Week 1 on the Camino

Day 1: So today started out at 7am. At least the walking. I started by myself but quickly had someone on my heels. He stayed there till I sat to switch shoes. A German guy who asked if everything was ok. I started out in hiking shoes today and about 1 hour in, realized I needed to switch to runners. I skipped breakfast where I was staying because it was bread and jam. My attempt to be “healthy”. So I stopped at the first store and grabbed and apple, cheese, and corn-nuts. The last two items I never did eat. Yet. As I came out of the store, another pilgrim was approaching but I stopped to wash my apple and fill my water bottle. He stopped to have a chat and we ended up walking for miles and miles together. I learned about Ian. A guy in his 60’s (this is important later) who was from Scotland but lived in New Zealand for 26 years. His wife was a professor so we had a bit to chat about. A lot actually. We talked and the time went by so fast. Ian almost missed the signs a few times but luckily he had me to correct him. First clue. Anyway, we got to a village called Valcarlos which could have been a stopping point almost half way but it was only 10 and we felt so good. We didn’t even stop for a drink. Wrong choice. Ian didn’t bring water and I had my bottle so I shared with him over the next few miles. We chatted and everything was great. Till the 4.8km left mark. It started to get muddy and I was in my runners. Ian decided my caution of slipping was too slow for his taste. Which honestly I couldn’t blame him. So he went on ahead. Yes, I got left in the dust by someone twice my age. He was killing it. I decided to switch back into my hiking shoes but with no where to sit, I plopped myself on a cold wet stone. It was plenty of snow and mud at this point and I feared my runners just weren’t good for the job. I passed through the mud. Quickly to learn that was the easy part. All while thinking how crazy the amount of mud there was and how my shoes were so heavy. Little niave to what was ahead. When the sign said 4.8km I was expecting just over 1 hour and I would be to my resting spot by noon. Perfect for lunch. Boy was I wrong. Snow is the culprit. As I climbed, the deeper the snow got. At some points as high as my knees. I made pace with a Korean family where they would pass me and me them but eventually they would leave me behind. My lower back was on fire. Surely it was the 2lbs extra I decided to pack last minute. Not to mention I was walking through ankle high snow and eventually I couldn’t walk 25 yards. I ended up being passed 2 more times. At one point 3 American ladies hollered at me from the road asking if I wanted to join them. My stubbornness prevented me from doing the better thing. I kept going through the snow and slowed to a snail’s pace. I was born to do the Camino though. Never can I take the high road. My feet soaked and pissed at myself I thought about what if I just sit in the snow? Would someone walk past and help carry my bag? At this point it was no longer a walk but a march, lifting my knees high trying to step where previous pilgrims had gone. I eventually made it to a point that turned left to stay on the route or right to go to the road. So in all of this what did I learn? Stubbornness took me left. Again!!! I got 100 yards and realized I would soon be hip deep in snow. So I turned back around and took the road the last 15 minutes to the town where I would be staying. First stop, a beer. Before finding my final rest place I needed calories and water. Beer was perfect. Once here the lady tried to overcharge me by 2 euro for dinner but got that worked out. The place is nice and my bunk-mate is American. You don’t get to pick your bed, it is all how your arrive. I thought for sure I was near the back of the pack but more like the middle. I did my chores which is shower and hand washing my clothes. I then decided to go for wine and invited my new friend Ian and 2 other guys he was chatting with. We went for a bottle and dinner. I lasted through the meal but left abruptly because all I really wanted after wine and food was a bed. It was a day that I am not sure how I did it. Also not sure why because today was insane. However the hard part they say is over. Yet today was great weather and tomorrow the prediction is rain. I don’t have blisters. I swore I would because my feet got so wet. I climbed a mountain today!!! So all is good with a good night rest, I hope.
Walked- 17.7 miles (over the mountain)
Total time walking: 8 hours
Spent- 28.50euro

 

