Working as an Hospitalero
I am on my way to Spain! I woke up at 5 am in Hailey, Idaho. I said goodbye to my mother and my father, whom I love dearly, and I boarded my plane. I flew from Hailey to Salt Lake City. I knew Shay was in Salt Lake and I really wanted to see her, but unfortunate I had to stay in the airport. From Salt Lake I flew to Atlanta, but I didn’t spend much time there because my next flight was departing soon. The airport in Atlanta is huge!, it took some time to find my gate. While sitting at my gate, E04, I started to listen to people speaking Spanish. Maybe I should have started a conversation with someone to practice my Spanish. Not to brag or anything but I think that I speak Spanish very well, but I am nowhere near as good as the locals. The plane ride from Atlanta to Madrid was long! Thank God I had the little TV monitor in front of me. I watched The Hobbit; I love it! Making sure I had everything, I arrived to the passport control where I pulled out my Spanish passport and it allowed me to go through faster than if I had to wait in the long line for foreigner. But even with my Spanish passport, I still looked like a Toyota tourist. I had a bright blue back pack on with a pilgrim conch attached to it but, anyway, I was able to pass through security without a problem. I arrived to the luggage pickup and my suitcase was the first one there, luck? I knew it was mine because it had a huge Idaho badge on it. Leaving the baggage area I met my grandmother, “yaya”. She is a sweet little old lady filled with love and compassion, and she doesn’t understand a word of English. I must have fallen asleep on the way to her house because we arrived very fast. I entered her apartment, and nothing there had changed. Everything looked the same back in 2013 when I did my first camino. I did it for my senior project in Highschool with two of my classmates, Ben and Charlie. It was an amazing experience! This year, Charlie is going to join me again to do the camino. Yaya’s apartment is small and cozy for one person. I was super hungry, she made me two sandwiches which I ate very quickly. After eating I was ready for my siesta. I left Idaho at 6:30 am and I arrived to Madrid at 10:30 am the next day. I was confused with the time. I took my nap and woke up six hours later. I showered, ate a lovely dinner then I returned to bed. I need to get use to a different schedule.
I was so tired yesterday, all I wanted to do was to sleep! I went to bed at 10 pm and woke up at 3 am. I am still getting use to the time change. I am 8 hours ahead from Idaho time. Today my grandmother and I took to the metro to the bus station where I bought my bus ticket to Santo Domingo which is 7 kilometers away from Grañón, the place where I will be working as an “hospitalero” for 16 days. I have never been in this area of Spain. I heard that is very flat, there are fields everywhere, and it is really hot there in the summers. While traveling in the metro I noticed that there were a lot of old people in Spain. After exploring the metro system of Madrid, we returned home to have lunch. Yaya made me “crocretas”, shrimp, and of course the daily bread. I filled my belly with delicious food. For the rest of the day I stayed inside. I don’t like the city, too much noise and no mountain.
Day 4: Madrid
Well I didn’t go to bed till 7 am. I wanted to sleep during the day because it is impossible for me to sleep at night. I woke up to the sound of my grandmother opening my bedroom door to check up on me. I was about to go back to sleep when she told me that it was noon and I should not go back to bed. I was exhausted and all I wanted was to go back to bed. Today was also yaya’s birthday and she and I are going out to lunch with friends and family. She is turing 87! I had a lovely lunch in a very fancy restaurant. Lunch lasted for three hours which is normal in Spain. The lunch was a buffet and I ate like a king. I had all different kinds of meat and cheeses, plus new food I had absolute no idea what it was, but it was very good. After lunch, I returned home and I wanted to close my eyes and go to bed. The doorbell rang and my cousins came and took me bowling. I guess my time at Boondocks in Salt Lake City really payed off. Maybe if I continue bowling I could become a professional. I was getting strike, after strike, after strike. I had an awesome game and a crow behind me watching. We went to a tapas restaurant, also very good! I filled my belly to the maximum. It seems like the only thing I did today was eating! After that, my cousins and I went to the park to visit some friends. Let say that I got home late and I still had to finish packing. I had to leave early morning for Santo Domingo de la Calzada, and then a walk of 7 kilometers to Grañón.
Day 5: Grañón
After a late night of having fun with my cousins I woke up early to catch my bus to Santo Domingo. I took the metro to the bus station, and once inside, the smooth movement of the train was reminding me not to fall asleep because I really could not afford to miss my stop at the bus station. Once at the bus station I boarded my bus to Santo Domingo. I asked the bus drive how long it would take to reach santo Domingo and he told me about three hours.
When I arrived, I didn’t have time to explore Santo Domingo because I had to go to Grañón right away as I had 7 kilometers to walk there. It was 85 degree Fahrenheit and I was cooking. Walking to Grañón I thought about working as a “hospitalero” and everything I remembered from the training in California. From the stories I have heard and read, everyone said that they had a lovely experience. Some said it was easy. I wasn’t too worried about it. I was also thinking about the book that I was currently reading, ” I am off.” The author, Hape Kerkeling, a German, talks about his experience doing the Camino Francés to Santiago. Actually, I am not liking this book as much as I thought I was going to. It seems that Kerkeling took a bus or a taxi most of the time, I do not think he walked much like a true pilgrim should. But with all and all, there are parts in the book that sticks with you. While walking I remember well the part where he mentions the butterflies along the camino; he says that they mark the trial. He is right, the butterflies are everywhere along the way. It’s make me a little mad at the same time because he is right. I really don’t enjoy reading the story. I consider the author of the book to be a big complainer. For me the camino is about enjoyment, I do the camino to find personal happiness. I know that my legs are going to be sore, but I am not going to complain and take an alternative. The author keeps complaining about the pain he feels and the hostels he stays at. In my opinion he isn’t a true pilgrim. He took taxis, buses, and stayed in hotels most of the way. Since he took buses, he did not really followed the slow travel philosophy. He was not able to appreciate the landscape, the culture, and the people. That’s the whole point of the camino, to walk slowly, to learn and enjoy the journey.
The walk to Grañón did not take long. I arrived at the albergue where I was going to work for 15 days, but It took me a little bit to find the entrance of the place. It was located behind the cathedral. When I was told that I was going to be working at Grañón I was also told not to research it, so I had no idea where it was in Grañón or how did the albergue look like. When I arrived everyone thought that I was a pilgrim. I told them that I was the new “hospitalero.” I got silence for a response. No one could believe a 20 year old boy could be the “hospitalero.” I was given a room and I was put to work right away. I met my fellow “hospitaleros” and, to be honest, I was a little worried. I was partnered up with a guy named Bruce who had absolutely no idea what he was doing. Bruce is a man in his 60s and he seems not to know what is going on around him. I was also partnered up with a lady named Pina. She looks young for her age, she is 35 years old, speaks Spanish and English, and seems kind of controlling. The first night we had 27 pilgrims to stay at the albergue. Luckily we had a chef in the group of pilgrims and he offered to cook for everyone. It was a fantastic dinner! Everyone helped prepare the meal. We had potatoes and chorizo. I think it was “patatas a la riojana.” Content and comfortable, some of the pilgrims went to the choir room that sits up high in the church. The acoustics are awesome there! The pilgrims sat there in silence reflecting on their journey. After a long moment of silence, each pilgrim said a prayer in their native language. It was a cool experience because I had the chance to hear all these different languages from around the world in a common place. I felt closer to the people and the pilgrims. 10 pm rolled over, we said goodnight to the pilgrims and the “hospitaleros” went to the bar. By the way, the bar is the only place where I could get wifi. Bruce went to bed early and did not help tonight. I am beginning to think that he is ill. He is old and he gets tired very easily.
Day 6: Grañón
Last night experience with the meditation and reflection was enlightening. I am kind of nervous that now I am in charge of the reflection and meditation sessions of the albergue.
There is a daily routine in this place. Wake up is at 6:15 am and right after we put out breakfast. Since it gets hot early in the day many of the pilgrims left early. As soon as everyone left, we cleaned the albergue. We have to clean very well so that we do not get bed bugs. My job is to clean the sleeping area of the albergue from now on. There are four sleeping areas, and in total we can have 90 pilgrims sleep here. I hope that we do not get that many pilgrims! At 11 am we had people arriving. The other hospitaleros, who were working before us, have left. Now Bruce, Pina and I are by ourselves. Bruce has been sleeping a lot lately. I am getting worried about him.
Once again, we had another pilgrim that wanted to be the chef tonight. She offered to cook dinner for everyone. Joyed to hear that I didn’t have to cook, I went out to buy some ingredients that she needed for dinner. While walking to the store I told to myself, “being a hospitalero isn’t so bad.”
When I arrived back to the albergue, everyone had a worried look on their face. Bruce and Pina had left for the hospital. Bruce lost feeling in his legs and was unable to walk. They called the priest and he took them to the hospital in Logroño. Pina went with them because Bruce did not speak Spanish and he needed someone to translate. With those two gone, I was now the only hospitalero! “What I am goIng to do?” I thought panicking. I was super stressed because I had 24 pilgrims to take care of and it seemed that each one spoke a different language! While being stressed out of my mind a drunk walked in. He told me that he was an hospitalero of the other albergue down the street. He also told me that he was very good friends with the priest. Because the priest already warned us about him, his problem with alcohol and his lies about being an “hospitalero”, I told him that he could not stay here. He left cursing and flipping me off. Dinner came around and everyone was very helpful. Everyone understood that I was under a lot of pressure. A girl named Gilda was a huge help. Gilda was a small Italian girl who could speak four different language. She was my translator and my savior (photo). After dinner, everyone helped clean all the pots and dishes. Being a “hospitalero” it is important to provide a spiritual moment for the pilgrims. I have never lead one before and I was nervous because I did not want to offend any religion or anyone. Surprisingly, at the end everyone loved it! Some were even crying. After the meditation everyone started to go to bed. I checked all the rooms of the albergue to make sure that everything was in order, and I found the drunk asleep in one the hospitalero’s beds. I did not know what to do. This guy was massive, he was six foot ten and maybe weighed 230 pounds. I stayed awake all night watching and hoping that the drunk wouldn’t wake up and bother these pilgrims. He did wake up and walked around saying things that I could not understand. This guy was a giant and I did not want to make him angry. I was sure that I could not have control over him. I fell asleep for maybe 30 min. when I woke up, the drunk was gone, and so was the money in the donation box! The drunk took the money. I hope that Pina and Bruce come soon.
Day 7: Grañón
Holly cow, today was a really long day! I stayed up all night because of the drunk and I had to work mostly by myself.
As soon as all the pilgrims left I started to clean. Two woman stayed behind to help me clean the albergue because they saw the situation. As soon as I finished, I laid on my bed and fell asleep. There isn’t much to do in Grañón but play guitar, play cards, read, or sleep. What this place is missing is Shay. I miss her so much, I wish I could call her or see her face. I miss her smile, her eyes and I really miss her laugh. I also really miss my family. I sure could use some help right now.
I have noticed that I am eating very little. My stress level is high, and I am not taking care of myself. I am focusing too much on the safety and care of the pilgrims. I am exhausted! I really hope that nothing goes wrong tonight.
Tonight we had another volunteer that wanted to cook. So far we had 38 pilgrims, and the rest of the day went smoothly. I started to relax and get happy. All the pilgrims at the table were happy eating and drinking. The food was so good I might have been wolfing it down. It’s seemed that I hadn’t eaten in days. Then disaster stroke! A lady at her end of the table fainted. Her head was tilted back and she was throwing up everywhere, all at the same time. My stress level peaked and I lost my appetite. I immediately told one of the pilgrims to call the doctor of the town and he was here in 5 minutes. Great! I thought that I would have to run to Santo Domingo to get a doctor. A really quick response time. When she woke up, she had no idea where she was and what had happened to her. Everyone had left the dining area and I started to clean the mess. Man! There was a lot to clean up, and it smelled horrible! Later, the doctor approached me and he told me that she was very dehydrated and need to stay here tomorrow to rest and hydrate. After everything was clean and everyone went to bed, I passed out on my bed. In the morning a lady named Robin said that she would stay and help me until help arrived. Robin is Canadian and she is super religious.
Day 8: Grañón
I don’t want to do this anymore. I am so tired! All I want to do is go back to Madrid and spend time with my family. It is impossible to do this by myself. Breakfast this morning was very simple because I am the only hospitalero I did not have time to prepare a decent breakfast for the pilgrims. I cleaning the entire place by myself too. The albergue has four floors. On the first food there is a room where about 20 pilgrims can sleep. On the second floor we have another sleeping area where we can put about 30 pilgrims. My room is also located on this floor (photo). On the third floor we have the bathrooms, showers and dining area. And on the fourth floor we have another sleeping area where we can lodge 16 pilgrims. Cleaning all these areas is a lot! Part of the cleaning involves to steam all the areas. I have to steam every crack in the albergue so we do not get bed bugs. The last thing I need is to have bed bugs in this albergue. After I finished the cleaning I went out to the bar for a cup of coffee. There, I thought about what I could do. I called the priest two days ago to ask for help and he told me that help would be there in 12 hours. I called the priest again and I told him that I needed help right at the moment because it was impossible to take care of these many pilgrims by myself. I also asked him if he had called anyone to help me. He hadn’t. Robin, the Canadian woman was furious at him and she yelled at him saying that she was leaving tomorrow, and if Zachary didn’t get some help right now the door would be closed and that we were not going to let anyone in. The tradition of this albergue is that it is always open. Robin was putting words in my mouth that I didn’t want to say. I didn’t want to close the door, of course not! She was very controlling. When Robin let out all of her fury on the priest she left to take a nap. I kept the door open and let the pilgrims come in. Since there are only two albergues in the town, we have to be open to provide a roof and food for the pilgrims. Later, a woman arrived, her name was Kristine. She was from Texas and she had taken a taxi to Grañón because she had really bad blisters on her feet. She wanted to wait here for her husband. I had a long conversation with her in the plaza about school and the camino. Before she left, she gave me a bracelet.
When Robin woke up she was so angry! She didn’t want any pilgrims to be here. She was telling them to leave and I was telling the pilgrims to stay following what I had learned in my hospitalero training in California. I made a phone call to Marina, the Association of the Camino coordinator, and asked for help. She arrived and immediately took charge. She was a huge help and gave me a hand cooking dinner for the pilgrims. Robin, still angry, marched in the kitchen and told us that we should not cook dinner for the them. She told us that God told her not to cook dinner for the pilgrims. Marina laughed a little bit, and Robin lost it. Robin marched to her room and slammed the door. That was the last time I saw Robin.
Day 9: Grañón
With Robin gone I was very relaxed because she was causing more stressed and she did not follow the hospitalero’s rule. A pilgrim from Switzerland gave me a massage, and drew some symbols on my back with a weird pen. He also cracked my back. I feel great now!
Because I was the only hospitalero, a lot of the pilgrims stayed for the morning to help me clean the albergue. Many hands made the work short. The first to walk through her door was an Irishman, Tom Griffin. He was an awesome guy. He was short, old, but had a huge heart. His accent was awesome too. I had a hard time understanding it. He told me that this was where his pilgrimage was going to end and he looked down at his feet. I could see a lot of blood on his socks. He told me that he had to return home because he had a infection in his feet and they had to remove the toe nails; ouch! Tears started to run down his face. I felt really sorry for this man! Next to walk through the door was Gilda. I was shocked to see her again. I asked her what was she was doing here and she told me that she had tendinitis and needed to rest for a few days, so she returned back to Grañón to help me. Miguel another hospitalero came too. He was driving through and heard that I needed some help. So he decided to stay for the night and the following day. Miguel is an older gentleman that loves to joke around and have fun. He also loved my apron that I brought because it is from Sevilla. Gilda is my savior because that night we had 70 pilgrims and about 30 of them were Italian. Gilda was able to communicate with them. It was a great night, everybody was singing and having a great time!
