Catching up . . .

Well, today is Monday, May 6th.  Instead of trying to write long posts and stay behind, I am going to get all caught up.  I have access to an actual computer today, which makes it easier.  Blogging from the keyboard on my phone gets a bit tedious!

On Thursday, I walked from Zubiri to Pamplona.  It rained off and on all day.  I said goodbye to Maribel and Giovanni in the morning, and will likely not see them again.  I walked by myself for much of the day, as happens frequently.  I find that I am walking slower than the majority of people, and that is ok.  I can only do what I can do, and other than my feet (and at times my calves) hurting, it is pleasant.  I met Josef and Lena in the first town out of Zubiri.  He had left his wallet in the last albergue and was trying to find a way to contact them or get back to it.  I wished him luck and headed on.

The day passed mostly uneventfully.  I did have my first mis-step.  The Camino went along a river, but the path was above the river 10-15 feet on a little ridge.  I had met a couple of ladies from England walking in the opposite direction shortly before that, and they had advised me to walk down by the paved path next to the river.  When I got there, I wasn´t sure I would know when to go back up to the higher path, so I took the higher path, full of mud and muck, from the beginning.  I kept seeing tracks where people had gone down to the lower path, but they looked pretty slippery.  Finally I found a place where I felt I could make it down the hill on my feet.  I started down.  I was wrong.  My feet kept going, and I rolled a time or two.  (It was a very short drop, I was never worried I would be hurt).  I landed in some bushes, in a slight depression in the ground, face up.  Well, normally this would be no problem.  Not so this time.  Keep in mind that I have 20# on my back.  Have you ever seen a turtle that gets flipped over and can´t right himself?  Well, there I lay on my back, wet, muddy and slightly scratched from the bramble bush, laughing and flailing my arms and legs unable to do anything.  I finally gave a huge roll and managed to get on my side, and upright from there.  I brushed myself off, uninjured (except my pride, and that was only a little bruise), and went on.  Not 50 feet ahead of me was the path to go back up.  Sigh . . .

About 3 miles or so before Pamplona, I met up with Josef and Lena again.  A local man had given him a ride back to the albergue, and he arrived just as they were locking their doors.  He was able to go in and retrieve his wallet, all money, cards and documents intact, and get a ride back with the same local.  He only lost about 20 minutes.  Amazing how much territory you can cover in a car!  We walked together the rest of the way.  At one point they debated getting a bus to go the last few kilometers, I was tempted but decided to walk. They ended up walking too.

I couch surfed in Pamplona for two nights; Mario, the man I couchsurfed with, came and picked me up.  I arrived in Pamplona at 4;  both the private and municipial albergues were full and they were sending people to hostels.  That is the danger of arriving too late.  You have to walk even further or make alternate (often more expensive) plans for lodging for the night.

I slept well, and the next day (Friday) spent the day relaxing and exploring Pamplona.  Friday night I packed up my extra belongings that I would not be taking with me on the Camino (since I had been at Mario´s before going to SJPP, I had left them there).  There were the things that I would replenish my pack with, clothing and guide books for Ireland, and my sandals and netbook, which were just too heavy in my pack.  I boxed them up, and the next morning I took the box to the post office to send them ahead to myself in Leon.  The box weighed 6.5 kg, so I braced myself for shipping costs.  They must have a special shipping rate for pilgrim´s, because it only cost €6.5.

The apartment where I couchsurfed was actually in Burlada, which is before Pamplona on the Camino.  I walked right by it the day before, but wanted to get to Pamplona walking that day.  So, after depositing my parcel at the post office, I caught a bus to get back to Pamplona to begin walking where I left off.  I felt like a fraud!  Here I was with my backpack, my walking poles and my seashell, riding a bus!  I knew that I had already walked that part, but the people in the bus didn´t.  No one said anything, no one even seemed to be paying attention.  But that didn´t quell the desire to stand up and announce that I really had already walked that part and I wasn´t cheating.  I thought I was past the point in my life where I really cared what strangers thought of me.  I guess there is a little left in there after all . . .

I finally got on the road at 10:30 or so from Pamplona.  A portion of the Camino covers the campus of the University of Navarra, what a beautiful campus!  I walked onto the campus to get my pilgrim´s passport stamped.  The office I went into was actually the back of an auditorium, and there was a graduation ceremony for nursing students going on!  Lots and lots of people.

I only walked a few kilometers that day, as my calves were still hurting and I didn´t want to arrive to late at further cities and not be able to get a bed.  I stopped for the night in Cizur Menor.

