NOTE: An adjusted post. Some of you might have seen part of this erroneously attached to August 31 narratative. Again, mea culpa.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015 Happy Birthday, Mom! She would have been 94 today. And she still would have thought I am crazy to do this. She would be correct.
Oh, and I have solved the mystery of the missing pills and glasses. Ana, one of the hospitaleros in Pasai Donibane, wrote to say I left the ziplock bag at the Albergue with the 119 steps, and I’m welcome to come back to get it. Seriously? I ask if someone at the Albergue can send it on to me at the post office in Santander. She replies that she is now in Barcelona, and that “all you have to do” is take a train back to Irun and then a bus to Donibane. I don’t think so. I’ll find a way, but have to get replacement pills, at least the Metformin. There is time for that.
I leave Orio, stopping in the village for cheese, ham, and a banana, and set off up the hill again toward tonight’s destination: Zumaia. 17 km. I come to Zaurutz, another city with minimal markings, and decide to do the coastal route, rather than the mountain route today. As I walk I begin to figure the number of days I have to walk, the number of kilometers and the difficulty of the terrain on at least 1/3 of the days. At the rate I’m going, I can’t imagine how I will actually finish without having to employ a faster method of transportation here and there.
For now, I’m sitting at Charly Bar, on the boardwalk in Zaurutz, right on the sea coast, having just finished two delicious pinxos, an enormous ensalada mixta with tuna, white asparagus, hard-boiled eggs and fresh tomatoes.
As an aside, there is a little girl, perhaps five years old, who has been having a rising tantrum on her scooter since long before she began to sit in front of me. Finally she starts punching her brother, her father gives her a couple of swats on the behind and put her in a chair in front of me. She’s been screaming ever since, the kind of scream that lets you know she’s practicing to be Sarah Heartburn when she grows up, and the parents properly ignore her. At this point, she is trying to tip over a table, while her brother sits next to her attempting to prevent complete chaos from ensuing. Now they all walk away from her, warning that if she wants to follow, she had better behave. Children and parents are the same everywhere,, it seems.
I walk to Getaria, starting to cough. The sore throat that threatened to become something bigger in the week before I left Colorado had subsided, so I thought I was through with it. But here it is again, along with a familiar beginning of my winter chest cold. Not a fun prospect with 780 km to go. I sit at a bus stop just to rest, and the bus comes, taking me to Zumaia. I had not thought of this option today, but there is the stop, and there is the bus, and within 10 minutes, I am at my destination, saving myself another five kilometers. I am beginning to feel guilty about this, and the feeling will take over on tomorrow’s walk. A big new lesson for me to chew on. More about that soon.
Since I am not following yellow arrows into town, I’m not sure where the Convento-Albergue is located, but I do spot a police station and walk there to ask directions. An adorable young policeman sits at the desk and tries to explain where I should go, apologizing constantly for his poor English. I remind him as often that I have nearly NO Spanish, and we laugh.
He takes me outside, points to a big building, and begins with directions. I am puzzled. He ducks his head into the little Polizia building, tells the man he will walk with me to the Convento, and I hold out my wrists. “Would you like to put me in handcuffs? It will look interesting . . . policeman arrests oldish pilgrim in Zumaia.” He smiles, hoping he understands me.
We talk about where he has been in the US . . . NYC, DC, Philadelphia, before taking a train to Toronto. He’d like to go to California (and Colorado, now), but he has a new baby . . . perhaps in five years, the baby will be old enough to take with him and his wife.
Continuous apologies for his “poor English”, and then we are at the Convento gate. He ducks his head to walk through, and gestures that I am to follow. I ask to take his picture, and he smiles a shy grimace. Then he kisses me on the cheek, ducks back through the gate in the stone wall of the convent, wishing me Buen Camino as he retreats down the hill to the Polizia station. What a treat!
Since I took a bus for the last few kilometers, I actually beat Ria. Petra and Yanira are already in the reception area and Petra says, “Ria will be so surprised!” True. When Ria does arrive, she stops and says, “Taxi?” I shake my head. I”ll tell her later.
The hostess, Mari, takes me to my room . . . a single bedroom. “The old people get to sleep alone,” quips Ria. “
However I can get it,” I respond.
Pinxos tonight, a walk on the shoreline of the harbor, watching parents and children swimming, then café con leche and some pastry, more pinxos, before we go back to the Convento and make a second or third snacky dinner with the ham and cheese. We’ve also bought bread and tomatoes so we sit out in the garden with many other peregrinos, talking about definitions for the word “closet”. It’s a moment thing, as my daughter would say, but it starts because a German young woman asks me whether “closet” is a correct word in English . . . I nod. “A place to hang your clothes, yes?” I nod again. Then I can’t resist . . . “Or a place to hide your homosexuality . . . before you tell your parents and your employer.” And we’re off.