Day 11: Grañón
I forgot to write about day 10, but today was the day when help arrived. This morning 8 out of the 70 pilgrims were there for breakfast, the rest have left. I heard some of them leaving at 3:00 am. That’s dedication! But may be many of the pilgrims don’t want to walk in the heat. Today was also Marina’s birthday, so Miguel (photo) and I went to Santo Domingo to buy her a present and buy groceries for the pilgrims. We bought Marina a blue watch with her name on it. I wanted to buy one for myself but all he watches I liked were expensive and I didn’t want to spend the money. Marina was a huge help the night before with Robin. She is the one that gave me the courage to keep working. She gave me tips and ideas that have really worked to be a hospitalero. Back at the albergue Miguel made chicken and rice for Jesus, Gilda, Marina and I for lunch. As soon as we finished lunch, Bruce and Pina walked through the door. What a relief! For the rest of rest of the day I rested and they took charge. Unfortunately, Bruce has to return home because he has a heart condition. Gilda said that she would stay and take his place. Knowing this I am very relaxed. There are 45 pilgrims tonight and with three helpers the job is easy. Miguel left before dinner, he gave me a huge hug and wished me good luck. I met a mother and daughter from Texas who both fell in love with me, especially the daughter. Her name was Destiny, and she was an artist. She was 21 years old. Her mother wanted her to be more connected to God, but Destiny was a believer of energy and mediation; hippy kind of stuff. I also really enjoy mediation. Tonight I decided to go out and sit underneath a tree and do a little mediation. I was there for about 45 min and during that time a bunch of cats joined me. Tonight I will also sleep in a very special place. I will be sleeping in the choir room of the church where we do the mediation.
Day 12: Grañón
When I woke up I had no idea where I was. Last night’s experience in the choir room was kind of creepy. Every noise in there echoes everywhere in the church. The days are getting kind of repetitive. Wake up, clean, coffee, wait, pilgrims arrive, check them in, prepare dinner, cook, meditation, and sleep. With other hospitaleros here the work is super easy. The group of pilgrims that arrived today was very quiet and lame. When one talked everyone was very serious. The only exciting guy was the volunteer chef from Alaska. His name was John, and he was a talker. He wanted to make kettle soup, pasta, rice, potatoes… He wanted to use all the food we had in the albergue. I had to convince him to only prepare one meal. He stuck to lentils. When the dinner was ready nobody said a word.
I forgot to say that I am very sad, someone took my book ”I am off” today. I only had 30 pages left in the book and the picture of shay was in that book.
Day 13: Grañón
I am getting frustrated. I am seeing all these pilgrims walk past, and all I want to do is join them. I want to walk the camino! I can’t wait to start! After my work is done in Grañón, Charlie, my camino companion, and I are going to have a really fun time walking and exploring together.
Today was actually a really fun day. Today we did our usual routine, but this time a new group of pilgrims arrived who were super enthusiastic, funny and interesting. A priest and 6 of his followers arrived today. All of them seemed a little older than me, and each one played a different instrument. During my break today I went to Grañón to see the festival. I was lucky to participate in a very special event. I helped to create a rug of flowers for the festival (photo). It was a special moment of the people of Grañón and for me.
We had another Italian chef that wanted to cook pasta. It was an excellent meal! We had about 58 pilgrims tonight. Before we ate dinner, the priest and his followers sang a song, which was a blessing for the table. Also an older man bought two bottles of wine for himself and drank them both. When dinner was finished and it was time to clean the dishes, he went up stairs and crashed on his bed. He was snoring in about ten seconds! While we were cleaning the dishes, an Italian broke out a song and soon everyone joined him. It was great to see everyone working together and having a great time.
Day 14: Grañón
I missed my alarm this morning by 15 minutes, no big deal. When I got up, the girls told me to go back to sleep and rest. I stayed up and helped them prepare breakfast. Today was the shopping day. I had to go to the market and buy for the next few days. Since none of us had a car here, the priest drove me down to Santo Domingo. Shopping was easy, it was like buying food for a backing trip for the Community School Outdoor Program. I returned back to the albergue around noon and there were no pilgrims. That was odd! We usually have around 10 pilgrims at this time of day. Gilda had already prepared lunch for all of the hospitaleros. It was super good! She cooked up last night’s leftover pasta but she baked it in the oven. While we were eating, a young man from Italy arrived. My firsts impression was “wow, he is a total hippy.” He had three dreadlocks and was wearing a rainbow shirt. He was also carrying a guitar and juggling sticks. His name was Fredericko and he also had a dog named Gia (photo). He was great guy. That night Fredericko and I stayed up late in the plaza drinking wine and playing guitar together. It something that I will remember forever.
Day 15: Grañón
This morning the girls let me sleep in once again. I love these girls! I slept into 8:30 am. It was exactly what I needed. I felt refreshed, and like I finally caught back up on the sleep that I missed in my first week here in Grañón. When I woke up, I immediately started to clean the albergue. The girls had already done their areas. As soon as I was finished cleaning the sleeping areas, I made the girls an American breakfast: pancakes, eggs, bacon, and hash browns. Jesús, the priest, also came because he saw me buying the supplies at the market and he wanted to try the breakfast. Fredericko decided that he was going to stay one day so Gia could rest. When we were finishing up our breakfast, a lady walked in with her baby. The baby’s name was Margaret and she was eight months old. The youngest pilgrim I have seen on the camino! I give the lady my room to sleep in, so that she and her baby could have a good night sleep. I set up a tent up outside to sleep in (photo). So far I have slept in a bed, on the floor, in the choir room, and now I was going to sleep in a tent.
For lunch today, Jesús took us out. We went to a really cool place. The place was also an albergue but it was 1.5 kilometers from the camino. This albergue is located in a very green and wooded area. I had a huge green salad, and then lamb. So good! Once again Fredericko and I stayed up late playing guitar and singing.
Day 16 Grañón
Well, it rained all night last night! The rain pounded the tent, but I stayed dry. I am counting down the days till I have to leave this place and become a pilgrim. Grañón is a very quiet and nice town with really sweet people. I really like to hear the stories of the pilgrims and it really make me want to join them on their journey.
This morning was sad. Fredericko left with Gia today. The rain continued all day, and very few pilgrims arrived because many of them prefer to stay in Santo Domingo or to take a bus. So, today I stayed inside and drank tea. It was a very calm and relaxing day. Since only 20 pilgrims arrived today, it was very easy to communicate with them and work with them. Once again we had another Italian that wanted to cook dinner and, of course, he wanted to make pasta. So far every Italian that has volunteered to make dinner has made pasta. We finished out dinner and mediation early tonight and Gilda, Pina and I went for a walk around Grañón to see the village. Grañón isn’t very large (photo). But we did find a really cool place, we sat down and started to share stories with each other. I really like these girls, I hope that when we are done here working that we will stay in touch.
Day 17: Grañón
This morning the girls slept in and I prepared the breakfast for the pilgrims. Many of the pilgrims slept in because it is still raining a lot. Nobody wants to hike in the rain, everyone wants to stay and wait for the storm to be over. We were able to gather everyone to clean the albergue and it only took 45 min to clean the entire place. It’s is still raining outside. Maybe it’s the gloomy weather, but I am not feeling well, my throat hurts, and I am really tired. I went to the pharmacy and asked for medicine for a cold. I took the medicine as soon as I got home. A few hours had passed and I still wasn’t feeling well. The girls told me to rest and sleep. I slept most of the day because there was not much to do. Dinner time rolled by and it was fun. Tonight’s group was very lively. They were laughing drinking, and talking very loudly. It seemed that everyone had a very good time. The most interesting part of the day was the meditation that evening. I lead the mediation like always, but tonight was different. Usually the meditation gets repetitive, but tonight we had some Italians that when they were saying their prayers, they mentioned a friend that had died. I think that is why they were doing the camino. After each one said their prayer, they poured the hot wax from the candle into their palm. It looked like it hurt. There were about five of them. I really wanted to know why they did that. Also a girl named Linda gave me piece a glass that said “Happiness” on it. She told me to give it to a pilgrim that is searching for happiness.
Day 18: Grañón
This morning the girls let me sleep in. It was exactly what I needed. I woke up slowly and I had an American breakfast. I really miss the large breakfast of America! Here you maybe have a muffin, toast and a coffee. The sun finally came out today, but only briefly. In about three hours it started to rain again. This time even harder. The rain and the wind presented noises and leaks in the roof. This old albergue needs a lot of work. First pilgrim to arrive was Mari. Mari was a sweet girl from Japan (photo) She was shy at first, then really opened up and started talking with everyone. She could speak Japanese, French and English. She had lunch with the hospitaleros. Gilda made pasta carbonara, it tasted so good! I wanted to keep eating more and more. The last pilgrim to walk through the door was a 23 year old man. His name was Ori Polansky from Israel. Ori and I had a long conversation this evening. I asked him why he was doing he camino. His response really touched me. He said that he wanted to be free. He had been in the military since he was 18 years old. He had just finished his service and wanted to be free. He thought that the camino would provide him the answers he was looking for. He told me that for five years he had been trapped and sad. He told be that he hated violence and war. Looking at it, here was a young adult forced to kill people. I don’t know much about war, but what I known is that America has the largest military in the world and the largest military expenditure. Americans are usually the ones that intervene in every war in the world. Ori told me that ten days ago, when he started the camino, he experience happiness for the first time in a long long time. Although young, Ori has been through a rough life already. I knew to whom I was going to give that piece of glass that said “Happiness” on it. I was going to give it to Ori after mediation. At the end of the meditation I gave him the piece of glass. He began to cry and gave me a huge hug and said “thank you so much, and buen camino.”
Day 19: Grañón
Back to the normal schedule of an hospitalero. I woke up at 5 am this morning to have breakfast. I said goodbye to Mari and Ori. It was a sad good bye, I got close to both of them. When they left the albergue we started to clean. Cleaning went by quickly because today all of us, Pina, Gilda and I are going to Santo Domingo to visit the cathedral. Jesús drove us there and dropped us off. We walked around the cathedral, it was beautiful! But the most interesting thing is that in the cathedral there are a rooster and a hen in a coop and they were crowing the whole time. There is a story about these two that is very interesting.
Legend tells of a German pilgrim called Hugonell who was walking to Santiago with his parents when they decided to rest at an inn in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The owner of the inn’s daughter immediately fell in love with him; however her feelings were not reciprocated, so the girl placed a silver cup into his luggage and accused the boy of theft. At the time these crimes were punished by hanging, and there was the fate of Hugonell. His parents, saddened by this death, continued the pilgrimage, and upon arriving in Santiago de Compostela, the began their return journey to visit the grave of their dead son. When they arrived in Santo Domingo, however, they found that this son was still hanging in there miraculously alive. Hugonell, excited, said to them: “Santo Domingo brought me back to life, please go to the mayor’s house and ask him to take me down.” Quickly, the parents arrived at the mayor’s house and told him of the miracle. The incredulous mayor, who was about to have dinner with friends, responded: “That boy is as alive as these two roast chicken we are about to eat,” and suddenly, the chickens came to life and began to crow. So, to this day, there is a saying about the town which goes: “Santo Domingo of the Way, where the roosters crows after being roasted.”
After returning back from the cathedral, no pilgrims have arrived, which was very odd. Usually, about 2pm, we have around ten pilgrims. Pina, Gilda and I sat down in the living room writing in our journals. Very few pilgrims arrived today, only 18. Dinner tonight was quick and easy, and it allowed me to go to bed early.
Day 20: Grañón
Today was Pina birthday and she turned 37. I told her last night that she could sleep in as long as she wanted because I was going to do her cleaning duties for the morning. This morning one of the new hospitaleros arrived to see how the program works here at Grañón He was here to help and make sure that he is doing everything right. I leave in two days. My bus leaves Santo Domingo at 9:15 in the morning.
I also figured out why the Italians poured the hot wax into the hands. Lucas the new hospitalero explained that to me in the bar. He told me that people that usually have served in the military do this. The one that pours the wax into their hand has lost a close friend in battle. The reason why they do this is to offer something to them. The one that has lost their friend usually drips the wax on the ground to offer tribute to the deceased. He raised his glass of beer to the sky and then poured some of it on the ground. I did the same, he smile at me and said “thank you.”
As the day went by we show Lucas the way around the albergue. He wants to know everything. He was constantly asking question, and I was constantly answering them. It’s good that he was doing this, I wish that I would have done the same on my first day here at Grañón. Gilda also has to leave tomorrow, which is very sad. Gilda has been very kind to me. Maybe she is going to join me for a little bit on the camino Norte.
Tonight I didn’t interact that much with the pilgrims because I was running around doing errands. Many of them had no idea who I was, they thought I was a young pilgrim that was being very helpful. Later that night, after the pilgrims were getting ready for bed, Gilda, Pina, Maiko, Lucas, and I went into the choir room with our sleeping bags, pad and a few bottles of wine. We sat there chatting about our experience as hospitaleros and about each other, it was a great time to chat and bond even more.
Day 21: Grañón
Today is my last day! I am so ready to go to Madrid! I woke up this morning excited. I knew that today I didn’t have to do that much work because the new hospitaleros have to learn and do the tasks. But today was the day that Gilda left. In the morning, Pina and I walked down to the bus station with her and we said our goodbyes. I really don’t like the word “goodbye,” it’s used too much. For me, “goodbye” mean I will never see you again. We should use “until next time” which means that you are going to see them again later in life. It was a sad moment as she stepped onto the bus and left. Pina and I walked back in silence. When we returned we saw that the albergue was a mess; the new hospitaleros didn’t clean, they were waiting for us to do it. They were outside smoking cigarettes! It seemed like everyone was smoking today! By the end of the day my clothes smelled like smoke. Today several pilgrims my age arrived. Three came from Texas and two came from Quebec. It is fun hanging out with people my age and chatting about the camino.
I socialized more with the pilgrims today because today I stepped back and observed what the new hospitaleros would do. They didn’t do anything. If I hadn’t gone to the market there wouldn’t be any food for the pilgrims. So when it was time to start making dinner, nobody was taking charge. I step in and started preparing a meal. I found some volunteers from the pilgrims who helped me. I haven’t seen Pina at all this morning. Everyone was listening to me and respecting me even though I am 20 years old leading a bunch of 60 year old. This was the only group that showed me some respect. Dinner finished and it was good. I was very happy that the food worked out.
After cleaning all the pots, plate, and everything that was dirty, we had our meditation session. It was my last meditation session. I have been leading a meditation for 15 day and every time is just a little different, like every night is a practice. Today was the best meditation I have had. Everybody loved and everyone had tears. I might have found a new career. After giving our hugs and wishing everyone a “buen camino” and “goodnight,” I went outside to enjoy Grañón one last time. I went over to Ernesto’s place. Ernesto is the other hospitalero that works down the street, he is a total hippy and a little weirdo, but I like him. When I arrived there was a party already set up for me. I had no idea! We had a blast, we played darts, drank wine, and talked and talked. Everybody smokes, I had to stand outside most of the time because I can’t stand the smell. As the night continued, people kept drinking and having a blast. As people drank more they started doing challenges with the darts. They placed their hands on the dartboard and some one else had to throw. Nobody’s hand was getting hit. It was my turn, so I went up thinking my hand wasn’t going to get hit (photo). It didn’t hurt. Anyways this is my last night in Grañón and sure will miss this small town and it’s lovely people.
