Focusing on the journey
Well, dear friends, I have safely and successfully completed the second full day of our Camino pilgrimage. I will definitely write more once we have completed the journey, in three weeks, but for now thought I'd go ahead and share some details from the first few days of my journey. I should preface this: it seems adventures follow me wherever I go!
Oh and in case you want to keep up with our adventures on a near-daily basis, my lovely and fellow peregrina is keeping a blog here!!
A delayed start
When asked, “Where did you start the Camino?”, some may say their hometown, or the city from which they flew/took the train, or even the city in which they begin walking. So, I suppose I can claim mine began at the ever-exciting Newark airport (as I feel most partial to this–and it makes this next bit all the better!)
My generous mother dropped me off at lovely EWR (Thanks Mama K!) and within 10 minutes of my arrival, I was checked in and ready to go. I should’ve known this was not going to mean smooth sailing for the remainder of my time there, but I would like to say that I am an optimist, so at that moment, 310PM, I was feeling great! Just my 20Ib pack, a SPANISH IN 15 MINUTES book, my enthusiasm, and my delicate self, watch out Spain!
Fast forward to 645PM: on the runway we sat (Flight was supposed to take off at 555PM EST). While not quite a shocker that we were so delayed, I came to realize that my layover in Lisbon was merely an hour so hoped we would make up the time. Admittedly this probably would have dawned on me sooner than the in-flight announcement made 4 hours into the 6 hour 30 minute flight, had I not been concentrating so hard on not losing feeling in various parts of my body. Yes! You guessed right: not only was I in a middle seat, but it was doubly special being in a DOUBLE middle seat–the four seats across type deal. Normally when traveling with at least one person I know, it’s not so bad. When traveling by yourself though, it is not nearly as amusing because while your dear friend might find close proximity to you fun as you each struggle to get comfortable, or said friend has patience with your frequent trips to the toilet, strangers can be less flexible. Another confession: this seven hour experience has inspired me to write a series of THANK YOU LETTERS, so I shall be perfecting those in the coming weeks/months, as I feel the need to express my gratitude. Needless to say, the first few thank you notes will be for the man in 36E, the woman on 35F and the woman in 36G–those loving individuals who surrounded my 36F winning seat! My next notes will be for TAP PORTUGAL and the individuals working at the Lisbon airport. Upon arriving, a hearty mix of these two groups would ask where I was going. Upon saying “Madrid!”, they each responded, “Oh, Madrid? RUN!” After all, who doesn’t love an early morning run? I have had plenty, though only one other time did I feel so lethargic, which leaves me to wonder which is more fantastic? 1) A 2005 early AM training run for the NYC marathon during which I whacked my left arm against a van’s side mirror. (The car was parked.) Apparently one’s depth perception is a bit off when attempting a 4+ mile run following an all-nighter studying. OR
2) Monday morning’s 6AM sprint up 30+ stairs and across an airport terminal, through customs and security all the while passing hoards of people staring. Now that I think of it, it seems ironic the latter included more people shouting “RUN!”
I will leave the decision to you as I no longer wish to think of either!
I safely arrived in Madrid shortly before 10am to be met by the group! For those of you who have not been, Spain is gorgeous!
Leaving city of Burgos for our first day of walking (Tuesday)
This little guy was on his own pilgrimage!
Rolling hills and mountains, as well as expansive plains and quaint small towns have filled our days thus far as we have followed a famous CAMINO DE SANTIAGO route as mapped out in John Brierely’s book. Church bells have welcomed us as we enter and pass through towns and birds’ songs have accompanied us as we walk on. Today, fields of poppies and other wild flowers decorated the greenery and seemingly endless wheat fields as we passed by old monasteries and hospitals turns hostels. The vastness of the buildings is humbling and I have found myself speechless with wonder as I attempt to imagine what it may have been like to walk these same paths thousands of years ago. Many sick and ailing pilgrims began the trek and needed to stop at hospitals whilst en route. Yes, I too am on my own pilgrimage in need of healing, I suppose, in search of something greater than myself. Needless to say, each moment has reminded us all of what a gift this time is.