One man says, “Oh, no one has to be in the closet anymore, yes?” I tell him it depends on which country you live in and where the conservatives hang out. So the conversations continue.
Sometimes on my last Camino, I avoided sitting at a table with a mix of people, having these interactions, but tonight the scene is just right. After an hour, Mari comes out to ask whether I would like a eucalyptus steam treatment. She has heard me coughing, and she has some freshly dried leaves. She gives me a basin and a real towel, takes me to the teapot to warm some water to pour over the crushed leaves, and wishes me good health.
In my little room, I think again of my mother, who used to give me these same treatments, but with Vicks Vap-O-Rub rather than real eucalyptus leaves. And I inhale, both the vapors and the memories of the magnificent Rosemary.
September 2, 2015. Today I walk out of Zumaia and who knows how far I’ll get. One possibility is to stay tonight in a “nature setting”, meaning just a sleeping quarters with no town around it, 5 km past Deba. The other option is to stay in Deba itself. My cough is just revving up, and I’ll see how the path goes and how far I will be able to travel.
The day is near perfect for walking, with cool breezes and some cloud cover, but enough blue sky to enliven the sea view as I walk. Our hospitalero, Mari, has suggested that we take the “German Way” for awhile, marked with a white and a red horizontal stripe, rather than the Camino’s yellow arrows. A bit longer but not by much, and with sweeping seacoast views. And it joins with the Camino very soon. So off we go, first together, and then alone, each at our own pace as usual.
Here are some tempting eye-treats:
After several hours of up and down, through farmlands, I hear a buzzbuzzbuzz. Sounds like a weed-whacker, but there are only wide open rolling hills. I come up over one of them and see, to my complete surprise, an old farmer literally weed-whacking his several-acre hillside. Perhaps it’s too steep to to cut with a tractor, but this work looks endless.
On the way past this man, I meet Mark and Stacy from Boston. They seem to be going at a pretty good clip, though they tell me this is their first Camino and ask me how it compares to the Frances. They say it seems really difficult. I tell them I’m very happy I did the Frances first, and yes, this one is much harder, at least so far.
We all turn a country corner and there, in the middle of nowhere, is a food-truck and WCs, picnic tables and a park area. An older man stands ready to deliver juice, water, bocadiillos already made up, or one made to order. I choose the latter. He gestures toward a baguette, asking how big I want the sandwich, shows me some prosciutto (called something else here), and I ask for tomato. He nods. Always a surprise on these pathways and sometimes it’s a good one, not muddy, rutted, rocky downslopes.
Feeling refreshed after my lunch break, I journey toward the west. The hills become more challenging, but the breeze and mixture of clouds and sun keep things enjoyable. However, I become more and more aware of my knees, both with knee braces on. Carefully I trudge. My shoes are behaving very well, and I still have no blisters, for which I’m especially grateful after I’ve seen the feet of some of my fellow travelers.
A large woman passes me on the trail. She is probably 50-60 lbs heavier than I am, hauling a huge backpack with a foam bedroll on the top, right hand holding a bottle of water, and left side clutching a PURSE, a beige vinyl pouchy purse, under her arm. Merrily she rolls along, with no sticks, a pink nylon windbreaker and denim calf-length pants. Amazing.
By the time I come to a restaurant, also in the middle of almost nowhere, I’m ready for another break, before I arrive in Deba. No “nature albergue” for me tonight. Deba will be my destination. Ultimately a good choice for several reasons. First of all, the town is just the right size to people-watch, family-watch, and have good choices for food. Second, the pharmacia is actually open, and a very solicitous blond pharmacist speaks good enough English to understand my Metformin needs. She sells me a 50-pack of 1000 mg pills, twice what I need, but I can easily break them in half for my 500 mg. dose. That box and one of Tylenol costs me Euro 5.50.
The third reason I’m happy to stay here is that I decide to get a real Pension, rather than sleep in an albergue. The Tourist Information office directs me to the only Pension in town, near the beach, after having called to make sure there is a room for me. Pensione (or Pensioa in the Basque area) Zumardi has clean sheets, real towels, a very nice breakfast in the morning, and a 12:00 noon checkout. Euro 50, and I’ll be happy to pay that.
I headed toward the park and the beach, ready to dump my pack load, shower, and go back to town for some nice little pinxos and wine for dinner. I see Pau (our musician from Pasai Donibane) in the park in Deba. He’s probably Tanner’s age, thin and strong . . . and he’s carrying a guitar, but not such a large pack. Wearing a hat . . . a sort of Johnny Depp kind of character, very sweet and quiet, though he hails me from his park bench as I walked across the park toward my pensione. He too is taking buses to save his feet. He walks 5 km and then takes the bus to give himself a break from the very difficult hills. I don’t feel so bad.
I have spoken to Ria and she says it is a good thing I didn’t try the last 5 km up to the nature albergue. Her feet are very sore and blistery and she might take the bus from Markinen tomorrow toward Guernika. We will meet there.