“Camino” day 14: last non-travel day in Spain, no walking today

I lazed around this morning for an embarrassing amount of time. Then I went and explored Comillas, I was especially excited about the Gaudi building.

I love the insanity of Gaudi, his name is where gaudy comes from 🤣, and his major works clearly explain the connection. But, it’s why I love his stuff…it is hideously beautiful.

I saw the Palace, walked past the beach (I’m not a “beach” person but I do like to walk past them), saw the other Gaudi structure which is a gate to a home, had lunch, had a nap… shopped for gifts, and now I go back to reading what is turning out to be a pretty good book.

Tomorrow is catching the bus to Santander, then the bus to the airport, then the plane to Barcelona. Overnight in airport area hotel, then very early flight home on Tuesday.

Today’s pics:

Pic above of the Birds Gate by Gaudi. Big entry for cars, medium for people and the small one above is for birds.

Camino Day 13: at the risk of being redundant, another LOVELY day

Part 1: I am currently mid-walk enjoying a nice break on a park bench, listening to the bells on the flock of sheep grazing nearby. Today’s walk so far:

A nice walk down through Cobreces and time to snap a few pictures of the beautiful historic buildings. Then, after about a mile, I came to a beach. I sat and enjoyed watching the waves and a few early risers playing with their dogs in the sand. After the beach, the trail led uphill, up to the top of the headland where a nice little bench overlooked the sea. I decided to sit and enjoy both the view and the peaches I bought at the market yesterday.

While I was on peach #2, a pilgrim came up the hill and I recognized him from the albergue last night. As he came near, I realized I had sprawled across the entire bench and called out to him. “I can move my things to make a space if you’d like to sit,” I said with a welcoming smile.

He looked up, with mild stress showing on his face, “No. No, I can’t stop. I have to walk 30 kilometers today.” And he hurried along his way.

And there it is. I respect his choice and offer no judgement, but I would much rather be me. With only 10k to walk today I have plenty of time to enjoy myself. My gait is relaxed and easy, I stop to enjoy the views, and I have not a worry or care in the world.

After my stop, I came to a small farming village and saw a little enclosure where a kitten was playing with some ducks. I took a few moments to stand there, laughing hysterically at the antics on display. I love kittens.

You see, I am fully cured. There is a Camino virus spreading around that often results in a syndrome called Pilgrim Fever. A terrible affliction.

Common symptoms include: multiple foot blisters with possible bleeding sores, toenails that fall off, aching stiff legs, foot pain, a characteristic hurried limping waddle, intense facial expressions reflecting pain and/or stress, a sense of rushing and urgency, aching back and shoulders, and a strong belief that anything less than 25 kilometers in a day is tragically unacceptable.

I caught said fever and became symptomatic, but then I managed to fight it off before fully succumbing to the illness. Now, I am actually enjoying myself. After all, I have no need to prove anything. Not to someone else and not to myself. I COULD walk 30k in a day, but WHY? Seriously, I have no desire to do it.

I can see that many people on the Camino are in a subtle competition. There is some bragging in the albergues about how far you walk. After that, some will brag about how hard it was, some will brag about how easy. Pretty much the first questions pilgrims ask each other is how far you walked today, where and when did you begin your Camino, do you go all the way to Santiago, and how many times have you done the Camino. But, never do they ask if you enjoy it.

Oh, and if you walked less than 20k….they get an odd look and ask if you are ok. Really. As if walking less than 20k must mean you are sick, injured or disabled. One pilgrim last night asked me pretty much that….and I proudly said, “No. Not sick or injured or disabled….just very happy.” He looked confused.

Well, my little break on this bench turned into a long one, and that’s not a problem because I have only a few kilometers left to walk until I reach Comillas. Part 2 coming later…

Part 2: I walked through a few more villages, including one with a Saturday street market that was fun to explore. Then I enjoyed more of the countryside before I arrived in Comillas. The hostel/albergue here is the nicest I have ever seen. Once showered, I walked around a tiny bit, had lunch, stopped at the market, got sleepy, and came back to the hostel for a siesta. It is a hard life on my Camino 😂

I’m glad I got provisions at the market already because I think I will just read and relax here tonight. I have another night here in Comillas before I begin my journey home, so there’s plenty of time to see the sights and enjoy the beach tomorrow. Oh, and I need to buy some things for my niece and nephews now that I’m done walking and I don’t have to worry about the extra weight in my bag.

