All the names of fellow pilgrims have been changed to protect their identity.
May 10 Journal Entry
The Canadian ladies and I left Larrasaona early after having a light breakfast of café con leche and bread provided by the pension. It was pretty cold this morning, cold enough to see my breath. I wore my t-shirt, blue button up long sleeved hiking shirt, and my rain jacket, and was still cold for the first hour. When we stopped to take a break, I felt completely wet even though there was no rain. I had sweat so much, that the inside of my rain jacket had droplets of water on the inside when I took it off, and my clothes were soaked through with sweat. The afternoon weather was much nicer, and I eventually took off my jacket and shirt.
They walk much faster than I do and I lost them, but that was O.K. I like walking alone during the day, it´s too hard to talk anyway, and I like to be lost in my thoughts and prayers. I brought The Course in Miracles daily lessons on cards with me so I could continue my practice while I’m here. I am doing the lessons, and I’m doing the best I can to intentionally practice walking meditation, so being alone is a blessing, although I do enjoy company in the evening.
God, my feet and ankle hurt SO bad. I asked God to heal my blisters and trust it won’t be this bad the whole way. One of the blisters is under a toenail. I had no idea you could get a blister under a toenail. I have read so many different things about how to care for blisters, I am not sure which is the best way. Some say to not pierce and drain them, but to put gel pads and/or bandages over them. Some say to pierce it with a thread a needle, leaving the thread to help it drain, then put a bandage over it. I brought the needle, thread, and matches to sterilize the needle with me, and have been using the needle method which helps, but it still hurts like hell. I am going to stop at a pharmacy in Pamplona and pick up the gel pads and see if that helps any.
Today I saw fields of sheep, cows, and horses. They all had bells around their necks! On the way into Pamplona I crossed a bridge built in the 1400´s. The villages I walked through today have buildings still in use that were built in the 1600 and 1700’s, they still look beautiful. The apartment buildings have wooden or iron porches around the windows. In the country they have flowers in all the windows and in the city, you see laundry hanging outside the windows between buildings, along with the window boxes full of flowers.
The yellow arrows and seashell markers led me through people’s backyards, farms, and right between rows of grape vines in vineyards, and even through olive tree orchards. The Navarra region is famous for white asparagus. The rows of asparagus are covered with black plastic to keep them from the sun, which keeps them from turning green. You can see and feel the love and respect people have for the land and their work, the farms are all so neat and clean. I found out later today that some of the olive orchards are thousands of years old! Can you imagine that? The same trees have been producing olives for thousands of years?! The orchards I walked through were only hundreds of years old, but it still blows my mind.
I stopped several times to rest and tend my feet. I bought some bread and cheese for lunch from a small truck that passes through the villages. A little delivery truck stops in the town square and honks its horn and people come out and get in line. Oh.My.God. The bread and wine here… Have I mentioned them yet? I have drunk wine poured straight out of a barrel into a clean wine bottle. I honestly haven’t had anything so good. I found out red wine helps with inflammation; thank goodness they serve it with every meal, lunch and supper. And the bread, off the truck or in a bar, it is the best by far.
This is Basque country, so they speak mostly Basque, not Spanish. The signs are in Basque, sometimes Basque and Spanish. Ya, my English to Spanish book doesn’t cover Basque. I had to pee SO bad in one little village and there was NO ONE on the street. It wasn’t siesta, so I don’t know why no one was around, but they weren’t. I couldn’t find a public restroom or bar anywhere. Finally, I saw a man walking across the street. I flagged him down and used every word I knew in Spanish for bathroom, and he still didn’t know what I was saying. I finally held myself and bent over and said, “Tenga que orninar!” Which is, “I have to pee!” in Spanish again. The universal language of holding your crotch and bending over did it. He apologized profusely and led me to a public restroom that was not marked. God, I really almost peed my pants. I am going to have to start giving in and pee behind a tree somewhere.
I have been an emotional wreck all day. Old memories of physical, emotional, and sexual traumas from the past have been rising, and I couldn’t stop the tears. I cried as I walked almost all day, sometimes quietly as people passed, sometimes outright sobbing. I brought my rosary with me. Even thought I haven’t been in the Catholic church for almost 2 decades, Mary is still a part of me. I took out my rosary and began to pray. That didn’t help. I just wept most of the day.
