Leaving behind the province of La Roja we bus ahead to Villafranca Montes de Oca located in the province of Burgos, Castile-León. We begin our walk at the foot of the Montes de Oca (Mountain of the Goose). Nothing like starting the morning climbing up up up. The first village, San Juan de Ortega is seven miles away, no other villages, no toilets till then. Our final destination and lunch stop, Agés, will be a short two miles further. After lunch, we bus into Burgos where we spend the next two nights.
I am determined to git ‘er done today and arrive in time to enjoy the promised surprise at the final destination. My plan is to tackle this stage one step at a time. The first step is attitude, I must be positive, and not underestimate my abilities. The second step, break the path ahead into sections, not thinking of the next section until the one in front has been accomplished. The third step, I need to push through any discomfort with a smile on my face. Finally and most important I must have faith the Lord will be with me through each of these steps. These steps are useful not only for this day but each and every day.
In reality, the mountains are really more of a steep hill, the path is packed dirt and the view is forest and wildflowers. The temperature is warm but pleasant. I don’t see many pilgrims until I reach El Oasis del Camino. This is an interesting donativo (donation) rest spot. This is not the typical Camino environment, I feel as though I walked back into the 70’s hippy era. There are a few hammocks strung up between trees and wooden benches that appear to be made from the surrounding forest. Trees are wearing knitted blankets or are painted in bright colors. The pilgrims who are resting seem to be relaxed and enjoying the moment. Today, I have chosen to forgo living in the moment and stay focused on marching ahead. From the corner of my eye, I see the roomie and a few other pilgrim peeps. I do not allow myself to lose focus, I continue to put one foot in front of the other as I wave at the roomie and snap a few pictures.
I am so focused on the goal at hand I have no memory of walking through San Juan de Ortega. I don’t recall seeing any other pilgrim peeps and I don’t recall if I stopped to use the toilet or have my credential stamped. For ten miles, the last four and a half hours, I have had one thought, putting one foot in front of the other. I do remember seeing donkeys as I entered Agés and taking a quick pic of them. Truthfully I’m not positive where I saw the donkeys, I was so out of it, could have been San Juan de Ortega. When I see the yellow shirts of our Marly guides, I am delighted, I finally feel able to relax, let go of this current mindset. At last, I’m back in the here and now!
From the distance I see the pilgrim peeps enter Cafe El Alquimista, I barely arrive in time for lunch. The promised surprise is a wonderful meal in a quaint bar (cafe) and was well worth the days’ trek. The cafe is adorable, the building is from the medieval era yet the inside feels like a country store. The owners of the cafe are very hospitable, making us feel at home. We are served a beautiful Spanish salad, delicious Paella, and plenty of Sangria. Everything was perfect, giving me the much needed magical memory for the day.
After lunch, we board the bus and head to our hotel in Burgos. We discuss tomorrows walk. It will be a long, hot day on the Meseta (plateau). The guides tell us the evening holds a beautiful, bright full moon and could make for a memorable day. Unanimously we agree to a moonlight walk and to leave the hotel at 3:30am. As excited as I am about tomorrows early walk my body is currently exhausted. I didn’t drink enough water during the day and I have a headache and muscle cramps. I forgo the tour of Burgos instead I stay in the room and rest. At 6:45 the guide calls to check on me, they are leaving for Mass then dinner. I am not hungry and lack energy. I decide to skip Mass and dinner, hoping I will be ready to start tomorrow at 2:30am