I have already deviated from my intention to blog every day. I’m a little torn about it, but feel the interactions I was having yesterday with complete strangers was vastly more important than blogging. “Excuse me, I know we are having an amazing conversation, but I have to go blog now.” Ridiculous right?
Yesterday we walked from Zubiri to Pamplona. Total mileage rang in at close to 13 miles. We left out of Zubiri and our most beautiful hostel around 6:15. William our roommate was out the door shortly behind us.
William had tremendous stories of travel. He’s a Dutchman now living in Ireland. He’s hiked the Camino 3 times. He worked as a helicopter pilot for different companies that provided support for construction crews in remote areas of under developed countries. He explained how he worked in Indonesia years ago and flew a small two person helicopter in and his passenger rappelled into the forest to cut a small landing area so he could land and pick him back up. The next helicopter was slightly larger and carried a crew of 6 to cut an even larger landing area. Then heavy lift helicopters would bring in huge caterpillar bull dozers and other similar equipment to build roads and what not. Fascinating stuff.
He’s hiked everywhere, including Nepal with a great deal of the Himalayas. He started the Camino in Ireland and hiked down to the south of the UK, took a ferry to France, and hike through a large portion of France.
The miles came easy through forest and farm land. The Spanish countryside is so beautiful. As we arrived in the suburbs of Pamplona and William caught up with us and recommended a hostel on the edge of downtown run by Germans. It was an older hostel but it was very very clean and kept up. It had a total of 14 beds and cost 6 euro. Each room had 4 beds, with one room having 2 beds. As my friend Jeff says, Germans run a tight ship. To top it all off, once again, the hostel was next to a river.
After checking in, we made our way to downtown Pamplona. Prior to coming here, I didn’t know a great deal about Spain. Pamplona has a very Metropolitan feel and is also famous for the running of the bulls. We stopped at an outdoor cafe and had lunch. I had a burger. It was quite good. Both T&M had salads. Another lady we met on the trail that we call “Dream Lady”, joined us. Shes a very interesting woman. Over the last 20 years, every single day, she has written down the dreams she had the night before.
Over the first couple of years, she had to look up the interpretation of each dream. She said at this point, she has learned the language of her dreams and its easy to interpret them. She is currently writing a book about her dream experiences and what she’s learned from the experience. Her general takeaway from the experience is, life is about balance in all things. I hope to find her book available one day.
After lunch, we walked around and found the narrow street in which they do the running of the bulls. It was wild to know the chaos of the bull run takes place on the very streets we walked. It was close to 2 pm while we were walking down the streets, and they were empty. It almost felt as if this section of town had been abandoned. Many of the shops were closed. We are still getting used to siesta time.
Square where they start the running of the bulls.
We snapped a few photos and then headed back to the hostel for some rest and blogging. After we arrived I decided I wanted to sit in the garden and blog. I took my phone and keyboard and headed down. I found several young people chatting. A German, an American, a Dutchman and an Aussie. Quite the cultural melting pot. 3 of the 4 people left, and Maria remained.
Maria and I started chatting. She’s an Aussie who moved to Italy 4 years previously. We talked about how she gave up her business in Oz to start a much simpler life. At 37 she downsized, learned Italian and moved to Italy. Since then she has worked a variety of jobs, just enough to support her habit of traveling 4 months a year. About a year ago, she decided to hike the Camino, and has no clue what she intends to do when she finishes.
We talked about lifestyle choices, and people living their life based on fear, versus living life with the view that life is abundant. The adage from “The very best Marigold Hotel” rings true. The keeper of the hotel says to his patrons,”We have a saying in India, In the end, everything will be alright, and if it is not alright, then it is not yet the end.”
Compelling and powerful advise. I can’t think of a single instance in my life where things didn’t work out in the end. While the outcome might not be as expected, things have always worked out. We always make the best of things, and we always move on to the next thing.
To an American, it is difficult to comprehend not stressing about a job if you don’t have one. Or worry about the future. Many of the pilgrims I have spoken to don’t carry this concern. They are of the mentality, “There will always be a job to be had. While it might not be exactly what you want to be doing, there will be money to be made.” Our expectations are often what cause disappointment. I am quickly learning, remove your expectations from the end result and you remove the majority of what will cause disappointment. Powerful lesson. I can think of many instances in which I have an expectation of how something will be, and because the experience doesn’t meet the expectation exactly, I’m disappointed.
This does NOT mean, you can’t have an agenda. For example I have an agenda in Spain to hike the Camino de Santiago. I do not however have any expectations of what I might experience. I don’t even know where I’m staying tomorrow night. I’ve traveled all over the U.S. and a little overseas. On those trips I’ve always had an agenda AND a fair amount of expectation. I have to say, this is some of the happiest traveling I’ve ever done. The more manageable you keep your expectations, the happier you will be.
