107 miles walked, 393 miles to go!
After a rough day yesterday, the Camino and I are friends again. So that I would have a good day and because another toe was bordering on a blister, for $6 I sent my big pack ahead to the next albergue and walked with my smaller day pack. For the first half of the day I was practically skipping down the Camino. I think I will alternate days with the heavier pack and then wear the lighter pack when I need some rest days.
The evening before I had hung out with a group of solo women travelers: Susan from Norway, Emma from England, who I had cooked with the evening before, Yoon, a young woman from South Korea, and Dolors, a Spanish woman from Catalonia Spain. It turned out all of us were avid travelers. Emma had been all over Africa, Susan and Dolors had traveled all over, and Yoon was nursing a sore knee she had injured while trekking in South America. We were all walking to the same city, Logroño, the next day. This is one of the bigger cities on the Camino, and Dolors said it had great nightlife, and it was Dolor’s last day because she had to get back to her son, so we made plans to meet up for dinner and a barhop. I figured I could do a late night as I got a private room with a private bathroom for $25 and it had a check out at 10am! All seeming like unspeakable luxuries at this point. So I had a nice egg and chorizo breakfast sandwich, a café con leche, and I hit the road around 7:30am.
It was a brisk beautiful morning, the sun was at my back and nature was showing off. So so beautiful.
And I had some fun with the shadows.
Further along, sadly there were some markers for fallen Pilgrims.
For the first time, I walked the entire day by myself and didn’t listen to music or books. It was just me and the Camino.
I would occasionally pass others and even saw the lovely South African couple again who had been in the same albergue the night before. I passed by and then they caught up with me in the next town called Viana where I was sitting having a hot chocolate, so they and their German friend joined me.
And then I headed back out on my own.
In the last hour, I was starting to feel pretty tired, and my feet were getting increasingly sore when an older Spanish woman stopped me on the trail and asked if I spoke Spanish. I said yes and she asked me if I were doing the Camino for religious reasons. I told her I was doing it for a mixture of reasons. Then she said that according to the Bible people shouldn’t do it to suffer. Then she started talking about scripture and pulled out her phone and started reading passages from the Bible to me. I wasn’t sure what to do. She was talking really fast and using a lot of religious terminology in Spanish I wasn’t fully understanding. She wasn’t even giving a break in the conversation for me to ask any questions. After about 5 minutes I saw Susan, the Norwegian woman from the night before, coming up trail, so I was able to say that my friend was here and I wanted to walk with her. The woman bid me goodbye and I thanked Susan for her timely arrival. The night before, Susan had mentioned that she likes to hang out with people at night but walk the Camino alone, so once we rounded a bend, I bid her a buen Camino and left her to walk by herself. Soon I arrived in Logroño which after walking in the countryside all day seemed like a huge bustling city. Spain has 17 autonomous regions, I’ll be walking through 6 of them, and I had just walked from the Navarre region into the next one, La Rioja, as Logroño is in that region.
As I neared my albergue, I thought the neighboring mural that said “Girl Power” was very fitting. So far I had met some really amazing women and was looking forward to hanging out with them that night. After I settled into my albergue, I started texting with Dolors and Emma to make plans. Then I ran into Michaela who was also checking into my same hostal and she said was excited to join us as well. Soon after Ivana texted me that she had just arrived, so I think we’re going to have a fun ladies night. I’m very glad I have a late check out tomorrow!
Day 10: I’m not going to lie, I started out the morning feeling a little rough and a lot dehydrated. After a few ibuprofen I was ready to start my day at the luxurious late hour of 8 a.m. Our ladies night turned out to be a much larger group of fun pilgrims ranging in ages from 20s to 50s. Dolors had met more Pilgrims and invited them along, so at 5 p.m. I met the group and we started drinking delicious Rioja wine at $6 a bottle!
Here are people showing their stamps on their Pilgrim’s passport. You get a stamp at each albergue you stay in, and you can get stamps in churches or sometimes from food vendors. At the end of the Camino you show your passport with all its stamps to get your Compostela certificate, proof that you did the walk.
Needless to say , we went through a few bottles.
I was sitting next to a very interesting guy living in England named Craig who was a gay Pagan prison chaplain, and he was walking the whole Camino in a kilt, which you can hear him talking about in the video I posted. In the video you can hear him saying how he was wearing his kilt like a true Scotsman, with nothing underneath. I also met my first Camino-formed couple, a young woman from São Paulo, Brazil and a really funny guy from León, Spain. She told me one night they were partying so hard that she came back to the albergue and accidentally crawled into a top bunk bed that another woman was already sleeping in. Then the girl from São Paulo rolled over and fell on the ground. In the morning, the woman whose bunk she crawled into asked her how she was feeling and had to tell her about the fall because she didn’t remember any of it. So the girl from São Paulo took off her sweatshirt and her left shoulder and arm were a big purple bruise. Everyone walks their their own Camino and they were doing a wilder walk than I was :). Some carried on, but Dolors, Craig and I went to go get dinner.
I said goodbye to Dolors who was headed back home and to Emma and Michaela who were both doing a rest day in Logroño. We all exchanged contact information and I really hope I see them again.
I also said goodbye to my lovely single room in Logroño and headed out towards Navarrete. It had rained during the night but as I headed out, the ground was wet, the skies were cloudy but no rain.
