Day 2: Roncesvalles to Larrasoaña
There is a crisp sound of progress with each step. – Andrea Kirby
I wake up in the Roncesvalles alburgue at 6:30 am to beautiful angelic music playing from the DVD player. I lay in my bunk, exhausted from no sleep due to the snoring and lack of earplugs, but smile knowing I am now on my second day of the walk of a lifetime. I begin to slowly move each part of my body and take a quick inventory of my aches and pains. Yeah, I’m sore, but know once I get up and going, things will get better. I could have trained extensively for the Camino, but nothing could have prepared me for the 6-8 hours of hiking with a 20-pound pack on my back. I can only take one step at a time… PROGRESS!
It’s my first morning getting ready in an alburgue, sleeping amongst women and men, strangers from all over the world. So I try to figure out how to dress discretely and pack quietly, taking care to keep out of everyone’s way. Luckily the boys from Denmark in our bunk quad were all packed the night before, quickly put on their clothes, and have already left. This gives Katie from Korea and me ample room and privacy to dress and pack for today’s journey.
I am starting to figure out my daily foot regimen to prepare for the 20-35 km (13-22 mile) walk. My process begins by inspecting my feet for any blisters or hot spots. So far so good! I then slather my feet with Vaseline.
TIP (Camino foot care): This tip I learned from marathon runners and skiers in the United States. It’s an amazing way to prevent friction and, thus blisters. I brought a small travel jar of Vaseline. My 1.75 oz (49 kg) jar is half full and should last the entire trip.
With great skill, I then put on my sock liners and my hiking socks over them. TIP (Camino Foot Care): I have learned that my footwear and socks are the most critical pieces of equipment on this journey. I was advised to bring three pairs of socks and three pairs of sock liners, and am extremely glad I did. This has allowed me to have one pair to wear, another pair to wash and dry over the night/day, and a clean pair to change into after showering each afternoon.
I then meet Katie from Korea and Marilee from Colorado downstairs around 7:30 am and we head out just before sunrise. The scenery is stunning and I am in awe of the beauty. I gaze at the rolling hills and continue to enjoy our walks through shady forests.
As we walk by more farms filled with cows and horses, we definitely have to pay attention to the “presents” these animals leave in our paths. We even maneuver around the farm animals themselves, for they have absolutely no fear of us humans as they stand proudly in our Camino path. Near the farms, we soon meet another new friend from Korea, Kwon, and take his picture, posing in front of the livestock.
Today’s walk is a tough one for many reasons: Lack of sleep, my new water bladder leaked minutes after leaving the alburgue, and we couldn’t figure out breakfast, so I am tired, thirsty, and famished. Typically we eat breakfast at the alburgue, if they serve early meals, or at a local bar in our village. However, the Spanish bars tend to not open until later in the morning… you know the drill, “Spanish time!”
Lesson (Camino food): I soon learn that it’s always a good idea to purchase something in the evening and store it in my pack. I also have noticed, that some of the alburgues provide vending machines for food and beverages. This is definitely a viable option, for it doesn’t matter where the food comes from, we are always glad to have the nourishment.
We continue walking through several small Spanish villages, endlessly searching for an open bar; however, it was still too early in the morning. Eventually, I spot an open village bar. The bar is already full of fellow pilgrims, as I spot their packs lined up outside.
TIP (Camino Safety): It is quite safe to leave packs outside of a bar along the Camino. However, I always carry my valuables with me and keep an eye on my bag. All in all, my bag and poles are safely propped against the building wall or next to my chair as I take my break.
We stop for some well-needed breakfast, which usually consists of a croissant or tortilla. A tortilla can be similar to an egg omelet or a potato/egg tort. When I order a tortilla, I never really know which one I will get, but am happy for either, for they are both delicious. Breakfast is then topped off with café con leche (coffee with warm milk). I also purchase a couple of bottled waters and down one right on the spot.
In the bar, we are joined by one of our new friends from England whom we met at dinner the evening before. The faces are already becoming familiar on the Camino, which is quite comforting. After finishing breakfast, my stomach is full, and my energy has returned; I am finally ready to carry on!