Hours of conversation passed, and Molli joined us in the garden. She offered to go buy a bottle of wine. We all agreed. Molli disappeared for about 20 minutes. Ilka (the german wife at the hostel) learned of our plans and made us the most delicious garlic bread. While Molli was out procuring the wine, I see Wolfgang (Ilka’s husband) come out and cut a piece of rosemary from the garden. I figured he was getting it for their dinner. As Molli returned with the wine, Ilka appears in the garden and dropped off the most delicious garlic bread. Wouldn’t you know it, the fresh rosemary was incorporated in the recipe. It was by far the most delicious garlic bread I have ever tasted.
We ate and drank for the next hour. Going on 7:30, we decide we would venture out for dinner. We headed to the restaurant hosting pilgrims for dinner. The dining experience was an adventure unto itself. The food was downright terrible, T&M and I hardly let this dampen our experience. As we normally do, we laughed and carried on. Typical boisterous Americans. I will never apologize for having a good time.
After dinner, we shockingly realized it was after 9. With our schedule of early mornings and a hostel curfew of 10pm, we started walking back. It was at this point we realized just how crowded the entire downtown area had become. Deserted streets turned into bustling city.
Exhausted from our day we hit our racks and drifted off to sleep.
Around 4 am, I hear our roommate, the dream lady, get up and make her way out of the room with her sleeping bag and backpack in less than a minute. She was efficient and nearly silent. The noise which woke me, was the creaking of the bunk beds as she stood up. Had it not been for this, I suspect she would have left completely undetected.
I awoke shortly before our 5:30 alarm. I sent a few messages and rolled out of bed one minute before it was set to go off. T&M were awake before my hit the floor and we set about packing up. I taped up Molli’s pinky toe (which was looking better this morning) for the days walk. Promptly at 6am, we hear a knock at our door. We open it and it’s Wolfgang ensuring we are awake. When we opened the door, we heard classical music playing throughout the hostel. This was our unrequested wake up call. Over the next minute, he repeated his knock and entry into every room. Indeed a tight ship.
We opted for the pilgrims breakfast of toasted baguette, coffee, and OJ. We spent about 10 minutes shaking off the sleepiness and hit the road. We had a longer day planned with Puente la Reina lying 15 miles away.
We were all pretty sore this morning. Leaving Pamplona, we had a good 3km of road walking to do. Road walking on tired sore feet and legs is torture. Concrete sidewalk is very hard and unforgiving and asphalt is only a fraction better. T&M being the models of fitness, pick up the pace to what they normally walk. Within a mile I’m very obviously falling behind. At the next traffic light, I tell them, “Sorry, I’m simply not going to be able to walk that fast today.”
Without question they agree to walk slower, and put me at lead to set the pace. I struggle, and struggle. The pain in my feet is getting to the point it is unbearable. While walking along, we start chatting and I let them know just how bad I’m suffering. Molli offers me her foot massager (two tennis balls, tied in a sock, it’s absolutely fabulous at reducing foot pain).
At our next stop, I take her up on her offer and walk a short distance to an area I can sit down and massage my left foot. The pain was radiating from the area between my pinky and ring toe. The massager is completely ineffective. I begin to fear I’m developing a stress fracture. This was clearly not a soft tissue issue. I use the massager on other areas of my feet and work out some “kinks”. Immediately, these areas of my feet relax and start feeling better. This goes further to validate my assessment of a large problem.
Demoralized, I walk back over to T&M and hand them the massager and say, “Well this isn’t soft tissue, I’m not sure what’s going on.”
I turn away and start walking. Behind me, Tony says, “Well of course this isn’t a soft tissue issue. Your foot is simply manifesting pain from another issue.”
We chat for a minute, and he says, “Well if you ask me, this is a posture issure.”
Now I know I don’t have the best posture. I never have. I turn and ask him to explain. He says, “Well, your right shoulder is hunched over a bit and tilted to the left. Try pulling your right shoulder back and walking tall, like a Spaniard.”
The day before we noticed the impeccable posture of the majority of Spaniards walking around town. It was quite a sight. So much so, we all noticed.
I pulled my right shoulder back and straightened my back. Within a half dozen foot steps, my left foot stopped hurting. It was almost as if it were magic. If it you break down the biomechanics, it is hardly magic. The position on my right shoulder, caused my center of gravity to migrate to the outside of my left foot. Pull the right shoulder back and my center of gravity shifted to the right about a foot. Each foot fall resulted in the shock of each step being placed directly over the arch of each foot as it is planted during each stride. Exactly how it should be. It’s really sad I have been neglecting my posture so much it has nearly resulted in injury.
As I walked, my right arm started to swing more. Something I hadn’t realized was missing. My right arm apparently hasn’t swung back and forth for so long in fact, it felt SO strange for it to be moving. As if it had atrophied from NOT swinging.
Throughout the day, I felt my right leg muscles engage significantly more. Reluctant to believe simply pulling my right shoulder back and straigtening my back was the cause of my left foot pain, i played with my posture several times throughout the rest of the day. I would purposely relax my back and let my right shoulder slump forward. Within 10 steps the pain would return in my left foot with a vengence. Convincing enough for me! Posture, Posture Posture is the motto of the next several days.
