I have said it repeatedly on this blog that I don’t like to walk, at least not
difficult trails, mountains, hills or muddy paths. I don’t like the same trail over and over, like the many times I’ve walked around Quidi Vidi in St. John’s or over to the peat lands in St. Shotts or around the rectangle shaped roads in Pasadena. So walking the camino alone was like cutting my teeth, tearing through the flesh painfully but surely.
First I had to make it from Paris to St. Jean Pied de Port. I have never liked having to figure out diagrams and maps. I’ve gotten lost so many times that my husband once told me if I thought our destination was achieved by going right, he would go left. Let’s just say that I’m nearly one hundred per cent wrong! So after making it to the huge Charles de Galle airport, I found the booths for buying tickets to Bayonne. It would be my destination for the night and then in the morning on to St. Jean Pied de Port, from where I would start my walk. I purchased my ticket and also secured a hotel room for the night, 81 euros which was quite a lot!
Having met a Greenland girl in a stop along the way, we took the train to Bayonne together and I told her she could share my room, which turned out to be a double bed and small bathroom. After getting lost in Bayonne, we got a taxi to take us all of half a mile! But it was either that or stand up in front of the train station all night, with drunks walking around with wine bottles in their hands!
The next morning we missed the first train to SJPP, so we ate at the station and met about ten other pilgrims going there. The strangest thing about that station was that the bathrooms were difficult to find, and not that clean when found. One had a door that could not be locked, so I passed on that one. Another was down over a stairs with a strange looking character in the door of the male’s washroom, so I turned and ran from that one. Eventually I found one off a restaurant area. So I didn’t get lost, but I felt lost when I could not find a safe, clean stall.
Upon arrival in SJPP I said good bye to my new friend Tuperna and followed everyone else to several alberiques. Lucky to get in a nice clean one, I met Judy from Australia and walked around the interesting town with her. Later I went to my first menu del dia with the two Canadian ladies and Judy. I didn’t like the plateful of fatty ham and refused the wine, paying the minimum price. We took some photos and went back to our bunk beds to get a good night’s rest. I asked Judy if I could walk with her in the morning and she was okay with that.
In the morning we had toast and jam with coffee, and left for our first destination. I don’t know how I would have made it around the mountain without Judy that first day. I felt I was breathing heavy the whole way, and ran out of water. I put half a tab in my water bottle and warily filled my bottle. I waited half an hour and then drank the water from the fountain. There is a warning on many of the fountains along the way, that the water may not be safe to drink. No bad tummy so I felt hydrated and made it to the next stop.
After a few days I got up early one morning and went on my own, never seeing Judy again. But she had taught me to look at the ground when going uphill, and also to count my steps when I didn’t think I was going to make it. I’m sure she was happy when I allowed her peace and quiet when I skipped on ahead. She liked her privacy and I felt she didn’t really appreciate all my griping when the going was tough.
Eventually I decided to walk only until I was tired, rest for a while, eat, drink and then go on until noon or one o’clock. Most days I arrived before one. I showered and rested until supper and then ate and had an early night. I was so overwhelmed with all the newness every day that there was nothing else I wanted to see when I got to a town.
One night I craved bacon and eggs, and had seen the only restaurant in the small village with a sign of a plateful of bacon and eggs with a bottle of coke! Now I knew I couldn’t do that! NO coke with my supper! So I asked the woman if she could do the bacon and eggs with café con leche. She said “NO”. I asked again. She asked the cook again. I could find no solace in waiting until 8 for the pilgrim’s meal. Eventually she gave in and I was so blessed to get what I had been craving. I went back to the alberique and had a long nap. More people came into the private alberique until all beds were filled. The owner or manager filled the stove with pellets and the air finally warmed up.
Day after day I learned to go with the ebb and flow of the walk. Sometimes I walked with new people. One day a pregnant woman. The same day a man from Ireland. Another day a man with restless leg syndrome. I met up with Nicole in a train station and learned after hours of hitchhiking that it was illegal to hitchhike in Spain. A fine young man gave us a ride to the train station and we were blessed with an interesting ride on a train to Astorga. Elise was happy when I helped her get a ticket the same as ours. THis was her second time walking the trail, at age 82 and a smoker!
Thievery there was some but no one stole from me. I was very careful with my money. Dogs there were plenty, but most of the time I was too tired to care.
So I learned, day by day. I cut my teeth in a month. Each day there were lessons learned. I took few chances, only the ones I had to take. But I wouldn’t change a think. It was an experience I will remember forever.