While I was at Grañón I read the book and was very disappointed with the French way. I enjoy listening to other people camino and writing their stories down. Each story is different and that what the camino provides. A different experience for everyone.
CAMINO DEL NORTE JOURNAL
Day 24 in Spain: Madrid (English)
For the past three days I have been in Madrid spending time with my grandmother. I arrived to Madrid the night of June 16 after working for 15 days as an “hospitalero” in the pilgrim’s albergue of Grañón in the northern region of Logroño, on the French Camino to Santiago de Compostela.
She is the greatest grandmother in the world. She does so much for me! She fell a couple years ago and really hurt her back, so it is hard for her to move around, but she refuses to stop doing things around the house and neighborhood. My grandmother is not like the other grandmothers. Many grandmothers who get hurt usually give up and say they can’t do things. Not my grandmother she still thinks she is in her forties. During those three days, she made me all kinds of food. But my favorite is her wonderful paella! Oh my God! it is so good! I would have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
On the second day in Madrid, Charlie and Caroline arrived at the airport. Charlie will be joining me on the camino for the second time. We did the camino together, with another companion, in 2013 for a senior project for high school. Carolina, spent a year in my home as an exchange student attending my former high school. She hasn’t seen her family for almost a year and finally today she got to see them and her friends. Hugs went all around that day.
The next day everyone went to Carolinas house for lunch and swam in her pool. It was definitely a hot summer day in Madrid, and the cold water of the pool felt great!
The next day was the 20th and it was time for Charlie and I to hope on the train and head to Irun. This is where we will be starting our journey. Irun is located in the upper north east corner of Spain. Charlie and I will be walking on the northern part of Spain along the coast to Santiago de Compostela, and from there hopefully to Finisterre.
Día 26 en España – Irún a San Sebastián
Día 2 en el Camino del Norte
It is important that I start with this next sentence. If a person is going to do the northern route of the Camino de Santiago, they better be accustomed to climbing and going down mountains. The north route is full of going up and down, steep both ways. Charlie and I woke up around six in the morning. No alarm was set because we knew that we would wake up when the other pilgrims woke up. We knew that it was not a race out of the door, so we took our time. We had a nice breakfast of bread, jam, butter, and coffee. After a good breakfast we were ready to start our hike; we were ready to start our long adventure in Spain. The morning air was filled with a refreshing fog. It kept us cool as we hiked. The camino immediately started strait up a steep incline. Charlie and I must be reading each other’s minds because we said at the same time, “man I am out of shape!” We turned to each other and laughed. We hiked in the woods for a long ways until we rounded the corner and could finally see the ocean. Yesterday we were not able to see the ocean, and today we finally got to see it. The ocean extends as far as the eye can see. The ocean is wild, untamed and beautiful. I wish I could live near the ocean, but the mountains is where I really belong. We stayed up high in the trees walking along the cliffs of the ocean. It was super hot and the cowboy hats that we are wearing are saving our face from getting burned. Sunscreen is a must when you are doing the camino, or else you get burned. The trail started to descend into a bay just outside of San Sebastián. We descended right to the water and we walked into a marathon. People were swimming, running and biking. We also saw rowing teams rowing their boats in the water. There was music, dancing, food, etc. this place was happening. We found out that the festivities were to celebrate the Day of Saint Peter and San Marcial. It was exciting! It was a real cultural experience with regional music, dances and food.
We noticed that we had to be on the other side of the bay, so we looked for the shuttle to take us across. We found a small little green boat that would take us, and once on the other side, we each had an apple. It was very pleasant to sit there and watch everyone. While sitting there I notice something, we had not seen one pilgrim. There were plenty of pilgrims at the albergue last night, but there are none walking. After finishing our apples we threw our pack on and started walking. The camino began to climb steeply once again. When I went up a steep staircase, it was so hot that my shirt was completely wet with sweat at the top. Charlie and I continued on the ridge and walked very close to the ocean. The views are amazing in the northern part of Spain! After a few more kilometers we rounded a bend and saw saint Sebastián. We could see the cathedral in the middle of the town and the white beach going all the way across the bay. It was a breathtaking view, enough for Charlie to drop his phone and crack his screen. Bummer! We hiked down and walked along the beach until we found our albergue. Walking along the beach was nice, the smell of the ocean and the amount of people there make the walk very enjoyable. But Charlie and I really stood out in the crowds. We were both wearing the straw cowboy hats and were carrying backpacks.
The albergue is actually a hostel and you can actually stay there as long as you like. It cost 15€ per person and you get a bed, a nice shower, and laundry. Charlie and I agreed that we should stay another night to enjoy Saint Sebastián and explore the town. We also knew that we had an itinerary to follow, but if we want to be the slow travelers we needed to take our time to really explore the people and the culture of the places we were going through in our camino.
Day 27 en España: San Sebastián
Día 3 en el Camino del Norte
We made a wise decision to stay another day in San Sebastián. There is so much so see in the place! It also has a lot to offer. Charlie and I woke up slowly and enjoyed the morning. We had our breakfast of toast, orange juice and coffee, and then we headed into the town. We walked along the beach. The sand massages your feet, a week earned treatment from walking 29 kilometers yesterday. We then walked into the cathedral and admired the stained glass window and the art work. I looked at this cathedral and I was impressed, but the one that really counts is the one at the end, the cathedral in Santiago. That is the one that I am really looking forward to visit. After touring around the cathedral, we decided to hike up the hill and see the statue and castle. Once up there the view of San Sebastián and the coast was breath taking. There was a strong breeze which felt really good because it was another hot summer day in Spain. After cooling down and taking a bunch of photos, we hiked down and decided to have lunch. In San Sebastian there are lot of “tapas” bars along the streets. You can see people bar hopping (txikiteo, the basque word for it), talking loudly and smoking cigarettes. We found some place cheap, and nobody was in there. The barter tender, Natalia, came up to us and commented on my Spanish. She asked me where I was from and how was I able to speak Spanish so well. I told her that my mother is from Spain, and she and my grandmother taught me. She was surprise. While she was talking I could also notice a different accent in her Spanish, she was basque. I have heard about this language a lot but I was unfamiliar with the sound of it. Leaving the restaurant I felt good, I had more confidence with my Spanish speaking skills. The rest of day was for fun, and relaxation. We swam in the ocean and took naps in the shade of the trees. What a good day in San Sebastián!
Everybody that has visited San Sebastian has fallen in love with this city. Now I know why.
Día 28 en España: San Sebastián a Zarautz
Día 4 en el Camino del Norte
After relaxing for a day our bodies were ready for the trek we had ahead of us. Immediately the camino started with a steep uphill. What a great way to warm up the legs and lungs! Today’s hike was mostly in the trees. There weren’t very many views of the ocean, nor old bridges or ruins, but what we did see was a lot was pilgrims. There so many pilgrims today! Where did they all come from! Charlie and I were passing them left and right. We are fast hikers compared to the other pilgrims on the camino. We were hiking fast, talking and laughing. We came around this corner and saw this girl sitting on a stump smoking a cigarette. She had supper read hair and a bunch of freckles on her face, and she gave us kind of a dirty look. We passed her and said “buen camino”. I said this before like many others if you are doing to the route to Saint James. You need to be ready for the hills in the camino del norte because there are everywhere and they are steep. It seems that there aren’t any down hills. It’s uphill both ways. We also came across this sign that says 785 more kilometer to Santiago. Well thank you for reminding me! When we arrived to Orio we had a pilgrims menu lunch and kept on hiking. We wanted to make it to Zarautz because that is where we are going to pick up Alvaro, my cousin who is going to hike with us for a couple of weeks. We made it to Zarautz! We were hot and sticky from our sweat. Once at the hostel, we saw the girl with read hair and I introduced myself to her. Her name was Emili and she was from Germany, but she spoke perfect English. She almost sounded like she was from England. After taking our showers and our naps, all of us went to the beach for a drink. It was nice to meet another pilgrim. We hung out for the rest of the evening, we all made dinner together and later we played cards out on the deck of the albergue.
Día 29 en España: Zarautz a Zumaia
Día 5 en el Camino del Norte
Today is the day that we are going to pick up Alvaro in Zarautz. He will arrive here around four in the afternoon. So Charlie and I had some free time to explore the town and try to find another place where we could sleep. The hostel that we stayed at last night was nice, but it cost 20€ and we didn’t want to spend that much again. When Charlie and I woke up this morning, we had breakfast with Emili. She had lost her guide book so she didn’t know where she was going to go today. She told us that she wanted to go to Deba today, which is about 22 kilometers away. After finishing our breakfast, she left and wished us a buen camino. Charlie and I had no idea what we were going to do today. We were going to do what Alvaro wanted to do because he is the one that just finished with a train ride and a bus ride. We assumed that he would be very tired. I want to walk to Zumaia today, which is half way to Deba. I wanted to walk. As we were waiting for Alvaro to arrive we searched for another place that we could possibly stay. There was no room, and the albergue was closed. So we found a park and took a nap underneath the trees and enjoyed the song birds. Alvaro arrived right on time and we started our hike to Deba. Today we hiked a huge ridge along the coast, it was great being next to the ocean, but the sun felt super strong against our skin. It seemed that we hiked very fast, maybe it was because Alvaro had fresh legs and was very eager to start his camino. We arrived to Zumaia around six in the afternoon. Hot and sweaty, we changed our clothes and went to the beach. The beach is actually very nice in Zumaia. There is a really cool feature about this beach and and it is about its cliffs. I asked an elderly man about the history of the cliffs. He gave me an explanation of their creation, but it was very difficult to understand. I got the most of what he said, but I wanted to know more. Being a geologist I was able to make some conclusion on my own. So I went to discover the true facts. (Photos taken)
After enjoying our time at the beach. We returned back to the albergue. The albergue is actually very nice. It’s old but can house several people and it also offers rooms for single, doubles, and triples. So Alvaro, Charlie and I got our own room. There is no kitchen, but the stay is very cheap. Upon our return to the albergue we ran into Emili. She was also staying here. She could not walk any more because her feet were hurting. We made our sandwich talked with the other pilgrims, who were all German, and then went to bed.
REPORT: ¿Qué informe geológico puede reportar de esta región?
In the Basque Country, in the north region of Spain, there is a small town called Zumaia which is on the coast. Zumaia has two beaches which have a very interesting geological fomation. This coast contains millions of years of Earth history. This line of the coast is a treasure chest to geologists because it contains a flysch. A flysch is a long and continuous structure of the stages of rock of the world. The flysch in Zumaia contains periods of more than 100 million years ago. When the Pyrenees were formed, the layers of rock were pushed to the surface and with the erosion of the waves and other elements were exposed. The result is alternating layers of hard rock (limestone) and soft materials (sandstone). The flysch is approximately 8 kilometers. Apart from the stunning rock formations, Zumaia also has very important fossil records. The fossils found are the border Paleogene boundary, the end of the Mesozoic Era. This period of time also is the extinction of the dinosaurs do not avian. The ammonite fossil which similar to the old nautilus are also found in the layer of rock. In addition to the cliffs, is the incredible view it offers. We can see the tip of Marianton, the beach area of Itzuruntxiki without sand beach and the Itzurun with a lot of sand. The sandy beach of Itzurun is protected by the cliffs of limestone and the cape of Marianton and makes the sand trapped waves when they come. The place also does not leave the sand on the beach go to the beach of Itzuruntxiki where there is a wide variety of geomorphological forms and the beach is of cantos, cliffs, fallen blocks and landslides. Another interesting thing with the Itzurun beach are the famous caves. These caves can be more than 15 meters in depth and some of them work as siphon.
This area contains a very important moment in the history of the Earth. That is why geologist love this area. They are doing a great deal to protect this area because people use these beaches a lot during the summer and with each year there is more and more erosion that occurs each year.
Día 30 en España: Zumaia a Deba
Día 6 en el Camino del Norte
Today our plan was to go to Deba. It wasn’t a very long hike but it was very hot and it had some hills. We are getting farther and farther away from the coast. Now we are in the mountains and we can no longer see the coast. As we started the climb, we entered the cool shade, but once in the shade it was humid and it made the hike twice as worse. I was sticky and sweaty. If you know me I really don’t like humidity and, when I am in a humid environment, I am not a happy person. I was super uncomfortable, but I had to maintain a positive attitude so that the moral of the group could stay strong. We climbed and climbed. We were traveling through farmland, and in none the them we encountered a group of horses. Among them was a baby and it came right towards me. It stood on the trial and allowed me to pet it. It was cool! We continued to climb, and we reached Deba. It is a nice town that has a canal running through it. While we were there, there were kids jumping of the bridge into the water. It looked like fun! Later I found out that this canal was a project designed in 1778 to connect the Cantabric sea with the Mediterranean sea (like the Panama Canal) but it was never finished because the War of Independence started.
Instead of going to the bar or restaurant for lunch, we went to the market to buy food. How different are the markets here in Spain! Everything looks real and more natural. The vegetables and fruits, although the same in the U.S., seem to have a more definite look and texture, not to mention taste! It was fun to look around and see food that we never seen before. What about the fish and meat stands? That is a completely cultural experience when you see the animals for sell with their heads, guts, and even eyes and tongues sticking out of their mouths! Of course, we did not get any of that for lunch; no way! We bought some “ogia” (bread), “gazta” (cheese), y “Urdaiazpikoa” (ham) and some sweets and sat in the shade by the canal to watch the people. Because It was still early in the day, we wanted to continue. The book said that the “ermita” was only 2 kilometers away. We decided to go for it. The climb was even steeper. Why did the chose to build these “ermitas” always in the highest possible places? It was almost 90 degrees! When we finally reached it, we were rewarded with an amazing view, and a cool and relaxing place once inside. We stayed there for a few minutes and then continued on our way. While we were hiking, we were noticing that the camino seemed to be going a different way from what the guide book was saying. We wanted to go a different direction and follow the road, but the arrows pointed in a different way. It was getting late. A car pulled up, and we asked where the next town was. He told us that there wasn’t one around there, and that we should return back to Deba. The man in the car then sped away, spitting up dust. Stubborn, we continued, right around the corner there was an albergue. A very nice one. We decided to stay there. The name of the albergue was Izar Bide Aterpetxea. They supplied dinner and breakfast, perfect! We were so tired that we crashed on our beds and slept very well.
Día 31 en España: Deba a Gernika – ¿¿¡¡Qué!!?? ¡¡65 kilómetros!!
Día 7 en el Camino del Norte
When we woke up our plan was to go the Markina. Today was going to be our hardest day yet. We had a huge mountain to go over. We would have to climb up over 500 meters. We started our day we a good breakfast and set off on our hike. We didn’t talk on our way up the hill, all you could here was the steady beats of our feet against the pavement and our heavy breathing to match the beat. Once at the top, we sat and lay down. Wow, was that a treck! I am from the mountain and I am used to hike up mountains, but those mountains usually have switchbacks. In Spain, I don’t think there are such things as switchbacks. This was straight up the mountain. Once at the top, we opened up a bar of chocolate. So good! The sugar is was we needed.
