A dawn chorus of sneezes, snores and snoughs in various languages ensured I was up and about by half sixish. I enjoyed a small portion of Korean rice and veg breakfast kindly cooked up by a mature Korean lady. We chatted and I stole a look at their guide, and at the MTB guidebook of a Spanish guy, both of which looked much more thoroughly researched than my guidebook.
I was keen to get going, but I was worried about my bike’s unstable back wheel, and the bike shop didn’t open until half nine.
But Spain is well set up for hanging out in the morning. I read the sports newspaper over coffee and was pleased to find that I could understand everything, because the nonsense of premier league football is a universal language. I shopped for lunch. I had another coffee. I dropped my bike in, and had another coffee, then a pastry, then a tortilla the size of a pillow.
The old boys in the cafe were enjoying a 10am snifter of wine or Irish coffee, and it was tempting, but I had a bike to pick up.
The problem had been a worn tyre, on the point of blowing – crikey, if that had happened in one of those lorry close passes… I was miffed that the bike hire company hadn’t spotted it, but such things are rarely obvious unless you’re actually riding the bike. Anyway, 28 euros lighter and a pastry, tortilla and chocolate con churros heavier, I whizzed out into the cool grey morning.
It was pretty dull stuff, avoiding the busy N120 along gravel tracks, but I had a nice chat to an English couple at one hilltop. A bit too nice actually: they were very talkative and threatened to derail my already glacial progress, so I made my excuses and left. I decided to tough it out back on the road, and progress was pretty decent: pleasant country road cycling, though with whooshing traffic, until Villafranca. I had lunch in a regulation village before a big climb that didn’t quite deliver on the guidebook’s promises of scenery and thrills, but at the top there was a picnic site for a water stop, and then a long downhill.
And, cheeringly, I now had a big tailwind to go with my plunge downstairs to Burgos. All very pleasant: sunny day, long straight tarmac, and conveyor-belt airstream. I got to the city too early really, 4ish… but even with wind assistance, I couldn’t reach anywhere with promising accommodation by nightfall. By the time I’d found the centre and cathedral, tourist info was open, and I thought I’d stay in Burgos, which looked a decent place to explore.
It was. The pilgrim hostel was right on the Camino route, up the cobbled street behind the magnificent cathedral, and was a very affordable four euros, wifi and all. (So maybe I was too generous at the hostel last night…?)
My walk round town was productive: a couple of small cans of beer, a fine pilgrim set-menu at a restaurant in front of the cathedral (garlic soup, hake fillet and chips, flan, glass of wine), and I met up again with my pedestrian Korean chums from this morning, who had miraculously made it to Burgos in a day…
No miracle at all, of course. They’d compromised and, mindful of their schedule and aching feet, had taken the bus. This seems pretty common: half the people I’ve met so far have taken motor-assisted short cuts when they were tired, behind schedule, injured or plain bored. A blanketless bed, so another clothes-on night of little sleep and turbulent dreams of exploding tyres.
Miles today: 44
Miles since Pamplona: 140