I’ve stayed in so far.
Try somewhere else.
Blisters: 0 (9)
Bottom Reshaping: 1
Trips, Slips and Falls: 0 (1)
Applications of Factor 50: 5 (75)
Filling of Water Bottles: 3 (36)
Guide Book Left Behind At Scene Of Medical Emergency: 1
Guide Book Relocated But Not Returned Due To Finder Getting Lucky: 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: Ludicrously high, due to increased speed
Unlikely Song Repeatedly Played By My Brain: Heartache Avenue, by The Maisonettes
Poncho deployments: 0 (2)