Again, no pictures yet. But here´s today:
Despite sleeping in a humongous albergue (seriously – 72 people on 1 floor, and 3 floors altogether), I slept in this morning. i was sure that I would be awakened early by other people getting up, but my ear plugs and eye mask seriously did the trick.
I was on my way probably around 6:45. The first walk was quite a nice way through wooded areas and two small towns. We walked literally through the middle of a farm. I was quite interested to see the farm equipment and animals! Gates block animals from wandering off, and there are signs for pilgrims to close these behind them.
Despite the fact that my guidebook made it look like things would be more or less flat until a medium climb (can´t call it big after yesterday!), there are of course lots of hills. Up, down, up, down. I was complaining mentally about this, but had a change of attitude later. My asthma does not love the incline, but taking tiny steps at a medium to slow pace works so much better than trying to speed up only to have to stop every ten steps. At my slow pace, I can more or less keep climbing the whole time. We were in the valley for the beginning of the day, but crested another mountain around 10. Then down, down, down quite a ways. My poor arthritic knee does not love the descent!
People walk at many different paces, and I tend to be a little slower. I know my hips will appreciate that more than speed, and I don´t need to risk any blisters (which are a bigger risk on the hills and very uneven terrain). It´s hard not to get up in a competetive spirit when people are passing you all the time, but I figure there´ll always be some place to stay.
Around noon, we were heading down the side of a mountain, and I could see pilgrims making their way up the next mountain across the valley. Not an encouraging sight! But I ended up with a very friendly walking companion, and that made the time and distance pass much more quickly. It was also incredible to be able to turn around at multiple times through the day, look back at the mountains behind, and think I just hiked through all of those! Over all of those! Quite the sense of accomplishment.
Finally, at about 1, we started our final descent for the day. It was incredibly steep, and on loose rocks. Quite the challenge! Again, so glad for my trekking poles! We made our way to an albergue in Zubiri, crossing an ancient Roman bridge. Legend has it that if you made an animal cross the bridge three times, it would be cured of rabies. (Wonder how many people were bitten by rabid animals, trying to “cure” them!) Our albergue is a former school. I sat in the shade for a while, and then came to find internet to post. While I was waiting for the one computer to be free, I met a lovely couple from Ohio who had just cooked some food. They offered me some of it, and we had a great time together. It´s so nice to meet people and talk, even it you´re quite certain you´ll never meet again.
Well, I´m off now to explore Zubiri. Some good stretching is in store tonight, too. Walking uphill and downhill really uses different muscles than walking through flat Toronto. Still glad I did those training walks, though – I have no blisters like many of my fellow pilgrims!