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 5 - Puente La Reina - Saturday, 25 April 2009
Cizur Menor -> Puente la Reina = 20.4K (679.9K to go!)
I am a jackrabbit today. I lope up the ascent quickly. It is a thrill to climb and the rhythm of my own pace feels good. My walking companions are far behind me as I stand at the peak of Alto de Perdon and take in the spectacular view.
The weather has changed. True to the forecast the day is overcast and cold. Rain threatens. At the peak, the wind is strong. The dark sky provides drama and suits the huge metal pilgrim sculpture that dominates this space. The piece consists of enormous silhouettes of pilgrims parading across the mountaintop, heading westward to Santiago.
I zip up my fleece and pull my silk socks over my hands (in lieu of gloves). I attempt to take a photo, but once again my camera batteries are depleted. So much for collecting photographic reminders of my travels today.
I began the walk down the other side of the mountain. Today is the day I discover that walking down a steep slope can be more challenging than the exhilarating climb up to the peak. My left knee begins to speak to me as I walk beside a delightful French-speaking Canadian. I take smaller steps and try to walk off the sensation.
We stopped at a bar to sip cafe con leche and to warm up. My leg really began to talk then, so I rested for a while. As I waited, my Spanish walking companions of the day before arrived. Their pace is more leisurely and my knee could use a rest so, I elected to move forward with them. During the next 10K, I was forced to stop at a pharmacy to purchase a knee bandage.
I went from rabbit to turtle. Is this what it is like to be old?
We walked on and went through the small town of Obanos, where the Navarre and Aragon camino routes merge. We continued on to the town of Puente la Reina (literally queen's bridge). The rain began to fall. My knee ached. I was grateful to stop atthe albergue and call it a day.
We ate the pilgrim's menu at a local bar (asparagus, veal cutlets, chocolate mousse, wine, and bread) and watched a party of youngsters at the next table. The adults were seated at a separate table and the enthusiastic children (ages 3-10) were rambunctious and rowdy. The adults seemed oblivious of their behavior and the children reveled in their activities. I found it refreshing to be among people who seem to allow children to simply be children. There were no threats or dirty looks from cross parents as there most likely would be among a group of people from the USA.
The rainy day wound down with me accomplishing the mundane daily chores of pilgrim life: showering, laundry, errands (an ATM and batteries). This albergue is large - about 75 beds, but divided into small rooms with about 6-10 per room. (FYI: one of my roommates is a horseman - his gear smelled of horse lineament and sweat. I would like to have seen his horse.)
I fall asleep despite the snoring and the musty smells of wet laundry. Rain splashes on the window and matches my mood - will my knee recover overnight?
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".