The albergue I chose there was lovely!  It is operated by volunteers with the Cross of Malta organization, which has dedicated itself to helping pilgrims since the Middle Ages.  Francisco and his wife Maria Luisa were the volunteers on duty this month.  When I walked in, after getting my passport stamped, I was ushered into the kitchen and given coffee or tea (chose tea) and a little biscuit/cookie.   They were very hospitable.  That afternoon, I met a couple from South Korea.  She is 65, he is 69, and they are walking the Camino.  Their English was rudimentary, and their Spanish non-existent.  We talked a bit, and music came up.  Suddenly, she began to sing ¨besame, besame mucho¨ in perfect Spanish in a beautiful voice!  Turns out she loves Spanish music.  When she finished, he began to hum the thumping rythym of a tango.  What a couple!

Maria Luisa prepares a dinner each night for those who want to eat, and it is by donation.  Whatever pilgrims donate today provides food for pilgrims the next day.  Dinner was a lovely green salad (not getting nearly enough veggies, so this was my favorite part), pasta with mushrooms and ham, salami, bread, and one other thing, I can´t remember what.  There were five of us who ate: myself, Clements from Holland, Sarah from England, and Sabrina and her boyfriend (I didn´t catch his name) from Italy.  At the beginning of the meal Francisco announced that our meal was complements of yesterday´s pilgrims, and the wine complements of Maria Luisa, who had celebrated her birthday the day before.  We sang her happy birthday, and then she and Francisco left and we had dinner.  It was such a great moment!  The pilgrim´s meals cost €9, so I don´t partake of them.  I miss the comraderie, but it just isn´t in the budget.  This made up for it!

Went to bed early and got up the next day at six to begin again.

Pix to follow in separate post . . .

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Puente de la Reina to Lorca May 6

Yesterday, I walked about 14 miles from Cizur Menor to Puente de la Reina.  It was a relatively uneventful day.  I walked part of the day with Madeline from Germany.  We had a lot in common, and we talked about our reasons for this trip.  It was spiritual for both, as neither participate in organized religion but both believe in a Higher Power.

The highlight of the day was when we went a few kilometers out of the way to Eunate.  There is an octagonal church there from the 12th century.  Many feel that, because of its shape, it was at one point affiliated with the Knights Templar.  I took several photos, got my passport stamped, and the lady told us how to bypass the next city and go directly to Puente La Reina.  We had already walked the kilometers, and we would have had to go up and down again, so we opted for the bypass.

We arrived at the albergue at 3:00, and the three people after me who signed in filled the last three beds.  I showered, did laundry, went into town to see the churches and get food.  It is interesting.  Sometimes when I walk into the churches, I feel a presence.  It feels like a place that is alive, where people who believe come to worship and celebrate, representing the very best aspect of the religion.  Other times, it just feels like a building.  I am not sure if it is my mood, the building, or a combination of both.  I try to say a prayer every day, but sometimes it just doesn´t feel like a place I want to pray.

I was asleep by 9 last night, up at six this morning to begin again.  Had my usual breakfast of high protein granola and yogurt, and was walking by 6:45.  I knew there would be ups and downs, but I guess I didn´t expect so many hills.  It wore me out early today.  I walked for 5 hours, covered 10 miles, and by 11:45 was ready to be done.  I think I could have forced another hour or so, but the problem is the next town was 3 hours away, and getting there after two, I ran the risk of not being able to get a bed and being forced to spend more money for a hotel or to keep walking.  I checked into a great place!  All of the albergues are nice; they are here to help the pilgrims complete there journey.  They are run by good, kind, friendly (usually) people.  But, some accomodations are nicer than others.  This one is nicer.  Most of the municipial albergues cost €5.  This one was seven.  My room only has four beds in it, and my bed has a real mattress!  And I have the bottom bunk!  And there´s a computer with free wifi!  And there is a wash machine!  I paid €2, soap was provided, and my clothes will all be dry by tonight and won´t smell like sweat tomorrow!  But first, when I got here, I laid down on my bed and woke up 90 minutes later.  This Camino is something that I know I can do.  I have no doubts that I will finish, no second thoughts about doing it.  But, it is the biggest physical challenge I have ever taken on.

I think it is a mental challenge as well.  I find that if I can focus my mind on other things, I don´t notice the pain in my feet and legs.  This is where having developed the practice of meditation would have come in handy!  I always intended to do it, I just never got around to it.  Maybe when I get back.

Tonight, I am in search of good healthy inexpensive protein.  I think I am not getting enough protein, as the cheap stuff is a little Spanish ham and cheese stuffed between two thick slabs of a baguette.  At least I try to get whole grain when available.  If nothing else, I will get eggs at the store and cook them here in the kitchenette.  Eggs and veggies.  I think that sounds delightful!  Until tomorrow!

Photos to follow in separate post . . .