A Travellerspoint blog

Camino Day 5: "Where the wind crosses the Way of the Stars"

Rio Sadar to Muruzabal: 16.6 km/10.4 miles

To Oz

To Oz

I promised myself to journal every day during my Camino. A written word, however, had yet to materialize. Usually I was bolting to my bed, post dinner, with little energy left to write. Tomorrow became my mantra. My I-pad was in tote for this very reason, as my handwriting is atrocious and later, painstaking to decipher.
Someone stated that during the first third of the Camino, a Pilgrim focuses on the Physical. That focus transitions to the Mental. The final portion transcends to the Spiritual.
My somatic focus was the slightly dead sensations of my extremities and tiredness at day’s end. It appeared most pilgrims followed this pattern of evolution, with the amount of bandages, creams, antiseptics, etc. that had been purchased in this first round. Conveniently located vending machines were devoted to the care of the injured. Pharmacists along the Camino were the front line of defense for the wounded, purportedly pushing needles with threads through full blisters to drain them. My health care background cringed at this thought. Thankfully, my feet thus far had remained sans blisters. They were well prepared and duly roughened from my prior 5 months in rural Nepal.
Appreciation filled with the passing beauty that engulfed the Peregrinos and the Camino trail. This was a lovely day, filled with fields of green and yellow with random lone red poppies scattered within. The rolling landscape swallowed up the little Peregrino dots along the yellow-arrowed path indicating direction. The collage of colors will remain imprinted in my memory.
A slow uphill climb lead to a plateau with wind turbines spinning and buzzing on the surrounding hillsides. The metal sculpted ‘Monumento Peregrino’ spread across the hilltop. An engraved saying stated, “ Where the way of the wind crosses the way of the stars”.
This shrine was featured in the Hollywood movie, “The Way” which centered on the Camino. I noted several comments made and graffiti en route indicating the faux pas of stating the movie as your reason to do the Camino.
There was a hint of rain but not a drop shed. The hostel that was home for tonight, loaned bikes to visit the beautiful, peaceful, 12th century Romanesque Church of Santa Maria de Eunate. The shrine dated back to the times of the Knights Templar, the Guardians of the Camino, and stood by itself off a main road. Happy to have visited this on two wheels versus adding 3.1 km to my Camino the following day.
I skipped the regular hostel pilgrim menu and ate lunch leftovers. Sometimes the volume of food felt too much, usually three courses, for an evening meal.
This was a private hostel that was stylishly designed to give the impression of independence, despite 14 people sleeping in one room. Was a nice respite not to actually see all my bunkmates for the night.

Green green grass

Green green grass

Gone with the Wind

Gone with the Wind

A Beautiful Day Imprint

A Beautiful Day Imprint

Where the Stars and Wind meet

Where the Stars and Wind meet

Camino Fuente

Camino Fuente

Red

Red

Santa Maria de Eunate

Santa Maria de Eunate

Arches

Arches

Posted by Shantitraveler 17:03 Archived in Spain Tagged walking trekking santiago de path spiritual camino Comments (0)

Camino Day 4: Run of the Bulls Circumvented

Zabaldika to Cizur Menor: 11.7 km/7.3 miles

Oh Toreador!

Oh Toreador!


Peregrinos wake and head out very early in the morning. So be the Camino way. These untimely departures would be my small nemesis for the pilgrimage. Why the scramble? Another overcast day emerged, but still too early to indicate the day’s true forecast.
I caught up with the Polish woman. She was focused on her day-to-day destination, as her return ticket home was set. She was going to bypass Pamplona. Many stop for the night in Pamplona due to it’s historical background, great nightlife, and annual ‘Run of the Bulls’. Hemmingway hung out here and wrote, ‘The Sun Also Rises.’ Ample memorabilia can be found throughout the town commemorating these infamous events.
I decided to spend a few hours and then move onward like my Polish bunkmate. The town seemed loud and busy compared to the peaceful countryside passed. While meandering around I bumped into two of my Pyrenees Pass ‘Core Four’ mates, Eagle Scout and Lovely Interpreter. Breakfast was taken at a Hemingway locale. We sat and watched the ubiquitous backpacks with dangling Camino shells pass by as Peregrinos explored the city. Walking sticks clicked loudly in synchronous rhythm on the old cobblestone streets. Post a leisurely walk through town with my mates, I set out.
Just beyond the outskirts of Pamplona was an albergue run by the Knights of St. John of Malta, in Rio Sadar. Many hostels are run by volunteers whose loyal servitude to the passing Pilgrims keeps these accommodations open. The Hospitalero at this quaint hostel shared the adventure of his individualized credentialed Pilgrim route from Brittany, France all the way to Alexandria, Egypt. He returned to Alexandria on a later trip walked across Northern Africa, boated across the Straits of Gibraltar and then joined another Camino route, winding up in Santiago. A travel book is planned sometime in the future. He humbly shared his well-worn credentialed pilgrim passport for this journey. It was battered and marked with drawings, signatures and stamps collected en route. Many Europeans also break up their Camino walk into annual segments until completed due to time, money, Camino proximity and other factors. The final 100 Camino kilometers are the crucial ones to obtain the coveted Compostela (certificate of completion).
Dinner transformed into a communal event with the sharing of food to make a simple, yet delicious meal. A Russian duo whipped up crepes and passed a plate around. I met up with the other kind-hearted Four Core mate here. Seems she also wanted to avoid the Pamplona masses. The night ended with a concert by a Scottish man toting his guitar, in the adjacent church with outstanding acoustics.
Outside of feeling the weight of my pack, the Camino barely felt like a hardship, with good food, concert and company. Even while considering my 80 or so bunkmates that sonorous night.