With every uphill there has to be a downhill. The downhill was even steeper! I had to be very careful with my knee. At the beginning of the year I had a serious knee injury and this down hill was the ultimate tests. At the bottom of the hill we reached Markina. When we enter Markina it was a ghost town. We saw a little church and we entered it. Inside was huge boulders, and in the center a statue of San Miguel de Arrechinaga, patron saint of high places (no wonder!). It was a very cool place, because it seemed that the church was built around the rock structure (photos). This sparkled my curiosity and I looked for information, but there wasn’t any, and there wasn’t anybody to talk to. Later on, I found out that the huge rocks once they thought formed a megalithic dolmen, but the believe now is that they owe more to geographical history: “eroded remains of a huge rock outcrop from the hill-side that was formed in the Tertiary period many hundreds of millions of years ago, perhaps 40 million years ago. In the middle-ages, according to legend, a local hermit came to live here and built his cell beneath the huge stones. His name was perhaps St Pollonio. Later a church was built around the three stones and the hermitage.” The legend says that if a young man wants to marry the following year, he needs to go underneath the three boulders three times (no need for us three young men to follow the tradition!). Another legend said that San Miguel buried the devil himself underneath those big rocks long before the church was built.
When we stepped out, a lady pulled right next to us and almost hit us with her car. Her window rolled down and she gave us a card with an albergue name on it “Augusto and daughter.” Okay, this was possible place to stay. We continued walking through Markina observing this new town, and I had the feeling that I didn’t like the place right away. It felt empty and kind of weird. We found a small restaurant with a sign that said “we serve pilgrim meals.” As soon as we finished eating I pulled out money from my pocket and the other albergue card came with it. The lady who run the restaurant looked at the card and she was not very happy. She asked if we were staying there. We told we didn’t know where we were going to stay that night because we had just arrived. She said that she had places where we can stay, but when she told us how much, it was incredibly over priced. She then asked us where we were from. Charlie said Idaho. A smile went across her face, she had family in Idaho! She had family that went there to herd sheep. In the Wood River Valley we have a big basque community that once went over to herd sheep. This community are not shepherds anymore, on the contrary, they are ranch owners, business owners, and professionals. That is why every year we have trailing of the sheep festival. A festival where they bring the sheep all the way from the mountains crossing the towns of Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue to the Snake River plains to spend the winter there. We get to see Basque dances, taste Basque food, and learn about the sheep herding tradition in our valley and in Idaho in general.
The lady in the restaurant started to say that one of her family member married an African-american. This is when the lady exploded! She said that she hated black people and that she was super racist. Charlie, Alvaro and I did not know what to say from then on and, of course, did not want to stay there or in the town. Alvaro went up to the bar to ask for the bill. He asked in Spanish, and the bartender told him, “I will never speak your language.” Then she gave him a horrible look. A comment about being “pro etarras,” and in favor of the separatist move, made Alvaro very uncomfortable. Time to go! We left that town as fast as we could. We didn’t care if we had to sleep in the forest. During the hike, Alvaro explained the whole situation with the Basque separatist movement and the terrorist group ETA. We kept on hiking, we kept on going to Gernika although our feet were killing us.
On our way to Gernika we saw a beautiful monastery and we stopped. It was the Colegiata de Zenarruza o de Ziortza, in Cenarruza-Puebla de Bolívar (Vizcaya, España) founded in the X century. It was a very important stop in the Camino to Santiago. It was declared historical-artistic monument in 1948. “La Colegiata” is a wonderful architectonic feature in the monastery. (Photo)
We definitely walked slow during this stage of our travel, and although we were intrigue about everything that was happening to us, we could not forget the pain of our feet! This pain was erasing any other challenges we were encountering along the way.
We arrived at 10:30 at night! Tomorrow we are going to sleep in and then visit the city to gain a better understanding of the history of Genika. We knew that Gernika was going to gave us more answers about the history of the Basque people and their fight for independence.
Día 32 en España: Gernika
Día 8 en el Camino del Norte
Today we decide to stay an extra day in Gernika. The reason why is because we hiked more than fifty kilometers yesterday. We were exhausted when we arrived! We were zombies, our arms extended for food, our mouths open begging for water, and our feet dragging because we could no longer feel them. The albergue was closed last night, so we stayed in a pension. It costed the same as the albergue but it was out of the city center. Charlie, Alvaro and I slept in till eleven in the morning. It felt so good to sleep in! We had all day to explore Gernika. Today I was expecting to see old building bombed by the Germans, and gain a better understanding of the history of the city. We walked around and saw different historical monuments. We saw the old famous tree of Gernika and walked around the city. By the end, I was kind of disappointed with the city. It was a very boring place; there wasn’t much going on and there were any places where you can gain information. There is a museum, but we were told that it was closed today. Still very tired from the previous day, we poor pilgrim returned to our beds and slept to the next day.
Pregunta: ¿Cuál es la importancia de Guernica en la historia?
The town of Guernica was completely destroyed on April, 26 1937 by German and Italian troops that helped the Spanish fascists during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). It was a massacre without piety toward the Basques.
Pablo Picasso from Paris, composed a mural to protest this atrocity and all the atrocities of war. The name of this mural is “Guernica.”
“It is an oil on canvas, with dimensions of 3.50 x 7.80 m1 in spite of its title, and the circumstances in which it was made, there is no specific reference to the bombing of Guernica nor to the Spanish Civil War. It is not, therefore, a narrative, but symbolic. It is painted using only black and white, and a wide range of gray.
REPORT: Nature and Landscape, historical monument from Guernica. How the nature and the historical monument are mixed?
In Gernika I could see that the landscape was very green. This small town seems to be hidden from all the rest because it is hidden by the thick branches of the trees that surround it. Knowing the history of Guernica, is difficult to imagine that this place was totally destroyed by the fascists during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). I’ve watched the landscape and the beauty of the Guernica.
As I walked through the village, I found a very old tree, Ñarrieta Gernikako Arbola, which is the tree of Gernika. In this tree are a combination of the nature that surrounds Gernika and the history of this people.
This tree survived the bombings of the fascist war and is now dead but protected as a monument. This tree is an old tree that symbolizes the traditional liberties of the Basque people. The tree is an oak tree and is situated in front of the Casa de Juntas. In the XIV century met the representatives of the General Assembly of Vizcaya and was where the king of Castile was sworn respect the northerners and ensure the freedom of the Basque people.
For various reasons, the oak tree of Gernika has become the most famous of these sacred oak trees. The tree has a symbolic meaning for the people of Gernika and all the Basques. The oldest tree, “Tree Father,” was planted in the XIV century and lasted 450 years. After planted another, “Old tree,” which died in 1860 was replaced by the “Tree Son” who died in 2004. But the people took saplings of the tree and planted and new Son today.
Many of these seeds have been planted in many places in Basque communities over the years to link the past with the present. “Today welcomes acts as special as the taking of possession, and the oath of office of lehendakaris or deputy general. The Tree of Gernika is also considered the central symbol of the coat of arms of Bizkaia, since their image appears on the official coat of this historic territory.”
The tree of Gernika came to the attention of the English poet William Woodsworth, who wrote:
OAK of Guernica! Tree of holier power
Than that which in Dodona did enshrine
(So faith too fondly deemed) a voice divine
Heard from the depths of its aerial bower–
How canst thou flourish at this blighting hour?
What hope, what joy can sunshine bring to thee,
Or the soft breezes from the Atlantic sea,
The dews of morn, or April’s tender shower
Stroke merciful and welcome would that be
Which should extend thy branches on the ground,
If never more within their shady round
Those lofty-minded Lawgivers shall meet,
Peasant and lord, in their appointed seat,
Guardians of Biscay’s ancient liberty.
For all these reasons the trees are all sons and daughters of the father tree after the bombing of Guernica. This tree is very important for these people. The trees are a symbol of life and rebirth. The city and the other trees were capable of being reborn after a terrible catastrophe. (Photo)
Día 33 en España: Gernika a Bilbao
Día 9 en el Camino del Norte
We woke up early because we have slept for about 18 hours. We were energized and ready to walk. We packed up our packs anxious to start. Horse biting at the bit. As we hiked up the first hill, guess who we found?, Emili. There she was sitting on the steps of an old cathedral smoking a cigarette. It was good to see her. We talked about our previous days, and what we did. She threw on her pack and joined us for the hike for the day. To be honest, it is kind of nice to have a girl in the group. When there is girl we aren’t racing up the hill and it is more relaxed. We all went to a mellow pace and chat. I like that kind of hiking. It is nice to walk slow and enjoy the landscape, the nature and a nice conversation. I thought more about the meaning of the camino while hiking.
Many people think that the camino is a race and a lot of them try to do it as fast as the can. They brag about how many kilometers they did per day and where they started. In reality, it doesn’t matter where you start the camino or how long it takes. It’s your journey and those are your moments. Many people walk the camino for many different reasons. Some do the camino for spiritual reason, some do it to find answers, to seek answers, and some people do it to find themselves. Many of the pilgrims that I have encountered have said that they decided to the camino for the last reason, to find themselves.
Then, I thought about what the camino means for me. I know that this whole experience is giving me college credits, but it must be for something else. I love the camino, I love Spain. But why did I decide to do it again? There must be some kind of connection between me and the camino. What is it? I hope that on this trip I can find that meaning, and find my connection.
After a few hours of me being silent. Emili finally asked me if I was okay. I responded with a smile, and that was it. I enjoyed being silent.
We arrived to a little town and there were several signs from the E.T.A, the Basque terrorist group. Because of the past experience we had in Markina and other extremist people along the way, we did not really want to eat lunch there. So I went into a bar and asked for three beers and three sandwiches in Spanish. She gave me the stink eye and she asked me if I could speak Basque. I told her no, that I could not; she seemed very disappointed. I payed for the food and drinks and left the bar. I like the town, but I didn’t like the look that everyone was giving us. I think it because we are young, but I am not sure. We went out of town and sat down in a field. The sun was covered by clouds which lowered the temperature. It was perfect! We sat and ate our lunch. In the distance, we could see another pilgrim walking up the road. His name was Ogelian, he was from Switzerland and he spoke French. He knew enough English to communicate with us. We invited him to sit down and join the company. We sat there for about an hour sharing stories. He had already walked for 30 days and he wasn’t staying in albergues, he was sleeping in a tent. I honestly I wish I could travel like that, it would make my pack heavier, but it would be much cheaper. You don’t have to pay for sleeping. After filling our bellies, we continued hiking all of us together. We reached a town called Lezama. Emili decided to stay there because she was tired and wanted to rest, but the rest of us wanted to go to Bilbao. The truth was that we wanted to get out of Basque Country as soon as possible. Alvaro was feeling very uncomfortable being from Madrid. I am not really into politics, so I don’t really know what was happening, or what was going on.
Well, it was getting late again, and the book said that the albergue was on the other side of town. Bilbao is a shit hole. Sorry for my language, but there is so much trash, and pollution in this city! It’s very ugly. The only nice thing about Bilbao is the Guggenheim museum. It is very modern and shiny and it looks like it is the only clean part of the city. Maybe there are nice parts in the city, but where the camino took us it was very gross. I will never be returning back to Bilbao for a vacation. Also, the albergue was out of town on top of a mountain. We arrived there late and they had already prepared us plates for dinner. How did they know we were coming? There was Emili! How in the word did she get there. She had taken a bus because the albergue in Lezama was full and there weren’t any other places to stay. Thank you Emili! When we checked in the hospitalero was not very happy and nice when he saw my Spanish passport and Alvaro’s pilgrim credential from Madrid. We ate quickly, cleaned all the dishes, took showers and crawled into bed.
I can conclude that this was not a very slow travel day for me. Sometimes circumstances make you change your path and pace, and this was one of those days. The camino was teaching me more than I thought.
After being a hospitalero I knew that the way the hospitalero of Bilbao was behaving was not normal. What is wrong with the Basque Country?
Día 34 en España: Bilbao a Castro Urdiales (autobús) Castro Urdiales a Islares
Día 10 en el Camino del Norte
Last night I woke up several times, I had a difficult time sleeping. But the few times that I woke up, I saw that the hospitalero was in the room watching the pilgrims. It was creepy! It seemed like he was afraid that that one of us would do something wrong. But he was just sitting there. When he left, I was able to fall asleep. In the morning, we woke up at the same time as the other pilgrims. We had our breakfast, and the hospitalero really wanted us, not the pilgrims, just us out of there. So we left. Confirmed, we wanted out of the Basque country. I was tired or getting weird looks, so we took a bus to Cantabria, so much for the slow travel and for not wanting to take transportation. It was only 47 kilometers, but I felt bad for not walking them.
We stopped in Castro Urdiales now Cantabria and outside the Basque Country. I think that it was necessary to avoid the walk from Bilbao to Portugalete, from Portugalete to Pobeña and from there to Castro Urdiales. We found out that Portugalete was even a more radical separatist town; why continue having a hard time on our camino? In Castro Urdiales we had our second breakfast and really enjoyed it. Now there wasn’t really any rush. But we still wanted to hike. It’s odd when you are a pilgrim, all you want to do is hike. There is something that is driving you onward.
In this short stretch of a hike (8 kilometers) we started to encounter other problems. First, Alvaro got huge blisters, and both of his knees were hurting him. He is not use to all this hiking. I do feel sorry. Charlie on the other side had a huge rash on his calves. It’s looks painful! It is really his fault for not putting any sunscreen on them. Since we are walking east to west the sun is on our backs in the morning and in front of us in the afternoon. Luckily we made some ground and arrived to Islares. A really small town, with one bar and an albergue runned by Harve. It was nice, and cheap. But the best part of that albergue was a different type of pilgrim, a Dalmatian. What a beautiful dog! It reminded so much of the dogs that I have had. I thought about the lost of someone you love, and how the camino is a pushing force that keep you going and shows you that life goes on no matter what. You keep going and you leave things and people that you love behind.
Report – Gastronomy of this region. Is organic? Sustainable? Maintain a cultural tradition? How?
When we were walking along the path in the Basque Country can be seen that the land is divided in small properties called “minifundios”. A “minifundio” is a piece of land yet small enough that the owner can grow their own products for own consumption. The exploitation of a smallholding for economic benefit is difficult due to the limited amount of products it produces, so that all these products are only for the benefit and the consumption of the owner of the land, which means that agriculture is sustainable in most rural parts of the Basque Country. Small landowners eat what they produce, and cannot be sold to big profits. But in some small towns, in general, there is a farmers market ( “farmer’s market”) where these owners bring their small amount of products to sell, sometimes even in exchange for other that their land does not produce. But it is still a sustainable practice because everything is local and everyone eats what grows in this area. It is not necessary to bring the products from far away. The products also tend to be more environmentally friendly because they do not make mass production. It is clear that the fruit and vegetables are more natural because when we look at and taste them, they are completely different from those purchased in a large supermarket. They do not have the perfect texture, but when you eat it, the taste is amazing! In addition, farm animals, because they are loose in the pasture. No doubt you can smell the manure that farmers used to fertilize their fields! In the cities, on the other side, the large markets take their products to the companies who can afford the luxury of practice mass production of vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy products. But, sometimes, you can see food stalls outside these markets where people still take their products to sell. In conclusion, I have to say that I am enjoying the local cuisine due to the fact that it is more natural and contains no GMO products and is more professional. I also like the fact that what i eat is local and contributed to the system of sustainable agriculture that are always that I sat in a bar, a restaurant or hostel for lunch, or even the food that we eat on the side of the road that I just bought in the local market.
