Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 29, 2010 - St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncevallas

The refugio I stayed in was very nice (build in 1860). Looked almost medieval. There were 5 bunk beds. I was lucky enough to get a bottom bunk. Jo, a 20 year old from London slept in the top bunk. Also in our room was the couple from New Hampshire, a couple from Switzerland and 4 other ladies who I think were from France.

Jam bread and coffee were served at 6:30. Jo and I started walking just before 7:00. It was an uphill climb right from the start. After 10 min. I thought there is no way I can do this! I stopped for a break. Jo talked continually. She was starting to get annoying. I stopped every 10 min. I told her she didn´t have to wait, but she did anyway. When I started stopping to take pictures, she got annoyed. By this time I wanted to yell at her to just keep going. After awhile she finally did go on without me. It was then very peaceful, I could hear the birds.

I got to Orisson about 10:00. It took me 3 hours to walk 7.5 km. I didn´t know what to do. It seemed way to early to stop for the day, yet it was 18 km to Roncevallas. They did not have an internet so I would be sitting there doing nothing. Had a cup of coffee and chatted with a lady from New Zealand that used to live in B.C. About 11:00 I decided to cancel my reservation and go on to Roncevallas. Started walking with the lady from New Zealand. She told me it was ok to go ahead because she had bad knees and couldn´t walk very fast (she ended up getting to Roncevallas way before me!).

It was very difficult (1440 m. up). I probably should have stayed in Orisson. Halfway there was a French man in a van selling juice and fruit. He was marking the number of people going by and where they were from. He said I was the first person that day from Canada. He did have 3 people from Quebec. I told him it was the same country. He laughed. He actually thought I was joking. Shortly after that started the decline. It was a very steep decline. Going down was definitely not easier than going up!! Just before the decline there was a little stone hut where people could stop for a break. There were 2 French men who had stopped to make themselves some coffee. They invited me to join them. It was very nice of them and very much appreciated (I think they felt sorry for me, I must have looked pretty ruff). I got to Roncevalles shortly after 6:00 and I could hardly walk, my legs were like jelly (took 7 hours to walk 18 km). The refugio was full so I had to sleep in one of the trailers. It was sooo cold. Had to have a shower and wash my clothes in cold water. That night I slept in every piece of clothing I took with me except for the ones supposedly drying on the line.

August 28, 2010 - Pamplona to St. Jean Pied de Port

Woke up at 6:00 and was ready to go by the time the refugio alarm went off. Purchased a ticket for Roncesvalles (bus comes at 10:00).

Rode the bus to Roncevalles with Martinas from Portugal. He has walked the camino several times, however this is the first time he plans on walking from Roncevallas to Santiago, unless it rains more than 2 day in a row, he is retired now so he has the time.

Shared a taxi from Roncevallas to St. Jean Pied de Port with a Lynn and Hugo from New Hampshire, USA. This is also their 2nd time doing the camino.

Going through the mountains was breath taking, not only the scenery but also the taxi driver drove very fast up and down and around the hair pin curves. He was French and talked most of the time with his hands. Almost thought my journey would end before it began going over the cliff of a mountain. In spite of a few anxious moments, the ride was very entertaining and fun. The driver took us to the pilgrams´office where I got my passport stamped. Was planning on going as far as Orisson today, however they said the refugio was full and it was too late to make it to the next place so I am staying at a refugio here in St. Jean Pied de Port, France. It is a beautiful village and I am kinda glad that I now have time to explore it.

Bought a wooden walking stick and stopped for lunch/supper. Had the pilgrams´meal which, for 14 € includes a large bowl of veg soup, 2 lamb chops, french fries, a salad, a basket of bread, a 1/4 litre of wine, a huge slice of some kind of awesome almond custard pastry and a cup of cafe for dessert. The cafe was actually espresso and served in a cup that looked like it belonged to a child´s tea set. Pretty powerful stuff, my head was buzzing after the first sip. I guess they think Pilgrims are hungry. Certainly couldn´t finish everything and I can see why pilgrims usually only have one meal a day. (Probably not the kind of treatment pilgrims received a thousand years ago).

After five hours of walking up and down the steep hills of this beautiful village, it didn´t take much for Lynn & Hugo to convince me to go back to the pilgrams´ office and book a spot in Orisson for tomorrow (the steep hills were very challenging). As I was walking down the street I heard someone call my name. It kind of startled me because I didn´t know anyone besides Lynn & Hugo. I knew it wasn´t them because I had just left them behind me at a cafe. It was Gaston from Brazil standing in line to sign up for a credential.

A credential is a pilgram´s pass port that you get stamped at each place you stay. You can´t stay in a refugio/albergue unless you have one. You also need it when you reach Santiago in order to get a certificate saying you walked at least the last 100 miles.

Anyway, it was really good to see Gaston. He greeted me like we were long lost friends. Even though we met only briefly the day before and could not understand a word each other said. There was a couple standing in line (from Chicago) that spoke both Portuguese and English and translated our conversation. He is also going to reserve a spot in Orisson.

I have taken over 45 pictures today. Everything is so beautiful. I want to capture it all even though pictures really do not capture everything. Martinas told me this morning that he doesn´t bring a camera anymore because he claims you can´t really live in the moment if you are trying to capture it for the future (not sure I agree with him).

In the evening, sat in the garden and chatted with Lynn & Hugo (couple from New Hampshire). Interesting people. They are couch surfers (http://www.couchsurfers.com/).

