Taking the time
Rough night, again. Most of them left me not fully rested when waking, and I did not found out why before I left. Probably a mix between the heat, the snoring, and the few bug bites I had. I walked alone at the beginning, then met up with some people until we reached Estella, the destination of the day.
Though I had technically been there before, I did not get to visit the city the first time : my friend and I had rushed through and done two days’ worth of walking in one. This time, I took it slow: I went around town to take its measure and a few pictures. Also, Lindsey’s had misplaced her papers in Puente La Reina; luckily, they had not been stolen and they were at the albergue, and she could make the roundtrip by bus.
Dinner that night was a bit tense due to a discussion/debate that revolved around racism in the USA. I remember hearing I know I’m not racist, but, which is a pretty good tell that someone maybe isn’t full-on racist, but at least has some prejudice. I stayed out of it as much as I could, listening rather than engaging, until it was time to go to bed.
A thousand bugs
Worst night ever. I couldn’t sleep properly, and at some point during the night I finally noticed that my bug bites were not going away and were doing quite the opposite. In the morning, I even had a huge bump on my forehead. Some people said it looked like bedbugs marks, some said it was probably spider bites or something… In the end I still don’t know what it was, but I took no risks and stopped using my sleeping bag for the remainder of the trip.
Luckily, there was some comfort on hand shortly after: the famed wine faucet! The italians even had some cigarios and were happy to share them. I didn’t think I’d ever be drinking wine and smoking at 7:30am, unless maybe at the end of an all-night party, but well, it seems there’s a lot you can get away with just by being a pilgrim.
The rest of the path was pretty great: we could choose between two roads, one going though the mountain’s forrest and the other flatter but longer. We took the first one, as I think I had done the year before.
I started walking with Dan, and walked him through the gist of season 6 of Game of Thrones which he hadn’t seen (and was eager to know, so it was ok to spoil him!), until I took off for some brisk walking. Shortly before Los Arcos, I ran into Lindsey again and we stayed together until the town, where she decided to keep going while I stopped there.
The rest of the day kept bringing ill tidings: Simon, an american I had met during the early days had to stop because his blisters were getting really bad, probably infected; someone else had slipped and hurt their ankle, forcing them to stop; Louise had her phone stolen; and to top it all Aline had to stop as well.
Her ankles had been painful since the first days, but nothing she was not able to manage and at first, it seemed it was improving. In Los Arcos’ albergue, she had allowed herself a massage and the physician was told her she had tendinitis and that she should stop and rest, so being smart, that’s what she did. It would have been a gamble to keep going: if it really was tendinitis, she would only have made it worse and those things took long enough to heal as it is…
All in all, she seemed to take it pretty well; I know I would have been mad with frustration had that happened to me — and probably would not have stopped. Though it was a bit of a downer to have a member of the group leaving, it didn’t prevent us from having fun that night. After all, the coming and going of people is part of the camino experience…
Water falling from the sky
For once, I had a very good night and managed to not get waken up by other pilgrims until 5:30. A little downside, though: it was raining, lightly but surely. I said goodbye to Aline then went for a coffee in town, hoping the rain would stop; no such luck, so I started walking towards Viana with only the memories of the previous camino for company.
Viana had a little bit changed: the road I had taken to go inside the city was now forbidden and some heavy road work was taking place there. Once I found my way towards the center, I met up with my usual buddies for coffee and tortillas, and got introduced into a couple of other pilgrims. Sam, Claudia and I walked together to Logroño, where I chose to go to the same albergue I had stayed the previous time, while they went to another one — the one Loïc had stayed in, probably. With the benefit of hindsight, they made the smart move: there was nobody I knew in mine except good ol’ Bob…
We met again in the afternoon for wine. No beers this time, since we were in the lands of vinyards. The local wine is both good and quite cheap: less than 1€ for a glass of a decent quality! We talked about a lot of things, as usual, and the subject of spirituality came up. One of the pilgrims at the table, James, had no issue with non-catholics doing the pilgrimage, but doubted that there was not at least some part of spirituality in such an endeavour, and it led on to discussions on faith, spirituality and beliefs.
One last change
I went on my own that morning, not knowing if and when the others would leave their albergue. I was thinking on how/when to start making my way home, since my holidays were almost over, when I had an idea, or should I say an inspiration: Aline had said she might be going to San Sebastian or some other town in the north for a few days before going back home; why not do the same? After all, I was on holidays; taking at least one day of rest was a sensible idea. Over the course of an hour, I had made my plans: this day would be my last of hiking, and early on the next morning I was to catch a bus to San Sebastian.
