Day 20 Camino – Atapuerca to Burgos

This walk is a teacher. I am learning so much as I put the miles behind me. Learning about my body, and how my diet and my sleep patterns affect my mood and capabilities. Learning about myself as a social animal – how it takes time for me to trust and to relax, but learning how I can give myself that time. Learning about how I package data. How I store and prioritise memories. How I construct narratives. Learning when I compromise or sell myself short, when I don’t seize opportunities because of unhelpful narratives I’ve made, when I don’t allow myself to want what I want for obscure reasons. And today, learning about gratitude and the meaning of luxury.

Some friends put some money into my account. You know who you are. Thank you, you mad beautiful buggers. I spent it on something I would never justify paying for normally. A king sized room with a whirlpool bath on the third floor of the AC Hotel Burgos. I booked it last night as I lay on a sticky plastic mattress in a damp chilly hostel. I cancelled the page thrice before I went through with it. I struggle to pay for things that I know to be too expensive. But right now, it’s worth every bloody penny.

First I had to get here. That involved getting lost in the dawn out of Atapuerca before finally finding the right hill and struggling up to the top alongside the Danish guy. As soon as we got to the top he strung his hammock between two trees. “I couldn’t sleep in that shit hostel. Gonna get an hour now.” I pushed on, past vast stone circles that have been made over time by thousands of pilgrims before me.


I had a place to go, and I was damn well gonna get to it. Just as well. The last 8 miles into Burgos are probably the least pleasant to walk so far. A huge empty airport, truck depots, big roundabouts, warehouses and filth. Lots of graffiti.


I stopped for lunch and watched the Korean Supergroup file past my window. Not as far ahead as I thought I was clearly. As I passed the cathedral, there they were with a queue of pilgrims outside the municipal hostel. I sashayed past and a little further on, into reception at this lovely hotel. The bemused receptionist stamped my credencial. I staggered into my huge room, immediately threw all my clothes all over the place, grabbed a €2.50 beer from the minibar and slipped into the whirlpool bath. Now I’m on the bed with conditioned hair and beard, pumped full of endorphins, mildly upset about the fact that I draw the line at using their laundry service (they charge by the item.) I’m going to have to put some clothes on and go to the laundrette. But that’s fair enough. I need to check out the cathedral too while I’m here…

Outside the laundrette a young man is playing the didgeridoo while he waits for his clothes.


Inside an angry Spaniard is folding things at me. He resents anyone in his space. You can see the didge is pissing him off too. I mean – the guy can’t play yet. But that’s how you learn. We aren’t all Mozart.

I’m lost in a vague amusement at myself and at the absurdity of my decisions. Twenty days in. If I’ve got this right I’m halfway to Santiago. I’ll need to do some hard days, but I know I can now. I’m learning. And I think the investment of time is part of that path to better self knowledge.

I wish these clothes would hurry up though. I want to see the sights, and hang out in my sexy room.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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