Camino Week 2 & 3 -> Quick Update
Hello earthlings! I know it’s been a while and I’m so sorry to have left you hanging for so long, I really am.
It’s been over 350km (> 210 miles) and almost three weeks since I last blogged, a distance that’s taken me HALF WAY to my destination, a number I can barely believe myself.
Yes I’m really half way there!!!!
So much has happened and I truly have so many stories to tell, but as much as I’ve tried it’s just been too hard to get a proper blog post out.
Between walking, food, laundry, rest and sleep the days just seem to fly away. My pilgrimage has become a routine that has taken on a life of its own, and the groove has been so good that I literally haven’t take a full rest day since Pamplona.
Well until now….
I’m On A Few Days of Forced Rest
A few nights ago I had a small, but rather dramatic mishap related to those death trap bunk beds I told you about in my last post.
As I stepped down from one in the late afternoon the hold handle (a wooden one in this particular case) came loose and so I hurtled through the air and landed on my bum rather than my feet. The crushed discs in my back did not appreciate the move, so I’ve been on forced rest for a few days waiting it out to see how it goes.
Yes, it was a typical Nina moment.
On the positive side this little repose gives me some hours to hang around coffee shops and blog. It won’t be an in-depth day-by-day post like my last one, but I do have enough time to give you all a quick update on my trip so far.
I’m Doing Well Overall
Apart from the recent silly bed incident, I’ve been doing great.
My feet are in good shape and my shoe/sock combo is holding up exceptionally well (touch wood). Plus my pack and pack weight have been perfectly fine. I haven’t had to ship any of my weight ahead (so far…although that’s likely to change now with my back issue).
In fact the whole physical experience has been rather miraculous. I never cease to be amazed that I can walk 22km and end the day hobbling along on throbbing feet, yet somehow be ready to do it all again the next morning.
The human body is an incredible machine, even the 50+ model that I’ve got. And one thing you really learn on the Camino is that you’re capable of far more than you think.
It’s a pretty cool discovery.
I Love (Love, Love) My Umbrella
Umbrella has been a star.
In fact he’s elicited so many comments and compliments that I’ve had to give him a identity of his own. Olaf, as I’ve named him, now accompanies me daily and has kept both rain and sun at bay through almost every step of my Camino. “ Idea number one” as a Korean guy proclaimed just a few days ago when he saw Olaf under the hot sun. He certainly is…
I’ve had people ask for pictures with him, and pilgrims who recognize me uniquely for the head-saucer-look he gives me when he’s deployed. We’ve got a Camino reputation now.
I’m so glad I bought him along.
I Am Traveling With Friends
One of the real gifts I’ve had on the pilgrimage is that I’m I am no longer traveling alone.
Remember the two Camino Angels (Jessica and Suzie) that helped me down the big slope to Zubiri on Day 3? Well the next day we decided to walk together again, then we went a bit further, and then we did that over and over until the three of us just naturally morphed into a happy trio (in fact, a fourth gal just joined us a few days ago).
It’s been so very nice to travel amongst friends, and we mesh so well that we can now no longer imagine traveling apart.
We go slow, stop often to rest our feet, drift apart when we feel like it and walk together when we want to chat. Most importantly we never pass up a chance for second breakfast (or third) and always pose for silly photo ops at all the statues and murals along the way. It’s been a most perfect match.
The Trail Has Been An Adventure
As for the trail itself?
I’ve walked from mountain tops to valleys, through vineyards and mud, crossed infinite barren landscapes and weathered rain and hot sun. Sometimes I see multiple landscapes in the space of a single day, and it’s always a discovery. I never can quite predict what it will be like.
The Camino is gorgeous, but it’s also not always pretty.
Many paths have been lovely, but there have been days we just walked beside the road, or trudged through industrial areas to get into the bigger cities. In fact a surprisingly large portion of the Camino Francés (290km or more than a third of the total!) is on asphalt.
For that reason I’m even more thankful I decided on trail runners rather than hiking boots. The extra cushion really comes in handy.
However when the Camino does get “wild” it really is incredible. There are moments you feel you’re walking through a fairytale far from the things of man, and yet there’s invariably always a cafe just a few km down the way.
Plus the towns you do pass through are visit-worthy in themselves with a rich history, fabulous churches and lots of places to eat. Which is a good thing, because us pilgrims think about food…a lot!
This is a luxury hike really, of physical steps interwoven with food and wine. Truly it is a joy to experience.
The Camino Is Easy To Follow
For those of you curious about how we actually follow the Camino Francés, it’s a well-marked trail that’s indicated by shells and yellow arrows everywhere you go (and of course we also have phone maps).
You pay close attention to them at the start, but then you find yourself automatically seeing them and even mindlessly following them after a few weeks (a habit, I’ve been told, that can stick with you long after you’ve finished).
