Day 11: Belorado to Atapuerca (AKA “When the Priest says ‘Cantar!’, you sing”)

Today was a very early solo morning departure under the stars. Last night I attended a mass in the town cathedral which was followed by a pilgrim blessing. I thought the service was really lovely and I enjoyed that they incorporated all the pilgrims’ native languages into the blessing. After the blessing, I headed back to my albergue to rest and recharge, but instead it turned into a vino tinto-infused round table singalong with the priest. Yep. Let’s just say it was one of my favorite moments of the trip so far. I was sitting next to the priest (who didn’t speak any English, but somehow I was able to understand most of what he said in Spanish), and he successfully guessed that I was a singer. He told me, “Sing ‘Hallelujah’ by Leonard Cohen!” Of course, I couldn’t say no. So I sang the verses and the group of 20 or so pilgrims from all different nations joined in together on the choruses of “Hallelujah, Hallelujah…” It was an incredible moment for me, and it led to everyone around the room taking turns starting songs, and we would all jump in and sing along. After every song, we’d thoroughly express our appreciation with a round of applause, then put our glasses of vino tinto into the air and cry, “Salut!”

So my early morning was very much invigorated by my appreciation of the evenings’ gifts. [Okay, at this point in the blog, if you are related to me slash consider yourself parental, I encourage you to either skip ahead or resist the temptation to scold.] It was about half past six, so nearly two hours before the sun was to rise. I had my safety lights on but was mostly guiding myself by the moonlight and stars. So I was happily trudging along when I suddenly spotted two red eyes looking back at my headlamp from the hillside. At first I thought it might be an owl based on how the creature blinked slowly and then turned its head. So I flashed on the regular light to inspect and instead saw…. something. A coyote? A gray fox? A wild dog? A…. wolf? My heart started racing and I started trudging loudly on the ground as I walked, grunting and trying to sound ominous and horrible and not something a coyote would want to chase after. I was pretty freaked out and felt stupid for leaving so early on my own in the dark. I think I will wait until at least 7:30 to leave from now on…

Okay, family, you can start again here. The hike was gorgeous today. Almost entirely on natural paths, through wooded areas and up hillsides that offered incredible mountain-top views after a good climb. I had been prepared with a sandwich, olives and trail mix, so I enjoyed my lunch from one of these vistas and took everything in. Today was especially lovely because the birds seems extra interested in or unafraid of me. European sparrows, nuthatches and magpies in abundance. Even the crickets leaping along the trail were charming to me today.

I reached the town I had planned to stop in, but feeling rather strong I opted to go 6km further to Atapuerca, where the earliest human remains and evidence of civilization were discovered (going back 1.2 million years!) I found a lovely albergue and am currently enjoying some shade from the 80 degree weather we’re experiencing (extremely atypical for October) while a collective of Italian, Spanish and Portuguese men are inside cooking a communal pasta dinner. Lucky me.

Tomorrow will be a short 20km cake walk to the metropolis of Burgos. It seems this will be where my current trail buddies are planning a rest day, so from there I will step forward alone and continue meeting some new pilgrims. (Scary!)

Thank you so much to Jess S. and Erin P. for sponsoring today’s adventures. I feel like both of these girls would approve very much of me going a little bit further in order to get to an UNESCO World Heritage site!

3 thoughts on “Day 11: Belorado to Atapuerca (AKA “When the Priest says ‘Cantar!’, you sing”)

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