This blog is a record of my observations, experiences and crazy thoughts about my 800 kilometer pilgrimage across northern Spain: the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (April-May 2009).
Saturday, June 06, 2009
Day 4 - Cizur Menor - Friday, 24 April 2009
Trinidad de Arre -> Cizur Menor = 8K (702.7K to go!)
So many observations I want to share, but by days-end the words and images escape me. Yes, I should stop and write throughout the day. But stopping means losing flow. I strive to stay in the moment, live in the now...so my journal suffers. I report rather than paint with words nor do I explore (on paper) the rich ideas that fill my head each day. My journals are without the inspiration and the enlightenment, but the experience is not.
Just like at home, on this pilgrimage, I rise early each day and prepare to walk. At home though, I simply get up, stretch, pull on my dog-walking clothes and sneak out the door before sunrise. Watching sunrise with my sweetie-dog, the lovely Miss Zia is a fine start to any day (I miss her AND I miss the beloved-spouse, who snores away as I am off dog-walking each morning.)
Here in Spain, in the dark albergue,I am among the first to rise. In the dark quietly grab my things and head for the common area where I can pack. Other pilgrims are less discrete and do their packing on their bunk, among those who are still trying to sleep. They rustle plastic bags and use headlights. They seem oblivious to how disturbing they are.
Everyone must be out of the albergue by 0800, but at 0600, most pilgrims are still trying to catch another 40 winks before a long day of walking.
By 0700, I have devoured a few breakfast cookies and sipped a cafe con leche from the machine at the albergue. I hit the streets and follow the yellow arrows. I fall into step with 2 young Spanish women (Bella and Lucia work at McDonald's in Barcelona and are on a 2 week break). They are witty and full of fun. I enjoy practicing my Spanish and they also enjoy practicing their English skills. We giggle and laugh as we walk along.
The first hour or so we walk through three villages (about 5K) without ever leaving the urban area. Beautiful Pamplona has absorbed them as it grew. The old city walls and parkland that marked the entrance to the city look wonderful in the early morning sun. We stop for photo opps and look like tourists rather than pilgrims.
We enter Pamplona proper just as the business day starts: butano trucks roar by, construction workers are hard at work, bread is being delivered to local bars, workers smoke and hurry off to their offices - the narrow streets are busy and crowded.
We stop for breakfast at a busy bar. As we take off our packs and prepare to order we hear greetings from several familiar pilgrims who were sipping coffee already, pilgrims we had met in Roncesvalles, just a few days ago. Funny how we all found the same bar. We pose for photos and swap stories and eat wonderful pastries. All the pilgrims seem to have business: sightseeing, making various purchases, finding Internet centers and visiting the pharmacy to get blister treatments.
Blisters. Yes, the cast of characters at the bar included many blister-suffering pilgrims (my friend Mikey, the young Danish woman, included). So we make plans to meet later in the day at an albergue down the road in Cizur Menor. We will cook a communal meal there and deal with our feet.
Our decision to stop at Cizur Menor will also allow us to avoid walking up the steep climb up to Alto de Perdon under the blazing, mid-day sun (about 80 degrees F and no shade). The walk down the other side would also be grueling. By staying in Cizur Menor, we can begin our ascent in the cool morning hours. The forecast for Saturday is for overcast skies and maybe a little rain.
So my Friday went by walking through the lovely, ancient streets of Pamplona, the city made famous by Hemmingway in his tales about the running of the bulls. Being in Pamplona brought back many happy memories for me - my family and I have been among the revelers at San Fermin several times. I can close my eyes and almost conjure up the smell of the bulls and the image of them safe in their enclave at the start of the run where they are deposited the night before each run.
The albergue in Cizur Menor is a delight. The garden, about 2 acres of grass, has a large pond with many large turtles and fish. There are lilacs, tulips, iris, a riot of spring plants sending out delicious perfume. Cats (cagey creatures, but curious) eye us. A dozen pilgrims soak up the sun, read, talk and soak their tired feet.
The hospitalero is busy doing magic on the blisters of one pilgrim after another. She might as well open a clinic. The line of limping patients is long. (One customer is the sweet German physician, Hans, whom I met on Day 1 - the man who abandoned his leather boots on the mountaintop).
Later several of us gather in the communal kitchen and prepare a pleasant, simple meal. We sit talking as the sun sets and then, like chickens, we find our roost for the night. (In this albergue, the roosters roost in one room and the hens are in another.)
I can smell the sweet scent of lilacs as I drift off to sleep. All is well with the world.
In April 2009, I began my 500-mile trek across the rocky paths and mountains of northen Spain. I finished my walk on the the ancient Way of St James (the Camino de Santiago de Compostela) in early June 2009.
I consider this a pilgrimage of gratitude. Each step was an opportunity to express gratitude for the abundance life offers; each footstep, one of finding joy. It was a humbling experience. It was a character-building experience. It was a spiritual adventure and a physical one too - who knew I was such a mountain goat? I hope you will enjoy my rambling, stream of consciousness obeservations of my experiences as a pilgrim on this historic pilgrimage route that really is only the begining.
Of course veteran pilgrims know: the Camino never ends - once a pilgrim, always a pilgrim. So, wherever YOUR path takes you, I wish you "Buen Camino".