Day 2 (to Zubiri): The Day After

Today I woke little after midnight. It would appear that …

… my body clock suffered a malfunction and thought it was 5:00, so I returned to sleep.

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Around 6:00 people started packing and at 7:00 a hospitalero passed by … singing Alleluia in Latin. Got my gear ready and was out the door at 7:15.
I was greeted by pitch darkness … sun seems a bit slow on the uptake today.
The first Camino miracle for today is that I can walk … amazing, since yesterday I thought I won’t be able to … ever again.

Slight rain outside, and smart fellow that I am … I forgot to put on the raincoat or gaiters … so I improvised in the dark. Camino provided again in the form of a helpful Dane (won’t be the last one) with a flashlight. We chat a bit on how are things in Denmark, so he tells me a story. He was riding a train to Copenhagen, when a guys sits next to him, says “good morning”, opens up a laptop and starts working … the guy is a Minister in Danish Government. I guess it’ll take a while for such attitude towards public service to spread around.
Dane is an experienced mountaineer, and I manage to keep up with him only for about half an hour, to the first supermarket.

The road leads to a small town, where I meet Maren, Canadian who lives in flat part of Canada, so her training for the Camino consisted of carrying her kids around, while they yelled “faster Mommy”.

I stopped here for a while to check my email. As sat down I noticed a huge dog sneaking behind my back. When he saw I was holding a smartphone and not food, he quickly lost interest.

Lot of peregrinos on the road this morning, since many made Roncevalles their starting point. The path goes over few small creeks, through the forest and it crosses the Pamplona – SJPDP road.

Camino is well marked and it is difficult to get lost. I only managed it twice so far …and was saved by Germans both times, who pointed me in the right direction.

Along the way I met Ginny ( Han Sun in original ) a Korean girl whose backpack looks way too big. She kindly asks if I’m hurt, after seeing me making those frequent breaks, so I explain Churchill’s axiom as applied to the Camino … few hours later I see her applying it.
The road continues uphill (naturally) where I come across few Dutchmen … its easy to guess where they are from since one has a huge Dutch flag all over his backpack. Not only do they know of Croatia, but one is planning a vacation there soon (a theme that will be repeated frequently along the Way)

After crossing another road the path winds through the idyllic forest … peace and quiet … you can hear the birds singing.
In the forest I come across the Texan on a break, he used to same forum for Camino research as I did. In a few minutes, Odd drops by as well. We were all chatting when suddenly a few guys on bikes rush pass us at top speed. On a side note … officially Camino can be done by foot, on a bike or on a horse.

The patch continues down-slope on a stone paved path. Going uphill is … challenging, going downhill is also challenging, but in a different way. At the base of the hill is a small creek where I repeat icing of the feet procedure. Nearby (in Camino language that’s 5-10km) is a small village. Since the bar is crowded, I went in search of supermarket where I resupplied and stopped for a snack. Rested and recovered I move on, watching a Spanish group pass me by, all carrying tiny backpacks. Let them … the name of the game today (and the whole first week) is”finish last”, until I manage to build up some stamina.

I meet up with another Dutchman who complains that his backpack shoulder straps are hurting, so I explain to him he needs to adjust the hip-belt, since backpack weight is carried on the hips and not on the shoulders (see instructional video for demonstration).

My “parking place” for the day is Zubiri. Soon I spot a village in distance … alas … not Zubiri. After the village another steep uphill climb …. and I so hoped I’ll be spared the pleasure of these for today. At the base of the hill I meet two Canadian sisters, Cindy and Sandy … who also plan to visit Croatia soon. Sandy is fighting a cold that she caught on the way and adores the uphill climb even more than I do. Looking at some birds above Sandy comments … “Cyn, are those vultures waiting for us … “.They started day before me, but cleverly stopped at Orisson before moving on. When I told them I was less smart and did the Pyrenees in a single day I got a new nickname … loco Croatian. (However since Camino madness is highly contagious next year they both did the Camino again and crossed the Pyrenees in one day)

Finally this climb is over and we enter the forest.  Close by there is a great signpost, one of the symbols of the Camino, with a inspiring slogan … that I took to heart.

Further in the forest we come across a mother and son from Brazil and two Danish ladies who have amazingly fast pace.  Cindy also has a pretty fast pace and soon leaves us behind. According to Sandy … “that’s because she can’t wait to get to a beer”. After a slight down-slope we come across a clearing by the road where a entrepreneurial Spaniard setup a bar next to a small trailer. There sits Cindy with a beer and a dozen or so other peregrinos who start treating first blisters.
After one grande cerveza (best 2€ I spent this week) I move on. The Canadian sisters are collecting signatures of other pilgrims on their T-shirts … I won’t mention where exactly an older Spanish gent wanted to leave his signature.

The way continues, its only 3-4km to Zubiri (boy … how quickly the perspective of distance changes). Again forest … and again muddy downhill path … once more hiking poles come to the rescue. So far the poles are worth their weight in gold … better balance and stability, better weight distribution … you can lean on them for a rest …
Down the path come another cyclist at full speed .. no shout, no bell or any other warning. Sandy was lagging behind and barely avoided him so she warned us. We later heard he nearly crashed into  Brazilian lady.
The path is getting steeper and muddier … the closer you get to the final “parking place” for the day the longer the miles feel … Zubiri is still nowhere in sight.

After a bit we finally get there. Right before the bridge a  Spanish lady offers us private rooms, “thanks but no thanks we are looking for municipal albergue”. An albergue is right across the bridge but only two beds are free, so I leave them to Canadian sisters and move on to the next one. Fortunately its not far away … and it has free bed … yeah. I yearned for a rest so much so that I nearly forgot to pay at the check-in, but the hospitalera was understanding.

The room is half-empty, my neighbors are a German couple and two Canadian girls on a tour of Europe that includes the Camino.

After a shower, washing of the clothes (what will become my daily routine) and scraping the worst of mud from my boots its 18:00 already, time for a mass. The priest is barely able to walk but that doesn’t prevent from him singing with gusto.

I ask an Italian couple if they’ve seen a pharmacy around here. They haven’t, but are happy to act like one and lend me some Voltaren gel … meeting great people is one of many nice things about the Camino. Speaking of which … I met with Canadian sisters, Ginny and Massimo the Italian. His feet are in poor condition so he hitchhiked today. They already had dinner but they join me for beer and wine. My hands seem to have forgotten the basics of muscle coordination so trying to catch macaroni’s with my fork is a challenge, but I manage it … eventually.

Back at albergue … the clothing is not dry yet so I hang it from the edge of the bed, hopefully it’ll dry by morning.

That was day no. 2.