Today’s pictures:

Camino Day 12: a nice little walk in the countryside

I set out late this morning (9am) with a spring in my step. I was actually looking forward to the walk and hoping it would, possibly, be relatively pain free. And it was! I have definitely found the solution to the problem.

Well, 2 solutions? One is to keep the pack off my low back. The best way, as I found today, is to actually let it ride very low and let my booty-licious booty carry the load. Finally, a good reason to have a big butt!

The second is to ignore this “Camino fever” everyone else has about logging tons of miles each day and getting there as fast as possible. Well, I decided if we all walk our own Camino our own way, how about I actually enjoy mine?

I’m noticing, everyone else dragging themselves in on empty, while I am fine after a quick rest. I prefer this way even if there may be some who think I am wimping out by not killing myself each day.

It can’t be we respect everyone does their own Camino their own way, but only if you do crap-tons of miles each day? Screw that. I dare to do less and am better off for it. Still 7.5 miles isn’t exactly nothing either, just “nothing” by Camino insanity standards.

So, I had a lovely walk through farmland and villages today. And, just when I started feeling “done”, I was! It was wonderful, stopping right when I was wishing I could. I still had some odd shooting stabbing nerve pains today, but nothing ongoing, just quick intense stabs in my right hip. I think it is just residual irritation that will fade over time if I avoid continued irritation.

Now, I am enjoying the courtyard at the albergue, about to make a salad for dinner and then maybe read some more before I go to bed. 😁

Camino Day 11: a perfectly lovely lazy day

So, I have a day of rest today but not because I needed it. Basically, I pre-planned some of the trip and it included a 2 night stay at a hotel here in Santillana. My recent changes meant that I arrived in town a day early, stayed last night in the convent, and now have 2 prepaid and non-refundable nights in a hotel. The frugal side of me just CAN’T pay for two nights and forfeit all of it. So, I decided on the middle ground between not staying at all and staying the whole time….I will stay one night in the hotel and leave a day early. It does mean wasting money on the second night, but I want to both continue my Camino and break the planned 1 long hike into 2 shorter ones. The plan is to use the “extra day” to break the walk to Comillas into 2 days (making two 7-mile, pleasant hikes instead of one 14-mile, unpleasant hike).

What’s funny is that taking an easier day yesterday left me ready to walk today. I felt a little sad this morning seeing all the other pilgrims with their backpacks heading out. I somehow felt left out and was wishing I could grab my pack and join in the day’s journey.

That said….I had LOVELY day!!

Slow lazy morning, a visit to a famous museum/prehistoric cave (Altamira), window shopping, a beautiful lunch with maybe a little too much wine, and now (most importantly) laundry. The next item on today’s itinerary is a nap!😴

I am extremely happy to report that, despite previous difficulties, I am really looking forward to my walk tomorrow😁.

Pictures from today:

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Camino Day 10 part 2: a great day!

I had a very nice day. I arrived in Santillana and I had only experienced mild discomfort for the day. The hike was a mix of scenic and not so scenic, but my body felt good.

I do think I might have figured out one of the main sources of pain. As I have always been told, I tightened my hip belt snugly and adjusted my pack to carry most of the weight on my hips. This is supposed to be the right way, mostly because it saves your upper back and shoulders.

Um, this is not the right way for me! I realized today (after spending yesterday evening talking to a German physical therapist) that the searing, burning pain I feel every day in my legs is not from walking. It is sciatic nerve pain caused by the pressure of my pack on my low back. Each day I was cinching up my waist belt and putting my hips in a vice. After an hour or so of walking, the pain each day was intense and unrelenting.

Today, it dawned on me about an hour in. The pain fired up in my back and I paid close attention this time very early to the kind of pain. It was not muscle pain at all! It was definitely nerve pain. So, before it had a chance to get any worse I completely unhooked the belt on my pack.

I spent the hike trying to hold and carry the pack in a way that totally took it off my low back. Whenever I let the pack rest….the pain was almost instant. I found the reason for the incredible pain I’ve been experiencing, and so the solution as well!

I arrived to Santillana relatively early, checked into the convent, had a quick shower and change of clothes, and then headed out to have lunch and explore the town. It was wonderful to have energy and to be free of lingering pain in the afternoon.

I gotta say, it was a damn good day.

I have spent the past hour hanging out with other pilgrims, having a good local beer, and sharing stories. Now, I am heading to a special pilgrim blessing given by the nuns before having a communal dinner with the other pilgrims.

Happy.

Camino Day 10 part 1: on the train to Requejada, mixed feelings.

