DAY NINETEEN: 27 October 2012 from Burgos to HornillosThree days and four nights in Burgos I am in an in between world; not a native and no longer a pilgrim. I have been hanging out with the debilitated, shape shifting into the same boat. Feeling the remnants of my twisted ankle. The suck of safety holds me here and it takes will to lock into the whisper of the road and get on my boots and feel the excitement of my new gear. Entering cities & leaving cities is tough, a trudge through dishevelled suburbs, it takes determination to shake off the sticky feel of urbanisation. Burgos is no different; unkempt roads, yawing motorways, sullen paths leading across land downtrodden and abandoned leading out on to the high central plateau of the Meseta; windblown and treeless famous for its lack of shade in summer, endless fields of crops in the growing season and bone piercingly freezing in winter.
To some this landscape is sublime to others it is the harbinger of madness. Many choose to bus it from Burgos to Leon to avoid the mental journey that is promised by its unique nature. 12km on the road and I wonder if I have made the right decision. In 3 hours I seem to have segued from the heaving of humanity to the desolation of death. I feels like I am the only person left alive. As I hike into the tumble weed town of Rabe de las Calzadas I am relieved to spy Bar La Pena and evidence of civilisation. There is a horse hitched to the tree outside and inside a Basque cabellero with an earring, a voice that has smoked a thousand cigarettes and I swear I caught the gleam of a diamond studded tooth. I can relax I may have stepped across a threshold into another time but there be food – cheese, tortilla & garden fresh tomatoes – and protection – the gift of a holy medal – and the mystery of strangers. I am back in the groove of serenity as I head for the one horse town of Hornillos; the horse it turns out to belong to Asear, my mysterious Basque cabellero. A raucous pilgrim evening of Italian, Spanish and confusion ensued in Casa Manolo before we headed back to the dinky Municipal Hostel in the gasping cold of late autumn snow flurries.