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Travels with Georgia and zig
Overseas Trips

Walking the Camino, 2015: Episode 3
6/1/15: End of the Second Day walking: Zubiri
 
We found a room at the municipal alburgue in Zubiri . But even better, we found a washer and dryer! The warden at the alburgue was grumpy. Too many pilgrims for her, I think. Too many stupid questions. When she reluctantly gave me change for the washer I was too scared to ask her about soap. I didn’t see any near the washer, but there was a small kitchen and dining room where 10 or 12 pilgrims were lounging and snacking. There was a small stove with pots and pans, and a sink with DISH WASHING LIQUID! Our clothes came out sparkling clean with no water-spots at all! And our hands were smooth and lovely too!
 
As I was heading for the shower I saw Bryan and Rita. She introduced me to a couple she had just met. Joe and Amy and their two teenagers, Molly and Sam. They were from Oregon. Amy was recounting the joys of trying to stay up with (and hold back) a 15-year old boy in the middle of Spain. I learned later that Bryan and Rita decided not to stay and went on.
 
After my shower, Max told me we were invited to join Yuyam, Diana, and Ruth for supper. I loved it. The food was spectacular a delicious green soup (peas?), little rice cakes with tomato sauce and broiled fish. And wine. Did I mention wine? We also had lots of wine to celebrate our second day surviving the Way. And exhausting conversation. Exhausting because of all the languages flying around the table. 

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Yuyam was born in Bolivia and now lives in Dubai. Ruth was born in Central America, has lived in Japan, and now lives in Nice in the south of France, working as a chef in a sushi place! Diana was born in Columbia and now lives in Cannes. Three other nationalities were at the table. I was hanging onto the conversation by my fingernails. Did I mention that we had a lot of wine?
 
We somehow made it back up the street to our albergue. I think. I don’t actually remember going home, but somehow I woke up there in the morning.

6/2/15: Third Day walking: Zubiri  to Arre
We were supposed to have breakfast with the ladies this morning. I told Max I just wasn’t up to it. I’m not used to that many words—especially when I can only understand about every 10 th one.   I needed some alone-time. So on this third day walking Max and I were walking together, but not right together. We stopped for coffee in Larrosoana, at a little tienda called Amari.
 
The amazing thing about the Camino is that because you are just walking you are never very far from the other people who began about the same time you did. Some walk faster, and some walk slower, but everyone has to stop for some length of time to rest and recuperate. That means there are any number of opportunities to meet and re-meet the same people. And that means you have the chance to talk with each other. For hours if you want. Max was the most naturally friendly person I’ve ever met. He spoke with everyone we met along the way, and introduced them to me, and photographed them, and learned where they were from, and how many children they had, and what they had for lunch yesterday. Well maybe not that much. But he did learn a lot from everyone we met. It wore me out. I’m much more monkish.
 
Even with skipping breakfast we hadn’t gotten away from Zubiri until 7:30. And I felt pressured to get to Pamplona —the first “big” city on the Camino, where I hoped to buy a flip-phone with a Spanish “chip” so I could call Georgia. Not that I actually knew her phone number. She was going to buy a flip phone in Santiago and somehow we would have to get our numbers to each other. Interesting chicken-and-egg sort of problem. Maybe smoke signals?
 
As I walked along I thought. Before coming on Camino I thought I would use the hours of solitude to think deep thoughts. It didn’t work out that way. At least on this third day I spent all my time thinking about my sore feet: the “dragon scales” from yesterday, and the “stepping stones” today. Hundreds of thousands of people walk the Way each year. With that many feet the ground gets packed down and the grass is killed. Then when it rains there is terrible erosion. So, on this section of the trail they had laid large flagstones for us to walk on. I know they meant well, and perhaps it really did help with erosion, but it was terrible for blistered feet. And I didn’t bring hard-soled shoes. I just had my black walkers with rubber soles. Like the princess and the pea, I suffering with each and every stone under my (very tender) feet.
 
And while I’m complaining let me tell you about bicyclists. They generally travel in packs, and there are two different tribes. One tribe makes a lot of noise—whistling and singing—as they woosh up behind you. The peace and quiet of the Camino is first spoiled by their racket, then the falsely cheery “Buen Camino! ” is like the jab of a sharp stick as they go blowing past.
 
But, honestly, the second tribe, those bicyclists who don’t make a sound are much worse. When you walk for hours on a lonely dirt path you invariably meander back and forth. This third day was the first time I was very nearly run down by a stealth cyclist. They missed me, but only just barely. I decided that a group of bicylists, not a group of crows, should rightly be called “a murder.” 

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We walkers decided that “bicycling a pilgrimage” was related to a real pilgrimage about as closely as a day at the amusement park is related to a family picnic. There are people who just can’t stand the quiet. And feel a need to quickly be somewhere else. There were even a lot of walkers with ear buds in their ears. They were being somewhere else too. “Can you hear that bird?” I wanted to ask. “No, I bet  you can’t.” Thomas Merton talked about “Now Here This,” rather than “Now hear this.” Now, not the past or the future. Here, not there. And this, not something else. His emphasis was the present. Being really present. And walking the Camino without earbuds or a radio was the first time in my life that I was really forced for hours on end to be really present .
 