Día 35 en España: Islares a Laredo
Día 11 en el Camino del Norte
Well, last night while we were getting ready for bed, we were told that tomorrow was going to be a very hot day. Guess what? They were absolutely right about that! The three of us woke up very early so that we would hike in the morning and miss the heat in the afternoon. We set out early before the sun had even rose. It was a perfect temperature because it was still warm but there was a fresh layer of dew on the plants that glimmered brightly as soon as the sun came out. While leaving Islares the camino was beside the road for a ways. The road! a faster camino for many. I am so glad I am not that kind of traveler! As we walked Alvaro was falling behind. By the way he walked I could tell that he was in a lot of pain. He didn’t want to say anything and he definitely didn’t want to slow us down. The camino then deviated in another direction towards a huge hill. Although not as nicer, we decided to stick to the road because the distance was shorter, but also didn’t have as many hills. As soon as we started going up hill, Alvaro had to stop. His Achilles’ tendons and knees were really hurting him. I could tell that he was very frustrated by his body language and because he started speaking Spanish rapidly. Well, he had to get to the next town or to a rest area where we could get a bus or taxi to take him to the final destination for the day. I didn’t want Alvaro to carry his pack because carrying a backpack that weighs that much can hurt you if you are not used to it. So, there I was a pack on my back and a pack on my front side. I had two packs on me during the hottest part of the day going up hill. Boy, was I sweating! After two kilometers we reached a rest area. There, we were able to call a taxi and Alvaro left us. As the taxi was pulling away in the distance Charlie said, “and then, there were two.” I laughed. Poor Alvaro, he was not accustomed to this kind of walking. He has never been backpacking and he decided to do this as his first trip. Brave! Charlie and I continued to walk under a temperature of at least a 104 degrees. Yes, the heat wave that everyone talked about the night before was here, scorching us pilgrims. We had to drink plenty of water to not get dehydrated and we had to stop frequently to cool down in the shade. It took a long time to get to Laredo, but we made it. Alvaro was already waiting for us in the albergue. What a cool albergue! It was located in the church and it was runned by nuns. But the best feature was the fact that we had our own room with a bathroom and a shower. No more snoring or other kind of no so innocent human noises that night! I was expecting a good night’s rest! It was only 8€ and included breakfast. As soon as we arrived we took naps and Alvaro went to the clinic to check his injuries. As he came back, we woke up. He told us that he should not walk for three more days. Looks like he will be taking the bus all the way to Santander. Also, awesome news! My mother is going to meet us in Santander on her way to Santiago! She is going to study at the University there, coincidence that we both have the same destination? I do not think so! She is driving (not a slow traveler like me) I can’t wait to see her. We went around Laredo and ate a large pizza and, guess what?, I am now regretting eating the entire thing.
Día 36 en España: Laredo a Noja
Día 12 en el Camino del Norte
I can’t believe I have been in Spain for 36 days! This is a really long trip, and I have done so much! Looking back at my journal, I can’t see that I have written a lot of pages so far. Each page reflects my own camino with my own memories of the adventure that I have created or that I have found in my time here in Spain. I also have 30 more days to go. My flight will leave Madrid on the 31st of this month. Oh boy!
I woke up slowly today. I didn’t sleep very well last night. I had a belly full of pizza and an uncomfortable bed. I packed my stuff, left the church and sat outside waiting for Charlie and Alvaro to come down. I sat out there for maybe fifteen minutes enjoying the silence. Even in a city like Laredo you can still find silence. I love Cantabria! Alvaro had to take another bus. This time to Güemez, about 30 kilometers away. The camino today was relatively flat we only had one big climb. Charlie and I walked along the coast line of Laredo. Nobody was on the beach so we had it to ourselves. After a few kilometers we arrived to the end of Laredo were a boat was waiting to take us across to the other side. We boarded it and it felt odd to feel the waves of the ocean. I have grown accustomed to the trail and the pavement, and standing on a boat felt odd. I guess I don’t have sea legs. The firm feeling of going forward with each step was changed by an up and down and rocking movement of the boat moving across the water. Once on the other side we hopped off of the boat and I wished we could have stayed on it longer. We walked through this little town and on the outskirts was a huge prison. I mean huge! It was very well protected, and it seemed like it was once an old estate. We were not able to see inside. so we stopped at the front gate to have a pick but the officer just waved us away. The temperature was starting to increase as the morning clouds were dispersing, and the sun was coming out. The camino stayed on the road for a ways, but then it took a right hand corner, and it placed us in a scenery that felt like we were in the jungle of South America. We climbed up the hill and we had an amazing view of the town and beach. I took a lot of photos and videos because this place was unreal. Everything at that moment was perfect! There was a breeze that cooled us down and it was one of those moments that I said, “this is why I am doing the Camino del Norte.” I was so happy that nothing could ruin this moment for me. After taking several photos, we started our descent to another beach on the other side. This breach was enormous! It extended four kilometers and the tide was ways away. Because the sand was hard packed and easy to hike on, we decided to do our camino along the beach. I loved that beach! It was a beautiful hike! I wish the whole camino could be like this. We arrived to the end of the beach where we stopped to grab a refreshment. My phone connected to the wifi and I received a message from my cousin. He said that he was in Noja waiting for us. I looked at the map, la playa de Noja. Perfect! maybe we can stay here and enjoy the beach. I found Alvaro without a problem. We returned to the bar and had lunch together. Then Alvaro told me that my mother had made us a reservation in a hostel that is located by the beach so we can have a nice rest that day. Perfect again! I could use an ocean view, a nice shower, and a cozy bed. It took us forever to find the hostel and, when we found it, it was on the opposite side of town, in a dirty and ugly part of town, a shit hole! Excuse my language, but this place was awful! How could my mother reserve such a place for us? The entire hostel smelled like piss, our room was small and the window looked out into somebody’s trash pile. The place cost 60€!! I was at a point where I wanted to buy a tent and then just sleep in it for the rest of the trip. The albergues we had stayed so far were a lot nicer then this place. Right before we were getting ready for bed, we found cockroaches in the room. “Are you kidding me?” I said. We went down to the front desk and asked for a refund. They would not give us the money back because apparently it is not their fault that they have cockroackes in their rooms. I wanted out of this place! I stayed up all night night because the beds were very uncomfortable and I was worried about cockroaches.
Día 37 en España: Noja a Güemez
Día 13 en el Camino del Norte
Well, l like I said before, I did not sleep a wink. I wanted to get out of that place as soon as possible. After texting my mother using Alvaro’s wifi, I learned about the big mess that she was dealing with trying to get her money back from the company she used to reserve that hostal. It was all a scam! They used pictures in the internet to promote the hostal that weren’t theirs!
Charlie and I left Alvaro at Noja because he was going to take a taxi to the albergue in Güemez. Charlie and I began our hike. We were not on the camino yet. We had to find the way. The hostel was out of way, so we had to find the city center. Walking through Noja was a maze. The roads twisted and turned, and there were no signs pointing to the city center. It made me realize how much I relied on little yellow arrows. I wish that life would actually guide you that way. Those arrows always point you in the right direction. They might lead you straight up a mountain, but you will end up in the right place, eventually. Maybe that is what the camino is for me, the camino could be a metaphor of my life. Could that be possibly my connection to the camino? Sometimes I see clearly where I need to go because there is a force indicating me the direction, but other times it is not so clear, and it is up to me to figure out the way.
After two kilometers, we finally found the camino. As soon as we saw a yellow arrow we were relieved. I was starting to think that there will be a new report saying two young pilgrims lost in Noja. Knowing that we have found the camino we sat down for a cup of coffee. Today this coffee tasted better than the rest, maybe it is because I put a ton of sugar in it. Today’s hike was very mellow. We hiked in people’s farms and through little villages along the way. We were walking silence for most the journey, but then Charlie pulled out his phone and started playing music. The music that he played was a smooth steel guitar songs. The music matched perfectly with the scenery around us. It was nice to hear this kind of music and it made me want to play a guitar after hearing that kind of music. I want to learn how to play a steel guitar. We made it to Güemez very quickly. There was a thick dew in the valley that we hiked up and it was hard to believe that there was an albergue out there. I didn’t care in what kind of condition the albergue was, anything was going to be better than the place where we stayed last night. The yellow arrows lead us through a gate and we arrived at this amazing estate! There was no way this could be an albergue. To greet us was this giant dog the size of a mini horse. His name was Biul. Again, the albergue was incredible! It was a large hostel that could accommodate over 70 pilgrims in bunk rooms. What was interesting is that the owner was a priest and he did something like the “camino de la vida.” He traveled all around the world in search of information and studying people. So he started this albergue and it is runned by volunteers and the land is owned by the people of Güemez. For dinner tonight all the pilgrims gathered in the entrance hall and had dinner together. This place reminded me Grañón a lot. I would not mind volunteering here in the future. So I talked to the priest, told him my story, and he was very happy to hear that I would like to volunteer. He gave me a website were I can apply. Maybe one day I will return and work there.
Día 38 en España: Güemez a Santander
Día 14 en el Camino de Santiago
On our way to Santander! Today we had very few kilometers to hike. It was kind of a shock back into reality. Today’s hike consisted of two very different landscaped. To begin, we hiked along the coast up high along the cliff line. It was very pleasant. The wind was blowing and the waves were crashing against the rocky cliffs spraying us will cool water from time to time. But most importantly, Alvaro was back in the game, he was with us. He was getting tired of being in a bus or taxi to get to the next place and he was very anxious to hike. This morning he was the first to wake up. We hiked for maybe 10 kilometer along the beach and the cliffs until we reached the boat docks. The camino continued on the other side of the harbor, so we had to take a boat across. It was nice to have a little bit of time to kill and we sat down at a nearby bar to enjoy a refreshment. The refreshment was ice cold, and made we think about something that we take for granted, fresh clean potable water. If you think about it, only a few areas in the world have access to potable water and many people suffer because the only thing they have is polluted water. It is said that you are suppose to drink about 4 liters of water every day, but who can afford to do that in the world? It also made me think about how much water is used every day in many countries in the world. Think about it, almost all the modern necessities require water: bathrooms. kitchens, fountains, yard, etc. The water is becoming a scarce natural resource even in the most developed countries. For example, the U.S. is being affected to by the climate change and the overpopulation. An example is California, where new regulations are being set in place to restrict the water usage. But, is that enough? My thinking got interrupted by the horn of a boat approaching. I swigged down my drink and jogged over to the docks. I paid my fee, and boarded the boat. The ride to Santander was kind of a portal to a different world. The boat carried us across the water much faster than walking, which felt a little weird because just in a minute the slow traveling turned into a fast one. A pleasant one, I must say! Seeing Santander in the distance made it seem like this was the end of my journal, but in reality I wasn’t even half way to my destination. I still had twenty plus more days of hiking. The boat docked and all of the passengers hopped off. My phone bussed. It was my mother. She was at a hotel in Santander and she had a room for us. Oh boy! All three rushed over to the address that she had given me. We arrived to the hotel, it was enormous and it was very nice, way better than any place we have stayed while on the camino. We walked through the revolving glass doors and soon realized it was not made for pilgrims with backpacks. We could not fit in it and the door was not turning! Three stinky pilgrims just walked into a luxurious hotel and they needed three serious long showers. Then, the water dylema came back to my mind again, “how much water does this place use?” “I don’t care,” I said. I was looking forward to see my mother and have a fresh shower. When I saw my mother I gave her a huge hug. She truly truly spoiled us, she washed our clothes while we took a nice shower and rest on a cozy bed; she also gave us tremendous amount of food and of course, a lot of love. Oddly enough I have been losing a lot of weight of this trip, and my shorts were not fitting me anymore. So, she took me to a very cheap sport outlet and bought me new shorts and new shirts that do fit. I wonder how much I weigh on a scale. Love you mom!
Report – ¿Qué es lo que más impacta al peregrino al caminar por la zona rural y la zona urbana?
As I walked by Bilbao and Santander i realized that everything seemed very industrial. For my site a Bilbao was unpleasant, but Spain into less. In my opinion I prefer traveling through rural areas more than the industrial of the city. For this report I wanted to know the other views of other pilgrims. Many of which are in agreement with me. For this report I interviewed pilgrims and gave them nickname. A name that I have given them is by their appearance. Ask each pilgrim if you like to travel in rural areas or in cities?
The hippie: American
I prefer walking in rural areas. I don’t use shoes because it makes me closer to the ground. I can feel the ground between my toes. For me, the cities are disgusting. It is too strong in the city, here there are cars everywhere and there is trash along the sidewalk. For me it is not a natural environment. I prefer the fresh air, which is not contaminated. There are areas where I can hear the birds singing and a place where I can’t find a large crowd of people. I love those areas
The wise man: German
I am walking the path to find the importance of living. What I found is that when walking in a rural area I realize the important things. All I need is sleep, some clothes, shoes, and a little money. When you are a pilgrim, is living as a minimalist. Everything you need in life is the team that you put in your package. When entered into an urban area what had the greatest impact on me is the idea of consumption. Consumption of money. All spend a lot of money. That money goes to the objects that we require and needs responsibility. If you have more objects, the more responsibility you have. All you have to do is to focus on objects that are needed to survive. The world would be a better place without that much consumption. Which brings me to a world of money, and if you don’t have the money cannot survive in an urban area. But for a traveler, or even a person who lives in the outside, they live on what they need, the least. This pilgrimage has changed my view on the needs in life.
In the interview with these pilgrims while walking in the city of Santander i could agree with what they described. They are more peaceful in the rural areas. I am most happy when I walk by the rural areas. In the city I am aware that my mood drops, I’m a little grumpy and annoying. The atmosphere more negatively impacted me when I am in a city. I prefer a natural atmosphere, happier, and a more relaxed environment. For me, a city is very busy, noisy, and you have depressing atmosphere. Of these conclusions, and to talk with other pilgrims, I can say that people prefer rural areas much more. People have different sensations in the way. And that is the purpose of the way, offer a different experience for all. Good road.
Due to its strategic location with a long coastline and green mountains, the kitchen in the Basque Country is very rich. Dishes contain a wide variety of fish, meat and fresh produce from its fertile gardens. The Basque cuisine is a mixture of old and traditional recipes that have been kept alive for centuries, and the new. The most famous fish, which is prepared in many different ways. Another typical dish is “tuna or bonito.” seafood dishes are abundant in every bar or restaurant on the road. Although there are a large variety of fresh vegetables, one of the most commonly used are the “green beans”, “watercress”, “leek”, “potatoes” and “peppers” that tend to accompany any dish of meat or fish, or lamb meat normally. “The pochas beans” (beans) make exquisite stews and soups. Another type of cheese it is usually taken as a snack with a good wine or a beer. Some of the dishes on the road in the Basque Country: The beans pochas de Tolosa, and squids of Zarauz, hake in green sauce, txangurro False to San Sebastian, kokotzas in green sauce, horse mackerel in the oven, cod omelet, bacalao al pil pil with broth of peppers, cake and the scorpion fish cooked prawns, peppers stuffed with cod with sauce and squids, and squids onion, Pintxo Spider, fish soup to the Basque, salad of beans pochas Alava, noticeable of Guetaria.
