Today was our most ambitious day. We leave the Camino next Tuesday and we have decided that Leon would be a good place to have reached by then. To make it we will need to walk a bit more than 30km a day. So today we set off from Villefranca with the goal of sleeping tonight at Burgos, 40 km away. We left before sunrise and walked uphill through the mist to a ridge which we followed for a couple of hours. Apart from the busy highway just outside the door at Villefranca (5 eighteen wheelers went past as we tried to cross the small, narrow 2 lane road at 5:50 am!)the track was quiet: a deserted logging road through oak and pine forest. We passed ancient villages with no sealed access, climbed to about 1,000 metres and then descended into the outskirts of the city of Burgos down a track strewn with marble boulders. It was foggy all the way until we began to descend and then the sun was merciless for the long approach to the city limits, pas the airport and then the 2 hour slog through the dreary industrial parts of Burgos. Litter. Graffiti. A highway with more 18 wheelers. Just inside the city we were joined by Petite Jambes: a little nuggety Frenchman whose nickname arises from his comments about the length of leg of New Zealanders. His wife has badly blistered feet and had bussed to Burgos, but he was walking, and very fast. We followed him in and were at the albergue soon after 1:30.
This is the newest albergue we have stayed in. We are on the sixth floor. There are lifts, and washing machines and new beds. There are electric doors and everything is solid and well made and only about 6 months old. It is absolutely awful. Like sleeping in a factory. Like sleeping in a medium security prison. Give me mats on the floor at Granon any day.
We arrived today with lighter packs than when we started. The Camino is not like tramping in New Zealand. Back home, you take a decent sleeping bag and something to cook with; possibly a tent, and certainly protection against any weather possibilities. You walk a track for a few days and cover maybe 40 or 50 km of soft earth tracks througha variety of terrains. Here you get up at dawn and walk until the sun makes it difficult over hard tracks and often go hours without shade. There is only one rule about packs: make them as light as you possibly can. Every gramme counts as the thing bounces on your back day after day. The recommended weight is 10kg or less. I began with 15. So now I have learned one of the great lessons of the Camino, and indeed, one of the great lessons of life. If it isn't absolutely necessary for your survival ditch it. Give it to another pilgrim. Throw it away. Whatever, just so long as it´s not on your back tomorrow. So, a nice set of camping pots have gone west. Two T shirts and one polyprop. We left our super duper self inflating mattresses at Granon where someone will probably use them. I threw away my journal and a book, and I´m still too heavy. I look at the statues and paintings of the old time pilgrims with a cloak, a staff and a gourd of wine and I envy them. One of the topics of conversation as we walk is what we will bring when we return in 2011 to walk from Leon to Santiago... and, I guess, what we will own for the rest of the time. What we need for survival: nothing less but absolutely, nothing more.