On the Camino you learn that people come and go in your life. Some of them, like the cyclists, come and then go very quickly. But other walkers cross and recross your path. There are new people as well, of course: You catch up with some who were once ahead of you, and people who were behind you might pass you. And you learn to appreciate them all while you have them. They are all special. They all have their story, if only you have the ears to hear, and the courage, like Max, to ask. Some of them you like so much you grieve when they’re gone. Others, not so much. But they are all special. Even the cyclists. I guess.
 
Max and I arrived in the little village of Irotz , 14 or 15 k from Zubiri . It was tiny. There was only one road in the place. But, unfortunately there were two sets of arrows. One pointing the way to Arieta and one up a hill to Zabaldica where there was supposed to be an interesting church. As always, Max stopped to talk with one of the locals as I walked past. I thought he saw me head up the hill to find the church. I expected him to catch up with me at any minute, as he was walking much faster than I was. But, he didn’t, and so without even being able to say good bye, Max was suddenly gone.
 
It was quite a climb to the church, about a kilometer, straight up. There were three or four pilgrims sitting at a picnic table near the church when I arrived. The church itself was locked. I went looking for the office to see if there was anyone who could open it for me. Sister Sandra, from Ireland came with a key and showed me the proper way to drink from a bohjo , a peregrino’ clay drinking pot. It looked sort of like a teapot. You were supposed to hold it over your head and just pour the water out in a long stream into your mouth—not all over the front of your shirt the way I did.
 
Inside the church there was a lovely carved crucifix—almost life sized—with thousands of lime green post-it notes stuck all around it. On each was a petition or prayer of thanksgiving. Pilgrims leaving some of their emotional or spiritual burdens with Jesus. That was another thing about the Camino. There is a Spanish adage that “you don’t need anything for the Camino —you only need to pick up what others leave behind.” It is axiomatic that everyone takes more than they need, and they get sick of carrying it all after a while. That’s why the trail is littered with shoes and shirts and clothes. I think these post-it notes reflect the troubles and concerns that people finally get tired of carrying as well. They leave it with Jesus, knowing that he does care—and he will take care of them. 

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The walk after St Estoban’s church was very quiet. No other pilgrims, and a very lightly traveled path, almost overgrown. But eventually it joined up with the path that Max must have taken, and went through a tunnel under the N-135, a four-lane highway that roughly parallels the Camino. At the village of Arre I crossed a lovely five-arched stone bridge spanning the river Ulzama. It looked like the bridge where Martin Sheen loses his backpack in the movie “The Way.” Even though it was early, I decided to stop at the Albergue Hermanos Maristas just over the bridge. Run by the Order of Marist Brothers, there has been a albergue there since the 11 th century. The town was lovely and I would have liked to walk around more but my feet just hurt too badly. I just couldn’t deal with the middle of Pamplona yet. I did manage to make it to the library though and found that I could use a computer there at no charge. Sent Georgia an email telling her where I was and that I was going to try to get a phone in Pamplona .
 
Saw Joe and Amy and Molly and Sam again—just coming back from the grocery store. It was too far away for me to attempt a walk so I sat on a low stone wall in the park beside the library and watched the Spanish families enjoying the beautiful weather. It was a simple greenspace with a couple of statues and benches, and a few trees. The children were all playing with tops on the sidewalks. No kidding. Not an iphone in sight. Nor a video game. Little wooden tops. They would wind them up with string then throw down on the pavement, then pick them up spinning with a loop of string. My father would have been so proud. He so wanted me to learn how to play with a top, since that had been his favorite toy in 1915. In 1955 I wouldn’t have been caught dead with one, but now in the 2015 they were “in” again. At least in northern Spain. 

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Tried to find a restaurant close-by with no luck. I resigned myself to no supper, and turned back toward the albergue. On the way I met a Frenchman named Jacques , heading into town. He told me that he had learned of a nice restaurant one block over. I told him I’d love to eat with him but that he was going to have to stroll very slowly if I was to keep up. We each had a three-course meal with a nice wine, a glass of scotch, and dessert for 26 euros each. It was sublime. Even better than the supper with the ladies; and certainly much better than anything I could have picked up at a super mercado !
 
Walking back to the albergue using my poles I could tell that my arms and legs were getting stronger. If only my feet would heal I think I could make pretty good time. But the blister on the sole of my left foot had now completely broken and threatened to get infected. It was about the size of a silver dollar and sore as all get out. Almost as sore as my black toenails and swollen little toe. My arms and legs were ok, but I was afraid I was going to have real problems with my feet.
 

 ( to be continued)

Comments
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Thursday, February 23, 2017 2:18 PM by zigzeigler
Sorry for the size variation and for the lack of pictures. Don't know what's happening. I've got a question in with Coppernet to see why I'm having trouble uploading pix. --zig
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Sunday, February 26, 2017 3:53 AM by
Do you think if you ever go back you would take a ride instead of walking? Seems like the pain sort of ruined it for you:) That must have been "palmolive" dish soap:) Sorry for the spelling.
I have a terrible memory, did you mention weather in one of your blogs? Sounds like a blessing that you weren't hit with rain and any other bad weather reports.
Do the people come back for their clothing that they drop off along the trail?
It doesn't sound like there is much of a theft problem there as you mentioned a few things that made me feel you may have been vulnerable if there were.
I hope you get your pics posted. They don't answer emails to well, you might want to call them.
GOOD BLOG!:)
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