Monday, August 31, 2015. After my night sleeping on the floor upstairs to avoid the oppressive heat of 50 bodies and no windows, I go back to my assigned bunk to look around for a ziplock bag of extra medicine, an extra pair of glasses and a few other things I now can’t find. I had asked around last night, when I noticed that the bag with my night supply of metformin was nowhere around. The hospitalero knew nothing about it. Great. I need those pills every night, and though I can steal from my morning set of supplements and prescriptions, that won’t last long. WHERE could I have put them? This has been happening much too often since the day before I left home, but I did find the second Visa/debit card, and I did find a couple of other things I thought were missing, so I decided to let this one go and hope the bag surfaced at some point. Time to go to Orio.
Ria and I leave together as usual, in search of a little bit of breakfast, which typically means cafe con leche and BREAD in some form. No eggs anywhere, unfortunately . . . at least not yet. Around the corner from the albergue are two pastry stores with coffee. A croissant and café con leche are to be my only bits of nourishment for nearly another 12 hours. Had I known the only bar on the route would be closed, with a snippy woman saying “Ciuso . . . bye bye” I would have at least bought a banana and another croissant before leaving San Sebastian. But instead I head for the Correos (the post office) to send my day pack, a couple of shirts and a few other unnecessaries to Ivar Rekve, a loyal promoter for the Camino. He not only manages the very useful website, caminodesantiago.me, but also provides storage for pilgrims’ belongings in Santiago for a small fee.
After the post office errand, I find the typical dilemma when walking out of a larger city . . . no markings, or very poor and sporadic ones, and three different sets of directions from three well-meaning locals. Shades of Burgos two years ago. Finally I reached the park at the edge of town and find . . . what else? Stone steps ascending the mountain!
The day is about 20 degrees cooler than the past two days, and that is a great relief, but by the time one goes over the mountain, it seems nearly as hot. I stop once to put on my knee brace, again to fill a water bottle, again to order juice from a hotel at the top of the hill. Soon I pass what I’ve come to call a “generosity stop”. Someone who loves pilgrims has created a sort of rest stop for anyone who needs it. You can even get your credenciale stamped.
Passing the aforementioned restaurant, Nikolai, I sit on a big stone for awhile, take off my shoes, and let the swelling in my feet settle down. My shoes are behaving themselves fairly well this trip, but still, the feet take such a beating on the mountain “paths”.
Several young peregrinos pass me, all very friendly and all clearly ready to go at a much faster clip than I. I come upon them in an hour, as they sit on a log, eating the food they bought at an organic community on the way to San Sebastian. I take a few proferred cherry tomatoes from the young woman, and walk on.
In another hour, I hear the sound of a spring or bubbling water, and having read about what is to come ahead, I quicken my pace. A stream with a small waterfall and a black hose connected to the water, then arching toward me. All over the rocks, painted in yellow of course, are words which indicate this is delicious, fresh and drinkable. H2O, Potable, Agua, etc. I take full advantage, and am sorry I didn’t have my camera out at the time.
To my delight, this path goes through many farms, so the horses, cows, dogs, chickens and hay bales I loved on the Camino Frances begin to appear. I can hear the thunder in the distance, an indication of the promised rainstorm, and I want to get on with it, on to Orio to the Albergue San Martin, a much-loved place to stay, if the pilgrim reports I’ve read are any indication.
Do I take out my poncho yet or not? Not. But soon. And I am happy that “soon” I do cover myself. By the time the thunder had had its say for 45 minutes, the sky opens up and I, gratefully covered in my new pack poncho, feel as though I have stepped into a sauna. This cold-seeking pilgrim cannot seem to escape the heat in any form. But the poncho is much more effective than the rain jacket I lost the first day on the Camino Frances. Covers me and my pack, down past my knees.
After the rains begin, the path becomes treacherous, large river rocks thrown about on the steep dirt walkways.
Down, down, down the stones and mud go, heading toward my destination, Orio, and by the time I get to Albergue San Martin, my shoes are caked in burnt umber mud. And at the top of the albergue hill, there is Ria, waving to me as in days on the Camino Frances . . . “JOANNAH!!”
The Albergue San Martin deserves all the accolades it has received in my guiding papers. Euro 25 for the bed, dinner, and breakfast. Such a relief not to have to go DOWN the hill into the village and back UP again. Fourteen beds, and a few familiar faces. Petra, and a young Curacao/Dutch woman named Yanira. And new faces as well. A lovely young woman from Warsaw, Alex(andra), who told me she met her now-husband in Washington State and “brought him home” with her. Now he is tending the house and cats, just as Neil is doing for me. And two Danish women who thought they must be the oldest people on the trail . . . 65 and 66. But at nearly 69, I have them beat, not that anyone was running a contest.
Here is the view, though it’s quite misty this evening, and next is our little “dining hall”, in which a dozen of us are served a delicious pureed vegetable soup, and some sort of fish (bacalao??), as well as the vino tinto (the red, of course) and mounds of the best bread I’ve tasted in Spain so far.
Nadine (Begin With A Single Step blogger) said it earlier this summer . . . this is a place I’d love to settle, and write for a month.