The distances you walk are up to you, although there are “recommended” stages (personally I think they’re far too long). Our little trio prefers shorter trips that allow for slow walking and plenty of food and rest stops (second breakfast is key), so we started with 15-16km (9-10 miles) days in the first week, and then ramped it up to 20-25km (12-15 miles) over time as our pace and stamina improved.
Jessica is our “master planner” and she’s done an outstanding job, keeping our feet (and stomachs) happy throughout.
That said we can’t always plan the exact distance we want simply because there are not always towns where we want them. So, some days we go shorter (or longer) than we’d like because it’s our only choice. It’s just the Camino way.
But We Have To Book Ahead
One thing I didn’t really expect before I came here was how much planning was involved.
There are many more pilgrims than I envisioned, and also less Albergues (places to stay). The last few years of COVID have hurt the supply side quite a bit and it’s not yet recovered. That combined with a new trend of “full service” booking companies that snap up a lot of the private rooms and hotels, have made “doing the bed run” a real thing.
Almost every pilgrim I meet this year has been talking and lamenting about it.
We started booking a few days ahead in the beginning, but now we’re having to look a week out and word has it the very last stretch from Sarria onwards is going to be even crazier (many pilgrims just do the last 100-200km).
It forces more structure than I’d hoped (e.g. we can’t just walk until we feel like stopping), but that’s just the way things are right now. At this point I’ve only met a few pilgrims who are not booking and they’re usually 20-somethings that are either willing to walk an extra 10-15km if they need, or simply sleep on the floor (we see them every night).
This particular aspect of the Camino is a newer phenomenon, but with popularity ever-rising I think it may be here to stay for a while.
My Personal Journey Has Been Interesting
My own personal journey has been very interesting, although I’m not sure I can articulate it all yet.
There have been the expected physical challenges of long-distance walking of course (aches, pains etc.) but there’s been sickness too (the dreaded Camino Flu* raced through pretty much everyone on the trail a few weeks ago) and I’ve had days where emotionally I was riding on a high followed by others where I cried and broke down for seemingly no reason at all.
I guess going on a long trek like this brings up “stuff”, or at least it has for me. And I’m not sure I’ll understand it all until much later?
*Was it COVID? I can’t rule it out. It could have been a simple head cold or one of the newer strains. We all had two bad days, but then it passed and almost everyone was sick with the same symptoms around us. In communal dorms, you catch it all.
The Social Side Has Been Awesome
The people side of this journey have been one of the best parts of it all.
I’ve met so many from all over, and shared so many interesting and moving moments. We’ve met 22 Danish people (we’re everywhere!), lots of Americans and Germans, Koreans (in big groups) plus a spattering of other nationalities. Everyone is open to sharing their story, chatting and hanging out, so it’s a very social environment.
Often we’ll “lose” people as folks walk different distances or stop at different towns, but then incredibly we often find each other again down the way. And when we do it’s a big celebration that feels like we’re meeting old friends again. It’s really nice.
Injuries Do Happen, But So Does Healing
You never really know how your Camino is going to go.
We know some older folks who were hospitalized a few weeks ago (they’re ok now), and multiple others who either fell or injured themselves and couldn’t continue. We even heard of a pilgrim who had to be evacuated by helicopter due to a snake bite (yikes!).
Accidents do happen and the further along you get on the Camino the more you hear about them.
There’s also many folks who simply push it too hard, especially in the first week. They get small injuries that they then try to “walk through” and invariably end up with much more serious injuries that sometimes shut down their Camino entirely. If there’s one thing I’ve really learned it’s to start slower, listen to your body and rest or skip days when you need to.
That said most people do make it, even those that are injured (if they take the proper time to rest!) and also those that may not seem that fit or able. It’s actually really interesting how much of the Camino is a mental thing, especially the further you go along it.
The key is this a pilgrimage, not a race and the more you’re able to let go of preconceptions (e.g I must make a certain number of km each day, or I must carry my full pack weight, or I must keep going etc.) the more enjoyable and achievable your journey becomes. I really believe that.
So That’s Where I Am Today
This is my pilgrimage so far, at least the short version of it.
I do have more, so much more that I hope to share at some point, but it will all have to wait until I’m not lying in a bunk bed exhausted from the day.
Half way done, half way to go. See you down the trail.SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Susan Bank says
Thanks for taking time to write this blog for us. FB posts are great, but it’s just not the same. Your photos are stunning!
Bob Martel says
Halfway! Good for you! Keep it up!
And of course: CONGRATULATIONS
Diane Borcyckowski says
Oh my gosh! You ARE a badass warrior! I did not want this post to end! I was a tad concerned you hadn’t written for awhile (I know I’m not your mother) but realized you were probably really immersed and absorbed in the experience. And you truly were. After you process all this I can’t wait to hear the details of what most probably is a deep spiritual journey. Warriors on!
Yeah I am sorry for not blogging. It’s been so hard to get anything written.
I realize how ridiculous this sounds, but the last part of that post made me all misty-eyed! I have loved every step of your journey, the hills and the valleys. That photo of you standing in front of the mural belongs on the cover of your book!
