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Hornillos del Camino

Burgos, Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, Hornillos del Camino, Meseta, pilgrimage, Spain

September 14th, Day 13: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino: ‘The Meseta – The Journey of the Mind’

Sunflower fields in the meseta.

I sleep like a baby in our quiet, clean and comfortable hotel room, but I still manage to wake up at an unearthly hour of the morning, despite having no other pilgrims around me. I get up, send some messages home, gather my things and check out.

We head to a café at the top of the road, right next to the cathedral and across from the albergue. We order a coffee and sit with other pilgrims who are fueling up before their morning walk. A great energy fills the café, and I realize I feel very at home in this little city. As I sip my cortado, I picture this being my local spot.
We run into Ramon and he, Tammy and I leave town together. It’s a pretty and easy morning walk, and as we leave town, I can truly see that we are entering the flat terrain of the meseta, the part everyone warned would be trying, boring and mostly awful, a part that quite a few pilgrims purposefully skip.
The first few glimpses of the meseta prove to be beautiful besides the occasional bleak and industrial entry into, or exit from, town. Ramon and I walk together, and despite already knowing a lot about Ramon, I haven’t actually had much one-on-one time with him – I have just heard a lot about him and his story from other pilgrims.
We begin talking and he asks me if I have had any realizations on the Camino so far. It’s still early days, and despite so much happening, I haven’t had time to, or been asked to process things just yet. I begin to tell Ramon that I’m learning a lot about self-love, whether that entails stopping to doctor a blister before it becomes too painful to walk, or removing myself from toxic situations before they take an emotional toll on me, instead of being a stubborn fighter who ‘sticks things out.’
I realize that the beginning of the meseta, what previous pilgrims have coined ‘the journey of the mind,’  is unfolding right before my eyes.
I learn about Ramon’s reasons for walking the Camino, specifically that there are a few things affecting his current relationship. We talk about his family history – the loss of siblings and the affect that had on his parents’ relationship, and we talk about love, trust and relationships as we approach Rabe de las Calzadas.
I confess to Ramon that I never really witnessed much romantic love between my parents growing up, and that as an adult, I focus on how many unhappy marriages there are, the high divorce rate, and the fact that we’re not a monogamous species. Ramon explains to me that we are the directors of our own lives, and part of being our own director means projecting what we want, while at the same time, looking around us and seeing what we want and attracting it to us.
It hits me that while I tend to be an optimist, I am a real cynic about love. At the end of our conversation, Ramon challenges me to look around and notice the love around me. I realize, I’ve only been looking at the things and situations that reinforce what I believe to be true. I accept his challenge to look for the things around me that will help foster a new opinion.
We stop for a break in Rabe de las Calzadas, and enjoy an Aquarius, the sports drink of the Camino. An old, heavy set Spanish man serenades us and insists we have a picture taken with him as he plants a kiss on my cheek. We laugh as we leave town an begin the 10 km to Hornillos del Camino. It is a scorcher, and there’s no shade to be found for a long stretch. As we walk along a dusty, rocky path, we see a tree off in the distance to our left. We decide to cross into the field and take a little break under its shade. It seems to take us forever to reach this tree that looked so close to the path. We sit and share some snacks before heading on.
When we finally arrive in Hornillos, I want to keep walking, but my body is telling me otherwise. The albergue is full though, and after checking out a few alternative guesthouses, we realize we will have to wait for the overflow gymnasium to open at 4 p.m. I shed my boots and sit on the steps outside a small church, joining the pilgrims who have arrived prior to me.
4:00 seems to take forever to arrive, but when it does, the lady running the check-in process picks up my boots and carries them to the gymnasium, proceeding to check me in first – do I look that tired and pathetic? Either way, I am thankful for this gesture of kindness.
The gymnasium/accommodation in Hornillos
An afternoon siesta is in order and it’s good sleep, despite the fact that we are in a cold, cavernous gymnasium. I wake up just before dinner and Tammy, Ramon and I venture over to the one restaurant in town for our nightly vino tinto and pilgrim’s dinner. The place is seething with people and we’re fortunate to get a table during the second seating. We wait a while for our food, and we’re between courses when I see the sunset unfolding outside.
I excuse myself and cross the street and climb up the steps where I had sat earlier. Behind the village church, I can see the meseta sprawling out before me, endless fields of sunflowers in the distance.
Everyone’s at dinner, and there’s not a soul in sight. I soak in the view and the silence before returning to the crowded restaurant, and as I turn around to walk back, I spot an older couple in their late 60s sitting on a picnic bench outside the restaurant. They are cuddled up together like teenage lovers, sharing a laugh and oblivious to the world around them. It is surprising and sweet, and I take a moment to think about what Ramon had said to me during today’s walk. I’m thankful for my time with him today, for the conversation and the courage to share my feelings with him, but most of all, for his challenge to me moving forward. I head back into the restaurant and sit down at the table. I smile at Ramon. It’s a smile that says, “You are right.”