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Camino de Santiago No.7: Burgos to Arroyo San Bol: Dealing With Don Juan

I awoke bright and early in Burgos-there was no choice, as the extremely grumpy volunteer warden of the refuge awoke us all at 6 am, barking out orders to get out of the place. (This was not terribly surprising, since the night before he had shared with me that, ¨..he didn´t even really like people…¨!)

Leaving Burgos, I walked thru a somewhat ugly industrial area and tons of new condos, and then finally began a nice little country walk. Unfortunately, other pilgrims were always nearby or within sight-we all had left at about the same time.

I prefer to walk alone, to be alone with my thoughts, to look at what I want to look at, to walk at my own pace. There is something about the Camino, some sort of magical effect it has on me, that is best felt when walking alone. I feel like I can just let my mind go blank, be empty, and fill it with the impressions of the landscape I am walking thru without distractions or pleasantries. However, many other people walk in groups, talking with one another the entire way. I usually hold back and let them pass me by, but, this time it was unavoidable, and I ended up walking with a small group of people all the way to Hontanas. They turned out to be a very pleasant group of Belgians, who were thankfully reasonably mild mannered and quiet themselves, more interested in observing the landscape than talking about jobs, real estate,how many kilometers so and so had walked yesterday, and so on.

Hontanas was very crowded with pilgrims when I arrived-it seemed everyone wanted to stay there. I was also thinking about staying there for the night, as it was cold, windy, and drizzling-and the town itself is quite sweet and has a lovely history with the Camino.

I was eating a extremely massive bocadillo(ham sandwich) and walking around the tiny village, enjoying the sights(which included  old run down buildings..and more, old, run down buildings..)when I saw a man coming towards me on the road, carrying a bottle of wine.

Well-not just any man. In fact, he was one of the many Don Juan types I have encountered on the Camino, and he had been doggedly pursuing me since the start in Roncesvalles. Of course, he had been pursuing every woman that he cared to along the way as well-not just me.

He stopped me in the street and invited me for lunch-he had all the fixings for a a lovely meal, including wine and some little sweet cakes. I turned him down, and with a grand gesture, he kissed my hand, and said ¨On the outside, I am a little man. But on the inside- I have big love for you.¨


I decided it was best to leave Hornillos del Camino-the thought of sharing the refuge with him did not seem like it would be pleasant. In a refuge, there is not much privacy-one changes clothes, showers and so on near people of the opposite sex, and it there is an unwritten rule that you sort of pretend the people near you are not standing about in their underwear. This particular guy was definitely not going to respect this rule…

Walking out of Hontanas, I thought about all the Don Juans I had met so far..

I had read Shirley Maclaine´s book about walking the Camino, and she, too, had talked about meeting these numerous Don Juans on the road to Santiago.

It would seem that many men walk the Camino to meet women-and they approach women in such a persisitent manner, that they are upon occassion sucessful. One man told me that it was true that many people walked the Camino to hopefully meet someone for a quick laison without attachment…Every Don Juan I had met so far had been from Spain, lived alone(so they said, although they usually had some sort of girlfriend), and had done the Camino, either in parts or it´s entirity, numerous times. They tended to be extremely complementary on the first meeting, and tended to like to get near you, squeezing your waist, your hand(or anything else they could get their hands on). If you were even slightly friendly, they would invite you to dinner, and then to a nearby hotel for the night. Sometimes they would invite me for several days to a hotel!

I found them annoying. I always would say that I was on the Camino for spiritual reasons, which was true-but this rarely stopped them from trying to squeeze one´s body parts. If anything, they took it as a challenge to up their romantic advances.

Telling them I had a boyfriend made no difference, either. They took this to mean it was possible to have some sort of temporary relationship with no strings attached. If anything, I think it made me more attractive.

Several Brazilian women told me the best course of action was to never look them in the eye, and to continuously talk about God…this actually worked quite well, most of the time.!

I walked alone out of Hontanas, and found a more peaceful, quiet spot to eat lunch near an old stone mill. The mill was perched on a hill, and was all of old stone, overgrown with vines and hot pink roses. I sat behind a hedge of tall thistles, watching little rabbits scamper about and pigeons nesting. Ah, so tranquil!

I also had a good view of the road from my vantage point on the hill-I could see but not be seen. Suddenly, who did I see coming down the road, but the Don Juan from Hontanas.

Somehow he saw me. He walked up to where I was, pulled out the bottle of wine, and said ,  ¨I could not bear to drink this without you¨, and kissed my hand.

Great. Resigned to my fate(of at least sharing lunch with him), I sighed and invited him to sit down. At least the food was free, I thought!

After lunch, we set out for the road. I decided to sort of limp along and go very slowly, hoping he would get impatient and decide to take off on his own. It worked, and eventually he went on ahead(Another characteristic of Don Juans is that they have to cover alot of kilometers in a day if they are not making love to someone with their words or otherwise-it´s important to get to the next refuge and the next opportunity!).

So, I walked on alone, entering the part of the Camino called the ¨Mesita¨. The mesita is reasonably flat, with very little except the landscape stretching out in all directions before you as far as the eye can see. There are few trees and little shade. Apparently, many people skip this part of the Camino because they find the landscape boring.

I, however, loved it. In fact, it reminded me of home. It was also the first time in many days that I had been utterly, totally alone on the Camino. The few precious times I have had alone on the Camino have affected me profoundly. Most of the time on the Camino, one is near other people-and, at night, you are sleeping in you bunk head to head with more than twenty other people in a tiny room-so, to actually be totally alone is special.

For some reason the landscape seemed endless, perhaps because there were no points of reference. It just seemed like I was walking endlessly on and on, and eventually I got quite tired and decided to take a nap. I found a clearing and spread out my jacket and fell asleep for about an hour.

When I awoke, I was somewhat confused as to where I was. I had also had a strange, curious dream about meeting an angel who was on a road and told me to go a different direction than the road I was on. It was confusing, because there was only one road in front of me. I had the sense that something was about to change.

I kept walking down the road, and quite frankly, began to consider sleeping outside. It was getting late, it was drizzling a bit, it was very cold, and I could see no refuge in sight-only small huts for pigeons. I was just beginning to consider a night in a pigeon hut, when I saw a refuge in the distance.

It was the place I had been looking for-the refuge of Arroyo San Bol. I had not only read about it in my Camino guides, I had dreamt of the place about a week before as well. I felt drawn to the place and was curious as to what awaited me there. I had the sense that I was about to have a very spiritual experience.



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