Walking through the city is completely different from walking in a rural area. Like I said in my journal, the boat took us to a different world. We had been enjoying the slow pace of the camino along the seashore, and all of the sudden we were thrown to the busy and fast pace of a city. While hiking in the city, I was comparing the city to a jungle. If you look at it, a city is just a concrete jungle. For example a natural jungle has trees and vines everywhere. A city has huge building that tower over everyone, and everywhere you look there are telephone wires going across the streets. If you view the ground of the jungle it has a network of insects living everywhere and, if you go deeper, there are roots and tunnels everywhere too. Now, if you look at a city, you will see that it also has a network just like a jungle. They have people and cars everywhere that form a continuous and efficient network. If you go deeper, you will find subways and other pile lines carving their ways underneath the city. Does this make me an ant? Who knows? I am a pilgrim and that’s what I will be for the rest of this trip. Walking through the city made me realize that I would much rather live in a small town than in a place like this and, while hiking, I prefer to hike in the rural areas. Hiking in rural areas are more peaceful because there aren’t a lot of noises and movement. You can hear the nice sounds, such as birds, the ocean, you can hear nature talking to you. I cannot stand the sounds of cars honking or everybody talking at once. When a pilgrim walks through a rural area he is absorbed by nature. When a pilgrim is walking through a city they are brought back to a reality that has abandoned and does not want back. It would be best if the camino would just follow rural areas. I understand that it is important to keep the camino in the original place that has been for centuries, but it really impacts your experience as a pilgrim. It is like you have been listening to yourself for a long time along the camino and all of the sudden you are one more human being in the hundreds of people walking around you. You do not have time to listen to yourself anymore because you have to pay attention to so many things at the same time: traffic lights, cars, store windows, people walking towards you, people passing you… But what I did notice about Santander is that they did try to keep the camino in rural settings. I was surprised! It is like they tried to hide the city. The camino took you through parks, and areas shaded by trees. It was kind of nice to walk through a city like this. This continued for most of the way until you reach the outskirts of the city and you start entering the little towns. Another thing that I notice about the rural areas is that there aren’t as many cars. People walk more. They travel slowly, they appreciate where they are. They appreciate the fresh air and the landscape. While people from a city are always in cars zooming quickly. They are going so fast paying attention to what is front of them, that they do not notice the beauty of the landscape.
Día 39 en España: Santander a Santillana del Mar
Día 15 en el Camino del Norte
I didn’t want to leave that hotel. I was comfortable and overfed, but unconsciously, I packed my bag and I was ready to go. Something was compelling me to continue on this journey, something was calling me internally. Bag packed, I joined my companions downstairs for a large breakfast. What I have notice here in Spain, is that breakfast is very light. Europeans don’t eat very much for breakfast, not like us, Americans that we tend to eat a tremendous about of food for breakfast. After consuming as much food as we could because the price was “all you can eat,” we threw on our packs and headed for the door. I embraced my mother and gave her a kiss. I will see her next time in Santiago. Today, the hike is going to be a very industrial hike, like the one in Bilbao. We have to hike through the city, take a train a short ways, and then hike again to Santillana del Mar.
We arrived to the train station and took the train to the next town because the camino took a dangerous route near the railroad track. This was a perfect example of quick travel that I wanted to avoid, but safety first! It was a different type of traveling where I could focus and enjoy the marvelous landscape passing by. The train stopped and we hopped off into another industrial area. This time it was a power plant. It was enormous and it was polluting the air. I could compare this power plant to a volcano! It was big, and it was letting out a ton of smoke. Leaving the industrial area behind, we entered the farm fields. We continued walking for 10 kilometers and reached Santillana del Mar. I was not expecting a place like this. This place is old and has a rich history. The whole town in made of stone! It takes you back in time to the Middle Ages. The roads running through the town are very old and everything still has a rustic look. I like this town. Dropping off our packs in the albergue, we visited the Inquisition torture museum. What a creepy place! They had every kind of instrument of torture. As we continued to walk around the city, we had surprises around each corner. This town, from afar looked dead, but once inside, it was buzzing. It has a zoo, big hotels (that follow the rocky architectural style), several museums and a concert of rock. We had dinner close to the rock concert and heard the music. It began to rain. The first rain we had the entire trip! We returned to the albergue behind the museum. The albergue was very small and it had no kitchens. The albergue opens up at 4 and it fills up very quickly. But there is also camping. I wish we could stay at the camping. It is much larger plus it has a pool.
Día 40 en España: Santillana del Mar a San Vicente de la Barquera
Día 16 en el Camino del Norte
Last night it was unbearably hot. Eight people crammed into a small room made it like a steam room. I didn’t sleep at all. We rose early with everyone else because we were so tightly packed together we could hear every sound. Today we will go all the way to S. Vicente de Barquera, 34 kilometers away. The sky was cloudy for the entire day. It did not rain but there was cool wind blowing at us the entire time. Alvaro had received some disturbing news from back home. I will not share the story because it is his to tell. The messages that he had received had put him on edge. Alvaro has had a rough camino thus far. Problems with his legs, feet, and other matters have really made this journey difficult for him. As we hike to Comillas, Alvaro was very quiet. I could tell that he was having trouble. We all sat down and talked. He told us that is going to take a bus back to Madrid when we reached Comillas. We all agreed. The rest of the walk was very quiet. Comillas from afar looks like another typical little town, but like Santillana del Mar, it was a very touristic place. There were several albergues located in this little town. One of them was actually a jail! That would be a cool place to stay. I little creepy, but interesting. Alvaro purchased his bus ticket and hopped onto the bus. Charlie and I watched the bus pull away. Now there were two again.
Now what? Well, we continued walking to Barquera. Charlie and I didn’t really say a word while hiking today. It was a silent march. The sky was still cloudy, which may be lowered the mood of both of us. But this kind of weather reminded me of the past camino that we did two years ago. That camino was a totally different adventure with that a different story to tell. It was also the atmosphere that reminded me of the Camino Primitivo. I thought about maybe changing the plan and walking the Primitive route again, but I changed my mind. I love the ocean and I don’t get to see it that much. So I decided to stick to the coast. We arrived to Barquera, and to enter the town we had to cross a very large bridge. The water below us was so clear and beautiful that it was a temptation to jump into it. The albergue was located on top of the hill. Once we were there, three girls arrived, also from the U.S. They started in Santander and they were planning on walking to Santiago. They were walking slowly and we will probably not see them again. After dinner, I had an amazing conversation with Charo. She is also a pilgrims and she is a huge rock climber. So we sat there for about an hour and a half talking about climbing. It was fun sharing stories.
Día 41 en España: San Vicente de la Barquera a Llanes
Día 17 en el Camino del Norte
This morning a pilgrim turned on the lights way too early. People were still sleeping and she turned them on so that she could pack her pack. It was not a pleasant way to wake up. Anyways, I was up and I began packing my pack as well. Last night people asked us where we were planning on going. We responded “Llanes.” Many people thought we were crazy. It’s about forty kilometers away! Nothing we haven’t done before. Later, we found out that it was bad decision. For some reason we we’re hiking very slowly. That wasn’t like us at all because we are usually marching and walking very fast passing people right and left. It was super hot and we kept making frequent stops. The camino stayed on the road almost the entire time. It wasn’t a nice walk. It was the same thing over and over again. Since it was on the road, we had to be very cautious about cars. There were points where it was a little scary. We started to see signs that said “Llanes.” We were almost there. Not! After hiking 38 kilometer, the camino decided to take us up a thousand foot climber around a mountain, and do a loop. It was a total waste of time and energy. Thank you camino! We had run out of water, and it was super hot! Charlie and I had reach a certain delirium. We decided to race up the hills. We were sprinting. At that time everything was funny. We were laughing at everything. We finally began our descent into Llanes. Once in the town, we did not recognize it at all. Last time we were in Llanes was in 2013 when we did the Camino Primitivo and it was a ghost town, probably because it was raining so hard that an umbrella wouldn’t do you any good. This time it was hot and there were so many tourist! This couldn’t be Llanes. We found a little market and purchased water. Cold water. It was so good. While drinking the water, I gained my barring. I knew exactly where I was in the city. The stores, the streets became all so familiar all at once. Finding the albergue was easy. We checked in and found our room. That night at dinner, Charlie and I decided to hike alone the next day. Because we both knew where we were going. And it would be interesting to see what it would be like to hike alone.
Día 42 en España: Llanes a Cuerres
Día 18 en el Camino del Norte
I woke up early this morning. Much earlier than everyone else. I had roared my back pack last night so that I could grab it, quickly pack a few thing and hike. Last night Charlie and I decided that we should hike by ourselves. We aren’t mad each other or anything like that; we are still friends. I wonder how long that was going to last. Well, that is why I woke up early. I was up before the sun had risen in the sky. I had my breakfast in my pack and I was planning on eating it in a very special spot. I have hiked this route two years ago and I knew exactly where I was going. I was very excited to walk, because I was wondering if anything had changed. The air was cool, and everything was quiet. Nobody was out on the streets of Llanes. Last night there were a lot of people walking around. I left town without making a sound. After five kilometers of walking, I reached my spot. It has an amazing view of the sun rising. I had the ocean in front of me and the beautiful mountains behind me. I sat there eating my breakfast cookies, and drank my orange juice. It was a perfect moment. I was so happy. I was a lone beside the birds, and had insects around me. The sun rose and it turned the land orange. The layer of dew upon the farm fields reflected the light and made the land glimmer. It was a peaceful sight. Only on the northern route can you have a moment like this one. I sat there for an hour enjoying the moment. This was a time for me to slow everything down. I steady my breathing, relaxed and meditated. The sound of pilgrims disrupted the peace and quiet moment. I packed up my stuff and left. Refreshed and full, I was a machine again I was hiking fast, may be even running. I knew this route so well. I remember it like it was on the back of my hands. Nothing has changed on the route. The churches haven’t changed. The route was the exactly same. The only difference was that there were more people today than two years ago when I did the camino in April. Last time we hike it we were the only ones walking through town. This time people were everywhere enjoying the summer temperature, a perfect temperature. Last time I hiked it was raining a lot and I had my poncho on the entire time. Today I was in shorts and t-shirt. I arrived to Cuerres before noon. This is where I was going to meet Charlie. I remember last time when I reached this town, I was dead. My feet hurt and I was exhausted! At that moment I could walk another ten kilometers. I sat in the bar for two hours writing in my journal and having a refreshment. Charlie arrived with a smile on his face. We both had a wonderful hike. I think it was nice to hike alone. It gave me time to reflect, to relax and to hike at my own pace. We found the place where we stayed before and slept there. Each of us enjoyed a warm shower and a cozy bed.
Día 43 en España: Cuerres a La Isla.
Día 19 en el Camino del Norte
Finally we got to use out the ponchos. I know it sounds weird, but we have been carrying them around for so long that I was beginning to think that it was never going to rain. It was a cold refreshing hike. The rain changed the landscape; it made the colors of the flowers, and the green or the leaves and fields pop. It was beautiful! It wasn’t a very interesting day, just a day to enjoy the landscape more. We kept a steady pace the entire day and arrived to La Isla early in the day. I apologize for not writing a lot today, but in every book or in every journal there is always a short day or chapter, and that is OK.
I am getting easier and more comfortable with mellow days. Nothing special happens today, and that is fine with me. It is probably the rain that makes things calm and relax.
Día 44 en España: La Isla a Villaviciosa
Día 20 en el Camino del Norte
The day started of very slow. We were the last ones to leave the albergue. For some reason it seems that we are getting very lazy. We are hiking everyday, but with each day that goes by we are waking up later and later. Well, at least Charlie is. I am one of those people that when the alarm goes off, I am up and ready to go. It doesn’t matter what time. It could be at four in the morning and I will be ready to go. Charlie will not get out of bed until 7:30 am. If I wake him up before that time, he will get angry and he will keep that mood for the rest of the day. I don’t want that. Well, we left La Isla, and we got lost in the first five minute. How could that be possible? The camino brought us to a farmer’s field. Flash back! I have done this before, we did the exact same thing two years ago! I looked at Charlie and the same thing was running through his head. Laughter, we both thought that it was very funny. We got on course and headed to Villaviciosa. It wasn’t a long hike but it was a nice hike. There were clouds covering the way and they kept us cool. The ocean was near us the entire time and the breeze felt good. But what was interesting about this hike were my thoughts. While hiking, I was thinking back onto what a pilgrim once told me in Grañón. When he was about to leave the albergue, I was wishing him a “buen camino,” when he stopped me in mid sentence and said, “no, it is “buen camino de la vida.” The camino does not end in Santiago, the camino will end when your time comes.” At first I just got hexed, but I thought about it. Right now I have one goal. Nothing else is on my mind. All I want right now is to arrive to Santiago, and maybe a cheeseburger, but that doesn’t count. I need to get to Santiago. That’s my goal, but when I am done, what is going to be my next goal? I know my journey will continue after that but, where will it lead me? I for sure will not have yellow arrows point in the direction I must travel. What will I do after this? I will go to school and hopefully I will get good grades. But then what? What is my career? Where will I be? All these kinds of question were running through my head while hiking. It was making me nervous. Like I said before, the camino drives people to Santiago. It drives me, it motivates me. Hopefully, actually I know I will find that drive in other fields in my life. “Buen camino de la vida.” That is what I want, to chose the good path and live a good live.
Día 45 en España: Villaviciosa a Gijón, mejor dicho Avilés!
Día 21 en el Camino del Norte
I had such weird dreams last night. I didn’t know that I could twitch so much! I didn’t have a lot of sugar or a coffee, I was just super restless. Of course I woke up before Charlie and left the building in search of breakfast. There was a bar below where we were staying last night. So I sat down and started looking at the plan for the next few days. They look long, 45 to 40 kilometers days. I was thinking about cutting them down, but then we will not be able to make it to Finisterre at the end. I need to make it there! No my mind was even expanding my camino beyond Santiago, I wanted to go to “the end of the world!” I enjoyed a chocolate biscuit and a cafe con leche and returned to the room. Charlie was still sleeping, snoring. Every time he snores, it sound like he is choking. It is kind of gross. I nudged him, and told him to get up. He did so without a word. Our plan was to go to the Gijon. We left the albergue and we came upon a familiar sign. We arrived to a fork in the road. It was the split to the Primitive route and the Coast route. Two years ago we went left and went to Oviedo. This year we will go right to Gijon. We went right and it started with a huge climb, a very steep, long, grinding hike. It was brutal! While hiking up we encountered a 72 year old lady that was also doing the camino. She was suffering up this hill and we still have a long ways to go. I asked her to give me her pack. She was shocked, she could not believe it. She gave me her pack and I carried it up the entire hill. She was so happy! I reached the top before her and waited for her. The trust the lady had in me! I could of run away with her pack and all of her belonging. But no, she trusted me. She arrived to the top and gave me a hug and a huge “thanks!” It made me feel really good about myself. Whenever I can, I want to do a random act of kindness everyday. The rest of the day was relatively flat. We were told that the albergue for pilgrims was at the entrance de of Gijon. We wanted to be in Gijon to see the city and explore a little bit. We walked another ten kilometers into the city. Once there, every hotel, hostel, pension, everything was full. It was a holiday weekend and we didn’t have a place to stay. Perfect! We didn’t want to backtrack to the camping. I asked around. A lady told me that a bus was leaving in ten minutes to Avilés. I’ll take it. We ran to the bus station and jumped onto
the bus. We arrived to Aviles and found the albergue. The last two beds.
What I noticed about Gijón, although it seemed to be a big city, was its good calm feeling. It did not feel like the other cities that we had crossed so far. People were not rushing, they seemed to be just going for “paseos”, and there were not so much car noises. I saw more bicycles there than in any other city (or village) in the camino. It was not until I did the research that I notice what this city has done to become environmentally friendly. Too bad that we could not enjoy this beautiful city! But we needed a place to sleep after a long walk. Plans can change in your camino and you have to take them as they come.
Report – ¿Qué hace de Gijón una ciudad urbana sostenible?
Pregunta – ¿Cuál es la Importancia de la ciudad de Gijón?