Town of the Bulls and Hemingway

Town of the Bulls and Hemingway

The Man: Hemingway

The Man: Hemingway

Pamplona Street Musicians

Pamplona Street Musicians

Pamplona Traditional Musicians

Pamplona Traditional Musicians

Near death trampling

Near death trampling

Community Meal

Community Meal

Posted by Shantitraveler 15:02 Archived in Spain Tagged walking camino pamplona zabaldika cizur menor Comments (0)

Camino Day 3: Call of the Sirens

Zubiri to Zabaldika: 12.4 km/ 7.8 miles

Spanish Puente

Spanish Puente

Awoke at dawn, and found the Korean contingent already filling their plates at the serve-yourself breakfast table. One was gracefully doing Tai Chi in the backyard. I poured a cup of coffee and watched his physical poetry unravel. I dawdled per usual.
Our Core Four group had different destinations today. The Chilean had already booked her bed for the night. Rumors started to spread that beds may be difficult to get. Hostels were filling up fast. Should I be concerned with my tardy starts and coffee breaks……Nah!
The sky was overcast. I started the day walking solo on the road. Passing people and being passed. Conversations came and went as did the light rain.
A group of French lingered ahead unseen, as my head was bent low due to the wet weather. This gathering transpired at the crossroads of the first real opcion (alternate route) thus far, on the Camino. Far above there was a convent, while straight onward the river path continued. I looked up several times. The distance seemed quite far to my feet. I sat down and pondered. I pulled out my book and read the description of the uphill diversion to Zabaldika. Was this the first time I actually pulled out my book? I had been relying on the Eagle Scout for many quick questions en route.
I could only liken this as a soundless Siren-call beckoning, like Odysseus had heard, to follow the uphill path. A guidebook-less European man inquired. I shared what information I could dig up. The words of Robert Frost hung in my head as I stood there.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
…and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Robert Frost

My feet, protested loudly as I turned up the hill, followed by the European. The majority of Peregrino feet would stay on the river path.
Rare has there been woeful consequences when having chosen the lesser-travelled way, and this path was no different. The night ended up being one of community and shared dinner, followed by a prayer service lead by the resident convent nuns.
When talking with others, it appeared that several of us got called up to the convent that night. This further cemented the mystery and possibilities of the Camino. Goose-bump moment experienced. I chatted for a few minutes with a Polish woman before drifting off to sleep. Journaling was once again postponed.

Country living

Country living

Camino Insignia

Camino Insignia

The Way

The Way

One foot forward

One foot forward

Gratitude

Gratitude

Community

Community

Posted by Shantitraveler 21:18 Archived in Spain Tagged walking santiago journey spiritual camino transitions zubiri zabaldika Comments (0)

