Excerpts from my Camino Diary – Week 1

Excerpts from my Camino Diary – Week 1

** let me start off by saying that I am writing these diary posts from my cell . So please excuse the format, look, possible grammatical errors, and feel of this presentation for normally I would have a laptop but wanted to disconnect is much as possible while walking the Camino de Santiago.

Week 1: A hard lesson in humility!

July 1, 2016

What a physically rough day. They warn that this day is by far the hardest, but come on isn’t that what they tell tourist? No its 100% true.

I started the morning at the gate of St Jean Pied de port where I found a bench to started my novena and prayed. The weather at 7 a.m. was perfect as I made my way out of town. Throughout the walk you would see many eager pilgrims all wishing each other “Buen Camino”!

But as you leave the city limits you realize why they warn you of the difficulty. See the walk to Roncesvalles is only 25 km or for Americans about 16 miles but in that 16 miles you almost entirely walk up hill ultimately reaching a height of 1450 meters or 4757 feet!

Throughout the first 3 hours, I essentially walked alone amid the crowd. It was pleasant and peaceful as I reflected on my special intentions of the day. They were also beautiful French farms and fields lined with sheep, horses, and cattle. Oddly enough the roads were scattered with enormous black slugs easily 6 inches long or bigger.

Around Orisson, I began walking with a older gentleman who had just left Greenland and was returning to home country of Denmark. He was a bit sad because his 18 year old son didn’t want to leave his girlfriend at home to walk with his father on this walk.

Some time later we met up with 3 others: Lucca from Italy, Max from Germany, and Zack from Sacramento California.  We would all walk and talk and tell our stories while struggling to make it to the peak of Col de Lepoeder.

From that point we thought the hard part was over. Boy were we wrong! The downhill was even worse. The constant hammering on our hips, quads, knees, and shins was brutal. It felt never ending until suddenly we crossed the bridge into our town. Hopefully the cool fog will lift and possibly the rain will be over tomorrow.

July 2, 2016: Roncesvalles – Zubiri

Today almost killed me!

I was so sore from yesterday that I walked very slowly all day (about 2 miles an hour in fact). It was a downhill nightmare on my legs.

I started my morning with the morning prayers and intentions and left in the cold mist alone. It was quiet and beautiful as I pondered millions of thoughts. There wasn’t much to the walk except the difficulty and by 2/3rds I way, I was dying physically.

By 2 p.m. I had made it into Zubiri. It’s a beautiful town and I debated on plowing through to another 5 km to the next town. My legs burned and after talking with other pilgrims, I had decided to stay which was great because we sat and rested at a local bar drinking, smoking, and eating a great Peregrino dinner while relaxing. Tomorrow to Pamplona!

July 3, 2016: Zubiri – Pamplona

It was in Irish kind of day!

James, a friend I met in Zubiri, who is from Ireland and I both left around 7 a.m. At first I stayed with him, but soon he jetted off and I lagged behind. However it didn’t phase me because the day was beautiful as I struggled along the beautiful countryside.
For a while I walk with this young Canadian couple along the Arga River. Then I arrived at Cafe Parada, where James sat with others including this Irish mother Suzanne and her 2 daughters. From that point we all decided to walk together into Pamplona.

The second half the day, though still hard, was fun as the 2 young daughters entertained us with their questions, songs, and stories.  I learned that there is an actual Irish language that is still taught in schools and used in many of the towns. Not some dead language but alive like our Cajun French in Louisiana.

One of the highlights was we had decided to take a detour to an old convent still owned and run by the daughters of Sacred Heart (okay only run by 4 nuns but still). We visited with one of the sisters who laughed at my Spanish and showed us around the beautiful church. We were allowed to climb into the bell tower and ring the bell for good luck. Though we didn’t stay there the convent is also still use as a hostel to feed and house pilgrims for a donation. It was tempting to stay but we decided to head on for Pamplona.

We made our way into Pamplona. The city here was alive and noisy as it prepared for the commencement of San Fermin. We walked around a bit as I sat amid the noise of the plaza next to the famous Cafe Iruna, a favorite of Ernest Hemingway.

Today was a great day!

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July 4, 2016: Pamplona – Puenta De La Reina 

Leaving the city was good. We left fresh and happy making our way to the concrete jungle of Pamplona but this would become our longest day. Susanne is a lovely woman and it amazes me how old she is because she’s always smiling, happy, and positive. Though it is evident that she is a mother as she worries for her this health and safety of her daughters.

Walking the long hot fields to Cizur Menor seemed easy but the heat really slowed us down. This made us search for escape which in turn prolonged our daily battle of walking in the heat. Plus Ayisha, the eldest daughter was struggling physically. Hell we all were beaten and bruised but she seemed worse for wear around her knees.

Then we climbed! It seemed a slow gradual climb but in our condition seemed very hard. However you never can stop and soon we reached the top of Alto de Perdon where we witnessed the famous iron silhouettes of pilgrims as we rested beneath the windmills.

