… better then yesterday, but most certainly not in any shape for prancing along, so I ambled on with my practised slow-step away from San Juan de Ortega.
The road continues through the forest but its more narrow than yesterday. The dawn breaks and the birds are singing … idyllic forest setting.
A Swiss guy passes me by, followed by two British ladies from yesterday.
At the approaches to the next village I chat a bit with a white-bearded Scotsman, who comments that this weather definitely does not remind him of home. He is 74 and this is his 2nd Camino, he plans to do it again every year as long as he can. We are talking about the older pilgrims and he mentions meeting a guy over eighty and hearing about a guy close to ninety who reached Santiago … only to forget where he booked his stay.
The Barcelona peregrinos are preparing to head out from the first bar-albergue in the village. They are starting late because they plan to spend the whole day with the Neanderthals in Atapuerca.
For a couple of minutes I make an unsuccessful attempt to order cafe con leche, but the lady that runs the bar has got other things to do, so I moved on to the next bar.
A much better one at that. A charming old house features a bar and a small store. I join Maddy and Kish who are having a breakfast there. The lady behind the counter give me an extra slice of the cake … on the account of my height … and comments how I need more sustenance.
We also get a quick tour of the place, showing us how the chimney was constructed to smoke hams and sausages. Even the small toilet has a nice touch … heart shaped basin. After translating the exchange of compliments for the ladies we move on.
The path continues along the road and pretty soon I spot Atapuerca ahead. From what I remember from my pre-Camino research it is one of the oldest prehistoric settlement finds in Europe. If it wasn’t located as far as 300 m ! .. from the Camino I might be tempted to take a closer look.
I stop for a break in the village square and meet Beata coming behind the corner with her small dog. She formally introduced the dog to us yesterday a San Juan.
I leave Atapuerca behind and continue onwards, first passing a picnic zone … then a shepherd with a flock of sheep bleeeetiing their hearts out … uphill again. The terrain reminds me of Dalmatia (coastal southern part of Croatia where I’m from) … rocky hills … either due to familiarity or the fact my ankle feels better … my pace has picked up a bit of speed.
On the top of the hill there is a cross, and near the cross a stone path labyrinth in concentric circles. Maddy and Kish go and try it out and are soon joined by a Korean.
From top of the hill Burgos looks so near … but I’ve learned my lesson on how deceptive such views can be. The path goes downhill and I get overtaken by a few cyclists coming behind me at full speed. The path goes by a small village with a broken church tower and continues along the road.
At the approaches to the next village there is a funny albergue billboard painted all over the old bus. A local riding a bike stops to welcome me to town “...Croacia … not many of you on the Camino” … .and then he remembered one (Croatian, not a pilgrim) ... “Luka Modric, he played last night for Real” (it was a Spanish football Cup finals) I enter Cardenuela Rio Poco at 14h and at the first albergue I hear that most dreadful of words (for the peregrinos at least)….”completo” (full, no available beds).
Fortunately a next albergue is nearby. Newly open, not on my latest albergue list, albergue Santa Fe is run by a family of Colombian immigrants. Mother is a cook and the boss, father is a carpenter, waiter and entertainer and son is a barmen.They are exceptionally kind hosts, even offered to drive us to a chapel for a mass.
Wow … I am positively amazed at how fast a car is … as a mode of transportation … km’s are practically flying by.
We are early for the mass, no problem, we’ll wait. Nice little chapel, the priest tagged us as pilgrims and came for a chat. … “Where are you from” … UK and Croatia … “who is from Croatia, you” (and points at Kish who is Indian). Anyway this priest also fondly remembers his Croatian vacation and to my amazement he even know the football club from my home town, from a while back when we played with a Spanish club in UEFA League qualifications … he even knows all the Croatian players in the Spanish Primera.
On a related note, most churches in Spain I’ve seen so far are full of gold and silver ornaments (even at smaller towns) but I’ve haven’t seen that many people on the mass (even in larger towns). This one is an exception in both ways.
After the service is over a Spanish lady approaches me and says “Hello, how are you”… in Croatian ?!..What is this … since I knew there will be few Croatian pilgrims at this time of the year … I almost expected to forget my own language during these 5 weeks … and now I keep bumping into foreigners who greet me in Croatian ?!
As it turns out this lady’s daughter has a Croatian boyfriend who recently visited them in Spain so she picked up a few words.
Back at the albergue I got the ice pack from the kitchen and my ankle feels quite grateful for the treatment.
Dinner is communal … the cook really made an effort and Kish compliments her …”its clear it was prepared from the heart”… After dinner we start an impromptu singing concert. A Dutch lady, Bepi sings in a choir and demonstrated some African and Russian tunes. We also threw in a bit of Volare, Yesterday, My Way, Hallelujah …
And on that note … the day no. 14 was concluded.