Camino Day 2: Vino Tinto decelerates day

Day 2: Roncevalles to Zubiri 23.1 km/14.4 miles

Cloud Swirl

Cloud Swirl

We were awakened in the morning to knocking on the door. This evidently was not the Ritz. Hostel directive was 0800 checkout per unread guidebook. Obviously, I was not the only one unfamiliar with this rule. Ours was the last bunkhouse evacuated that morning. Yearning for a coffee, we had to walk 3.1 km’s to the next village to find one. Everything was already closed in Roncevalles. The large Peregrino (pilgrim in Spanish) Pack had already made good distance by this hour.
A stop at the village grocery supplied us with snacks for lunch. A second coffee was ordered in the following village, which had a ghost town feel that would reverberate throughout the Camino. Did the villagers clock the timing of the Peregrino throng, and remain indoors until passed?
Our small group started to spread out as the day continued. We all had the name of a hostel recommended by our first hostel, so we would eventually meet at the end of the day. Everyone got some alone time. I savored it. My future life was going to be planned during this solitude, or at least so I thought.
The start of the day was beautiful. A glass of delicious, local vino (for one Euro!) and a lackadaisical conversation with fellow Pilgrims delayed a post lunch start and lead to another later arrival at the hostel in Zubiri.
By day’s end, the weather became chilly with a light drizzle. The sweet Chilean offered to collect and throw everyone’s clothes in the washer instead of each one hand-washing separately. Splendid idea! I scurried to a hot shower respite.
The younger souls wanted to head to the town square for dinner. I vacillated. My feet protested. Lingering back with mostly older Peregrinos, I opted for the typical pilgrim menu offered nightly at most hostels. No desire remained to walk any more steps to eat. We waved the others off like parents.
Sleep came fast in this 6-person dorm room. The last leg into Zubiri was a steady downhill, which proved to be as challenging as the uphill climb from the prior day. Journaling was put off once again.

Compostela Signpost

Compostela Signpost

Ghost Town

Ghost Town

Church with Trees

Church with Trees

Village Stoop

Village Stoop

Red Window

Red Window

Bread Delivery

Bread Delivery

Posted by Shantitraveler 06:28 Archived in Spain Tagged walking village life santiago camino roncevalles zubiri Comments (0)

Camino Day 1: Over the Pyrenees Pass

St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Roncevalles, Spain: 28.5 km/17.8 miles

Over the Pass Gang

Over the Pass Gang

Awoke to the sounds of quiet, peaceful music and the rustling of other pilgrims. Was it anxiety or excitement in the air? I trod quietly to the bathroom. Unsure of the next step, I headed downstairs where breakfast was already laid out. Comforted to see a pot of coffee on the table, I slid in next to an older Korean woman. She was bright eyed for this hour. Nods and greetings exchanged as others joined. One young Spanish man bounded down the steps with pack already on back. Is something amiss here? Are we being timed?
Not yet ruffled by more early departures, I pour a second cuppa. My lack of planning and knowledge for this pilgrimage could be starting to show. Today was to be one of the more difficult of Camino days and hence, the ‘early birds’ flying out.
Nevertheless, I continued to linger. I had yet to read anything in the book, purchased only last night. The only knowledge known was the next port of call, Roncesvalles, Spain.
I started the Camino alone, and actually had to ask someone to point me in the right direction. I smiled hoping to deflect my ignorance. Slower steps had to be taken due to the climb to the 1400-meter pass. Weather can change dramatically and dangerously during this section, but fortunately, the day was mostly sunny and dry. ‘Buen Camino’ greetings were exchanged en route. It sounded kind and supportive to hear. We had all found the time to do the Camino. The words of Simon and Garfunkel’s, ‘59th St. Bridge Song’ came to my head. Feeling groovy!
I recognized a few hostellers from last night in Orrison, the last real pit stop before the Pass. We ended up walking together, three of us from the USA and one from Chile. We stuck it out together for safety reasons due to our speed, or lack thereof. We took breaks and none of us felt the urgency to rush. Perhaps this was blissful ignorance.
Small beautiful horses lingered in fields with ‘cowbells’ ringing out like church bells in nature. A statue of the Virgin Mary and child watched over all near the Summit. A few cattle grids were passed, and then entry into Spain.
We arrived gracefully in Roncesvalles in the twilight, just before 8 pm, after the “Eagle Scout” of our group led us down a far safer, yet longer, alternative route than most take. He was prepped and well versed on the Camino. Our Chilean mate served as interpreter to get our Menu del Dia ordered. I considered myself in good hands in their company. With so late arrival, we were ushered into one of several annexed bunkhouses behind the main Albergue, for our sleeping quarters. Too tired to shower after dinner, I just crawled into bed. The snore chorus began.

Virgin Mary, Pyrenees Pass, Camino, Sunny Day, Pilgrimage

Virgin Mary, Pyrenees Pass, Camino, Sunny Day, Pilgrimage

Madonna watching over the Pass

Madonna watching over the Pass

Snow on the Pass

Snow on the Pass

Roncevalles, Spain

Roncevalles, Spain

Posted by Shantitraveler 15:24 Archived in Spain Tagged hiking st. village port santiago de jean miles journey spiritual camino 500 pied roncevalles Comments (0)

Unpreparedness....

For the Camino de Santiago

Salut in St. Jean Pied de Port

Salut in St. Jean Pied de Port


The Italians offered me earplugs once we were settled in the hotel room. They admitted that they snored, and rather loudly at that. In hindsight, this was great training for what was to ensue on the Camino. Had I read any sort of Camino guidebook prior to arrival, earplugs would have been my first purchase.

