Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Reflections Camino Norte part Two

by now I was getting into my stride,the days had become familiar,the sun shone the road lay out before me all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other,but now I was one day behind the crowd I'd been walking with but the Camino does provide I thought as I booked into the only Albergue in Gernika, a youth hostel with a special price for pilgrims, 17 euros as it turned out not that special.as the next stop in Bilbao 25k down the road also only had a youth hostel with a boring city outskirts to walk through to boot decided to catch the monorail link into the city in the morning, while checking out the timetable I was joined by Silvia from Austria who had the same plan-so we rode into the city together.
 She turned into the ideal Camino companion warm intelligent,full of fun and adventure and enjoyed a drink as well.
 having done the tour of Bilbao we walked 12k out to the Portugalete and its transporter bridge and booked into a twin bedded room (no albergue)
          she told me she was a 44 year old Social worker in a women's refuge taking a year out starting with the camino norte then meeting up with her boyfriend in Barcelona her only worry she said was how to last the 6/7 weeks walk without any sex, I'm there for you I said if the strain gets too much,she laughed and said I was too late she'd gone through her older man stage in her 20's
this vivacious flirty touchy feely woman floated in and out of my Camino for the next 8 days and evenings-the coastal route getting a little samey hot sun and warm beaches,she never did fall from grace-her only fault being she was the worst coffee monster I have ever met tetchy as hell till she got her morning fix.
our time together culminated in a hard 32k walk into Llanes-we swept into the old railway Albergue still high on the Adrenalin needed to finish at 8-30,she asked for a quite room for both of us and got it and then having showered paraded around in her bath towel using the Internet to catch up with her daughter,I was hailed from across the room by a young Swedish girl who was cosied up with an older Englishman,do you remember me she said,I searched my memory for young Swedish women with a liking for older Englishmen-surprisingly 3 came to mind (don't you love the camino) this girl from last years Camino who was memorable more for her Polish friend Daria who I am still in touch with was last seen in Santiago last year,the Englishman was called Antony and had packed his tent up at a festival in England and walked all the way down-he was my age wearing a white linen shirt that looked like it had been ironed-I try for this image but never seem to quite get it.
Silvia had placed my boots outside our room as if a testament to this fact
 the next day I found out the 2 Englishmen had been the talk of the Albergue albeit without justification in my case
  this was to be our last day together as I slowed down-Silvia continued on the coast while I headed out on the Primativo and a compleatly different Camino

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Reflections Camino Norte part one

Due to a lack of computers on this Camino I am only now blogging one week after getting back,I'm a collector of quotes two come to mind Kierkegaard wrote "life must be lived forward,but it can only be understood backwards" and Socrates who once said "the unexamined life is not worth living"
  so in an atempt fully understand the last 2 months I am writing now
due to the weather and the terrain this walk split into 4 parts
 I flew into France September 20th and took the train into Irun just over the border in Spain not sure want to expect from this Camino having read contradicting reports and as always a little apprehensive about walking 800km but having settled into the Albergue the familiar surroundings of an Alburgue and the fellow pilgrims worked their spell and I was ready,opened a bottle of wine to have with a cold supper and was joined by Luca from Spain and Sara from Germany,all of us had started out at 5am that morning to meet round that evenings table-good people and a great start to this Camino,Luca 20 a seasonal barman in Italian alps in the winter,coastal holiday resorts in the summer-and Sara 24 a student.
the planned stop the next day was San Sebastian but we stopped just short at a religious retreat in the hills above,the day had been very hot 35c a pattern that was to be repeated for the whole of the next month
    years before I had rented a holiday flat 500 euros for a long weekend with my now ex wife and daughter number 3 in the same hills and remember looking down onto the beach where could be heard sounds of music and wishing I was down there with them,now for a donation I sleep in a 4 star yurt while Luca plays his guitar,life is good.
               Luca and his guitar became a focal part of my first week,everyday he tried carrying it in a different position till he found one that suited, what are the rules of the Camino or fight club as he called it
the first rule of fight club I said was never ever leave a bed bench or bar without first checking you hadn,t left anything behind,the second rule being never enter a toilet without tissue in your pocket-the first days he broke these rules so many times.
 Sara on a tighter schedule started walking longer days,and she left us in here wake.
           on the French route the sea is the destination here its a constant companion which is a little strange,that plus the hot weather made it more like a holiday as we walked and sometimes sunbathed on the beaches.
 we were joined by 2 more Luca's one a stylish man from Sardinia and one from Poland plus Thomas from Germany and later Natalie who also played guitar and sang Tracy Chapman songs plus a girl from South Korea,
 this was rapidly becoming a beach party as we swam sung and sunbathed our way along the coast culminating in one glorious night dancing in Deba

we had all booked into the Albergue there high above the town which was reached by a glass sided elevator that I could only travel on with my eyes tightly shut-we had dined and wined on the roof-topped terrace visited the folk festival in town and having keys to the Alburgue arrived back quite late,viewing the lights of the town from our rooftop only to see the Festa take on a more raucous sound with the sounds of a rock band filling the night-so fueled by drink and encouraged by Natalie down the glassed cased lift once more into town we went
 the rock band were circling the town-speakers carried on shopping trolleys.
 this tired bunch of pilgrims danced till 3am with the friendly Basque people and staggered back to bed and slept till 11am,having admired a poster Natalie tore it from a wall and I carried it in my pack for the rest of the Camino,
 whenever we met up again the toast was always "Deba"
 A tired bunch met up for breakfast at 12am in the main square and see Natalie off on her train to Santandar to meet up with a friend
the rest of us walked 24km mostly uphill to the next Albergue-I limped into the place at 8pm and fell into my bed.all apart from Luca from day one made it,it was the last I saw of him.
 the next day I only walked 7km and on an impulse took a bed in the monastery at Cenaruzza a small Albergue there with 11 beds,I had the place to myself.
 how far have you walked the priest asked,just 7km I replied,Ah he said you are just a tourist in the 18thC the pilgrims were penitents and walked barefoot but he said wishfully its not the 18thC anymore,I felt like telling him I had been dancing a lot of late some of which may have been barefoot but held my tongue.
a large bowl of soup and dried bread was placed before me and a bowl of fruit,I checked out the visitors book to find a message from Sara dated 2 night ago saying she was missing both me and Luca and hoped to meet up again soon and share wine plus one from Luca dated the night before saying he was going in search of her and also hoped to meet up again thus forgetting the third rule of fight club "you don't chase things or people on the Camino,they find you"
                I pointed out to the priest the coincidence of all 3 of us from day 1 staying at the same place,he told me the boy from last night was also a tourist plus he did not leave a donation pointing to the box on the wall.
   he left me in peace to reflect on this first part of my Camino,I locked the door for fear he may come back in the night and lash this sinners back..In the morning I left a large donation and this tourist continued on his way