Note to Nancy K: Well, I planned the distances in my head, based on the guide books for the Camino. But then reality hits and I realize there is no way I can walk 18 miles per day in the hot sun, with any pack weight over about 15 lbs, so my insistence (to myself and everyone who asked before I departed) that I will do this organically has had to stick with me. Send part of the pack, hitchhike, drag myself over the trails, . . . whatever it takes! So I’m learning, Nancy, to go about 15-18 km per day at least for the first week or two, until my calves, already bulging with muscles they never knew they had, get stronger!
Tuesday, September 3 Roncesvalles to Zubiri
Awake at 6:00 a.m. whether we like it or not. The lights in the huge 110-bed room go on and I can hear classical music playing. The peregrinos who want to be on the road by 6:30 are already up and organized, planning to grab some bread-breakfast on the way out of town. I groan and drag myself out of my lower bunk, learning yet again that there isn’t enough clearance for my head. I bang, duck, shower (fortunately no line), and organize, taking my large pack again to La Posada where for 7 Euros, a transport service will take many people’s bags to Zubiri or Larrosoana. I choose Zubiri, about a 20K walk.
The weather is beautiful, not a cloud in the sky, as it will be for the next few days. And the temperature rises to nearly 90 degrees through the day. The way is straight for awhile, and then it climbs, descends, climbs, descends, often in the woods, for which I am grateful, occasionally with a breeze, another gift from the sky and the trees. (NOTE: The photo here is like most of the photos of me with my pack. Dolly Parton takes a walk!) There are many little towns, and fortunately, when I get to Espinal, I attempt to make a reservation for a night in Zubiri. I had purchased a sim card for my iPhone, in the US from BrightRoam, a company I’ve dealt with in the past. I thought their card would be dependable, complete with phone and data plan, but the telephone feature will not work. I can’t call out, no matter what kind of combination of numbers I try. I stop in a little shop in Espinal and ask the woman there to help me. She uses her cell phone to call the first of my choices. Completo, she says. Then I point to the next hostel on my list and she dials again. The receptionist on the other end speaks English. I am handed the phone, and make a reservation for a single bed (a “normal bed”, the voice says) in a room of nine. 17 Euro including breakfast (toast and jam, coffee and milk). An additional 12Euro for dinner. I say yes.
Then I leave Espinal, up alto Mezquiriz, a (!) descent to Viskarret, where I sit for an hour with some Irish women and others I’ve seen here and there, drinking juice with ICE CUBES, and having a bit of my own sandwich, before I head up a less steep slope, Alto de Erro, with a very long (!!) downslide. By this time, I’ve been on the road for about nine hours, and the thought of that brutal descent in the heat is not something I can comprehend. I come to a place where the path crosses a road and I stick out my thumb.
The first car to come by slows down and I approach it. A young man driving, his father in the passenger seat and his mother in back. She scoots over so I can get in from the shoulder side of the road, and I sigh and beam gratefully. The son speaks a bit of English and we get slightly acquainted. Mom cannot believe I am doing this solo, and I tell her my age. Seisanta seis anos. She is shocked. I am two years older than she is. Her son tells her perhaps she will do the Camino one day. She shakes her head vigorously.
They take me to Zubiri, about 4 km, and drop me off in front of my hostel. Mom insists that son take a photo of the two of us, and then I hand him my own camera. She is a sweetheart, kisses me and tells me to be careful. I thank them all again, profusely, and cross the street to a lovely hostel, crisp and clean. I register, get my Camino passport stamped, pay for dinner, and get settled upstairs. Then down the stairs and out the door, turn to the left for two blocks, retrieve my pack from the Municipal Albergue, and again reorganize.
My plan is not to continue to do this every day, transfer my pack ahead. When I get to Pamplona tomorrow, I will stay for two nights in some sort of cheap pensione (peregrinos can only stay one night in a hostel, no more), and then find a UPS place and send some things home. My large camera hasn’t been out of the pack since St. Jean PP, and the little Lumix in my small purse is so easily accessible. The larger camera, my sleeping bag, and who knows whatever else can’t possibly be necessary, can it?
I do some hand wash, hang it on one of the many racks outside, and try to do some computer work, though the internet is slow. My Google voice isn’t working, nor is my phone, and there is nowhere to get a phone card that I can find, so again, I’m out of voice touch with Neil. I contact BrightRoam about the difficulty in dialing anywhere, and get no response.
Dinner is delicious, with a delicious, fresh green salad, creamed vegetable soup, some strange little appetizers made with rice and tomatoes and something else. Then cod in tomato sauce, and a lemon mousse. I take two bits of the mousse and find myself again too tired to finish. I pass my bowl to the French solo traveler next to me and he lifts his eyebrows in question, then accepts my offering. The four Italians across the table, laughing uproariously, say goodnight to me and I again stumble up two flights of stairs to my “normal bed”. A young man is to my left, a rather stuffy doctor to my right. Earlier tonight he declared re my new diabetes diagnosis and the Metformin I’m taking: “Metformin does nothing to lower your blood sugar. Most people are diabetic because they eat too much.” Ah, a compassionate one. I almost asked why then did I have to go through all the classes and consultations with nurses and doctors, who explained about Metformin, etc. etc., if it’s only about eating less, but I thought, “Why bother?”
I was glad the good doctor was asleep when I got to my bed, and in the morning, I lay quietly until all eight of my roommates were gone. I went downstairs to that bread/jam/coffee ‘breakfast” and then upstairs again to reorganize my packs, put another 7 Euro into the now familiar envelope to send on to Pamploma, and got started.
Tuesday’s walk – approximately 11.5 miles – about 18 km.
Tuesday’s walk – approximately 11 miles – about 18 km.
every time I read your notes—-I am exhausted. Do take your time. There is no hurry. Use the thumb.
You are an inspiration as my trip is still only in my head, but it is appearing more and more! Now I am watching two of you take this journey, both solo women, and I could not be more inspired to take it myself. Blessings.
I am following your adventure, with awe, in the book I have Camino de Santiago by John Brierley. I saw the Pyrenees for the first time several weeks ago and thought of your plan to be hiking over them. WOW!!!
In one of the photos, it looks like you are wearing an Aussie “Digger” hat.
Your written voice sounds tired but you look bright and beautiful in your pictures, and yes, a little Partonesque. I’m so impressed with your fortitude. I pretty much draw the line at hiking uphill in the full sun.
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I admire your stamina and determination…….what a great adventure…