Our walk continues, covering more kilometers than yesterday, and happily, only takes us over only one high peak. Those who hike with me know, the up-hills are easy; however, it’s the down-hills that are killer. Walking with my new friends is a blessing, as we hold each other accountable and cheer each other on.
By the middle of the day, I now have a love-hate relationship with my gear. I LOVE my walking sticks, but HATE my pack!!! All day I think about how I can mail items ahead or what I could throw away to lighten the load. I still don’t think I have gotten the hang of packing my pack correctly or securing the straps properly. 🙂
While enjoying another beautiful forest path, we are greeted by a cute cat I name Ginger. She walks along with us for over a mile and decides to lay on my pack when I stop to put my coat on. The trail seems to go on and on; all we want is to reach our destination. All of a sudden a man walks by happily singing. He is from Italy and cannot speak much English, and of course, we cannot speak a lick of Italian. But we have a fabulous time walking with him. He brightens my spirits at just the right time.
At some point, Katie stopped walking behind us. Her feet are riddled with blisters. A pilgrim from the Netherlands stopped to help her. When he passes by us, he informs us she should be along soon. What a relief!
Marilee and I slow down our pace and take a few breaks so that Katie can catch up to us. Later, we finally arrive at our destination town, Larrasoaña, feeling shattered, and desperately wanting to find a home for the night. We search aimlessly for signs or directions through the village, but couldn’t figure out where to go next. Luckily, two Americans from California, our angels for the day, cross our paths and give us the run-down of the town.
By this point, I am in desperate need of a private room to catch up on sleep, so I further explore the village and eventually find a lovely bed & breakfast. They even have a washer & dryer! The other girls decide upon the usual municipal albergue, even though they were informed it was very plain and only offered the basics. At dinner, I learn the alburgue sucks and is later voted as the worst alburgue on the entire route. I am so glad I dodged that experience and choose a private room for the night.
I complete my usual daily rituals of showering, changing into clean clothes, and promise to meet my friends for dinner at the only cafe in town. I also take some time to shop at the local market at the end of the village to stock up on tomorrow’s rations, vowing I would never walk famished or depleted again.
After arriving at the cafe a bit early, I order a pre-dinner wine and reserve a place for the pilgrim meal. In the bar, I notice other pilgrims, including my new Newport Beach, CA friends, Jamie & Tom. They invite me over to their table and introduce me to their other pilgrim friends.
I am learning something new about myself. Although I do love my alone time, I cherish these social gatherings in the evenings. The comrade, conversation, and laughter energize me. I now understand that the walk and physical challenges of the day are going to be rewarded by the fellowship in the evenings.
Marilee & Katie arrive and we are soon all ushered into the other room, seated at a single, long table to continue our conversations and enjoy the pilgrim meal.
The pilgrim meal is usually a “pre-fix” type of menu. For about 8-10 Euros we are offered a starter, main entrée, dessert, and wine or water. Typically the choices for the starter are pasta (in a red sauce that tastes like Chef Boyardee from the can) or mixed salad (with oil & plain vinegar (not balsamic). The entrée on the menu is usually a selection of either fish, chicken, or meat (whatever that might be), and dessert is ice cream (like drumsticks from the popsicle man) or fruit (yes, a whole banana, apple, or orange), which I usually take with me and store in my pack for the next day. Foodies will have to wait for the bigger towns to experience the gastronomical blessings Spain provides. All in all, we are content and understand food is merely nourishment for our bodies for the next day’s walk; it is a means to survive.
Although I am very tired and sore, the song, “I will survive,” sings in my head and makes me smile as I begin to fall asleep in my cozy private room. It is surprising to know how much I really can push my body. Walking the Camino is an amazing experience, and regardless of the pain or exhaustion, I am still having the time of my life.
Tomorrow is another 20.9 kilometers (13 miles), much less than today; however, we must cross another two peaks. Oh God! On the positive side – we are planning to walk through our first big city, Pamplona, famously known for hosting the “Running of the Bulls” festival in July. I cannot wait to see this town.
Adios, until then!