Someone told me that there were 63,000 pilgrims on the Camino right now. I can walk for hours without seeing anyone, you would think I would see more people. But I am glad I don’t. This solitude is giving me an opportunity to let the tears flow. I don’t like it though. This is not why I came here. I came here to find freedom in myself, not to relive everything. I know Dr. Hawkins (Dr. David R. Hawkins, spiritual teacher) would tell me to welcome whatever comes up, so I am doing it. I knew this walk was going to be physically challenging, I did not know it was going to be so emotionally difficult.
I heard another voice in the early afternoon; it was the voice of the Camino itself. Early in this morning’s walk, I heard the land speak to me, it said, “Let it all go, let us have it. That’s what this land is for. Leave it all here with us.” I didn’t want to pollute all this beauty with my emotional mess, but the land said, “No, this is what this land is here for. It is transmuted here. Isn’t this one of the most beautiful places you’ve seen?” “Yes,” I said. “It is.” “Then let it all come to us.” I must have been communicating with the elementals there.
Today was physically excruciating as well. On the outskirts of Pamplona, I was shaking my fist at God, asking him why waking up had to be so damn hard. Screaming, crying, and shaking my fist at God…yep, how’s that for being spiritual? The same tiny voice that spoke to me in Madrid on my first night in Spain spoke to me again and said, “You need to lighten up!” “No shit!” I yelled back. “Would someone please tell me how?” The funny thing? No one paid any attention to me. It seems the locals are used to crying, hysterical pilgrims walking through their fields and cussing at God.
When I got to Pamplona, I was in the worst shape yet. My ankle was in terrible pain. But even the pain couldn’t stop me from appreciating where I was walking. Pamplona, built in 75 BC by Pompey as a Roman military base, has withstood the test of time, wars, and different governing powers.
Pamplona is astonishing to walk into. Even when you’re in pain. When you cross into the city you must cross over an original roman road and walk up to the city walls over a drawbridge. It was fascinating to realize that road was over two thousand years old. The Europeans I talk to are not in awe, they are used to very old buildings and roads, but wow, for me, it’s incredible to think about how many people have walked this path.
The ancient part of the city, known as the old quarters, is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. It´s like someone took a bunch of buildings, shook them like dice and just scattered them and let them stay where they fell. I was so in awe of the age and beauty of the buildings; that I lost my arrows. I got lost and my map did not help at all. When I asked for directions, I got different answers from different people. By this time, I was limping so badly people really were looking at me like I was crazy. I wandered around and found a small bar. They refilled my water bottle for me and let me use the bathroom and gave me directions I couldn’t follow. This place is maze.
I wandered around some more, barely able to walk, and found another bar that was serving food. I was starving but couldn’t even eat my sandwich. It was delicious too. The sandwich had fish, eggs, lettuce, and tomatoes from heaven. So simple and so delicious. I was so tired I could only eat half of it, they didn’t have anything for me to take the rest of it with me, and I sure didn’t have anything to put it in. What a waste, my God, the food here is mostly amazing. The food at the first refugio for dinner was crazy greasy. Anyway, I digress...
I finally saw a group of pilgrims and realized I had met them on the road the day before. They helped me get to the alburgue (another name for refugio). We stopped at a store along the way and I got a banana and two oranges.
I asked God to get me a bottom bunk next to a bathroom so I wouldn’t have to walk far or climb up to a top bunk. Oh ya, God got me one alright, but I had to climb two flights of stairs to get to it. I'll be sure to be more specific in the future. Once I got up there, I realized there was a pay phone in the lobby. I could not stand the thought of going down there and having to walk up the stairs again. I miss the kids so much. I will try calling tomorrow.
I put my backpack on the bed, took off my boots, laid down on the bed, and propped up my feet without taking a shower and washing my clothes. 16 grueling km today. But I made it to Pamplona. Mission accomplished. While the terrain was not as punishing today, and I could breathe better, the pain is awful. I stayed in bed for quite a while until I started shivering. I noticed that I was drenched in sweat and freezing cold. My clothes were completely soaked with sweat. Knowing I had to get out those wet clothes, I forced myself to get up and wash my clothes in the bathroom sink. I was too tired to take a shower so just washed up with a washcloth. I went to the little kitchen area that had a tea pot and hot plate and made myself a cup of tea and ate my banana and one orange.