August 27, 2010 - Madrid

Very frustrating not being able to understand the language. Bought a bus ticket to Pamplona. Misunderstood the instructions. Thought the bus left terminal 4 at 11:15, however was supposed to take the shuttle to terminal 4 where I was to catch the bus at 11:15, so I had to buy another ticket. Next bus didn`t leave till 3:15.

While I was waiting for the bus, Gaston from Brazil and Gerhart from Germany came along. Gaston was booked on another bus but Gerhart was also going to Pamplona on the same bus as I was taking. He spoke English very well and we talked all the way to Pamplona (5 hours). This is the 2nd time he walked the camino. He shared his lunch with me which was very good and the healthiest meal I had in 2 days. Before he came along I was starting to think maybe this wasn´t such a good idea but he reminded me that on the Camino, God provided what you needed when you needed it. He helped me find one of the albergue/refugios. There was a festival in the street, a German band was playing umpapa music and people were dancing and drinking wine. He said it was a grand welcome on my first night -- and so it was! I didn´t have to wash my clothes by hand because this refugio actually has a washer and dryer.

The court yard I am sitting in writing this looks really spooky, but it is very peaceful and it is a very beautiful evening. After awhile a guy came out. He was looking for a light switch because he didn`t want to sit in the dark. I saw a square button that looked similar to the light switch beside my bed. I told him maybe that was it, so he pressed it. It actually set off an alarm and scarred the shit out of both of us. We laughed and he accused me of telling everyone to press the button just to see their reaction.

It was almost 11:00 and I figured I better go hang up my clothes and go to bed. However, the washer was still washing. It had been 1 and a half hours since I start it. I obviously didn´t do something right. I had never seen a washer like this before and the instructions were in Spanish. Ended up taking my clothes out and ringing them by hand.

August 27, 2010 - Flight

The flight to Minneapolis went quickly. The flight leaving Minneapolis was late, therefore arrived a few minutes late into Atlanta. It was rather a panic getting the connection in Atlanta. Didn`t know where I was going. The guy sitting beside me was very helpful, and patient. He had to explain the directions twice on how to get to the gate where I was to catch my flight to Madrid. There were a few of us that had to catch that flight, so most of the people waited for us to get off first (was sitting at the very back - economy class - row 44 - second last row). About half way down the isle there was a gentleman who was not impressed with having to wait. He stepped out in front of me. I had to stop short and my backpack threw me off balance. Didn´t realize it, but the top was open on my water bottle. Water splashed all over the back of his jacket and computer bag. Two ladies still sitting thought is was funny. Wouldn´t have wanted to be around when the guy realized his coat and bag was soaked.

When I finally got off the plane I had to run quite aways. In spite of being given the directions twice, after the 2nd left turn and down the escalator to my right, I was confused and had to ask an attendant for directions. The gate number had actually been changed and I had to take a trolley (reminded me of the LRT in Edmonton). Was the last person to board! Had to tell myself to chill out, wouldn´t have been the end of the world if I missed the flight, could have caught the next one.-- Did get a good workout running with my backpack. Haven´t even started walking yet and already I am thinking it is way too heavy.

Service on this flight was great. Even in economy class we were served dinner (with wine), free movies, T.V., pillow, blanket and continental breakfast.

Somewhere in the scuffle getting off the plane, I lost the light that was attached to my hat.

August 26, 2010

My sister and Adam drove me to the airport. Arrived quite early. Check in was uneventful (except I forgot to take my boarding pass after putting it down when I repacked my bag after going through U.S. customs. One of the security officers tracked me down to give it to me. They really were quite friendly.

Since I was early I had time to start reading ¨The Camino Letters¨. A book written by Julie Kirkpatrick, a lawyer from Southern Ontario who walked the camino with her daughter in 2009. Julie did a book signing and reading at Rand and McNally on Sun. Aug. 22. Her presentation was very touching and I am so glad that I was able to go. She gave me an extra book to give to Tomas and Antonio in Manjarin. Their story is Chapter 11 of the book, so of course that is where I started reading.

Friday, August 13, 2010

How it came about that I should walk the Camino de Santiago

I first heard about the Camino de Santiago from a co-worker whose husband was planning on walking the camino 2 years ago. At first I just thought how interesting. Then I heard about it from a couple other people. I starting reading about it and watching youtube vidoes and I knew that this was something I had to do.

A few months ago I planned to walk downtown and back to build up endurance (16.8 km - a short walk). I thought I would go to the library to see if they had any new books on the camino then on to Hull's Book Store to see if they had any new books by one of my favorite authors (Joyce Rupp). The library did not have any books on the camino that I hadn't already read, so I left empty handed. I went on to Hulls. I saw that Joyce Rupp did in fact have a new book out called "Walk in a Relaxed Manner". I thought "how appropriate". When I picked it up and looked a little closer, I saw that she was writing about her experience while walking the Camino de Santiago. It kinda made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I think someone was trying to tell me something. Anyway, it is a very good book - I read it a couple of times, some parts even three or four times.

Initially I did not intend to do a blog. However, so many people asked to keep in touch by email or phone, so I thought I would just write a blog and send out the url and if people want to know where I was they could follow the blog (I will try very hard to keep it up).

I will be leaving Winnipeg Thurs. Aug. 26th. That is less than two weeks away. When I started talking about it two years ago, it seemed so far away, it is hard to believe that the time has come to actually go.