Gijon is a city on the coast of Asturias rich in history, culture and gastronomy sports. “It is said that she lives in the urban development with a privileged natural environment.”
By their efforts to keep as sustainable urban area, the Institute for Responsible Tourism (entity sponsored by UNESCO, member of the World Tourism Organization and a founding member of the Council of Global Sustainable Tourism) gave Gijon in 2013 the certificate Biosphere World Urban Destination and places to Gijon as head of a tourist city and sustainable at the same time. To receive this certificate Gijon has had to prove that their culture and gastronomy are balanced with its lush green landscapes and your environmental care, residents appreciate the quality of life that is lived in Gijon and the tourist also appreciates the quality offered to meet your needs. To obtain this certificate, the Institute for Responsible Tourism, did some studies to see if was complying with the rules established by the Biosphere Destination.
“Gijon not sees tourism as an economic sector, closed and independent, but as a transversal reality, linked to the city in the economy, in the territory, the culture and society.” In this line Gijon has recently launched several projects such as “LabCityCar”, CASCADE project, ecomilla project that would make the city a destination in eco-efficient that advocates for urban sustainability, energy savings and the achievement of quality services to the citizens and visitors, i.e. become a city of the Smart network cities and communities.”
The intention of Gijon is “to improve and to take advantage of the positive impact of tourism activities executed in the city and to prevent and minimize the negative impacts that can result. He also wants to acquire an obligation and commitment to the satisfaction of both the tourists and citizens, involving both parties in the decisions taken in the field of tourism and facilitating to the extent possible the balance between the integration of the visitor and the respect and coexistence with the resident. In this way, Gijon undertakes and commitment to working in its consolidation as a tourist destination differentiated, sustainable and be a reference in issues of innovation, environment and quality.”
Gijon has approved a Plan for Sustainable Mobility to transform pedestrian only streets and other semi pedestrian paths in the center of the city and the creation of lanes for bicycles and buses.
Día 46 en España: Avilés a Soto de Luiña
Día 22 en el Camino del Norte
Well today was a 40 kilometer day. It was a long one! Last night’s stay was not very pleasant. The room smelled like mold and febreeze combined together. It was very difficult to breath in there. So, I spent most of my time last night outside sitting in the chairs reading my companion book I am off! As soon at the sun started to kiss the horizon I woke Charlie up and got the heck out of there. Unlike Gijón, that every twenty feet there was a shell on the ground, the camino in Avilés is very poorly marked so we asked a few people where to go. Now that I think about it, Gijón was the only city that was marked well. This part of the camino is very boring, it does not take you to see any cool landscapes of monuments. It seems like the camino has a mind of its own. It will go up, down, back and forth. It is like the camino has mood swings like a person. Then, I imagined the first pilgrims that walked the Camino del Norte. They were walking in the farthest northern part of the Iberian Peninsula to avoid the Moors in Spain. But, I could imagine that those pilgrims would have chosen the easier way to Santiago in this camino. The Camino del Norte now is not an easy hike for the regular pilgrim who is not physically fit. Don’t you think that those pilgrims would have gone around upon seeing a hill? It seems to be the quicker and more direct route without having to go up high hills. I do not know, but if I would have been a pilgrim in the Middle Ages I would have found an easier route along the northern coast. The camino now takes you up steepest coastal mountains, and then down. Going around maybe takes one hour. Going up and over takes three. Who ever designed this camino probably wasn’t thinking. I am not complaining, I am just noticing things. There is a lot of time to reflect and about things when you walk for hours. The slow traveling really makes you pay attention to many things that you would probably not notice by car. It was starting to get late in the day and we still had and a long ways to go. We were going to hike quickly to make it to the albergue before it close. So then, we began the speed walk and because we were fast, we made it to Soto with a 45 minutes to spare. While we were jogging/walking we passed another pilgrim. We did stop and chat with him but we had a good look at him; he was overweight and sweating like a piece of cheese that has been left out in the sun! He was struggling. On a different day, I would have offered my help but I was in a hurry. We found him later in the bar of Soto. There is no way he could have made it here by walking! We later found out that he had taken the bus! And there he was, stuffing his face with burgers! I think he ate about three.
Día 47 en España: Soto de Luiña a Canero (Luarca – hotel en medio del camino)
Día 23 en el Camino del Norte
Last night was awful again! The fat man that I was telling you about snored like an old lawnmower! He can snore on his inhales and on his exhales, better say without a break! I didn’t even know that was possible, it was incredible! Well, I didn’t sleep a bit, and neither did Charlie. We both woke up kind of grumpy, which might be a sign of disaster later. We stopped at the local bar of Soto and had our breakfast. The bartender told us where to go and said to make sure that we follow the arrows. What else would we do? We followed the camino in silence. It is kind of odd walking through the northern forest of Spain. When you are in it, it doesn’t feel like you are in Europe. It is more like South America. The vegetation is very thick, birds and wildlife everywhere, and there is a high percent of humidity. I wasn’t even walking and my clothes were getting wet. The heat was uncomfortable! We didn’t have a set destination this morning. We no longer wanted to follow the guide book, most of the routes on the book are wrong, and also it does not give you all the information that you need. So we were just going to go on following what the camino was offering to us without a plan. Making this decision made me feel better. It was a good feeling to know that I was no longer controlled by a guide book or the rush to make it to a certain place at a certain time. I think that is how every trip should be created. It is important to create a plan, but it is also important to be flexible and do not stick to it exactly. If you follow it page by page, you will miss new and exciting things. It is like life. It is good to know what you want in life and creating a plan is essential, but it is also imperative that you take the time to deviate a little bit and take the pleasure to slow down to experience new things. We kept on hiking until we found a small hotel on the side of the road. We were not planning on staying there, just to have a sugary drink to keep us going. The owner of the hotel approached us at the table. He asked us our names and if would like to stay here. I asked him the price and he gave us a special deal: our own room with a shower, dinner and breakfast. Deal! We stayed! It was exactly what we needed after staying up all night in the last albergue. We entered our room and dropped our pack. The phone of room started to ring. I answered and it was the owner. “I hope you enjoy your stay here,” he said, “if you would like your clothes washed put them in a bag and bring them up to the front desk.” This place is awesome! We brought our clothes up and then went to the beach. It was so nice to jump into the salty water. The water was cold, the waves were huge, and the sand between our toes was the perfect massage after long days of walking the camino. This day was perfect!
Día 48 en España: Canero (Luarca) a Barqueros (Navia)
Día 24 en el Camino del Norte
Today’s journal is a tribute to my feet.
It is incredible how much beating you (feet) can take. You guys are shoveled into shoes and are bound into those from when the sun rises until the sun sets. You two are tortured everyday, you are pounded relevantly against the ground. You suffer from aches, sores, and blisters. You two are definitely not the prettiest things in the world, and you will never be. I think you are the last part of the body admired by people, but they should thank you for all you do.
Without you two, I would not be able to do this journey. I thank you everyday carrying my weight, plus that of the pack that slung on my shoulders. I thank you for carrying me to new places where I am able to see wonderful sites and magical landscape. Sometimes I think that you have a mind of your own, because I feel like I do not need my eyes to find the route to Santiago. You wake up in the morning, and without complains you two guide me there. Thank you for carrying me this far! The only thing I asked you is to please, please don’t let me down!
It’s a funny thing. I do believe the most popular words on the camino are “sore, ache, hurt.” How many time I have heard “my feet hurt?” Thousands from all kind of people. If you think about it, they are there and they feel alive. It reaches the point where the pain is good, and it is making you feel more and more alive. It is a reminder that you are alive, happy and well.
Día 49 en España: Barquero (Navia) a Ribadeo
Día 25 en el Camino del Norte
A really hot hike!
Today was a very long hot hike. It was ridiculous! It was so hot that I needed to distract myself from the heat. I had to shut my mind off from thinking about how freaking hot it was. The camino was on a paved road the entire time! The black pavement absorbed the sun like a grill on fire, and my shoes were absorbing all of it. It felt like I was walking on a bed of hot coals and that my shoes were starting to melt. To shut out my mind from the sun and heat I had to use my music. It worked really well and distracted me making the walking in that heat more bearable. Ten kilometer went by and we reached a bar. I desperately needed to have a cold refreshment and to refill my camelback. Although the landscape did not look like a dessert at all, the word “camel” was perfect for the type of heat we were experiencing. We stopped and enjoyed the shade. The top of my backpack was cold from the cold water I put in my carrier. A cat sensed the cool pack jumped on it and layed down to sleep on the cool surface. I did not disturbed it because she was hot and I wanted to help. After half an hour we packed up, and set off back into the blazing sun. There was very little shade on this part of the journey. When there was shade it was difficult to leave it and continue on. We stayed along the coast, and we knew that today was the last day that we would see the coast. After today we will start to climb the mountains away from the ocean on our way to Santiago. Today it was a special day. We entered Galicia when we step in beautiful Ribadeo.
Día 50 en España: Ribadeo a Lourenzá (un lugar de acampada libre en el bosque)
Día 26 en el Camino del Norte
I have heard so many people say that the camino is not a race. I will have to disagree with them. Yes, the camino is not a race to Santiago, but everyday it is a race to beat the heat of the sun and to beat the other pilgrims to the albergues. Last night was the fifth day in a row where the albergues were full. Same with all the hostels and other alternatives. Luckily, we found a very cheap place were the man at the counter sympathized for us and gave us an excellent deal, and a wonderful breakfast. After having an excellent breakfast, we set out to start climbing the mountains. Today the weather was completely the opposite from yesterday. The clouds were hugging the mountains when we started our hike. While we were climbing we entered the clouds and the fog. We stayed up high in the mountain for the rest of the day. While we were hiking, I realized that I didn’t have any money, I forgot to go the ATM. I was so hot and tired yesterday that I totally forgot. It was almost lunch time and I didn’t have any money. I was hungry and started to get worried. We continued to hike and we entered a large eucalyptus tree forest. Now that we were away from the ocean, it was a different feeling. The ground was full of ferns, bushes, and vines, and growing out of the undergrowth were these large trees. They towered over everything ruling the forest. Although there are not eucalyptus trees in Idaho, this forest made me feel at home. We arrived to a little town where they were serving pilgrim’s menus, but I didn’t have money with me. I opened my pack and I searched for ten euros in every corner of my messy possessions. I was lucky! I was able to collect enough change to buy the meal. After eating the large pilgrim’s meal, we continued on our way. The fog was still hugging the mountains and it was hugging us too making us wet. We did not mind that at all. The coolness of the fog felt good against our flesh. It was a foreign feeling. Yes, we were wet but, for the first time, not from our sweat! We began our descent out of the mountains, meaning that we were getting close to where we will be spending the night. The clouds began to separate letting the sun rays pass through. Our bodies and pack immediately began to dry. We arrive to this small town called Lourenzá. Boy, we were ready for a warm shower and a cozy bed! We were denied that pleasure. For the past five days the albergues have been full and we had to find other cheap alternatives. We were tired and frustrated for not being to find a place to stay. At least, we could satisfy another basic necessity by going to market to buy some food. We left the town. Plan B, we were going to find a quiet place and set up our hammocks. We found a nice dry place with plenty of trees where the fog earlier in the day had not touched this area of the forest. It was very well protected. We set up our sleeping arrangement, ate, played some card and went to bed early.
Día 51 en España: Lourenzá a Gontán
Día 27 en el Camino del Norte
Last night was great! It was cool and quiet. All I could hear was the faint snores of Charlie. I was content and very relaxed, and I said to myself, “this is the way that one should do the camino.” There are very few albergues in the northern route and if they are going to have more people doing this route they need to have more albergues or camping areas. We woke up when the sun rose. It was going to be another climbing day, and we feared that it was not going to be easy. There weren’t any clouds, so it was going to be hot once again. Lucky there were more trees and shade. But the heat of the sun not only warmed the camino, it also made it very humid. Instead of the cool dew from yesterday, we had to fight the humid heat this time. Today marked the last big hill of the journey, after that it will be flat to Santiago. We hiked to the next town to have breakfast, coffee and toast, the typical spanish breakfast. From that small town till where were planning to spend the night, it was going to be a steep climb. It was the hottest part of the day but we knew that we had to push on. From the very bottom we could saw windmills at the top, and we rushed up there with the hope to find a strong breeze; they wind-towers were spinning very fast. Once there, I felt like Don Quixote wanting to fight the windmills, how they could be moving without wind? not even a little breeze? It seemed like they had a life of their own! The sweat combined with humidity made the hike even worse. We climbed and climbed, the windmills were taunting us. We knew where we needed to go, but we were not getting any closer. Finally, after what seemed hours of constant uphills, we made it to the top. It was windy! Our sweat cooled very quickly and it unleashed a new energy within us. We charged on into the town. We made it. We sat down at the bar and celebrated with a cold beer. I am not really a beer drinker, but this beer had a certain taste to it. It was the taste of victory! I closed my eyes and enjoyed the wind. Once again, the albergue was closed, but this time I didn’t care. We were going to find a place to sleep if it was not inside, we could manage to do it outside; and I kind of prefered it. I didn’t care if I had a bed or not. While I was thinking this, a man approached me and asked if I had a place to stay for the night. I hesitated a little bit but I replied “no.” He said he was going to charge us the same price as the albergue, and that we could stay at his pension. We had our own room and bathroom! Thank you, kind sir!
REPORTE: ¿Qué hace a esta región sostenible?
It is obvious when a person travels to rural regions of Lugo that is a sustainable region. As in the Basque Country, the small agricultural fields of Galicia seem to produce enough to satisfy its population without a big impact on the landscape and the earth.
The peoples are very small and very close to the other peoples sometimes few cottages make a people. Easily a person can go from one village to another, and find in the agriculture lands enough food for a family or a group of families. There are no large markets or supermarkets nearby, then the people living with the land. Farmers know how to best exploit the earth without making a big impact. If you do not need transporting the food, don’t pollute the air with cars and do not require plastics for transporting it.
Farms, are also in the middle of different forest types. The most typical are the eucalyptus forest. The eucalyptus was introduced because of their advantages. This tree grows very quickly and produces timber for furniture and paper. When the land is deforested, farmers plant new trees that grow very well and fast. Never see places that are completely deforested. This type of forest is not good for the earth because where it grows this tree does not allow other species of trees or other vegetation grow. The leaf oil burn the land. This is a problem for the environment and the government of Galicia is working hard on fixing that.
Galicia is the land of a thousand rivers. Not as the plateau (where is the French Way), here there are rivers free without hydroelectric dams, with a good amount of water and fish. Since the rivers are well taken care of, there are fresh water and fresh fish that the farms next to them can have.
The windmills that we have encountered along the way in this region are another example of a region with sustainable energy. This clean energy has a good future because this energy is going to best and provides the region with enough energy. It is clear that the farms do not require a large amount of energy.
De Lourenzã and many other peoples greenhouses have been established within the community to encourage the production of other vegetables that are not native to the land to have a large selection of meals.
My only concern for rural areas is the amount of garbage. You can find garbage near the road. I did my best to pick up trash, but there is a lot and i can’t pick up everything. I am looking for a little bit about the problem of trash and recycling, and I’m happy to know that in some places, such as De Lourenzã is an example for other cities. De Lourenzã is a perfect example for other peoples because it is informing the inhabitants to how to recycle, how to dispose of trash and how to use organic materials.
