Camino de Santiago Day 2: Walk your own walk

The albergue in Roncesvalles was amazing. Housed inside a medieval monastery it has been recently renovated from the one featured in the movie The Way. There were pods of four beds situation along two long corridors, similar to what you would find on a train. The mattresses were soft, and the motorbike snorer was far off in the distance that I only heard him when he really let his engines rip. After a pilgrim’s meal of soup, chicken, yoghurt, and a little local vino, I probably would have slept soundly even if motorbike man was right next door. Perhaps Paul, the friendly joiner/vampire hunter could have dealt with the motorbike man?

In the morning, the lights and music came on at 06:30. Day 2 had started. I showered, packed my gear and headed out in the ominous light of pre-dawn. The mornings walk was wet. Not the drenching sort of wet that makes you want to crawl back into your sleeping bag, but enough to soak everything and to make sure you’ve covered your backpack well.

A cold early morning departure from Roncesvalles

A cold early morning departure from Roncesvalles

The weather seemed apt though as the camino wove it’s way through a forest known for witches in the middle ages. As I passed through to the small town on the other side of the forest, the rain and mist parted like a scene from The Blair Witch Project, a gothic iron cross materializing beside the path. The cross erected hundreds of years ago was intended to protect the forest from evil spirits. I paused to read the  plague beside the cross. It contained a dark reminder of the history of the woods I had just left: 9 women had been burned at the stake nearby, their crime: witchcraft. I could have used some of that magic to dispel the ever present rain falling from above.

Only 790km, and a witches forest to go

Only 790km, and a witches forest to go

The rest of the morning was pretty uneventful. The camino meandered through woods and countryside, trees just beginning to bud at the first sight of spring. The rain persisted, a blanket of mist refusing to let go of its hold on the hills. The path traversed more tranquil forests where I spotted the elusive hunchbacks of the camino — pilgrims with ponchos over their backpacks — until I reached Gerendiain.

The hunchbacks of the camino

The hunchbacks of the camino

A small store beckoned offering warmth, coffee and a short respite from the cold. I shook the water off my jacket and enjoyed a coffee with the Italiano, who, after missing a turn off earlier in the morning, had caught up to me. There is something about hot coffee, the cold, and two guys talking motorbikes that makes the morning worth every minute of the effort of leaving before the sun has risen. The Italiano offered my a Lindt chocolate. Just what I needed to go with the a coffee at 9:30 in the morning.

The shells are everywhere along the camino

The shells are everywhere along the camino

 

Pilgrim motivation

Pilgrim motivation

After a short rest, the Italiano and I donned our packs and headed out, a light rain persisting almost all the way to Zubiri. Throughout the walk, I noticed that each time one of us stopped to take a photo, or go for a pee, the other one didn’t stop and wait. We walked our own pace with no pre-conceptions that we were walking together or keeping pace. We were just two people walking the same direction. It was kind of nice and really made me think that so often in life even though you may be moving in the same direction with a partner, a job, or whatever it may be, there are many times when you stop or speed up through some sense of obligation. The reality is that if you are moving in the same direction, short pauses or deviations, kind of work them out in the end. After two hours of stop-start walking, the Italiano and I arrived at Zubiri at exactly the same time.

Almost at Zubiri

Almost at Zubiri

At Zubiri, the typical end of Day 2, we crossed the Puente de la Rabia, or Rabies Bridge that was said to protect animals from Rabies if you crossed it three times. I took a short break in Zubiri for lunch to eat the rest of my bread and salami that I purchased in Espinal earlier that morning. By this stage I had walked about 22km, and despite the protection of the bridge, I devoured my meal like a rabid dog. Perhaps it’s powerless against the might of salami and fresh bread!

The Rabies Bridge at Zubiri

The Rabies Bridge at Zubiri

Last night, in Roncesvalles, I had decided that I was going to continue on to Larrasoana instead of stopping at Zubiri. I had arrived in Zubiri at 12:30, and knew that I wanted to walk a little further to set me up for Pamplona tomorrow. I enjoy the small hamlets that you would typically never visit. I want to make it to Pamplona for lunch tomorrow before continuing past to find an albergue in a smaller town. Walking an additional 6km today would make it much easier. I finished by last bite of my sandwich I said goodbye to the Italiano and continued on.

Follow the arrows

Follow the arrows

It’s now 17:00 in Larrasonana and I think I am literally the only pilgrim in town. I have the entire albergue to myself. After setting up my home made clothes dryer, and drinking a few glasses of complimentary vino provided by the friendly shopkeeper, where I purchased some more bread, salami and cheese, I’m feeling pretty damn good. (note to self: are you allowed to say damn when on the camino?)

Which bed shall I choose?

Which bed shall I choose?

 

This is what happens when I am left alone

This is what happens when I am left alone

The shopkeeper, a portly basque man, with thinning brown hair, and a warm smile beamed when I pointed to a guitar hanging on the wall.

Do you play?” I asked, strumming the Spanish version of an air guitar.
Si,” he nodded, pouring my another glass as I inspected the cheeses on offer.
Me too” I replied.
He nodded again, before turning on Norah Jones, Live in Poland. “Guitar and Norah Jones are good.” his face splitting in a warm smile.

I nodded, yes they are. Apparently the key to conversations on the camino are motorbikes and guitars. That’s all you need to get free wine.

Lesson for the Day: Walk in the same direction, and don’t worry about the stops along the way.

Miles Walked: 28

Salami eaten: about 2 dozen slices.