In the kitchen I meet a lovely young man, Ben. While he was making his soup on the hotplate, we visited about why we were on the Camino, a common question everyone asks everyone. He was born in Brazil but now lives in New Zealand. He’s 29 and believes he might be gay, but not sure. He is walking to find out one way or the other if he is. He looks a lot younger than 29, but who knows. Another man walked in the kitchen. He was over 6 feet tall, a very muscular, well built man and you could tell he had been crying. He didn't say much. He is an American soldier and is obviously in a lot of physical and emotional pain. OK, I get it...this is the place to let it out. Bless him...
Ben is mailing back a bunch of things from his backpack to lighten his load. Perfume being one of them! He refused to send back his deodorant though. Most people don’t carry it around. He got me thinking…what can I leave behind and quit carrying around as I laugh to myself. Ya, I should really lighten my load!
I had shampoo, conditioner, body soap, and something to wash my clothes with, face wash, moisturizer, hand sanitizer, deodorant, and sunscreen. Holy shit, what was I thinking, no wonder why the backpack weighed 25 lbs. Duh….I left everything there except my bar of body soap, sunscreen, and deodorant, I’m with Ben on that one. I will wash my clothes, face, and hair with the body soap and use the sunscreen for moisturizer. I also left one towel, one washcloth, hand sanitizer, (which I would later greatly regret) a set of tapes for my recorder, one Unity magazine of which I ripped out two articles to keep for inspiration, and my pajamas. I’ll sleep in my clean t-shirt and just get undressed in my sleeping bag.
The remaining contents of my backpack are: One t-shirt and one pair of pants, (not including the ones I am wearing) one long sleeved hiking shirt, my hat, one towel, one washcloth, rain poncho, rain jacket, sandals for the end of the day, one bra, my disposable cotton travel panties from Tilley. I don't care how much they weigh, which is not much, but I am NOT walking around with my panties pinned to my backpack to dry. Hell to the no, as they say in West Texas. My mini tape recorder and two tapes. Extra boot strings, two for my boots and two to use as clotheslines at the end of my bunk, clothes pins, safety pins, suction cups with hooks to hang things up in the showers, 2 bandannas, and one extra pair of socks, one comb, 1 roll of toilet paper, this notebook, prescription sunglasses, my first aid kit and Course of Miracles lesson cards, of which I have decided to leave behind at each refugio on my bunk for the next person when I am done with each card. My fanny pack has my money, US passport, pilgrim’s passport, phrase book, sunscreen, a pen, my digital camera, grandma's cotton handkerchief, and the rosary my daughter gave me. This should make walking much easier! My feet and ankle still hurt like hell, but I am not ready to go home yet.
OK, after walking 16 km to Pamplona, and God knows how long I wandered around before I found my fellow pilgrims, I think I have written quite enough.
Oh, I have earned the nickname, Texas. Apparently, even with George Bush as president, which I am getting a lot of ribbing about, they still love Texas over here. When people find out I am from the US they say, "Oh Bush!" with a frown, and they they ask me where I am from in the US, and when they hear Texas, they invariably throw their arms open and say, "Texas!" with a big smile and give me a hug. Sweet baby Jesus, I'm glad I'm from Texas.
I plan on walking to Estella tomorrow and stay there Sunday to take a day of rest.
I have overestimated just how much would fit into a weekly blog. This week's installment will only cover the first day of walking. May 9, 2006.
Journal Entry May 9, 2006
I left Roncesvalles early in the morning, about 6:30 a.m. I didn’t sleep all damn night. On top of still being scared silly, trying to sleep in that refugio was a waking nightmare. A cacophony of burping, farting, and snoring...My God. There were two men who snored in perfect rhythm, as one breathed in, the other breathed out. It was really ridiculously perfect timing. Like listening to an oompa loompa band. I don’t know how I will ever learn how to sleep with so many people in the same room. The energy of all these people in one room is hard enough to deal with, but the noise? Holy shit…
I had a mystical visitation from my Grandma Gen in the middle of the night. I first noticed a hand on my back, rubbing it in a soft circular motion. And then I realized it was her! She used to rub my back that way when I was a small child to help me go to sleep. I felt so grateful and comforted! But then she said, “Todo cara Sweetheart, todo cara!” What the hell??!! Grandma doesn’t speak Spanish! Why would she speak Spanish to me?! Good God, can nothing be clear for me in the spirit realm? Why does everything have to be such a mystery?
I am going to have to ask someone what that means.