Day 2: Woke up at 3am but around 4 I fell back asleep. My sleeping is horrible. I left at 7am again today. With a blister unfortunately. I was quick to judge last night because I woke up with a blister this morning. A beautiful sunrise as you will see in the photos. I walked and walked with no breakfast. I did watch a lady fall on the ice behind me as I changed shoes. The first 3 miles was so much snow and ice. Another morning of marching, if you can call it that. If you have ever walked in sand, this is that times 1000x. So much ice too. So the first bit was no fun. Ian went for breakfast and caught up to me. At his pace we caught up to another group. That was of course after watching a fox in the snow. I ended up at the back of the group with a Brazilian. Ramon (pronounced with an H not R) is his name and he is an environmental engineer. Our group walked together to the “midway” point. I say that because we ended up having to walk our happy asses onward later. When we got to our stopping point for the day, we found the alburgue (pilgrim hostel) was closed. Fortunately my little Camino family, because that is what we are to this point and have gathered for dinner each night, also decided to move forward. It was Ramon and I and he was so patient. I ended up with a crazy blister so I limped. Changing shoes from my runners to my hikers. Always at the wrong point. After we got to what we thought would be our stopping, we walked on another 4 miles almost. It was so worth it. We met the most amazing shop owner. The kind of place you get a cup of wine as soon as you enter. Then food after being there for 2 minutes. You can see the festive moments in the pics. So we celebrated in good fashion. After returning to where we would stay for the night, I somehow talked the guys into stretching. They were good sports. Out of the 14 people staying here I am 1 of 2 girls. The pilgrim meal was good. First time for vegetables in a minestrone soup. I am not eating bread or pasta nor sweets. Beer and wine are the bad things I am not giving up. We get wine with all of our meals so a plus for sure. One of the guys played music and sang after dinner. Minus the brutal morning and the blister, today was great. Off to Pamplona tomorrow…. Probably taking a rest day the following day. Not sure how I can walk tomorrow.
Total distance: 21.4 miles
Total spent: 33:50  euro
Time walking: 7 hours
Gentle reminder: Fight all the hatred in the world with love.

 

Day 3: Today I didn’t wake up till close to 7. Ramon and I agreed to walk at 7:30. Perfect. I don’t have an alarm and as pilgrims we know if we don’t make it, that is ok. But made it. Today Ramon and I got joined by Martin (Austrian) and Eric (Netherlands). It was an easy walk. On a scale, day 1 is 5 of 5, day 2 is 3 of 5 and today was 1 of 5. However, I ended up with my second blister. Martin and Eric were on mission for breakfast and coffee. Eventually they gave in and ate what I had bought the previous day. Banana, raisins, yogurt, cornnuts (from day 1), and cheese (also day 1). Eventually we did find coffee but it was sclose to 11. It was a short and easy day but the blisters are a real thing. A force I struggle with. See, out here you walk with people for so many hours, you form a bond. They call it the Camino family. I am scared that tomorrow I can not walk because of my feet but my family goes on… So, I have a choice to make in the AM. We will save that for tomorrow. Tonight we are staying in a German albergue. Upon arrival I learned that there is an American here who is hurt. I guess the snow put some people down. An Italian guy also arrived and is hurt. They have tendonitis which thankfully I am not dealing with. Yet. So of course I ended up at dinner with a Texan, Italian, 2 Germans and me. I again have only seen 1 other girl staying here. One interesting observation I have made is 90% of the people walking, have significant others. Some with children back home. Today was my first time seeing a couple team which is the only female I have seen here today. The injuries are setting back some people for days. Makes me sad to think the people I have shared dinner or time with, no matter how brief, might be gone tomorrow if I stay behind. As you will see in the pics, we help each other. The German (Dominic) offered to walk with me and carry me if needed because he is well…”German” and he said that is what Germans do. They get the job done. Pretty sure he is my favorite German to this point. He speaks very little English but he always listens and I think he knows more than he leads on. Plus he said f@&k Germany after 2 glasses of wine and not because I was complaining about them (which I have been know to do). I equate them to east coast, cold and rude at times. Not always but most of the time. Give them alcohol and they party. They are the best at that! Anyway, I am broken now due to good sized blisters one on each foot. The weather is in my favor as I walked through little rain today. The people are the best. My kind of people. I belong here. I have told my story a few times in hopes to inspire and people have so many questions. Some hard to answer. Today Martin asked about siblings and how many I have and if I am close to them. That broke out my background and it the first time I had someone try to dig deep. We also learned over lunch he is a type A. So tomorrow I want to keep walking but for now I sleep. Tonight we got in trouble thanks to the time changing because there is a 10pm curfew. The time shouldn’t change technically change till midnight but I am at a German albergue and we know how Germans are… hehe…. Go KSU!!!!
Total distance: 14.5
Money spent: 22 euro
Time walking: 5 hours or so…

