DAY FIFTEEN: 23 October 2012 from San Juan De Ortega to Burgos
The ruckus of squeaky mattresses, the rattle and clanking of industrial style of iron bunks, raggedy snoring, creaking of doors on rusty hinges, invasive wisps of chill air through leaky windows and the incessant chatter of the happy ghosts all conspired to the rare event of finding me up and on the road in the starkness of a dawning night. An event that set me up to capture the silhouette of the church at St Juan De Ortega against this vivid royal blue sky; magical and medieval.
Awake and hungry I step out with gusto into a soft heathery scrubland. This unkempt rural idyll will give way as the day goes on to the raucous cacophony and vibrancy of Burgos but right now it is a refreshing day, simple, quiet, gentle a day when fellow pilgrims fade into the scenery, coasting on their own rivulets. I breakfasted in the silence of a closing deli in Atapuerca. A village of 200 inhabitants, non plussed and now comfortable with its UNESCO World Heritage designation declared in 2000. The earliest human remains ever found in Europe and dating back 900,000 years were unearthed in local caves were discovered during the creation of a rail link to local mines. Apparently there is evidence that these ancestors of ours were cannibals. The caves are 3km from Atapuerca but there is a grandiose Visitor Centre visible on the way into the village. My desire for breakfast superceded my curiosity about my ancestors. Just as well as the centre doesnt open until 10am and there is a 1km detour. I let my conscience off the hook by assuring myself that I would return on a day trip from Burgos and kept walking on to Alto Crucerio to look down on the discordant entanglement of Burgos.
Burgos was romanticised in my mind because of the gypsy interlude depicted in the Martin Sheen movie The Way and also because this is where his grandson met his wife to be and put down his roots. Sheen’s father Francisco Estevez emmigrated to the USA from Galicia in the early 1900’s. Burgos’ combination of rustic rural heritage and romantic Hollywood slowly tarnished as I trudged the arterial highways into town, stumbling through over grown wasteland skirting the airport and adjusted to fast moving motor vehicles on confusing crossings. Finding the river at Castanares with the help of some Spanish pilgrims provided a cool green salve running directly to Arco y Puente de Santa Maria and the Cathedral.