At this point some of our group decided to give up their packs as James and I continued down the valley with our gear toward Puente de la Reina. It was a very long walk down the Mountain. A very  long walk!

I did get a chance to stop at a small town called Obanos, where I got to see the skull of St William encased in silver.

It’s amazing how you find yourself missing out on so much. Much like life I suppose. As you walk down the steep hills of these horrible broken ancient Roman roads, you keep your head down staring at your feet so you don’t fall. It kind of sucks!

Usually we end each day around 2 or 3 p.m. but today we crawled into town around 6 p.m. When we found our albergue, we immediately jumped into the pool and later celebrated surviving with a lot of wine. I never slept so good!

July 5, 2016: Puente de la Reina – Estella

My morning with Greg!

James and I left at our typical 7 a.m. time, while the girls and Greg and Australian man who had joined us, had left out earlier.

However, by the town of Manenu, we had caught up with Greg and he was struggling with many blisters on his feet. So I decided to walk with him for a while as James continued forward to catch the girls. It was great hearing Greg’s story.

Greg is a principal from Perth Australia, who was essentially forced to take a 7 month holiday due to some Australian laws since he hadn’t taken is mandatory Holiday in several years.

However a short while later we had caught James who is with Emelia, a young girl from Denmark who reminds me a lot of my precious cousin Graziella.  It was fun as we passed through the infamously evil town of Cirauqui.

Then by the town Lorca, we had caught up with our Irish family and powered through the last 8 to 9 kilometers to Estella.

Estella is a beautiful town along the river with a castle on a hill. It’s a decent sized town but felt small which was nice. Susanne had also found us a place to stay at the Albergue Anfas which was awesome because it was only 7 euros but also it is run by mentally challenged individuals who took special care of us.

July 6, 2016: Estella – Los Arcos

Today was hot! James, Greg, & I left after my morning prayers as the girls had left and hour earlier.

The walk started out nice into Irache where we got to drink from the famous wine fountain.

But then it just became a very long hot walk through the open farmland without a shade! Sadly Greg fell behind again but we did find the young Canadian couple, Nick & Kelly, again and walked with them for a bit.  James also met up with another northern Irish man named John Greene who joined us.

July 7, 2016: Los Arcos – Viana 

Last night was a rough night of sleep for all of us, plus when I woke up my left foot felt bruised, sore, and was super swollen. It was painful all day.

Luckily the Irish girls and their mother had convinced us all to break up the next two days according to the guide book into three days.

So we started out leaving Los Arcos on the long walk to Sansol about 7km away. I personally like starting out at 7 a.m. and walking for a while before having a breakfast break. I tend to feel more energetic that way. The past few mornings I’ve been drinking cafe con leche which is odd for me since I rarely drink coffee but when in Spain do as the Spaniards do I guess.

From Sansol, we walked to Torres del Rio where I saw Iglesia de Santo Sepulcro, a chapel made for and connected to the Knights Templar.  It was beautiful in its simplicity.

From that point I caught up with James who walks a little bit faster than I and we hobbled into the town of Viana.

At first this town looked like a dirty and depressing industrial town, but as we got closer to the old town you could see its charm.

Susanne saved me again! She had found a real post office and I had decided that one week of walking the Camino was more than enough time carrying this massive weight that I was carrying. So I decided to ditch some clothes, my cold weather sleeping bag, and some other stuff. Although it was expensive, hopefully it saves my feet from the 4.25 kilos or 9.5lbs weighing me down!

Don’t forget to Pin this to your Bucket List Board!

7 thoughts on “Excerpts from my Camino Diary – Week 1

  1. So lovely to read your blog especially to hear about my wonderful brother James who is walking with you. It’s comforting to know that he has met so many fantastic people like yourself along his journey. Such great memories. Wishing you the very best on your onward journey. Lisa

    1. Thank you Lisa. Your brother has become a wonderful character in this chapter of my story. Now I need to go find some pebbles to put in his boots because it’s the only way to slow him down! 😊

  2. Thank you for praying for my Ashley love and peace to you forever. God bless you and thank you for your sacrifice you are making . in my prayers.

  3. I’m enjoying your blog,Eric! Yeah,I’m Yasuyo from TB:)
    I think I bring my 18years old daughter,wondering if she could stand up with this long way! But definitely would very special experience for her life,for me too!
    I’I’ll read more your story. I slowly start for preparing for my Camino! I just picked up the list what I need 🙂
    Thank you for sharing the story! I’m so excited.

  4. Thank you Yasuyou for your response. I hope you and your daughter get a chance to walk on the Camino! It was a great experience in my life & I can only imagine the same for you and your daughter as well. I walked with a mother from Ireland who brought her two daughters (one 16 & the other 20) and they did the whole thing along with me and another friend James from Ireland. I can only what it meant to that mother and her daughters.
    If you need anything or have other questions please let me know here or on TB

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