Thank you my dear.
Thanks for the update and taking us along on facebook…except for the top bunk beds your trip sounds like all you hoped for. Congratulations on being half-way there.
Hopefully no more top bunks for me.
Derm Strong says
You and your friends are doing so well. It is about the people you meet along the way. Half to go, and more adventures. Enjoying your blog so much. All of you are so awesome. Continued good walking. And good “second breakfasts”! Looking forward to your next blog Nina.
I have a friend who is walking Camino right now. On day 5 he was in Milinaseca to Vilafranca. I am sending him your Blog so if he can he can read where you are.. His name is Randy Casaus……
Not sure where he is today……
Sure! Definitely let him know. If he sees the umbrella tell him to come say “hi”.
Gloria Smith says
Nina, I have been following you since 2012. We have owned 2 RV’s since then. You and Paul were our inspiration here in the US. My husband knows you as my friend Nina. I was so concerned not hearing from you these past 2 weeks. How about..for all of us following your journey and worrying about you doing it alone…just saying now and then..”I am fine. Will write later”. You have more “moms” worrying and caring for you than you can ever imagine .You look so happy… like you are in a perpetual Oregon lighthouse. Safe travels.
Ditto Gloria !!
From another one of your virtual “moms”<3
You are both right. I will try to check in more often 🙂
I am so sorry I made you worried. I will try to do better to keep everyone updated. I know three weeks is a long time. Thanks for being a loyal follower and friend.
Jim Streeter says
May God protect and send you on this incredible journey. Such an amazing trek.
Thank you. Nina
WOW congrats! It a long way from Cypress with Singapore. Still interested in how TJ was the first to know of you and Paul all those years ago.
Enjoy the rest of your march.
TJ spotted Paul and I walking hand in hand on evening in downtown Palo Alto (he was eating outdoors at a restaurant there). Wasn’t much we could do to deny it after that lol.
Thanks for the recap. I’ve heard of the Camino before and often wondered. Now I feel as if I’m almost there. Thank you for taking us along. I hiked 50 miles on the Santa Fe Trail when I was a young teenager and in some ways this seems similar. But far different. I love how you are able to write and share it. Keep it up! This is very exciting. And your back. I hope it gets better quickly. Very proud of you. Amazing.
john stein says
Good luck with everything, we are all with you sprite.
I have been following your blog for a few years and now feel compelled to let you know the impact you are having.
I was recently in a car wreck and have been laid up with a broken ankle. I’m healing up nicely, but the worst of it, is being unable to get out to hike or photograph.
Your blog carries me with you on your adventures and is a ray of sunshine. Thank you for lifting our spirits whether we have broken ankles or broken minds!
Safe travels and keep on trekking and posting!
Oh gosh Linda I’m so sorry about your car crash and ankle. That must have been very scary. I do hope it heals quickly. And thank you for your kind words.
Jean Eyler says
Nina, I am so happy and relieved that you are doing well and have met friends to walk with. I was becoming concerned when you had not posted in a while. Be careful, be safe and enjoy.
Thank you. Nina
Jodee Gravel says
Wonderful pics of a grand adventure. Lovely to have new friends to share the experience, and a trusty umbrella! Bet you expected a possible injury, but not one from your bed!! Hope you’re soon 100% and that your second half is full of happy surprises.
You are so right about the injury. I’ve been sooooo careful on the trail, trying so hard to keep healthy. But a bed? No, I never expected that lol.
Ok, I admit to being a concerned Mother too! Haha
Another great blog, love every step of it.
I’am so happy you’re happy! Brings it all back and makes me want to go again..
Hello to your friends and no more mishaps, please.
Can’t have our Heroin injured!
I too am liking that umbrella, I’am taking notes
Be careful & Buen Camino
I think a lot about you three on the trail. It really is an adventure to complete.
Thanks for posting, it’s good to know you’re fine and still on the trail. Your photos are just gorgeous. It’s such an amazing thing your are doing.
Sue Malone says
I read this when you posted, but of course am not good at commenting via the phone. By the time I got back this morning, there were so many great comments from all your virtual “moms”. Made me laugh. Also made me glad that I follow you on Facebook so I knew you were OK. Or at least mostly OK. The facebook posts are great, but so delighted to read a real blog. I do know what kind of time and energy it takes to actually write, add photos, make sure it all flows properly, and get the thing posted. I can’t imagine doing it on a phone. I can’t even comment very well on a phone. And all your photos? From your phone?? Spectacular. Thank you so much for all your efforts, Nina. Your discussion of the crowded Camino reminded me a lot of the crowded conditions in the US RVing world. Even in the middle of the boondocking deserts. Social media is a good thing in so many ways, but it has changed our world in ways we can’t imagine. Travel safe, Nina
Dolores Tanner says
Sunrise day 12 is beautiful!!!
Thank you! The days we’ve gotten up early enough we’ve had some lovely sunrises (and nice cool mornings).