A restless night, and only when heavy rain in the early hours of the morning had chased the revellers outside back to their homes did we eventually drift off. As I got out of bed I realised, with a heavy heart, that it was still raining. Not many people about yet as nobody was in a particular hurry to dress and leave the albergue.
Still, we had to make a move sometime and by the time we were both dressed and ready to make a move, the rain cloud had miraculously disintegrated. It seemed safe to go outside, and John suggested we see if we could have a bite to eat in the café opposite the Albergue before we left Burgos.
Retrieving our bikes and wheeling them into the street, we secured them on a wall near the café and then found an empty table inside. There were a few others already there who were not particularly keen on setting out on their walk just yet. We all watched as a few stragglers began the trek up the hill which would take them out of Burgos. A wise move on our part it transpired because suddenly the heavens opened once more and it started to rain again. Not light rain. Oh no, that would be asking too much. Within minutes the street resembled a quagmire as a stream of rainwater gushed down the slight incline turning it into a small waterfall.
We noticed a few of those who had left earlier running back down the hill to take cover in the albergue, and those of us inside the safety of the cafe watched in amusement. Fortunately, the storm was short-lived, the street soon dried up, and once again people were moving, eager to get back on the road. It was with some relief that we left Burgos cycling in a light drizzle. Although we would have both liked to stay another night in Burgos to explore it some more, the prospect of another sleepless night spurred us to move on.
Today, we were to reach the Meseta which runs from Burgos to Astorga for approximately 215 kms. The Meseta is the central plateau of Spain, and known locally as the high plains of Castile. The terrain is largely flat. Up to this point, we had been riding through some challengingly hilly areas, more ups than downs and were eagerly looking forward to some “flattish” riding – the hills had proven to be very real and somewhat relentless and we had learned to respect them. My knee problem had been relieved by the Voltarol cream and I knew that the slightly flatter route would help it even more. It felt good to be just riding and taking in the scenery, which seemed to be barren of trees and the occasional welcoming streams. Large groups of wind turbines spun away serenely perched high on the hills in the distance.
Spain appears to have embraced the realities of global warming and thought out new ways to harness their energy; I read somewhere that these wind farms generate 18% of the country’s electricity – that was back in 2013, so no doubt they have a lot more now.
Riding parallel to the walking path much of the time, we had the road almost to ourselves. Traffic had all but dwindled, probably preferring the much faster A12. Trees were conspicuous by their absence. We both stopped to drink some water, and John noticed a small bird which was circling just above our heads, all the while tweeting loudly, before taking off in another direction. A tiny clump of trees came into view and we both headed for that to stop for a short while, relieved to be away from the relentless sun, even if it was just for a short while.
Setting off once again, we seemed to ride mile after mile before we eventually came to a bend in the road we suddenly we came face-to-face with the ruins of the Monastery of Saint Antony at Castrojeriz. What a strikingly beautiful ruin, which appeared to be deserted at the time. It was once extensively used by both monks and pilgrims alike. There is an albergue but we decided to carry on ride as it wall still too early to stop. The beauty of this monastery can be seen in its architecture and I understand when people say that the aura of the many souls who have passed this way, whether for a few hours, or a few days, still resonates through its walls.
Before we left, we noticed a small alcove with numerous small stones and paper messages. We found some of these messages very poignant and interesting. I was particularly stuck by a large grey stone with the words “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. As John said “that is so true in our case right now”. It was difficult to tear ourselves away. But we had to, making our way through the formidable Arch before riding alongside a long tree lined avenue until we reached Castrojeriz. Then onto Fromista, a large, almost soulless town, but here we were to spend the night.
Until this point, we had been staying in dormitories. We were becoming used to sharing the sleeping space with other people, both men and women. [The only time I’ve ever done that before was when I rode the London-to-Brighton annual bike ride with our daughter who was then 14-years-old. We had asked to be put in the family room then found ourselves sharing with a young father and his two children.] Perhaps it was because of the experience of the Burgos albergue that put me off for a while, but the thought that we could actually spend a bit more money and be in a small private room was suddenly very appealing. So this time we decided to go for it.
As it was my turn to complain of a stomach-ache, it was bliss to have a room all to ourselves, if only for one night. Sitting in our private room, we examined the overall route and I realized that we were, at this point, closer to Santander than Santiago. “Should we call it a day?” I asked John. “It’s up to you” was the reply. I was reluctant to make a final decision. I was tired; indeed, exhausted would have been a more apt word. But still at the back of my mind was the thought that we had wanted to ride all the way to Santiago. Even now, people we met up with were asking if we intended to carry on to Finisterre, which would add 70 or so miles to our original intention.
I rattled off a quick text to our eldest son Peter, granddaughter Abigail and my sister Pat, who I did not get a reply from. Peter’s curt reply was just what I could have expected from him “Don’t be such a wuss”! It was Abigail’s reply that made me reconsider that, yes, we had indeed ridden a long way already, and that it would have been a shame give up now. We decided to carry on.