Día 52 en España: Gontan to Villalba
Día 28 en el Camino del Norte
This morning was a peaceful wake up. There wasn’t any snoring last night and no early risers. It was a very short day today, a rest day compared to the past days. It was a flat and dusty walk. Charlie and I started walking together, but I was feeling good and found a different rhythm of walking. I was walking faster today. So, we separated early into the day. There were any complaints because it is nice to hike by yourself once in a while. The walk was hypnotic. The trees of the forest loomed and curled over the trail making it like a tunnel with no end. Combining the tunnel and the rhythm of my feet I fell into a trance. I had no thoughts running through my head. I was meditating. It didn’t even feel like I was walking. All the soreness and pain had left my body. I wasn’t walking, I was gliding! The trance broke as soon as I stepped into a town. I had no idea what the town’s name was but I was positive that it could not be town where I going to meet Charlie. I looked around to find a name. On the back of a car there was a sticker that said “Villalba.” I had made it here and I didn’t even know it! That was the easiest walk I had ever had. Time passed and I saw Charlie walking up the trail. I invited him to sit with me at the bar and to enjoy a refreshment.
The walk today was easy, but finding the albergue was difficult. The town of Villalba is a maze. Luckily, when we found it, we took the only two beds left. We settled in and explored the town. We found out that we had already seen the whole town trying to find the albergue. Ernest of the evening consisted of playing cards, talking to other pilgrims and telling stories.
Día 53 en España: Villalba to Miraz
Día 29 en el Camino del Norte
I no longer want to stay in an albergue. The fat man that I mentioned earlier in my journal was there. His snoring combined with other people’s snoring was unbearable. It was loud and, although everyone was on beat, it was a terrible concert! It was a stuffy room with so many people in it! We left earlier than most days. Today we were going to go to Miraz, a small little village in the rural parts of Galicia. There, we were going to see my mother who is going to visit Lugo, not very far from Miraz. While walking today I thought about the idea of slow travel again. It is not like I had forgotten it, not at all!, because it has been in my thoughts at all times, after all, that is all I am doing these days. But this time, I stopped to really reflect on it. At the beginning of the trip I told myself that the point of the trip is slow travel, to travel slowly and see, listen and absorb everything around me. Today, I thought back to day one. I have been definitely been traveling slowly. I have been walking for so many days now that they are starting to blend together. It is a good thing that I am writing everyday and that I am taking photos. If not, the days would all be mixed together. So far on this camino I have participated in cultural exercises, heard different languages, seen different people, and seen amazing landscapes. It is the landscape that surprised me the most. I have done the camino and seen and met all different kinds of people: basques, cantabrians, astures, and many foreigners. Because of the last time I did the camino, I feel more comfortable talking to strangers, especially those sharing the same pilgrimage experience. Before the camino experience, I was a little scared to approach them to ask questions or just have a conversation with them. Now, I enjoy sitting down and hear people’s stories and how their camino is going without rushing and thinking about the things I need to do next. But the landscape is what I love! That is when time seems to stop. It takes a while for me to absorb the beauty of a beautiful landscape. I like to stop and use my senses to admire it. I always take a photo, but a photo isn’t the same as being submersed in it. I wish I were an artist so I could sit there and paint it, but a photo is the best I can do. Now, in front of me, I had large mountains and windmills atop the ridge line. The space between each windmill seemed to have been carefully measured like an artificial forest planted by humans. “I hope we don’t have to climb those mountains,” I said. We arrived to Miraz. When we were entering this small little town, I saw my mother standing in the middle of the camino with a huge smile on her face. Seeing her smile put an even larger smile on my face. I gave her a huge hug and immediately she said that I stank. It was difficult to disagree with her. I did stink! and we both laugh! I am a pilgrim, it is mandatory to smell bad! We checked into the albergue. We were planning on camping but the albergue was small and we decided to stay. We thought that because not so many people were going to sleep together, we could have a nice night sleep. When we were having a drink with my mother in the only bar in this tiny little village, a familiar face showed up through the door threshold and asked “albergue?” Our eyes could not believe it! The German fat man (sorry! I could never pronounce or spelled his name) was there too! How was he able to reach the village so fast? When we left this morning he was still sleeping! We did not know if it was appropriate to laugh or to cry! At least my mother bought us a nice dinner which I consumed quickly and then went to bed knowing that we were going to have another hell night.
Día 54 en España: Miraz to outside of Sobrado Dos Monxes
Día 30 en el Camino del Norte
Surprise! Last night I slept very well! I was close to the window and I could feel the fresh air outside. Although there was some snoring, I slept better because the temperature was cold. The albergue where we stayed was runned by volunteers just like the albergue that I was working at Grañón, but this one was runned by British men. The volunteers were super nice. We shared our experience as hospitaleros and I told them about my stay at Grañón. There were shocked to hear about my experience running the albergue by myself the first couple of days. This albergue was small and did not have the traditions they have at Grañón. In the morning, I gave them my greatest thanks for volunteering. We were the last ones to leave, and then the first ones to arrive to Sobrado. We hiked so fast! We were passing people left and right. When we arrived to the bar at Sobrao, everyone asked us why we were walking so fast. We responded that was the way we hiked every day. This way we see new faces and met new people everyday, except for the fat man, who seemed to be glued to us no matter how fast we walked and how many kilometers we covered. “How did he do it? Did he take busses or taxis?” I started to think that it was going to be a mystery for us for the rest of our camino. So, today we decided to hike more as a normal human being. We bought our food in Sobrado, and walked about five kilometers outside of town. We found a nice campsite. We set out our hammocks and slid into them falling asleep very quickly.
Día 55 en España: Acampada fuera de Sobrado a Opina
Día 31 en el Camino del Norte
Last night the fog rolled in and I got very wet. Somehow Charlie did not. Every time the wind blew a little bit the dew from the trees or rain hit my face. It was difficult to fall asleep that night. The fog and the night made it seem like a horror movie. Looking out into the darkness gave me goosebumps. Once I fell asleep, I slept like a log until I realized I was wet. When the sun rose we could hear several pilgrims walking. “School groups,” we thought because they were a lot of voices and a lot of laughter all at once. Today we were going to join the French route. I wasn’t very thrilled to be going on the French route. It meant more people and the fact that we are very close to Santiago, two more days. We left the campsite and rejoined the camino. We didn’t have to walk very far until we found a bar to have breakfast. Cafe con leche, with eggs tomatoes and toast. It was perfect! We were told at the bar that there were two routes to join the French route. One was going to Arzua and the other one was going to Opina. We decided to go to Opina because it was less crowded and it brought us closer to Santiago. The next day we did not have to hike as far. The only bad thing about this hike was that it was all on pavement. We discovered that walking on pavement hurts your feet more than normal, and you definitely travel slower. It was a very nice quiet hike. There were no many cars on the road, thank God! All you could hear was the sound of the birds, cows, and the occasional bell of the sheep. I was thinking about the French route. Last time I did the camino I found out that the French route was a zoo! Too many people that can ruin your experience as a pilgrim. When I did it last time it was May. Now it was one of the busiest time of the year, July. We arrived to Opina expecting to see a bunch of pilgrims hiking. There wasn’t a single one, odd! We found a place and it was strange to think that we were going to be in Santiago the following day. I was very excited and very nervous to get there.
Día 56 en España: Opina a Santiago de Compostela
Día 32 en el Camino de Santiago
Well today was the day! I was going to walk into Santiago de Compostela today. I had no idea how I was going to feel walking into the plaza Obradoiro and look upon the cathedral. I was very very nervous. The walk today was very familiar. I could remember every turn, and structure on the camino. Everything was just like it was two years ago. Nothing had changed. The only difference now was that the hike felt a lot shorter than last time. Two years ago it took me a long time to do this part of the journey, and now it seemed like I was flying. It was a very smooth walk. It seemed like my feet knew the way or they knew it was the end. While I was hiking I asked myself, “why am I doing the camino again?” Although I am doing this for school, the main reason is that I am doing this for myself. I wanted to do the camino and find some answers, but answers to what questions? Deep inside me, I knew that the questions I had to answer for the school report were not the only ones; I had to have my own personal questions and I was hoping that the camino was going to make me discover them. I wanted it to show me important things about myself and life that I could utilize in the future. I heard several stories of pilgrims walking into the plaza and then, all of a sudden, having a revelation, or finding whatever they were searching for. I was hoping that the same happen to me. We finally climbed the last hill and saw the statue. We had arrived to Monte do Gozo! and from there, if you look carefully enough you can see the cathedral in the distance. At this point we had only five more kilometers to go. I got butterflies in my stomach. We hiking down and the hill and entered santiago. It was a kind of personal ceremonial entrance. We had made it to the city. Each step was getting me closer and closer. At this point, nothing hurt, my feet, knees, ankles felt great. I was almost there! We were entering another big city, but it was obvious that this one was different! No big industrial areas, a lot of people walking, even the air had a special smell. I stopped at an intersection and I told Charlie, “If I remembered correctly, right up this little hill is the cathedral, and around the corner is the plaza.” I had to prepare myself. I had been there before, of course, but it was like reuniting with a good old friend who you waited for two years to see again. I had so many questions in my mind, “What’s going to happen when I stand in that plaza? What will happen when I see Santiago? What will I feel?” I took a few deep breaths. The green pedestrian walk sign came on at the crosswalk. I hiked up the little hill. I knew the cathedral was right there, but I did not look at it right away. I wanted to see it from the front, the main facade. I looked at the opposite direction while walking down to the plaza, and all I could see were people taking photos. Again, the first image of the cathedral that I wanted to see was the main facade. So I continued on. I went through the shady archway where the music of bagpipes were echoing on the granite massive walls, and as soon as I rounded the corner, there it was the large plaza of Obradoiro. There were several pilgrims laying down admiring the cathedral. I kept walking with my back facing the cathedral until I was in the center of the plaza. Once in the center I turned around. There was the massive home of the Apostle Santiago! It was beautiful
While sharing my experiences on the camino with all of you is something that I do not mind, sharing my personal journey and the answers to my questions is so personal, that I prefer to leave it that way, personal. What I know is that the camino makes you a better person, it pushes you physically and mentally and you experience feelings that you have not had before. You have all the time in the world to think about your past, your present and your future.
Thank you Santiago for helping me along my journey. Thank you for giving me the strength and the love that I have received and given along the way. Thank you Santiago for showing me the kindness. I will continue to do the camino in the future, so that I can meet others and remind them that there is still kindness and love in the world. Until next time my friend, when I hike the camino next year!
So this is where my journey ends. Thank you everyone that has supported me along my way.
Since you are traveling slowly through the land, you can see the relationship between man and landscape and what kind of impact man is causing on the environment. For example, I have crossed several regions on the north coast of Spain (Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia) and I had time to observe how people use the land. It was a surprise to see that in some areas in the Basque Country and Galicia the community has lived off the land for hundreds of years without making a big impact on the landscape. Because the camino crosses many villages, fields and farms, and I could see the agricultural practices and how people live on the land, and I have had the opportunity to try the local food and be part of sustainable living. If you go by these regions on major highways, you cannot have the opportunity to be part of rural life and share experiences with local people. A lady approached us one day from her garden with a basket of plums for testing. I could never have the same experience if I was traveling by car.
While walking the camino, one of the goals of my studies was to pay attention to the sustainability of the communities I went through. I wrote two reports in Spanish based on my observations of two of the regions: the first one in the camino, the Basque Country, and the last one of the camino, the interior of Lugo in Galicia. Although I enjoyed the camino near the sea, it was also a good experience when the road took a turn into the farmland.
I noticed that the land is divided into small properties named “minifundios” in Spanish, “smallholding” in English. A “minifunio” is a piece of land small enough so that the owner can grow their own products for his own consumption. The exploitation of a smallholding for economic benefit is difficult due to the limited number of products it produces, so all these products are only for the benefit and use of the land owner, which means that agriculture is sustainable in most of the rural areas of the Basque Country and Lugo. Smallholders eat what they produce and they can not sell to make huge profits. There are no large markets or supermarkets nearby, then people live of their land. I enjoyed seeing the “horreos” a typical Galician granary used to store farm products.
Farmers know how to exploit the land without making a big impact. If you do not need to transport the food, you do not pollute the air and you also have no need of plastic or cardboard containers to transport the products. Sometimes a small group of houses makes a village of its own (in fact, I just heard in NPR that the Galician government is selling small little villages that have been abandoned in order to give a chance to rural Galicia to experience a Renassance) A person can easily go from one village to another and find enough food for a family or group of families.
But in some little towns, there is usually a farmer’s market where these farmers can take their small amount of products to sell, sometimes they even share with others what their land produces creating an exchange of products like in the Middle Ages.
Even in cities like Santander and Santiago where there are big markets like this one, one can find right outside the building stands with local products that the farmers bring from the outskirts farms.
It is a sustainable practice because everything is local and everyone eats what that area produces. Lourenzá (a little town in Galicia) and many other villages have established community greenhouses to encourage the production of other vegetables that are not native to the area in order to have a large selection of food without having to transport the products from outside.The products also tend to be more environmentally friendly because they do not do mass production. But in the city, sometimes you can see food stalls outside the major markets where people still brings their products to sell.
While walking through these regions, I enjoyed the local cuisine because they use local and more natural ingredients that do not contain GMOs and they are more organic. I also like the fact that what I was eating was local and contributed to a sustainable farming system.You know for sure that what you eat in a bar, a restaurant, an albergue or next to the road after visiting the market is part of a sustainable and organic farming.
Another important contribution to the sustainability of a slow traveler is that instead of staying in luxury hotels, pilgrims lodge in shelters and hostels runned with the mínimum. There is not a lot of use of energy (electricity and water) to operate and provide the essentials for pilgrims, like a place to sleep, to wash clothes and eat.
When you walk the camino, you do not cross many big cities, but the ones you do in the Camino del Norte (Coastal Route) are not the typical overwhelming big cities. San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santander, Gijón and Lugo, although cities, are in many ways very provincial. Yes, you have to go through industrial areas to get to the historical downtown in many of them, but it is duable and not so bad. I am glad to know that some cities and doing their best to promote a sustainable tourism.
A perfect example is Gijon that, due to the efforts of its government to remain a sustainable urban area, the Institute of Responsible Tourism gave Gijon in 2013 the World Urban Biosphere certificate putting Destination Gijon as head of any tourist and sustainable city. To receive this certificate Gijon had to prove that its culture and cuisine are balanced with its green landscapes and environmental care, residents value the quality of life at Gijón and tourists also values the quality offered to meet their needs. To obtain this certificate, the Responsible Tourism Institute made a study to see whether Gijon complied with the rules established by the Biosphere Destination. Among the initiatives of Gijon is the Sustainable Mobility Plan to transform pedestrian only streets and other semi-pedestrian in the center of the city and to create bike lanes and buses. Gijon has launched several projects recently that will turn the city into an eco-efficient destination advocate for urban sustainability, energy conservation and the achievement of quality services to citizens and visitors, that is becoming a city of the Smart Cities and Communities Network.
My only concern walking through rural areas is the amount of garbage that I found. You can find rubbish near the road. I looked a little about the problem with garbage and recycling, and I’m happy to know that in some places, as Lourenzá (in Galicia) is becoming an example for other cities. Lourenzá is a perfect example for others because it has a program to inform people how to recycle, how to disposal garbage and how to use organic materials.
In the world in which we live (fast food, fast travel, fast life in general), we need to slow down to really enjoy what this world has to offer us. Slow travel should not be just a trend or a fad, it needs to be a mindset that has to be adopted by people who like to have an experience and learn other cultures. You will not only benefit physically and mentally, it will contributes to the health of the community visited by a sustainable practice, and ultimately, the care of the environment.