     They were up early and headed out before I was dressed. Another drill exercise for me, as most Pilgrims would be up and on the road far earlier than these friendly Italians. Not comprehending the necessity to get out of the gate quickly, I fiddled around the room and slowly meandered to the station to catch the small local train that delivered most pilgrims to the Camino starting line in St. Jean Pied du Port (‘at the foot of the Pass’), in the Pyrenees foothills.

     St. Jean is a little French border town that is picture perfect, with narrow streets, a citadel atop a hill and the traditional village church. This was proud, autonomous Basque country with boundaries extending into Spain. The Basque have their own distinct culture and language. 

     There was an official pilgrim office where one purchased a Camino passport and the customary shell worn to denote Pilgrim status. The shell signifies all the Camino routes, ultimately leading to Santiago and unites all treading these routes. The passport was required to gain access to a Camino hostel bed.

     A gratis scale hung from the ceiling to weigh-in pilgrim backpacks. Recommended weight was less than 10% body weight, or for most around 6 to 8 kg. Was that with a full water bottle or empty? I emptied my water bottle in attempts to drop more kilos. Fail!

     A friend had recommended a hostel near the Pilgrim office. Luckily I chanced a bed by default after a late cancellation. Score! This hostel embraced the Pilgrims as family and encouraged them to set an intention prior to commencing one’s personal Camino.

     Dinnertime started with a round-the-circle introduction and sharing of one’s reason to do the Camino. Motivations ranged from gaining insight, helping with big decisions, working through a relationship’s end, to processing the death of a loved one, etc.  At minimum ten countries were represented. A few bi-lingual Pilgrims assisted with translations. A toast (Salut!) of hearty port followed.

     A Hollander requested a moment of silence for those that died in WWII, as done in his country annually on this night, May 4th, at 8 pm. This solemn minute only added to the gravity of the venture to be started in the am.

     This was no longer just a very long walk, but a possibility to transform one’s thought process and personal philosophy, should the challenge be taken. Gratitude started to swell at such a precious opportunity. Ruby slippers were not on my feet, but I felt I was heading for my ‘Oz’ and the Camino was my yellow brick road.

     Lights were out by 10 pm. As my head rested on the pillow, which earlier had a carefully laid towel and name card upon it, I listened to the quiet settling noises of the mix of countries represented in this dormitory room. A bonding started that night which would continue throughout the Camino, be it those present or those met en route. Our shells and credentials linked all, whether desired or not.
What was I really embarking on in the morning? 

IMG_0028_copy.jpgCitadel atop St. Jean's

Citadel atop St. Jean's

Pilgrim Long Legs

Pilgrim Long Legs

Name card on pillow at first hostel

Name card on pillow at first hostel

Posted by Shantitraveler 19:15 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

To walk or not to walk. The Camino that is.

Camino de Santiago

Camino de Santiago

The decision to walk the Camino de Santiago was realized during a 2 week European jaunt with my nieces in April. Coming from a long-term volunteer stay in Nepal, I arrived in Copenhagen on a one-way ticket. My nieces met me midpoint home. Technically I was a free agent without the chokehold of a homeward bound ticket.

     The Camino had been summoning ever since a friend shared that it was great for reflection and transitions in life. What better case in point, than traveling, after 5 months in rural Nepal, back to life in the USA? Reverse culture shock would most definitely be felt on re-entry. The economic disparity between Nepal and the US is unsettling, as well as the definition of luxury versus necessity. Finding a cushion between these extremes might ease that transition. Thus, ticket-less and within close proximity of the Camino, the time was auspicious to start walking.

     My ill-prepared Camino plans left me scurrying around Paris on my last day looking for a pair of walking shoes. Rule #1 for ANY trekking expedition is to have well broken-in shoes. Rule # 2 is to travel light.  Both of these rules were breached. My lovable 16-year-old backpack was not the slick, lightweight versions that are out on the market today. Despite the extra kilos to haul, I chose to take it. How could one abandon a faithful rucksack after all these years?

     On our departure day, my nieces headed to Charles de Gaulle, while I boarded the speedy TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) southward bound to Bayonne, the rail connection closest to the start of Camino Frances. The train was delayed a few hours en route, thus not living up to it's turbo-like name.

     The late arrival into Bayonne provoked me to 'stalk' an Italian couple out of the station. I pegged them as Camino Pilgrims with their walking sticks and small backpacks. I had landed without a room reservation. Perhaps they were headed to a Pilgrim's refuge to stay? Within a few steps, they turned and asked where I was staying, as they were in the same predicament. Busted!
The day ended laughing, with us all sharing a room together. My Camino had unofficially started.

Posted by Shantitraveler 09:40 Archived in Spain Tagged trek walk santiago spiritual camino transitions Comments (0)

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