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Camino de Santiago No. 3: Walking To Zubiri

So, last off, I was walking along with my two new friends. We were doing quite well, walking along at a good pace, and I was finally mastering the use of my walking poles.

We stopped off at a little bar in Viskarret, a tiny vilage not conssiting of much but the aforementioned bar, where we rested and ate bocadillos and drank hot coffee. After the bar, we took off again,keeping along at a nice pace-but frankly, it was much too fast for me. I felt like I didn´t have time to see anything at all-only time to concentrate on the walking and using the poles and watching for traffic and looking out for slippery rocky bits.

I was grateful when my two companions decided to continue on without me. I slowed down considerably, taking breaks as I needed them. I scribbled in my drawing book, wrote notes in my journal, and enjoyed the absolutely breathtaking views.

Many people on the camino stopped and talked to me-but I found that if I walked with someone else, I concentrated not on the surounding beauty, but on having a conversation. So I usually would just send them onwards with a wave and a smile, perferring instead to have my part of the trail to myself.

One thing that really struck me as I walked was how fast everyone was going-many people only had a defined amount of time to either complete the entire walk, or to complete one stage of it. It seemed a bit competitive as well, and people´s conversations were often about how much one was carrying, and how light their load was; how fast someone was; and so on. Hardly anyone talked of spiritual things, or even historical things along the way. Rarely did anyone seem to stop and relax, or breathe in the absolute beauty of the countryside. I found this somewhat astonishing.

Many people seemed to be walking the walk as a walk; as something to check off one´s list as having done; and so on. Although I am aware there are many different ways to do the Camino, on this first day alone, I became aware of the exhausting pace people tried to keep up with-and this colored my perception of the Camino greatly.

I was feeling somewhat disenchanted with the whole experience, when I met a wonderful woman and her sister, who were doing the walk in memory of their mother. Just walking with these two incredible souls, who were very observant about the plants and wildlife along the walk as well, rejuvenated my spirit considerably.

At about this time, the Camino began to decend into Zubiri. The booklet I had brought along about the Camino had said ¨The camino descent into Zubiri is difficult in bad weather…¨Well, the weather was getting worse by the moment. In fact, it had not stopped raining the entire day, and only seemed to be getting worse.

The descent was difficult for many reasons: It was very steep; it was very rocky-a sort of slippery slate; it was muddy; and I had to concentrate so much not to slip and fall, that I barely looked up to see what was next. The rain made everything slick and wet, and the mud on my boots soon covered the lower half of my pants, as well.

I saw three people fall along the way. Everyone was always very nice and helpful to each other, and when someone fell, everyone stopped and helped the person.

I finally fell myself.

Falling down, especially at the start, had been a worry for me. I do not have the best ankles for various reasons, and so I was worried that they would not be strong enough to handle parts of the Camino.

Still, I wasn´t expecting to fall so soon. I basically twisted my right ankle quite badly.

There was no choice but to keep going, and so keep going is what I did. I was in tears, as I was thinking about what this would mean for my Camino journey, and whether I was an idiot to attempt it at all. Other people who had also fallen on their first day were going thru the same thing, and it was impossible to cheer anyone up-we couldn´t even take off our shoes to look at our injuries in the pouring rain and mud anyhow.

The walking poles I had bought the week before saved me. I was able to actually walk all the way to Zubiri-a total of 15 miles journey within the first day-in spite of having an injury.

When I finally got to Zubiri, I gratefully hpbbled to the refugio in the center of town, took off my boots and socks, and surveyed the damage to my ankle. It looked better than I thought it would-sort of purplish and swollen, though, which wasn´t promising. It hurt like hell.

I wrapped it, elevated it, iced it, and lay on my bunk bed thinking about my dream of doing the Camino de Santiago. Maybe I would not be able to do it. Maybe I should just stop. Maybe it was insane with my ankles to attempt it.

I think what made it especially difficult was that I was surrounded by people who were really into doing the whole thing, or most of it, as quickly as possible. I sort of felt idiotic that I was already injured, and not wanting to keep going. Many other people were starting to arrive at the refugio at this point, and they were unwrapping their bandaged feet, ankles, knees, and toes..popping pain killers, even.

I was so tired from all the walking and the stress of having to figure out what to do next, that I fell fast asleep. When I awoke, I went outside, only to find my two friends that I had started out with(the Australian woman and the the Englishman) waiting outside. They had arrived hours before, and were talking about meeting for dinner. We agreed to meet a bit later, and I showed them my very ugly ankle.

Everyone gave me alot of advice on how to treat it, and I followed all of it. The main thing I decided to follow was the advice of a man from Madrid, who told me that ¨my Camino is my Camino¨, and that I should just skip any difficult parts(parts that my ankle couldn´t handle). He gave me alot to think about-and he had great maps of the Camino as well, which we spread out on my bunk bed. He helped me figure out a better route, with no major downhill parts and so on.

How grateful I am to this stranger-no doubt because of him, I´m still on the Camino.

By dinner I was in much better spirits-and the dinner itself was really lovely. The Englishman had a Spanish wife, and so had been living in Spain for many years-his Spanish was impeccable, his mastery over the menu a gift. We had the most extraordinary meal, a true Basque meal, of a salted cod and potato cold salad and tiny red peppers stuffed with salted cod so creamy and delicate it melted in my mouth. 

Walking back to the refugio was not as pleasant, the town of Zubiri(like many others) seems to been taken over by modern apartment complexes, which are of brick and quite undistinguished. The old parts of the town were not near the refugio, and so the town did not seem to have much charm.

This time, the refugio was a pleasant place to sleep-only 24 people to a room!  By some miracle, we had no snorers. Or perhaps I was so tired that I slept thru them all.



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