I took a long coffee break in the first stop of the day, and I informed my friends of my plans whenever I caught up to them. The day in its entirety was one of the best I had during this whole trip: the weather could not have been better, and the sights among the viyards were beautiful… I spent most of the walk with Sam and Chloe (Chicago), taking a lot of breaks — and needless to say, a lot of beers. We even got some live music on the way, in a nice spot in the shade next to a vinyard.
We finally reached Najera, the end of my road. After a shower, it was time for one last afternoon of wine and tapas with everybody. I was bit sad of having to stop, especially since I knew — or at least, felt — that for them, the best was still to come. But I would have left two days later at best anyway, so I enjoyed the rest of the day as much as I could.
Early in the evening, we even shared a joint on the riverbanks, close to where we shared one the year before with Loïc and Monica. I could still picture the lot of them being drunk in the middle of the afternoon… A fine conclusion to a fine adventure.
It looked like everybody had a hard time getting up that morning, except Claudia. I stayed and said goodbye to as many friends as I could, then went to catch my bus. The ride was wonderful: lots of mountains scenery, just as I like. I arrived in San Sebastian pretty early, around 10:30am. I walked through the city a bit, went to the bay of La Concha and then up to the hill named Urgull where I took a sight seeing break.
The point of view was pretty amazing: the bay, the island of Santa Clara, the mountains on one side, the open sea on the other… Over the course of half an hour, I could see the weather evolve from blue sky and bright sun to grey weather to heavy rain… under which was me, of course. I waited for it to calm down, then went to visit the Castillo de la Mota before finally going back in the city for a round of pintxos (the basque name for tapas, pretty much).
I then went to my hostel, took a shower and a nap, and in the common room I stumbled upon Aline! I knew she was in the city, but had no idea where she was staying. We spent the rest of the evening and early night (no curfew for once, yay!) bar hopping, enjoying many pintxos and glasses of wine — at least I did, she was more reasonable. She wasn’t sure about staying here some more or going back home; I hesitated as well until I checked what the weather had in store for the next day: rain…
Until next time
Even for my last night, there was a snorer in the way of a good night’s sleep, but at least no one to wake me up at 5am. I hung out with Aline (who was probably going to stay one more day), and then a farewell hug and it was time for me to go catch my train for Irun, with the soundtrack of La-La Land in my ears to make the rainy trip more cheerful. Then I walked some more and crossed the border to Hendaye, where I boarded the train that would take me home.
I would have liked to stay in San Sebastian a bit more, but I knew I would not have enjoyed it to the fullest, not with the current weather.
But well, I can always come back. And what a crazy coincidence: the city is on the camino norte…
When I had left my first camino, I had known it was time for me to go. I’d had my share of pretty much everything and wanted to go home, back to some comfort and my then-girlfriend. This time was different, since it was not long before that I had started hiking again. No Burgos, no meseta, no Leon, no Galicia this time…
It had bothered me to leave the camino unfinished, even if I had known it from the start. I spent the next few days home wondering what the hell I was doing there, feeling restless and unhappy with my situation. At some point, I made a list of everything that was preventing me to leave, only to find that there was nothing tying me down except my job. So I made another list, this time of the pros and cons of my job.
And since the only con I could find was “it requires most of my time”, which is the definition of anytime full time occupation, I thought it was not yet the time to quit, even though it was itching me… I settled for leaving Paris, its density, crowd and stress to go back to a simpler and more welcoming life for me, in Strasbourg, while keeping my job. As I said, it was hard to find downsides to it…
Weirdly, I would still like to thank Loïc first. Even though he has little to nothing to do with this trip, I would not have made this one without going through the first camino, so you get a second round of thanks. But be warned, you’ll have to actually do something if you want a third one.
To Krista, for letting me be a part of your plans; to Ludovic and everybody I met of the FC Velles, for inviting me and making me feel part of your “family” for one evening; to Annie, Eloïse, Fanny and Maïté for the company during those few days lost in the middle of nowhere, France.
To Sam, for always being there when it came to drink beers or wine, no matter what time of the day it was; Lindsey, for being my first walking companion of the trip; Patricia, for your neverending cheerfulness; Claudia, for your crazy resilience because how the fuck did you carry such a heavy bag still amazes me; Aline, for being the french touch of this camino; Dan, for enduring the infidels we were with a smile, and to Joel, Jessie, Sisse, Louise, Maria and Carmen, and all the others I hadn’t the time to share more than a few words.
And to my colleagues that saw me at the concert between my two hikes: I swear I did not see you and I really was hiking and not hiding!