BURGOS – After some impressive rains last night, this morning we walked in the fog until it burned off. Today is Burgos, the second largest city of the Camino and everyone is excited to be heading toward the big city. To make things more interesting it is a festival night so beds are scarce, including the 150-bed municipal alburgue (which will have at least 50 different people snoring, I’m guessing).
The regional food Burgos is famous for is Morcilla de Burgos, a black and tasty sausage that I only learned after I had eaten it is made from pig’s blood and rice.
We’ve been walking toward Burgos all day, that city far in the distance that looks huge. Most of the people I’ve met have booked hotels with “somebody else’s soap, towels, endless hot water and nobody else in the room (who snores).”
At breakfast in the last town before the long 11km slog into Burgos, I meet Ann who is Swiss, and a retired pediatric nurse. She is the sixth nurse I’ve met so far. She is a friend of Bridget (from Belgium) who I had been sitting with. Bridget’s son attended UT for a semester, and came home a Longhorn with a suitcase full of burnt orange clothes (I like him already). Eating the Morcilla de Burgos, with Ann, JoAnn the Aussie arrives and I introduce them (there is a reason I’m sharing all this detail).
“Aren’t you the social butterfly,” JoAnn says. I met JoAnn about a week ago and though she is a slow walker, she and I have a common bond as we like exploring many of church buildings we pass. JoAnn is walking without her pack today as she is staying in a hotel, taking a bus to Leon on Monday, and has feet issues. Her body needs a break.
Ann goes on ahead but before she leaves she snaps a picture of us and my Morcilla de Burgos. About an hour later I catch up to JoAnn who is walking surprisingly fast today (being pack-less). It isn’t too long when I see a detachable trouser leg by the side of the road, and I pick it up saying “somebody’s going to be missing this.” I carry it like a flag on my walking stick expecting to see someone walking our way any moment.
“I think those might be Ann’s,” JoAnn says after an hour. “I have those same pants, and I noticed her taking the legs off before we left.” We continue to walk together talking, and enjoying conversation on an otherwise uninteresting slog into the city.
We pass by a regional airport, and JoAnn notices a MasterCard on the trail, and picks it up. It’s Ann’s. “Ann must be losing it,” she says laughingly. I put it in my wallet and watch the horizon for Ann to appear.
Three hours later we’re about to enter Burgos, climbing one last rise. I start praying “LORD, if we’re going to find Ann, you’ve got to make it happen soon.” Burgos is a city of 177,000 and huge compared to the villages of 60-100 we have been passing through and I’m worried that if we get to town, we’ll never find Ann.
At the crest of that last rise before town, JoAnn sees Ann splayed out on a park bench, boots off and looking defeated.
“ANN,” we both yell walking toward her. “Did you loose something?”
“Do you have my leg and credit card?” she asked hopefully.
“YES!” we both shout and watch as this huge sign of relief comes over and she jumps up to give us both big hugs.
JoAnn and I continue to walk the rest of the way to Burgos basking in the glow of God’s blessing. If Bridget had not introduced us, if we had not seen the items along the way, if we had taken another way in, or missed defeated Ann on the park bench, none of this could have happened.
It makes me wonder how many opportunities I miss because I’m not looking for them. “I knew we would find her,” JoAnn says, and I share how I had been praying as we climbed that last rise, and share the words of my prayer.
Once in Burgos, me and my Google-maps enabled phone help point JoAnn in the right direction to find her hotel and I set out to find Casa de Peregrinos Emaús (home of the Pilgrims of Emmaus) which turns out to be surprisingly close.
At the door I am greeted by Sister Mary-Noel who interviews me about my reason for wanting to stay here.
I begin to share my story but before I can get too far into my quest she says, “Ok – you come”. I’m one of three pilgrims to make it past the interview.
At 7:30pm there is mass, and the priest blesses us. At 8pm we share a common meal, and Mary-Noel asks me to bless the food. I pray for us all, the food, and for the family God has assembled for this night around this table, that what happens here bring Him glory. After washing the dishes and cleaning up (we’re family after all) we gather for evening prayers where we pray for the pilgrims who slept here last night. It’s a touching service, and I feel closer to God than I have in years.
In the morning we awake to a recording of English school children singing the Psalms, it is such a wonderful way to wake up. We share a simple breakfast, and Mary-Noel takes pictures of us (as I get the feeling she does every morning). Marcel (from Germany) asks about the word Emaus, wondering about the English translation. I say it is a place where Jesus appeared after his Resurrection, Emmaus. Both guests have completely blank faces, so I tell the story of the road to Emmaus, when Jesus fell in with some followers who were returning from Jerusalem, asking them why they were so sad.
As I’m telling this story I get that kind of shiver the Holy Spirit uses when He wants me to pay attention, I’m doing something here.
“When the followers came to their place they were going to stop for the night, Jesus started to go on but they urged him to join them (they did not know it was him). At dinner, Jesus takes the loaf of bread, asks God to bless it and breaks it, and as He did this suddenly their eyes were opened and they recognized it was Jesus…and then He disappeared.
Marcel is completely undone by the story, and closes his eyes to pinch down the tears. The moment feels so sacred and holy, and I feel blessed to be here. None of us want it to end, so even as we’re packing up to leave, none of us want to. We drag our feet, and I can see that Mary-Noel needs for us to be on our way because soon there will be a completely new set of pilgrims to interview and maybe stay the night and be family just for this night, and they will pray for us.