How to even begin to describe what life is like here?
Yesterday I woke up before 6, had breakfast, and was out the door before 6:30. If you know the Camino at all, you know that there are two options for walking on your first day. One is all the way up and over the peak of a mountain; the other follows a valley before being up and over a mountain. The first is more climbing, and more popular. I had been praying that God would help me decide what route to take, but when I woke up I was still unsure. Then at breakfast my hospitalera (the woman who runs the hostal) was talking about how it would be rainy, so you wouldn´t see lovely sights, and really, really windy. She said people often break their legs falling when it´s that windy. She had once seen a girl fall over and remain unable to get up because of the wind and her backpack. She had seen a man bracing himself against the wind and running a few metres every five seconds or so, while everyone else turned back.
Since I do not have a death wish, taking the Route Valcarlos was an easy decision. And, hey – if it was good enough for Charlemagne, it´s good enough for me!
Starting out, there was lots of happiness. The route followed a river, and was off the main road. All around me were lovely Basque houses and birds singing. Euphoria!
Eventually it started raining. It didn´t stop for most of the day. Then there were also hills involved. What killed me was that every time the road went down, it felt like a waste of altitude gained – I knew I was just going to be going back up again later.
I found a walking partner in a young man from Korea. This was really a gift from God. Even though we didn´t do much talking, it was great just to have a companion and not be alone.
We crossed over into Spain, and I actually didn´t even know that we had until we crossed back into France. Then along the river for a bit until back into Spain for good. It´s crazy that you can just walk across a border and not even know it. And people there are probably living in one country and buying their groceries or gas in another on a regular basis. If you´ve ever crossed the border Canada/USA – it´s just so the opposite of that experience.
Then came the mountain(s). Up, up, and up. Sometimes we were walking along a path literally carved out of the mountainside, with a rushing river beside. I almost fell over the edge once. Walking poles were great for balance and to help drag myself up.
Finally, finally, finally, we crested the peak. And then a swift downhill to the albergue. Where I showered, and then pretty much sat exhaustedly. Met some nice people, though!
I am paying for internet on a computer in my albergue right now, so no pictures yet. People here know how to get money – pilgrims need a place to stay, and it´s more money if you don´t offer free wifi! I´m sure I´ll find one eventually where I can post, though.