 

Day 4: Good News… I walked today. Last night my fear was I would not be able to move forward today. However, when I woke up I felt good enough so I left Pamplona. Today we set off about 7:30am. Yesterday there was 4 of us but we grew by 1 as one of the Germans decided to join us Philip. Plip was the German that asked me on day one if I was ok while I changed my shoes. Today was a big climb and going down was tough on my blisters. Great weather though! Little rain and just some mud so we are out of the snow. As you will see from my coffee shop picture on breaks, we tend to our feet. It is normal here and even had to help Martin (Austrian) to put on his blister cover. If you hate feet, this is not the place for you. People flash them everywhere and obsessively talk about them. They are the key to survival. I have no more blisters today. Thankfully!! The nice thing about the group is the rotation. You will walk with 1 person for a bit, then someone else, then maybe alone, then a group. It was constantly changing and makes for interesting conversation and the time goes by quick. Today while I walked alone I listened to the book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a f#&k”. I highly recommend it and I am only 4 chapters in. We reached a famous spot today that shows the pilgrims walking. If you have ever seen the movie “The Way” you will know the spot. If not, check the pics I will post. The views from the top were worth the climb. It feels nice to have a tribe where we look after each other. Share stories, share Band-Aids, muscle cream, water, food, and the sorts. When we got to the place we are staying, then 5 of us take up a room of 8 people. The other 3 are individuals and 2 are girls! Finally more girls. My guys are pretty cool. We started together and ended the day together. Although my body hates me, my heart is full.  My stomach, not so much. We went to restaurant and was served frozen meals. We watched the lady carry the food frozen and watched her pop it into the oven/microwave. Such a disappointment but now a running joke between us.  To top it off, a friend back in Italy sent me pics of Bansko playing with her dogs. First update we have had on him in 6+ months. So glad to see the pup we rescued happy and that we have good friends to share the update with us of tons of pics.
Total time: 8 hours
Total distance: 17 miles
Money spent: $30

 

Day 5: We got up pretty late today and didn’t hit the road till around 8am. Man down!!! We had to leave Martin behind. Due to injury of blisters and knee hurting, he opted for a rest day. We started out walking in some rain but the weather got better as we went on. It is now the 4 of us, Ramon (Brazilian), Eric (Netherlands), Philip (German) and Me. Funny thing, Philip is the first guy I met on the first day that asked me if I was ok while changing my shoes. At the time, I didn’t know how to respond or what so I didn’t even try to talk to him. We walked through what I would call rolling hills, not really mountains like day 1. My blisters are ok but my feet feel like they are on fire at times, at least on the ball where the blister is located) I had to stop at the pharmacy and get some supplies. My objective is to try to walk normal so that I don’t hurt myself more. So I take plenty of ibuprofen. Every day I have been playing the 500 mile song. It has become a tradition and even got the guys singing along. I ran into the American girl I had met on night 1 with like 10 blisters. She was still making it along. For lunch we stopped and had some soup and met a girl from Sweden who recommended a alburgue that offered yoga and massages. The guys were sold! I was sold too because it was closer and my blisters are killer. However, day by day they are getting better and better. When I first start walking I want to scream so loud! The whole stop go thing isn’t so great for my feet. I keep truckin’ though and having a great time. We met an Australian family (mom, dad, daughter) and told them about the alburgue. They showed up at the place where we are staying also. I had to get some work done so I hid away in the room for the afternoon. Philip shared with us an amazing story about why he was doing the trip. His best friend passed away 10 years ago and his friend really wanted to walk the Camino, so he is doing this in memory of him. Such a special story. The dinner was amazing.  Paella and chorizo was so amazing. Best meal we have had to this point.

