Today I found myself wishing many times I had taken archeology in school. When the decision was made, archeology sounded a lot like architecture for old people, and I didn’t like either.
After Ages, which I left bright and early, being told I was not allowed to pay for my part of the wine, the Way entered the Sierra de Atapuerca. First over flat ground, then up and higher, until the peak reveals a panorama stretching far beyond Burgos. To the left and right, over rocks and thick roots, digging sites reveal the hill’s storied past.
The story is quickly told: the hill’s porous rock lent itself to many caves being dug by invading rain, some of which caved in and became deep, treacherous, holes. Animals falling into those holes generally died on impact or later from starvation. The cold inside those caves, on the other hand, preserved those who died immediately pretty well, turning the cave ins into a stone age version of a refrigerator, ready to be raided by hungry humans. Later generations simply moved into the caves, turning parts of them into refrigerators, others into living quarters, and other again into a storage space for deceased members of the own and other species. Archeologists found all those remains in 1899, and since then digging was the second most prominent sport after shooting things with tanks at the nearby Army base.
Atop a small cross and a sign invite to stay and look.
“Not since the mountains of Navarre has the pilgrim seen a view as beautiful as this.” reads the sign. And it is right.
The path led downhill, past rolling fields of wheat, and into the suburbs of Burgos. I circled around an airfield, past a row of grain silos, and into the industrial part of town. “Shoulda taken the bus,” I felt myself getting a little grumpy. Crossing multiple freeways and busy roads, I finally made it into Burgos. I had no response from Inga and no idea where to check in, so I decided to first have coffee and then look for an albergue if no further messages came up.
“Inga? Oh, vee passed her at the roundabout outside town,” confirmed the Swiss pilgrims who joined me shortly after. “She said she’d booked a hotel, so vee didn’t wait.” Rainer, the surveyor, joined us, having taken a cab to Burgos and spent the day seeing the Evolution Museum and town. Alyssa as well, hooked into a very happy looking Brazilian man, and finally Paul, the German. Paul extracted a bag of Haribo from his backpack “loook, I found German food,” he proclaimed, and shared his spoils until the waitress gruffly told us to order or starve. So we ordered.
Inga’s message arrived minutes before I did at my chosen albergue. “In town, where are you?” I turned around, found the plaza she had settled at to drink coffee, we hugged, and stories began pouring forth. The hotel turned out to be a mile back on the Camino, so we grabbed our backpacks and headed in the generally wrong direction of pilgrimage. “Sometimes you have to go back to get lucky,” she quipped, and then we did.
I dreamed of dinosaurs and a massive Haribo Gummy Bear hunting caribou.