Starting our Camino on my birthday, Sept. 10, 2019 was special, but purely accidental. When Donna and I planned the trip we looked at our calendars and worked backwards more than forwards. I remember saying at one point, “Oh, cool. Our first day of walking will be my birthday.” ‘Nuf said about that.
And then, this morning, we made our way to the breakfast buffet at our hotel in Burgos, gathered our favorite source of caffeine and food stuffs, then sat down at a table in the hotel’s dining room.
Donna puts a stack of envelopes and folded papers next to my plate. Birthday cards. I gulp, choke and almost sob an itty bit. This took advance planning and a decent amount of schlepping on Donna’s part.
You see, my mother spoiled me when it comes to birthdays. From as early as I can remember, the first words I would hear on my birthday were from her lips, “Happy Birthday!” She might have been waking me for school (in fourth grade my birthday was actually on the first day of school) or I could have been walking into the kitchen in search of a cup of tea on my way out the door to Cal State Long Beach.
This year, my 64th trip around the sun, this birthday is an exciting way to begin a new adventure in oh, so many ways.
Each day, or at least each day last time on the Portuguese Camino, Donna and I would take a morning selfie. Today, we handed the camera to the receptionist at the hotel.
Yesterday we found the Camino markers in the road outside our hotel and decided to take before and first day photos.
We walked our way out of Burgos looking for yellow arrows as young uniformed children walked upstream holding hands with a parent on their way to school (children not pictured). We knew we would eventually leave the city behind and begin a relatively easy climb onto the Meseta.
Our walking notes promised fields and crops once we were out of town, and sunflowers did not disappoint.
Rain, Wind AND Cold
We donned our rain pants moments before the sprinkles turned into splats. The problem with walking in the wind and rain, and oh yeah, 56 degrees, is that you have to keep your hooded head down as you trudge along the trail. We were climbing out of the city along the side of mesa, so we had to make a point to look up and enjoy the view.
From our walking notes (a PDF I keep on my phone), we knew that we’d be walking 10K or so before coming to any village where there would be food to buy or bathrooms to use. It wasn’t hunger that motivated us to seek shelter as much as it was a need to warm up a bit.
In the village of Tardajos, a tiny storefront cafe had erected a make-shift shelter along the one sidewalk in the town. The plastic drape blocked the wind and rain, and the plastic tables and chairs inside were filled with fellow damp Pilgrims. Donna and I found a table near the propane heater.
It was my turn to even out the who-owes-who-what-for-picking-up-the-last tab, so I went to the counter on the other side of the sidewalk, ordered two cappuccinos and asked where the toilet was. (I flinch every time I ask, but that’s the universal word for what I was in need of. Apparently in these parts, a bathroom is where you take a bath.)
When I returned to get the coffees, I also asked if she could stamp our Pilgrims’ Passport aka Credential. In order to get your Compostela in Santiago, you must walk at least 100 kilometers and have two stamps per day to prove your trek. Patricia stamped my passport and asked me if she should date it. As she wrote the date, I said, “Hoy es mi cumpleanos.” [Today is my birthday.] She told me Happy Birthday in Spanish and English.
I am a tea drinker, but man oh man did that cappuccino hit the spot. I told Donna that this may become a Camino habit.
As we started to don our rain apparel, Patricia and her coworker came from behind the counter and entered the Pilgrim’s plastic enclosure. They were singing at full volume, in English, “Happy Birthday to you,” and carried a giant, lit, birthday candle the size of a walking stick.
Scenes along the way
In the interest of posting, especially given that I’m writing this on Sept. 11, here are some photos from the remainder of our first day of walking.
Because we have each night’s reservation booked ahead, we don’t have to think about where we will eat. Except for a few nights, our booking includes “half board,” as in dinner and breakfast. On the night of my birthday, we dined with Margarita and Pasquale from Tijuana, Mexico celebrating his 70th birthday and their fourth Camino. Also in the dining room was Rose and Ken who also used CaminoWays.com, but were carrying their lives on the backs, not having luggage forwarded. Amia and Joe live in Pennsylvania and are just doing the Burgos to Leon segment because over serveral other trips they have done the other segments, including one that ended in Santiago.
Turns out they are all using CaminoWays.com to handle reservations, if not luggage transfers, so we look forward to dining with them in other lodging along the way.
Tomorrow’s forecast is cold and wind, no rain. 22K and again, a 10K walk before any hope of cappuccino or porcelain bowls.
NOTE: WiFi access is iffy I’ve found. Everyone gets to the Inn and sucks up bandwidth before showering. Hence my writing the second half of this on 9/11. I crave my end-of-day writing sessions, but writing something may not result in posting every day.
NOTE #2: I believe the Reply or Comment feature is more accessible now that I’ve added a “Read More” insert that takes to the page on which each post is published. If you are reading on a phone, you may have to scroll a lot to find the comment section. I adore your comments and feedback, so if you figure it out, please post.