As I left the city, it was difficult to find the markers for the Camino. Sometimes the path is really well marked with either yellow arrows or the scallop shell symbol. But other times you feel like Hansel and Gretel trying to follow the bread crumbs. Here are some examples of what these markers can look like and where you might see them.
But you can get lost. I’ve only done it once by walking down a hill that I had to turn around and walk back up, but I just lost a few minutes. Haen, the Dutch psychiatrist I met earlier, said he was walking along a busy road and a Spanish guy pulled his car over and said, “Hey, are you a peregrino?” Haen said yes and the guy said, “Well you’re not on the Camino.” The guy then offered him a ride and drove him back to the Camino. When the Camino doesn’t provide, the kind Spanish locals do.
Leaving Logroño it was hard to find the markers and I had to ask a few Spaniards if I were on the right path. I was also happy to be leaving the hustle and bustle of big city life.
Soon, I was back out in the beautiful countryside.
I was about an hour down the road listening to music when a guy started talking to me, so I put away my headphones and met Ben from Germany. He asked me how many kilometers I planned to go that day, and I told him I was still struggling to understand kilometers because we use miles in the United States. I have to say there’s a lot more math involved on the Camino than my English teacher brain had bargained for. Much of the conversations with other Pilgrims involve distance, which is always in kilometers, or the weight of backpacks, which is always in kilograms, or weather and temperature, which is always in Celsius. Unfortunately the United States uses a system not based on tens so it doesn’t make a lot of sense and requires some complicated math to convert. We soon caught up to his friend who he was traveling with Erika, and she told me this was her second Camino. The first one she left from her home in Germany, walked through Switzerland and France, walked this entire Camino and then went South. She walked for 4 months.
Soon we arrived at a hut where a man sat with a table of oranges and bananas and walking staffs. You could take any of these things with an optional donation of your choice. Erika got very excited and said, “Oh, this is Marcelino, he is a famous pilgrim!” We all stopped for about 20 minutes and chatted with him. He told me he started doing the Camino in 1961 when he was 17 and has since dedicated his life to walking and meeting people and focusing on what is important: family, love, and kindness. He said he has done Caminos with his dog and donkey and had pictures in his hut of him walking past Caminos.
He said he met Barack Obama when someone in Obama’s family did the Camino and wanted him to meet a guy “straight out of Biblical times.”
Erika, Ben and I carried on and Ben was really hilarious. He said on this journey he would look inside to find himself, but who knows, maybe no one will be home. Soon another German came up behind us who they had met earlier, a younger guy named Benjamin. This was turning into German day! He and I walked ahead and chatted all the way into the next town. He was a Civil Engineer also from Southern Germany like Ben and Erika and was another really nice and interesting person. It has also been interesting how many working professionals I’ve met here with a variety of careers. I’ve met a veterinarian, at least 5 nurses, a doctor, 3 psychiatrists so far, a few teachers, a chemical engineer, a graphic designer, a contractor, a doctor, a winery owner, a city planner, and the list goes on.
Soon we arrived in Navarette, the village I was staying in, so I said goodbye and went into my albergue. The guy who ran it had a wall filled with completed Pilgrim’s passports, as he does the Camino every few years and also did one in Japan.
I headed into my 6 bunk dorm room and so far there was just one other Pilgrim in the room and she was from, one guess…Germany! She only spoke a few words of English, but she was so nice and welcoming. I took off my shoes and was cutting off the tape I had wrapped around my sore toes and recovering blisters, and she reached into her pack and brought over some gel plasters. So nice. I thanked her but told her I had bought some and that now I was putting on flip-flops to let my feet breathe. Then she started trying to communicate with me and started naming years and was saying 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2019 and I realized she was telling me the years she had done the Camino. She looked to be in her late 60s and she said she has asthma. More incredible people on the Camino.
I told her I’d see her at the Pilgrim’s dinner that night, and headed into town in search of food. I have to say, this had been one of my favorite places so far. I am really loving seeing tranquil, unhurried village life. In my real life, I feel like I’m always impatient and rushing around. Now I finally feel like I’m really slowing down, in the best way. As I walked around the small village in the warm sun, I felt a contented peace.
I found the main plaza and there was an enormous beautiful church there.
I walked in and even though I’m not religious, I felt like I was in a very special place.
I walked outside and there were Erika and Ben sitting at an outdoor cafe, so we had lunch together, and I had the most incredible paella.
Then a guy walked up, I greeted him in English, and he said hello back and asked if he could join us. We said of course and asked where he was from. He was from Austria. Not Germany but German speaking…this really was German day. Here’s Ben and Hans.
With 3 German speakers at the table, there was lots of conversation in German, but they would stop occasionally and give me quick translations. Hans, our new Austrian friend, had also met Marcelino and had gotten his autograph next to where he appeared in his Camino guidebook. This guy was famous!
Hans said he also read in the book that in 1918, 60 Pilgrims walked the Camino and that last year 300,000 did. Then 3 younger women walked up looking for a table, and I don’t think I need to tell you where they were from. I’m pretty sure Germany is empty this month :). Surprisingly, there are also a lot of Americans, French, Italians, Koreans, and Brazilians. Well, I’m headed to the communal Pilgrim’s dinner soon. If there are any more Germans in this town, I’m sure I’ll see them there! 🙂
Ps. Quick update, as I’m in my bunk finishing this entry, a new Pilgrim just joined us and I think you can see where this is going. A museum model maker from Munich, Germany!
Pps. When I walked into the dining room for dinner, there was a long haired guy with piercings already at the table. German of course 🙂