Trails end for these Pilgrim's-Saying goodbye
Oct 16, 2013
|Day 1 – 27.1km done in 7 hours, 10 minutes – SJPdP to Roncesvalles
Day 2 – 21.5km done in 6 hours – to Zubiri
Day 3 – 25km done in 7 hours, 45 minutes – to Cizur Mayor
Day 4 – 20km done in 7 hours, 30 minutes– to Puenta la Reina
Day 5 – 22.5km done in 7 hours – to Estella
Day 6 – 19.7km done in 5 hours, 26 minutes – to Los Arcos
Day 7 – 31km done in 7 hours, 12 minutes – to Logrono
Please excuse the repetition of the above figures but we want to keep a running tally of this excursion. They represent the total time, from start to finish, including any and all stops for food & water, photo ops, pee breaks and even on one occasion (to date) a beer break (followed soon after by another pee break!!!).
Our days seem to be starting later and later (and no, it is not because Donna is sleeping in!). Spain operates on its own schedule which includes all businesses shutting down from about 2pm to anywhere up to 8:30pm and then closing for the day about 11pm. Also they don’t get moving in the morning until 9am at the earliest (maybe that’s why Donna loves it here so much!). Plus they are only open Saturday mornings, closed for the day at about 2pm and closed all day Sunday. Unfortunately these hours aren’t posted and because we have only been in the country for about 5 days it has taken us this long to figure out when and for how long they are open for business. (there IS a point to all this!) The first few days we did well buying our evening groceries and our next day breakfast and lunch groceries when we got to a village at the end of that days hike. However the last few days finding a grocery store open at the end of our day has been more challenging than actually hiking their blinkin’ trail.
As a result we have been putting on extra miles in the mornings following directions from well-meaning locals sending us to somewhere we could stock up some kind of food supplies for the days hike. No coffee in our rooms for Wayne and John has meant a stop for their morning fix at the first café we can find. This has been a nice way to start our day, checking out the locals in their own environment, but it has made us a bit delayed in putting on the miles. Not that we have anywhere we need to be at any given time so it has been good to slow the pace a bit and enjoy.
Because of the lack of access to groceries we have been eating our evening meals out more than we intended. The only problem with this has been that the restaurants are one of the businesses that open at 7:30pm or later so dinner has been a bit later than we would have liked………..but when in Rome………!
After one particularly long day we checked into our accommodation and found that the restaurant in the hotel (the only restaurant in town) opened at 8:30pm. It was now 5:30pm and all Donna wanted to do was to have a shower and hit the sheets. Waiting until 8:30pm was not her idea of fun. However, wait we did and had a wonderful meal – worth the wait…….maybe not, but good nonetheless.
One of our meals was “the pilgrim meal” offered to pilgrims at the local albergue (hostel). We happened to be staying there so after checking in, showering, resting (again until 8pm this time!) we wandered up to the restaurant and were treated to a buffet with all the fixings and trimmings including all the beer, wine and water we could consume. We all enjoyed a great, great meal and Wayne and John enjoyed a fair bit of great, great liquids.
Again, one of the nice things about these “pilgrim” encounters is that we are sharing with people we now consider more than just passing acquaintances. An elderly lady (from Nelson, BC) that we had met on the trail had told us she had been talking to a gentleman earlier that day from Courtenay traveling with a female companion. At the pilgrims dinner Donna was wearing her Canada shirt and was approached by a gentleman (in his 70’s). It turned out John & Robyn knew of them so we invited them to join us, which they did, and we had a lovely evening laughing and joking about things that had happened to each on the trail (of course the free wine didn’t hurt in creating a jovial atmosphere!). Since then we have seen Leo and Lois several times on the trail and always stop to see how they are doing.
Most people on the trail have plans to make it all the way to Santiago, a trek of over 780km (I know I misquoted the distance in a previous blog – my apologies). As we have mentioned many are also in much pain with bad feet, knees and backs. Our hearts go out to them as we wonder what would make someone want to punish themselves in such a manner………but we have to admire their determination. The lady from Nelson is a great example of this as her feet are causing her much, much agony but she is absolutely determined that she is going to walk every step of the way!!!
Leaving Puente la Reina a few mornings ago we crossed the puente (bridge) under crystal clear blue skies. The reflection of the bridge in the river below was also crystal clear and it truly was a moment of awe to start our day. I suppose for many of these pilgrims it is these moments that keep them going and we wish them every success (pain free) in achieving their goal.
Perhaps another motivation is the hopes of having a repeat of the offerings coming out of Estella. We had heard about the Fuente del Vino, Fountain of Wine, but thought we must have missed it as we hit the edge of town. Climbing for a bit (what else!) we topped the hill and there was a winery that has built 2 spigots in the side of their winery wall with a sign offering pilgrims to stop and enjoy their product!!! Wayne and John could not believe their eyes and even though it was only 10am we felt it would be rude to continue on without a sampling. Robyn had wisely packed 2 plastic cups from the previous night’s hostel so we filled them, shared them and raised them in a toast to the next group of pilgrims that topped the hill behind us!!! Great start to another day of countryside trails.
Although the scenery on the trail is pretty similar (given that we are only traveling 20 – 30km each day this isn’t surprising!) but it seems that around every corner there is a new treat, a new version of the same path – vineyards, farmer’s fields, forested trail, a challenging hill (what else!), an amazing vista, a country village……..This constant newness keeps the hike interesting and, dare I say, fun!!!! One morning we came upon a section of the trail, about 100 meters along, that pilgrims had stacked rocks, much like the inuksuk. But under these rocks they had left notes of inspiration, notes of messages for future pilgrims, maybe just family names or notes significant just to the writer. The note of one close to the trail read “Billy - freedom from addiction”. To Donna it was a very poignant moment - an indication that each pilgrim was here for a different reason and perhaps many were really here to find peace and healing.
In our beginning days we felt we didn’t understand why………why people do this other than for the hike, why people put themselves through such pain, why they stick with it, why they are so determined to finish when it hurts so bad………………..why……………After 5 or 6 days Donna said she got it – she got why this challenge takes a hold of your soul and drives you to continue no matter what the obstacles – the rain, the blisters, the beautiful sunrises, the encouragement from fellow pilgrims, the Camino. The people we had been spending the last week with had become family and, for Donna, it was a sad descent into Logrono, knowing that we would be leaving these friends to forge on to Santiago without us. We checked into our last albergue and after dinner we wandered the Old Town in search of Michelle, Mary Lee, Russ, Jim, Shin, the girl from the Netherlands, etc., etc., etc. And there we found some of them sitting at an outdoor café so we pulled up a chair and joined them. Soon other pilgrims wandered by and before long we had a last evening reunion, enjoying so much laughter and sharing stories of……..whatever. The evening was magical for Donna and as we said our last good-byes the tears flowed and hugs were shared all around.
Hopefully their steps will be lighter as they know that we will be with them in spirit every single step of the way from Logrono to Santiago (with laughter and friendship, encouragement and admiration), some of us wishing that we were there with them to share this incredible experience that is the Camino. Adios y Buen Camino, mes amigos!!!!!!