22.4.19. At breakfast this morning we returned to the question of what to do next: Walking was out of the question as Ellena’s knee remained swollen. Shall we take a taxi? No, that will be too expensive. That leaves coaches, then.
But where would we take it? We settled upon Burgos, a large city at the end of the next Brierley stage after this one, fifty kilometres ahead. Going to Burgos would put us ahead of schedule in terms of our Camino journey and also save us between two and four days worth of money (anything between €60-90)
I looked up coach prices on-line and found, to my pleasant surprise, that we could get to Burgos for €3-5. The debate was over. Ellena felt bad for making us take the coach but as I wrote in my journal, the Camino should be a life affirming experience, not life destroying, and if we had walked she would have risked doing further damage to her knee.
Taking the coach was absolutely the right thing to do and if anyone is ever silly enough to challenge me on this point, I will call them small minded stick-in-the-muds who put ideology ahead of love and challenge them to a duel to preserve the honour of all pilgrims who have ever been forced to take transport.
At the bus stop we met a pilgrim who was about to return to Los Arcos – he had received a call from the Spanish police: the mobile phones stolen at the albergue there had been recovered, could he come and collect his.
Despite the cheapness of the ticket, the coach was a very modern one with wi-fi and all. Unfortunately, it still made Ellena and Carolin a bit sick, so we were all glad to alight when we arrived in Burgos an hour or so later.
As we collected our backpacks, we met Mike from Alabama. He joined us for second breakfast in a nearby café. Mike had slept in the bunk next to mine in Los Arcos and lost his mobile phone to the thief. I can’t remember if he had been told about their recovery, but either way, after we mentioned it, he had no intention of going back to collect his – after the theft, he simply took a bus to the next town and bought a new one. If I had had my mobile stolen and had the money, I would have done exactly the same. Mike was good company and it would have been lovely to see him again; unfortunately, after today, we never did.
From the café we wondered through the centre of Burgos, round its grand cathedra and towards the municipal albergue, another large one in the manner of Pamplona and Roncesvalles. When we checked in, one of the hospitaleros gave all three of us a fistful of attitude for skipping two stages. I found out later that he did that to everyone so for him it was probably just banter but given our circumstances we did not appreciate it.
The thing is, pilgrims walk, and are expected to walk; the minute you start taking transport, even if you know your cause is just, you have the weight of other people’s expectations on you, and it is always heavy. To banter about this, you have to know your audience so that you know they’ll take your humour in the right way. This is the first rule of humour, and especially of banter, and the hospitalero broke it. As a result, he ended up causing unnecessary anger and distress, rather than getting the laugh he no doubt expected.
We found our beds – annoyingly we all had top bunks; fine for Carolin and me but difficult for Ellena – and rested. After a while, I took my notebook and went for a walk. I wrote some notes for my Nikki Fixx book in the shadow of the cathedral. Ellena and Carolin inspired me to really get on with it during the Camino. I am happy to report that I am still getting on with it now. Who knows, maybe this summer will be the one when I FINALLY finish it…
When I returned to the albergue, I found Ellena and Carolin sitting outside the bar opposite the albergue. I joined them for a while but when they went drinking later on I returned to my bed.