Day 1: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (And Happy Birthday to ME!)

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.

Cards, artwork and best wishes from my family far across the sea made the start of my Camino—and birthday—the best ever.

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.

We Begin

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.

Ready to walk out the door, ready for projected rain, and yes, we bought the same raincoats.

Yesterday we found the Camino markers in the road outside our hotel and decided to take before and first day photos.

The pointy end of the scallop shell indicates the direction to walk. At least in this example. We found that sometimes the scallop shell is just a logo to represent the Camino. Follow the yellow arrows, not the scallop shell.
Our boots are already walking. Note the wet scallop. Rain is projected most of the day, having started the night before.

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.

Yellow arrows can be anywhere! Donna leads the way while I play photojournalist.

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.

Note the Target bag Donna re-engineered to protect her backpack from the rain. Creativity on the Camino. This mural shows where we are and how far we have to go.
What goes up, must walk down. This photo doesn’t do justice to the steep down hill trek, but my knees will tell you the real story. You can see the village of Hornillos del Camino in the distance. We stayed the night nearby. My backpack protector is sans logo, but it’s the laundry bag from the prior night’s hotel.
First things first. The yoga pose “legs up the wall” is the first thing we do when we get to our lodging. In this case, we were assigned the Lilac room. My toes, the ones with the lilac polish, were still encased in hiking boots when the room assignments were made.
And Donna’s T-shirt was covered by a long-sleeved shirt and raincoat we checked in. Kismet.

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, 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 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.

9 Replies to “Day 1: Burgos to Hornillos del Camino (And Happy Birthday to ME!)”

  1. I know you’ve had MANY wonderful birthday celebrations, but thinking it might be tough to top “64” (kudos to the BEST “BFF”!). Beautiful pics, beautiful words and beautiful girls-thanks for sharing this special trip with all of us, and can’t wait to hear all the stories you don’t have time to tell upon your return! Have a safe and blessed journey.

  2. Hey great! Now I can post. Done days I will encourage, other days I will give you crap. That’s just how we roll my blah friend.

    I’ve read every word right before I turn out my bedside lamp. I end with a prayer of good walking and safe travels. My favorite pictures are the ones you take of what you see along the way like the sun flowers.

    Thanks for sharing the journey with us.

    Laurie Guest

  3. Terri, your writing is incredible. I felt like I was running for that train right along with you gals. And, Donna knows I’m a picture fanatic, so keep ’em coming. Stay safe.

  4. Wishing you both a buen camino! Hope to get updates, but I tried to sign up for the email updates but it said “failed to add user 403.”

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