|And that is exactly what we did.
Being in Spain so soon after our first Camino felt so surreal. To be here with our besties that we love to adventure with even more so. Last year’s Camino for Lauren was a spiritual journey and for me it was just a test to see if I could make it to the end. This year it was all about Jess - she was the only one in our little family who hadn’t done it & it was a test for herself to get to the end.
We were all quite confident we would all make it to the end, the question was with what injuries & would our friendship remain intact. After all, the Camino has a habit of bringing our the very best and the very worst of ones character.
Our starting point was Aviles, Spain. We arrived after a long flight & were so exhausted that all that we craved was a hot shower and a bed, ands that’s exactly what we did.
We had just enough time to take in the sights of Aviles for a full day before the girls arrived the following day, and by sights I mean lazily strolling around the historic town, taking pictures, sitting in the plaza and making our way from coffee stops to wine stops. Winter was now a long lost memory as we had stepped straight into a European summer where the suns rays seemed to reboot us and give us that oh so well known ‘career break’ feeling.
The girls arrived just after lunch. We spent our precious few hours together pre-Camino doing what we love; drinking vino in the plaza, people watching, talking, laughing and catching up on what we had been up to since our last get together at home.
Even though I knew we were here to complete another Camino it didn’t feel real until the following morning when we were getting ready and I smothered my feet in a thick layer of Vaseline. We meant business. All those familiar feelings started rushing back to the surface – all I have to do is walk, eat, drink, sleep, repeat.
And so it began. Well, it began after a leisurely breakfast at a cute little French style café just off the Camino path. Click, click, click became the soundtrack while we walked… poles making contact with the pavement. Spirits were high on day 1 and it was an easy 22km to break us in.
We spoke most of the way, laughing and telling stories. As the days wore on the conversation slowed and became less coherent. I’m sure fatigue, heat and using every ounce of energy on walking had something to do with it. My most quotable quote was saying ‘ all we keep seeing is the three c’s – corn, cows & bikes’
It seemed that walking in the heat for me was zapping all my energy and for Lauren, Jess and Shannon, they seemed to be energized by it.
Sometimes we walked together and sometimes separate. Always giving one another the space needed. Gloria became our anthem to get us through the tough times as did easy memory games that became harder than walking itself.
Its no easy feat to walk 20+ km a day. It takes a certain level of crazy to agree to walk such a long distance and not always with the promise of a beautiful view. This time around there was a lot more road walking & there was always the promise of an incline. Hills, hills and more hills and walking across the surface of the sun was the theme of the Camino del Norte. Despite the heat and the constant inclines and plenty of road walking the overall mood was positive, despite the aches, pains and blisters that were forming. Nothing was going to get in the way of us finishing what we started as a family.
Not Laurens or Jess’s blisters or foot pain. Pain they both describe as someone smashing their feet with a sledgehammer. Not Shannon’s cut on her finger that required a trip to the hospital for 5 stitches after she tried to put a hole in a scallop shell with a Swiss Army Knife, or Shannon’s slip in the shower on a non slip mat smashing her knee into the side of the bath. These were just some of the hurdles of our Camino this time round.
And every day we walked, sometimes talking to one another other times to the goats we passed - Lauren has a special knack for ‘goat speak.’ We always liked to fantasize about what we would eat or drink at the next rest stop. Coke, Coffee and Cervesa become a common theme, all three at once being completely reasonable.
Never have we eaten so many potatoes. Our Camino diet was predominantly carbs. Tortilla for breakfast (potato and egg omelette), home cut chips as a standard side with whatever we had for lunch. Combination plates and Burgers were other favourites and then there were all the pastries, ice cream, and flan after dinner - none of which seemed to be hitting the sides. Eating like this had no consequence. We would burn it off in a mere couple of hours…
For all the pain and fatigue there were so many treasured moments, like day 3 when we walked along the coastline & stumbled across the most beautiful café beachside & had a spontaneous lunch of chorizo, seafood & croquettas, with the beer hydrating my soul. Another was the day Lauren ripped her socks and boots off and soaked her bruised and battered feet in the freezing ocean.
Day 6 and its 39.65km of blood, sweat and tears will forever be burnt into our memories as the hardest day any of us have ever endured physically. We started walking at 6:42am in pitch black and we needed the torches from our phones to illuminate our path. We arrived at our destination at 10:47pm long after the sun had set, after walking across a 1.5 km bridge in pitch black which separated Asturias from Glacia, broken physically and mentally and in desperate need of a shower and sleep, without anything left in the tank to even eat or drink our days worth of vino tinto. After all that pain there was the promise of rest as the following day we could do what had never been done before on the Camino – have a rest day. Its exactly what our bodies and spirits needed after the torture the day before. We drank a lot of vino that day.
Then there was Day 9 which was all about steep inclines climbing mountain after mountain and it seemed that’s all we did for the majority of our 31.37km that day across what felt like the surface of the sun. And for all the exhaustion I was feeling strong – we all were. Our legs fatigued but our quads, hamstrings and calves working hard to show us we were capable of more that we thought possible. United it our quest for wine and a hot shower. Drawn stronger by our friendship and adventurous spirits.
Top 7 lessons learnt on the Camino:
(1) Sleeping in a mixed dorm with a snorer, farter and sleep talker (screamer) and not being able to sleep all night makes sleeping at the Parador the following night all the more luxurious.
(2) The Spanish have been drinking shandy long before us & it’s a real thing. A lemon beer on the Camino is the most refreshing drink. Ever. Uno mas Cervesa con Limon por favor !
(3) Whistles work on aggressive dogs
(4) Sleeping at a truck stop isn’t as bad as it sounds. In fact, it was one of the best nights sleep we had on the Camino.
(5) 13.27km was my favourite day on the Camino. Short days = arriving at your destination in time for a 3 course long lunch and copious amounts of vino tinto.
(6) Dirty diners in Spain make excellent burgers. Fact.
(7) Lastly, sometimes its just nice to say yes immediately to an invitation your bestie extends and work out the details later. Saying yes to walking over 350km across Spain with our girls has not challenged the friendship like I thought it may. If anything it has helped forged a stronger friendship. One that has seen us at our best and worst and in spite of all the tantrums, swearing and tears, will have us saying yes immediately to any future invitations to adventure this wonderful world together.