The great thing? I have the next 30 days of walking to reinforce my new found posture. A great opportunity for focus. It’s tough to reinforce new things when you have 50 things coming at your every day you need to take care of.
The next 10 miles seemed to fly by. As long as I walked with good posture, I experienced little to no pain. The only pain I experienced was that of fatigued muscles and ligaments. To be expected, considering we’ve hiked north of 55 miles in the last 4 days. Add the 36 miles I walked in Paris, and you see I’ve moved a lot recently.
Toward the end of our hike today, I comment to Tony, ” You know what would be nice? If we arrived at a hostel that had a nice plastic tub, about 24×24 square, about a foot tall with 5 inches of water in it. Across the street, a place that sells 3 kilo bags of ice. I want a food ice bath.”
We both laugh, and agree that would be perfect. Within a mile and a half, we arrive in the outskirts of Puente la Reina. The first hostel we come to has a sign outside their garden showing all the things they offer. Foot baths, massages, and on and on. For whatever god damn reason we decide to keep walking. Talk about not seeing the bright blinking neon sign of manifestation! Of course we justified it to ourselves. The hostel is on the far side of town. It is about a mile from downtown where the restaurants and shops are. Secondly, Molli had read about a hostel that has a swimming pool on the far other side of town. So it was a compromise.
We walked through Puente La Reina which was a stunning little town. A spanish pilgrim we have seen several times told us the history of the town. The town has built up over the last 500 years, because of the Camino traffic. On the far side of town is a bridge built during midevil times. A striking stone bridge with 3 arches supporting it. When is the last time you walked across a stone bridge built 600 years ago? We grab a couple photos and continue on. Our destination is only about a half a kilometer away. What the pilgrim guide didn’t tell us, the hostel was at the top of a VERY steep dirt road. At the end of a 15 mile day, the last thing you want to do is hike up another steep hill, to arrive someplace you are unsure about.
I will freely admit, based on the last three places we have stayed we are highly spoiled. They have been beautiful and or very clean. And well beyond expectations. We arrive at the place. It’s a large place. 100 plus beds. They do indeed have a pool. As we walk in, the vibe is just a little…..off. We check in, and a nice gentleman tells us the ins and outs of the place, and then tells us to go pick a bed.
We walk to the far end of the building into the dormitory and walk down the row of beds. Again, there is nothing wrong with the place. It’s well kept, very clean. But something is just not right. We find a cubicle that has 3 open beds and walk in. We drop out packs out of exhaustion. Molli heads to the bathroom, and I drop to a bench and rest my face in my hands. Tony can tell something is wrong and asks accordingly. I respond, “We should have taken the first place we came to.”
He says well, we are here now. Its unlikely we can come to a consensus about leaving. I’m disconcerted. Molli comes back. I float the idea of walking the mile and a half back to the first hostel we came across. We discuss the pros and cons. We will likely not get our money back here. I offer to reimburse their cost of the hostel. I felt that strongly about not staying there. We also know, the original hostel might be sold out at this point. We are in a large wave of pilgrims, so places do sell out.
We decide to risk it, the caveat being, Molli has to stop and eat. We throw on our packs and head out the door. We are about 50 yards from the hostel when the owner comes running out. He speaks little english, but wants to show us something. Tony takes the lead and heads back inside, telling us to wait. He disappears with the owner for a few minutes and then comes back out.
Tony tells us the owner showed him a private room, but insisted only two people can stay in them, even tho tony and molli would sleep in the same bed. Tony let’s him know we will pass, and walks out.
We leave without asking for our money back. After all, we definitely don’t want anyone to feel bad. We make it about 150 yeards down the road when we hear another shout. It’s the owner running toward us with the money we had given him. I take the lead on this and in my limited spanish tell him, “No necessito.” He insists and I take the money.
We walk away, and I feel like an asshole. Tony quickly says, “Look, things went perfectly. We weren’t rude. We decided not to stay, and the owner gave us our money back.” I drop my self imposed judgement.
We walk down the huge hill and negotiate our next move. Molli is starving. I want to ensure we get a room at the other place. We conclude the best course of action is for Molli and Tony to stop and have lunch and I will head back to the hostel we saw originally and get a room. At that point, I could care less about eating. They give me their pilgrims passports and we separate. Surprisingly the fatigue I had felt the last several hours has disappeared. After I was out of eye shot, I break into a slow run.
I make quick work of the distance and arrive back at Alberque Jakue. With luck, they still have rooms, private rooms with their own bathrooms! All for a grand total of an additional 3 euro per person more than we laid at the first place. 40 euro for a room that will accomodate 3 people.
The hostel is gorgeous! All the anxiety of our accommodations vanishes and we spend an afternoon amongst pilgrims of various nationalities exchanging stories.
Take away for the day, “Pay attention to the signs offered you. Sometimes they may be subtle, but they should always be listened to.”
Another successful day on the Camino.
Buenas noches señoritas e señors.