Oh ya, as I got off my bunk this morning, I cut my big toe on the metal bed frame and sliced it good. I got the bleeding stopped, put some antibiotic cream and a bandage on it and hoped to hell I wouldn’t get tetanus. I hadn’t even started and hurt my foot. I am sure I attracted it because of my fear.
I walked for an hour and ate breakfast in Burgette. Burgette is only 3 km from Roncesvalles and it took an hour! The terrain is more difficult than I expected, but then again maybe I did expect this challenge, but being afraid of if and facing it, are two completely different things. I walked all day over the 2nd tallest mountain I will be crossing on this hike. It was physically excruciating and got my first blister before 10 a.m. I stopped at a stream to soak my feet and when I took my boot off my sock was soaked in blood, I had thought it was sweat. The cut on my toe had bled quite a bit but looked liked it had stopped. I rested, took care of my toe and blister and kept walking. The altitude is crazy high for someone who lives in the West Texas Flatlands. I was afraid breathing in high altitudes was going to be a problem, and I was right. I could hardly breathe all day. Going uphill I could not breathe, going downhill my toes hurt so bad I cried like a baby, and I walked up and down all day. At one point, I could only take 10 steps before I had to stop and catch my breath. The last of the day was just down, down,down and by the time I got to the refugio for the night, I had eight blisters!
A French man and I kept passing each other today. He would be resting and I would pass him. Then I would be resting and he would pass me. On and on we passed each other. Finally he said, “I think we are playing the tortoise and the hare. You are the tortoise and I am the hare. You will make it my dear, you will make it!” Yep, I am the tortoise and probably will be to the end. (I never did see him again.)
The discouragement today has been intense, even though I am sure my angels are with me, and I know for a fact Grandma is obviously with me, but still, the pain is crazy bad. I feel bad about being so discouraged on the first day, especially when everything is so beautiful. The mountains and the woods that I am walking through are so beautiful. I cried so much today. I want to do this so badly and I just don’t know that I’ll be able to finish. I want to fully enjoy this beauty but the pain is so fucking intense. I’ll just have to enjoy it the best I can while I am in pain and cry it out.
The woods here reminds me a little of the woods in Minnesota where I grew up. In some areas the woods have the same kind of trees as Minnesota. And the flowers, oh my they are so beautiful and they are everywhere, little woodland flowers I haven't seen since I was a child. The woods are full of color. The little white, red, pink, yellow, and blue flowers are everywhere.
Right before I got into the last town for the day, Zubiri, I was wishing I had a companion to walk with, and around the next corner were two french speaking ladies from Montreal, Canada. They were sitting on a bench that someone had made on the path. Someone had placed a lawn chair next to the bench and they invited me to sit down and share an orange with them.
They were so lighthearted and fun, and visiting with them picked up my spirits immensely. The aunt was 61, the niece 52, and their humor was just what I needed. They carried plastic wine glasses with them and had bought a bottle of wine in France and were still carrying it with them. We walked to Zubiri together and laughed at how much pain we were all in.
By the time we got to Zubiri my feet were in worse condition and my right ankle started hurting, badly. I was literally hobbling into Zubiri, and...there were no rooms left. Of course there were no rooms left on the first day of walking. At 5 pm none of us could walk the 5.5 km it would take to get to the next village, so we took a taxi to the next town. I was guilting myself about taking a taxi on the first day, but honest to God, I actually walked 22 km! Almost 17 miles!!!! WHAT?! No way! I had no idea I had walked that far over THOSE mountains. Ok, no more guilt. I amazed myself.
8 blisters, a cut on my foot and I walked 17 miles, in the Pyrenees mountains..Amazing!
We got a taxi in Zubiri and made it to Larrasano in time to get a room at the Pension El Peregrino. We shared a room at the pension, which is more like a motel than a refugio. There are 6 rooms and two shared bathrooms, the cost? 16.00 euros compared to the 5 to 10 Euros of a regular refugio, but the refugio was full and we were lucky to get that.
As I was taking care of my feet and talking to them about my concerns that I might not make it, the aunt said that after her first day, (they started in St. Jean Peid-de-Port, the highest mountain and the most demanding on the whole trip), she cried all night and said that was it, she was getting a bus the next morning and going home, but she got up the next morning and felt better and carried on and felt great. I felt so much better being around them, and it was good to know I wasn't the only cry baby!
I will get up tomorrow and see what it’s like starting out with 8 blisters and see what happens. If I make it to Pamplona, I will be happy.