Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.

After drinking my bodyweight in electrolytes and overcoming a challenging uphill hike, my body, and, more importantly, my head felt replenished. While a change of perspective was the key contributor to my upturn in fortunes, the stunning city of Burgos wasn’t without its own healing effects on Day 12.

Camino de Santiago Diary – Day 12


Similarly to Day 11, I set off from the overnight Albergue well after my fellow pilgrims had begun their journey. The energy-sapping head cold and intestinal ailments I’d acquired from a bacteria-laden swimming pool and a questionable batch of pinchos continued to blunt my early initiative.

I trudged dejectedly through Agés’ outlying paddocks as spits of chilly rain and a gloomy mist mirrored my downhearted disposition. I wasn’t sure how far my legs and stagnating enthusiasm would carry me on such a downcast day; I would take each momentum swing village by village.

Trekking West Atapuerca Mountains

A melancholy morning’s march up Matagrande ridge

My interest had entirely bottomed out when I faced the prospect of climbing up a wet, flint-scattered incline through the Atapuerca Mountains. After another night of sub-standard sleep, my unrested hips and butt muscles pinged in agony as I clambered haphazardly up the slippery slope. Thankfully, by the time I reached the summit’s towering crucifix, I had sweated the flu-symptoms out of my system. Unfortunately, the negativity remained.

Next to the cross lay a gigantic stone spiral, otherwise known as a ‘meditation labyrinth’, covering vast expanses of the nearby field. This pilgrim-built pattern is known as a place for solitary contemplation. I admired the rain-soaked motif and reflected how far I’d come over the past 12 days on the Camino, 7 months country-hopping the northern hemisphere and 2 and a half years living nomadically. To think about my previous unchartered existence — stuck in an Adelaide office — compared to where I am now — hiking through picturesque Spanish hills — where else would I rather be? My perspective quickly shifted.

Atapuerca cross Trekking West

Taking a reflective moment at the summit

To add a gallon of fuel to my rediscovered positivity, I received a message from the Friends of the Heysen Trail, offering me the position of Ambassador for the South Australian long-distance icon. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes; I certainly couldn’t believe how far my headspace had evolved over the space of 15 minutes.

The rest of the day skimmed by in a whirl of blissful gratitude. I reunited with my ever-welcoming walking party at the next trail town, Cardeñuela Riopico, and we journeyed the pleasant alternate riverside route into Burgos together.

Surprisingly, we found the charismatic city near-deserted — this revelation meant only one thing: the community had gathered elsewhere for an all-encompassing fiesta. Thankfully, this public party left Spain’s third-largest, and arguably most stunning, cathedral with fewer meandering bodies to navigate.

The history of Gothic art is perfectly summarised in Catedral de Santa María’s superb architecture and unique historical collections.

As had now become routine, our culturally-charged afternoon expeditions lacked any sense of concentration as dipping energy levels, growing hunger pains and the stupefying abundance of Camino churches muddled our weary heads. Though, despite our deteriorating focus, it was impossible not to admire the artisan-infused enormity of the UNESCO-listed cathedral.

Burgos Cathedral Pilgrims Camino

With bones aching, stomachs rumbling and my intestinal issues far from recovered, we decided to bypass the alcohol-fuelled chaos of the fiesta and head back to the municipal Albergue early. While we’d unquestionably earned ourselves a night on the sangrias, we needed all the sleep we could muster before a 26.8-kilometre jaunt on Day 13.

All the details.

Trail distance covered



Albergue Municipal Casa del Cubo




The climb up Matagrande ridge is a taxing start to the day, but the steady descent toward Burgos is both easy on the legs and easy on the eyes (if you take the longer alternate route along the river Arlanzón).