Day 13: Orbaneja Riorica (27km)

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Walking to Orbaneja Riorica left us with a short day into Burgos the next day. This would enable us to amble into the big city and enjoy out last day together while exploring the cathedral and surrounds. I was so tired that I did not have the energy to write up the day’s events and had to leave this day blank for my vicarious blog followers. I even forgot to send an update of where we were staying to my smaller WhatsApp family and friends group. I would normally message every night, keeping them in the loop of where I was and reassuring them that I was ok. I would publish my blog posts for a wider audience after a few days on the road which would give me time to edit the entries. I also thought it better to not let the wider world know exactly where I was on the Camino.

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This was another hot day and we took it easy in the sun. The path stretched dry, orange and dusty ahead of us and we took the opportunities to refill our water bottles. At the top of Sierra de Atapuerca, we rested again by a cross and caught our breath. We had stopped at the town below for a water top-up and a rest on benches in the shade of some trees. Neither of us had fancied going into the surrounding bars and we were too hot to eat. I snacked on some bars and sour sweets as and when I needed to. I also didn’t want to eat another tortilla and the thought of food nauseated me.

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The top of the hill was marked by a large cross and people had placed stones, shoes and other detritus around it. There were even shoes strewn about the rubble. The hill we puffed up then leveled out and we found a large maze marked out in white stone. We left the shade of the trees and felt drawn to walking the spiraling maze. We circles inwards, passing each other, eyes down and focusing on our steps. Finally, we found our way to the centre and then stepped out before continuing our hot journey.

The path split and we followed the wrong route before turning back and returned to the fork. Here, we found an Italian consulting his map, confused as us. We consulted, speaking in what pigeon Italian we knew while the sun burnt hot on us. I couldn’t find my sunscreen and gave up looking, thinking that I had left it behind somewhere. The back of my legs shone radiant red.

The three of us walked together through sleepy villages until we came to Orbaneja Riorica where the Italian left us. We wished him a ‘bon camino’ and walked into one of the albergues. It had a bar and a flight of stairs that took us to a small private sleeping area with a toilet/shower block. We walked into the room and found the middle-aged couple from the day before. We really thought that we had walked ahead of them and were very surprised to find them there. They clearly had thought the same of us. The town was not a main stop for most pilgrims. After our initial awkward and startled hesitation, we greeted each other with smiles and they welcomed us unto the room that they might have thought they would have to themselves that night.

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Jennifer was resting while I sat chatting at the bar with the Mexican cyclist that we had met the night before. I had not expected to see him again and he was just as surprised, ‘I don’t think I’ve cycled very fast today if I’m meeting you again.’ He said that he was continuing on to Burgos and he would finally outpace us. He told us that he had studied in York and was a viking specialist. When in Mexico, he stored his bike with a friend in York and would take it out once a year and cycle around Europe. Once a year on his birthday, he would try cycle as far as he could, aiming to break his personal best distance each year. He said that he would not stop cycling until he was exhausted and would stumble into whatever accommodation he found. He was an interesting man and I was sorry that I would not have another opportunity to chat with this Mexican viking again.

Jennifer and I explored the town, had an early meal and chatted with the couple in our room before heading to bed early. The couple planned to leave before sun rise and we would follow soon after giving them enough distance to be alone. But in the middle of the night, we were all woken by the gentleman having a bad dream. He startled all of us awake when he woke with a cry and leapt up, hitting the bed and kicked the ladder off the top bunk. The metal clattered loudly on the floor and he muttered apologies, disorientated and sleepy. We finally settled down and finished the night’s slumbers.

Next chapter

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