Saturday, August 29, 2015 (continued).
We return (up the 119 steps) and I settle in at the kitchen table to write this. Gathering at the table are at least half of the temporary residents, eating a delicious meal or watching the variety of food Ana prepared for the volunteers and other guests. Miguel brings out his guitar and begins to sing. Soon the guitar is passed to Pau (which means Peace in Catalan or Basque, not sure), who continues playing for another two hours. First he sings, then he begins a memory game in which we each choose a word but have to remember all of the words chosen before. The only thing I can think of is “bacalao” which is nearly a joke in Spain because it means “cod” and it is on nearly EVERY menu, ANYWHERE on the Camino. I might have written two years ago about an Italian pilgrim sitting across from me at dinner in Zubiri, and for any question or comment, no matter what the converesation, this man, having had too much wine, bellowed, “Bacalao!”
The results were riotous, and Pau made a song out of more than two dozen words we threw out as we took our turns.
A mosaic of Che Guevara hangs over my head as our strangely connected group sings, laughs and though everyone is speaking Catalan and Basque, and the Americans, Germans and Chinese among us have absolutely no idea what is being said or sung, it’s a charming blend of bodies, voices, cultures before we all crawl to our bunks.
Sunday, August 30, 2015. Awaken to strange Basque music, perhaps, and scramble to finish the ritual we will come to know well. I am learning again how to be efficient in the albergue mornings, packing things so I don’t forget any items. It takes a few days . . .
Leave the albergue, saying goodbye to Ana and Ana and Miguel, heading down the (yes) 119 steps one last time toward the dock, where a shuttle boat will carry everyone across the river to the other shore of Pasai Donebane. Then the search for an open bar at 8:15 so we can all get our cafe con leche fix. Sun reflecting on the water already, as I make my way toward the yellow arrows that will direct my path today.
Walk 500 steps, and yes, I count them, up up up and over . . . think of Dr. Seuss’ book, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins . . . and that makes for the beginning of a a very long short day to San Sebastian. Again, beautiful coastal views. Magnificent cloudless day. 95 degrees and I can’t really tell that today’s temperature is two degrees cooler than yesterday’s. Those steps.
Once I get to the “top” (there never seems to be a “top” . . . ), I topple over twice . . . once backwards onto sloping grass, performing some sort of accidental chiropractic on myself. I hear my neck crack in a couple of places as I hit the back of my head on the grass. Maybe my fall will fix what Dr. Brown could not, after three minor surgical procedures.
The second fall comes near another “top” of the pathway leading down to San Sebastian . . . I try to duck under a railing between a steep downward stone path and a parallel set of descending steps, but my backpack catches on the railing and I land hard.
I must have hit the right side of my face, because last night (a full 36 hours later) I looked in the mirror at Albergue San Martin and saw the stony abrasion on my right cheek. So happy I don’t care how I look while I’m walking the Camino. But as I lie on the ground, “resting” after my second crash, a young couple comes rushing up. Ruben and Debbora . . . helping me up, offering to carry my pack – “no thanks . . . better I get used to it again . . . ” and when we get to the bottom, on the eastern edge of town, they ask where I am headed. I tell them the Albergue de Peregrinos and gave them the street name. Of course . . . the other side of town. I am feeling pretty shaky and after yet another burning up day with no cloud cover, and those 500 steps, I ask for a taxi. (Again, sorry, Kent!) Awaiting me at the front of the closed Albergue door is . . . Ria, of course! We get two of the 50 beds, baja, of course. Settle in, take showers, and walk down to the central boardwalk on the seacoast. This is a big deal resort city, so the beaches are packed with people.
Find a sidewalk café, order water with ice (always get strange looks when I do that), a glass of tinto (red wine), and some pinxos (the Basque word for tapas) with Ria and Petra, another German woman we met last night at Santa Ana.
Pau is also in our albergue and had told Ria about an outdoor concert at the Pavilion tonight, with swing and jazz music. We saunter over to have a look and join the packed-in crowd, all sitting on the grass overlooking the sea with the band’s stage at the front. A perfect setting. Everyone brings their children, especially the young ones. Strollers are lined up along the edge of the garden, and I notice how many fathers are attentive to their little ones. Fathers and grandfathers playing with the children, much moreso than the mothers, for some reason.
This isn’t a great photo, but I think it represents the energy of the evening. At the end of the evening, the 50-person albergue is sweltering hot and there is not a window in the big room. I drag my pillow and sleep liner upstairs where the bathrooms, showers and laundry sinks are located, put my night-time “equipment” on the floor in the next room, and try to sleep. Some nice young woman shows up with an inflatable twin-sized “mattress” and I’m out for the night.