Days 3 & 4:

Blisters! 42 miles, 458 to go and I now have blisters on the outside of both my big toes. Boo. I was really hoping to avoid them but there has been a lot of up and down hill walking the past 2 days, but I think it’s really the steeper downhill that is doing it. Today my front shin muscles have been aching too, but I’m still really loving the walk.

Day 3: We left the little village of Espinal, Spain in the morning and walked through some beautiful rural countryside, a side of Spain I had never experienced living in Madrid. It was also starting to drizzle as we left our albergue.

It rained lightly off and on all day causing us to strip off our rain gear only to put it back on further down the road. We also definitely needed to be more cautious going down some of the slicker downhill spots. But the weather didn’t seem to dampen people’s moods. There were many bright smiles and the shared salutation of “buen Camino” all along the way.

On this day there were many Pilgrims on the path, but not bunched together as everyone walks at different paces. There was a trio of Frenchmen who we first heard before seeing on day 1 as they came up behind us in a rapid clatter of tapping hiking poles. They went zipping past, all of them moving together in almost military precision. On day 3, we heard them again before we saw them. I said to Will, I can hear team France coming our way. Later we passed them as it appeared they were doing their Camino in power bursts. The next time they went clicking past us Will said, “There goes Napoleon’s revenge.” This made me laugh but also think about my own pace so I asked Will, who has run 10 marathons, hikes, bikes, and is generally very active, if my pace was ok. Maybe he wanted to power walk the Camino and I was holding him back. He said that he was walking exactly as fast as he wanted to walk. I was relieved that our paces matched and I’d say we are a little faster than the average except he scampers up the hills a bit quicker, and he has no soreness or blisters not to mention he’s carrying a much heavier pack than I am.

Towards the end of day 3, I was starting to feel depleted. We stopped for a much needed rest and lunch in a town called Zubiri, but we had booked in a little village called Urdániz another hour further. We had some paella and then I went outside to check my sore toes which is when I discovered the blisters. Right then, it started pouring rain. I’ll admit it, for a second I looked around the town square for a taxi. As I was feeling pretty dejected, an American couple came along and the man saw I was inspecting my blisters and he went into his pack to give me some amazing gel plasters that made so much difference. With a “buen Camino” he was off and I’m not kidding, the pouring rain stopped. There’s a phrase they use on this walk, “the Camino provides” and boy did it. The next hour walk went quickly and at our next albergue, I was able to pay forward some of that Camino kindness.

In Urdániz, we stayed at a small family-run albergue with 2 rooms and 10 beds. In our room was a couple in their late 20s, she was from Rio de Janeiro and he was from upstate New York. I told her I had just been to Rio in February and we got to chatting. She told me that she liked to do graphic design and was writing and illustrating a children’s book she was about to self-publish. She said it was in Portuguese and she had also translated it into Spanish and a friend translated it into English for her. I told her I was an English teacher, and if she wanted any help from me, I’d be happy to take a look at it. She got very excited, grabbed her phone, and started showing me the beautiful images from her book called The Shell Collector. I started to read the English version, and I could quickly see that her friend had probably just used Google Translate and that the English needed some work. So I sat down with her and for the next two hours we worked on re-crafting the language together. Here is John, Raquel, and me:

When we finished, everyone was gathering in the dining room and our Colombian host, he had married a Spanish woman and bought this albergue which was also their home, had prepared us a delicious meal. 10 of us sat down to dinner: a German man, a woman from Uruguay who now lives in Switzerland, a Cuban man who lives in Florida, the couple I mentioned, me, Will, and more Brazilians: a family with a daughter and her father and aunt walking together. There wasn’t one shared language in the room and yet we had a lively dinner conversation with some of us translating for others. After dinner and after everyone went to bed, Will and I stayed up with our Colombian host, who didn’t speak any English, and drank beers with him and chatted for another couple hours.

Day 4: I wrapped my toes, and we walked 5. 5 hours to Pamplona. The first four hours were through beautiful countryside and Will and I walked most of the day by ourselves, except for about a half an hour when we walked with the Brazilian family. Luckily they spoke Spanish and Will speaks a little Portuguese. And we walked for another half hour with a really nice couple from Arizona who we met on our first day walking and had run into every day since.

In the last hour as we got closer to Pamplona, it was a little disconcerting to see cars again and to wait at traffic lights. We arrived at our albergue in the center of Pamplona in front of an enormous and beautiful cathedral. We dropped our packs off and went in search of food and ran into a a street procession, and a plaza full of people drinking, eating and dancing to live music in the streets! After 4 days of walking through The countryside, it was surreal.

After eating, we headed back to the albergue to shower and the Brazilian woman I helped with her book and her boyfriend John were also staying there. Will went back out as I sat down to write this blog and he said the party outside was still going strong and he just heard a brass band playing YMCA by the Village People. So I’m signing off for now to join the fun. Tomorrow is Will’s last day before he flies home. It will be so strange to be here alone and I don’t know how I feel about it yet. Well, hopefully the Camino will provide 🙂

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