Atapuerca to Burgos
Day 7 on The Camino.
We Made It! Let’s Have A PARTY and Eat All The Things.
We got up and packed fast, walking out of town while it was still dark. After moving for about twenty minutes, I was finally warm. Bless. And it was not raining. Thank you Jesus!
We walked back past the bar where we had spent such a joyful afternoon, now all quiet and locked up in the dark. And then out of town as the sun rose. We climbed a grass-covered hill and passed a large pen of sheep that would probably roam the hill once the sun was all the way up. Their droppings were all over the trail, and indeed the area felt like the pasture where David might have written a Psalm.
The morning air filling our lungs and the sight of the hills around me shook away the bad night of sleep. It’s amazing how a walk in the morning can do that!
There was an iron cross at the top of the hill, where we left our stones with many others. And soon we could see our first glimpse of Burgos. It was still over 15 kilometers away, but there she was in the distance. I couldn’t quite believe it was our last day. I felt both excitement and a little sadness. I wanted to get there. I was ready to walk into Burgos and have the days of rain and snow behind me, but also the walk had been such a balm to my soul in every possible way and I wasn’t quite ready for it to be over.
We walked down the hill and then followed a winding road into a little town where we were delighted to find an open cafe. We had our normal breakfast of coffee and eggs, which on this particular morning, was like rocket fuel for our tired bones.
As we came out of the cafe we saw Jin-Young, who we hadn’t seen in a while. His friends had ended up taking a bus to Burgos on the day of the snow, so he was trying to catch up with them before they left. He had a new friend he was walking with, so we joined them for a little while. It wasn’t too long before we reached the outskirts of Burgos. In fact, once your get to the edge of the city, you still have about 10 kilometers before you get to the cathedral in the old part of town.
It’s so tedious to walk through a city after you’ve been in the countryside. I took a picture of an intersection just to remember that this was the ugliest part of our walk. I always forget what it feels like to be in the middle of intersections and buildings on a walk like this. For most of our journey, the other faces on the road were fellow pilgrims, but now the people wearing backpacks were far outnumbered by people going about their regular business.
The streets seemed to stretch on forever. I had to stop for a minute to rest. We had some energy bars left, so we split one on the side of the road before pressing on through the rest of the town. Finally, we reached the old town gate, which was like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia. The industrial part of the city fell away behind us and now we were on cobblestones and in old beautiful plazas. We were here.
After a couple more blocks we reached the cathedral. I cried a little when I first saw it. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go inside or just sit down on the stairs and weep. We went in through a side door for pilgrims where you could store your backpack and get a final stamp.
Then we toured the grand cathedral. It was so much bigger than anywhere we had been on our journey. Even the small chapels off to the sides of the main space were larger than many of the churches we’d seen.
It was almost hard for me to take in the vast, yet ornate building. I wandered from room to room in a sort of dumbstruck reverie. I almost didn’t notice the Italian bikers who were also exploring the Cathedral. We whispered greetings to one another in the sacred space.
The tour exited the main nave of the cathedral and took you through halls of paintings, sculptures and smaller chapels. We flowed through the space quietly and were almost surprised to end up back at the lockers holding our backpacks. We walked out into quiet streets, shops were closing up for the afternoon, as they do in Spain. They would open again around 4 or 5pm. We had spotted a pizza place on our way in that now seemed like a very good idea, so we re-traced our steps to have a celebratory lunch.
We were walking in a slow daze towards lunch, when we heard someone running up behind us and singing. It was Fernando, who we had just met on the road the day before. He told us to go to the nearby Hostel Catedral, which he had switched to after a rough first night in the municipal albergue. There’s no hot water there, he said. We thanked him and made plans to meet up later for drinks.
Kandace and I had discussed getting a hotel room, but we decided we would check and see if the albergue had private rooms so we could be with friends at dinner, but in our own room for sleeping.
At the pizza place, I ran to the bathroom while Kandace ordered more food than we could possibly eat, but we made a great effort. It was almost 3pm and we were tired and hungry. It was easily the best pizza I’ve ever tasted, washed down with a couple of beers and a mixture of disbelief and joy that we had made it to Burgos.
In our post-lunch stupor, we wandered to the hostel, which was happily very close by and asked for a room to ourselves. Between the lobby and finding our room, we ran into more friends, several that we had thought would have been further on by now, which turned into an entire evening of crossing paths with pilgrims. The hostel had its own bar, so after we showered and settled into our room, which was a DREAM compared to the barn in which we’d spent the previous night, we met up with friends in the bar and met a few new ones as well. We had celebratory drinks all around, Kandace and I for finishing our walk, and everyone else for reaching one of the milestone cities.
Lots of folks had either already stayed one extra night in Burgos or were adding a rest day there. Spas and massages were being booked. Plans were made to see the castle and visit the museums. There was more snow in the forecast ahead for those who would continue on walking, but at the moment, everyone was warm and dry and delighted to be together.
Some of us broke off from the party and went to the Pilgrim’s Mass at 7:30, which is a time for being blessed by the priest in Burgos. It was held in one of the smaller chapels around the back of the Cathedral. Inside the service, I saw more familiar faces, and I remembered vividly my first walk on the Camino, and how everyone met up again in Santiago at the Cathedral and in the streets.
I remembered this feeling of everyone being a part of this beloved Camino community, how effortlessly people came together and how grateful I was to be a part of it again, even for just a few days.
As I listened to the priest speak words of blessing over us, I felt so strongly that we are all one. And not just the small group of us gathered there at Mass, but all of us in the world. And we are all so dearly loved. I looked into the eyes of each pilgrim I met that night, with that same love I felt poured out during Mass.
As we walked out of the cathedral, Jin-Young told me it was his first time at Mass. He had gone and taken communion and then asked me to explain what it was. I loved that he didn’t understand that you are supposed to be excluded from communion if you are not Catholic. It was the body of Christ, Jin-Young, broken for us. So we can be whole. You are whole. Made new. I explained in halting terms. Yes, I understand, he said.
Outside the church, I said goodbye to Gautier and Marion, who were headed to Madrid. They were also leaving the trail and would come back to walk some more one day. I even saw the man from Switzerland that Kandace and I shared our first lunch with.
We then went to meet up with the others for a tapa bar crawl that lasted until what felt like 1am but was really just a little past 10pm. We had a Barcelona restauranteur with us who was getting recommendations for different tapas we should try, and he did all the ordering from bar to bar. Shrimp with pineapple, tuna tartare on top of tiny steamed buns, mushrooms and olives and beautiful cheeses. Every bite we ate was divine and the moving celebration and rotating conversations felt like an extension of the day’s pilgrimage.
At the end of the night Kandace and I lingered outside our hostel laughing with our fellow pilgrims before saying goodnight and farewell. We’ll get up and eat breakfast with you all, we promised, but we weren’t sure how early we’d be up. We were both looking forward to a well earned rest in fluffy beds.
Buen Camino, everyone! Buen Camino.
This post is our trip log from Atapuerca to Burgos. You can read more posts from this walk, or from other Camino trips. You can also see the full trip log from this journey on our Humility Walk website. Or sign up over there to go on future walks with Kandace and me! Thanks so much for following along!