Total time: 6 1/2 hours
Total distance: 12 miles
Money spent: 54 euro (pharmacy supplies were 25) 

 

Day 6: We hit the road at 7:30am. Again it was the four of us. Ramon calls us the wolf pack. A few miles in, we stopped at a store and grabbed stuff for a picnic. We knew that today was the day of the wine fountain so we wanted to come prepared. Yes, you read that right. A wine fountain and the best part?! It was free. To be honest though, it wasn’t that great. However, we had our picnic with a bottle of wine that we brought from the night before that we didn’t finish. So we made a small breakfast spread of wine, cheese, and chorizo. Nothing like getting a party started at 10am. Today I put in my earbuds and was set to just walk alone. That I did. One of the parts of the Camino is a reflection. I listened to my book and some music. However, I spent my day walking in reflection. The rest of the group seemed to do the same. Philip walked ahead most of the day and then we would find him waiting for us. On our stops we would interact but the walking part was done mostly alone today. Matty received some information from his job pressuring him to sign a new contract so I could tell he was struggling. So during one of our breaks, I called him to encourage him. Shortly after, I received news that our apartment would no longer be available past our May contract. So we will be moving apartments again soon. We stopped at a bar food truck area made for pilgrims and had the best orange juice of my life! Upon arrival to the place we are staying, I took off my compeed from my blisters. It was the first time I have uncovered them since getting them. The guys were blown away that I walked. You will see in the pics of why. Philip said that they aren’t even blisters, they deserve a category of their own. Ramon said anytime something happens, like losing a finger, he will remember me and carry on and that I impress him more and more every day. Eric called me iron woman and they all agreed to carry my bag tomorrow. Of course my stubbornness won’t let that happen. They are clean and no infection so that is a huge plus. Every day we meet people who can’t carry on or they are recovering so they can, so I am so thankful.

Total time: 7 hours
Total distance: 16 miles
Money spent: 39 euro

 

Day 7: We reached the one week mark today! Left at 7:30 with beautiful weather and a great forecast. Today we were much more interactive. Met up with the Australians multiple times who have earned the name boomerang for the reason you can imagine. Claire (daughter) ended up having to take a bus forward. We walked far today. The road felt like it keep going forever. My bag felt like someone was pushing down on it once we got closer to the end. We have the same distance tomorrow. In fact, I was so into the process today, I didn’t take but 1 picture before getting to the city. I can finally walk without feeling so much physical pain that it is all I can focus on. So today I enjoyed the walk. I walked with Philip mostly today and we had wonderful conversations about life. Everyone is here on the Camino for their reasons and sometimes it is nice to just have a real conversation about it all. Eric is full of great advice too. He overheard some and put in his bits of wisdom. To put a cherry on top of our day, it was amazing food. Matty asked the other day why I don’t talk about food. I haven’t had much of a reason till now. As you will see from the photos, we are all considering skipping the rest and staying here to get fat. I only kid. Somewhat… It was a great day for food and friends. And some walking. Only for the distance I am not look forward to tomorrow.

Time walking: 8 1/2 hours
Total distance: 19.23
Total spent: 48 euro (but I owe 10 more to the group)

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