An old hospital which would treat the ailing and leave bread out for passing pilgrims. Now in the place where bread once was, pilgrims may leave notes of well wishes or prayers, often held in place with rocks.
Karen, Monika, Mary, Rick and I were spoiled our first two nights: spent in a hotel and a spacious country home, respectively. In fact the latter had a magazine and poster with the signatures of Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, who reportedly had also been to the place, most likely around the time of filming THE WAY. Cannot blame them; what beauty! The squawking peacock, though an annoyance to most others, felt like a warm welcome, reminding me of my childhood. Our neighbors had one, so for the 10+ years we lived next door, the peacock’s squawking was like an alarm clock at all hours!
Here we are on the home’s porch before beginning day 2!
Many laughs have been shared thus far as we converse in English, Spanish, French and German with those around us. I’ve attempted to teach these fine people some Kiswahili, as I have an affinity to switch to it the more tired I become! That said it should be known: I fall into the first and third language categories, though am slowly absorbing more Spanish. Thankfully Rick and Monika (who is German and therefore fluent in the language too!) both have a good handle on Spanish so it has mostly been drama-less. I should also admit that I honed my gesticulating skills whilst in Tanzania so can sometimes communicate via (near) interpretive dance! Ah, another reason to write a THANK YOU note to Tanzania.
We will be covering roughly 20km/day, sometimes more, and so far I’ve learned a few lessons. The most important though, is definitely the importance of rain gear. I was excited to get started this morning until about minute 3 of walking, when Rick looked at me and asked, “Is that your rain jacket?” Enthusiastically I replied, “YES!” Rick then took my left cuff in his hand, felt it, then replied, “This is not a rain jacket, it’s a wind breaker.” And there you have it friends–yet another thank you note! My first purchase once home will be a rain jacket!
The first 60 minutes of the trek were very wet, involved Rick tying a green tarp around me–which, it should be known, was NOT waterproof either–though admittedly it has provided for some fabulous writing material so not all was lost (except the mobility skills of my extremities!!) It too enabled many to have a chuckle whilst looking at me. Truth be told, I felt like a teenage mutant ninja turtle so it wasn’t quite that bad! (NOTE: check Karen’s blog for a frightening picture of me donning the tarp–had I had a chunky belt, perhaps I could have pulled it off better!). Two other fun facts: there’s a decent chance each of my shoes weighed 2 lbs after trudging through mud so 1) not only was I finally 5’9″ (mud is like that of Karatu which cakes onto one’s shoes) but 2) so too will I soon have Herculean quadriceps! Either way I am just thankful that now, 7 hours later, I am finally dry.
Funny enough, at dinner tonight, as we all shared our favorite moments from the day, I found myself sharing my freezing moments as a turtle as being my most memorable. Due to the wind which caused the rain to fall at an angle, blinding me, and the ensuing cold, all I could focus on was one step after another. Polepole like on Kilimanjaro Certainly all I could see was a few feet in front of me anyway. The struggle to press on and not give up (and call a taxi to the next town–if not I knew more Spanish!) reminded me of super uncomfortable moments and how they are the ones which sometimes teach us the most.
Walking into town once the sun emerged!
It is only day 2 so I am very optimistic that the trip shall continue to be even more fabulous–though hopefully with less rain. Once Rick and I got settled in our hostel–top bunks, yay!–we ventured into town in search of rain gear and hot sauce. Success in both categories! Karen, Monika and Mary are in a neighboring hostel because apparently us 5 together is too overwhelming! Or, because some hostels have rules that groups of more than 3 cannot stay together! Either way, onward we continue!
For now, it’s music time so as to drown out the choir of snores. Ah, hostels!
Thanks for reading!!
Rain gear! A poncho with backpack holder for moi and waterproof pants for Rick!