I decided to continue my Camino, but with shorter days. The pain at the back of my heels indicates there might be a real problem, and reduced mileage is the smarter way to go. But, I have mixed feelings about it.

Part of me looks forward to a shorter day with (hopefully) less pain. Part of me feels like I’m giving up in some way by not “just doing it”.

So, today I take the train from Santander to Requejada, then walk just 6 miles to Santillana del Mar. I will stay tonight as a pilgrim in the convent, then tomorrow transfer to a hotel and spend a day of exploring the town. Santillana del Mar is famously beautiful and full of tourists.

I’ll post part 2 tonight after I see how today goes 😁.

Camino Day 9: a day to rest and reflect

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”

-James Allen

It is early morning still, the day has only just begun. Yet, a monumental shift is taking place. Maybe I needed rest, maybe I needed a break in the “get up early and get walking” routine, maybe the other blogs I read today helped me get my head on straight. It is probably a blend of all of these things. Whatever it is, I feel myself coming back from wherever I was yesterday.

I feel my Camino has been like swimming in the ocean. At first, I was bobbing along in the waves, rising up, falling down, rising up…but because I had the energy to navigate them well, I never found myself caught up in one. I could ride the highs and lows with ease and accept them as they came.

But, after awhile, it became more difficult. The physical and mental work of staying in sync with the waves got harder. I got slowly more and more out of rhythm and the waves became harder to navigate. The waves themselves were the same, but my strength waned and my ability to be okay declined.

I began deeply wishing for a break, just a moment of calm waters to let me me catch my breath. As each new wave came, I became more discouraged. I began to plead inside for smaller waves, something easier, a break in the action.

Then, yesterday, it was like I reached that moment of exhaustion where the wave came and I got pulled under it. No longer bobbing on the surface and navigating, I got tossed in and rolled. Once caught up in the waves, each new wave rolled me over again, and misery set in.

Today, I have washed upon the shore feeling a little beat up and bruised. At first just lying here stunned and exhausted, I am now beginning to get up and breathe. The trick now, is to rest well and then get back in as soon as it is reasonable. As we have all experienced, having a rough moment makes us a little hesitant to try again. I imagine a child who, once rolled around in the waves, never goes near the water again.

But try again I must, because the best way to avoid a permanent fear of the water is to dive back in as soon as you are recovered well enough to again successfully navigate the waves. Otherwise, you might spend your life standing on the shore, watching others enjoy the sea of life and wishing you had the courage to get in.

So, today I will rest. I will get out and explore Santander, I might go see the art museum, I will go get my pilgrim passport stamped in the cathedral, I will walk along the sea promenade, and I will see where else the day takes me.

Tomorrow, I will dive back into the sea and remember how to navigate the waves. The Camino awaits.

Note: and today I will work on the “comparing and finding myself deficient” problem. What I mean is, there’s an unhealthy thought in the back of my head even today saying: I walk less miles than others, it shouldn’t be this hard; I must somehow be weaker because I need a break so soon and after walking so few miles compared to other people; if I walk less miles and take more breaks it means I am not so strong and maybe even unworthy of calling myself a true pilgrim.

I must remember that we all walk our own paths, each person on the Camino walks their own road. One is not better or worse than another. We should not look down at our own path and ask if it is as good as someone else’s, we should simply walk it and see where it leads.

Camino Day 8: Guemes to Santander

Warning: feeling pretty meh today.

And by meh, I mean done. I think I might be….homesick? 🤔 I’m not sure but, I think that might be it.

My day today was decent, no worse than a typical day on the Camino. I felt pretty good for about 6 miles except that I had to pee real bad for the first 2 miles of that.

Side note: every day I pee right before I head out, and every day I get 15 minutes down the road….and need to pee. Then I spend an hour looking for somewhere to go. But often there is nowhere discrete to “pop a squat” and the next town is a couple miles away. Even when I get to the next town, sometimes it is still too early and there’s nowhere to go. It really is a big downside of being a female. It kind of spoils an otherwise lovely morning.

The first thing I found open was the cafe on a nice hotel. I got a coffee (to legitimize my use of the restroom) and “let `er rip!”. Even with my purchase, me and my bag definitely got the stink eye from the hotel people.

Anyway, so the rest of the day was ridiculously beautiful. Most of the time was along the bluffs over the ocean with farms and cornfields on the inland side. Everywhere I looked was picture perfect.

But I am realizing, even beautiful can get old after 4 hours of walking. When things start hurting, “pretty” matters less. Somehow I didn’t hurt any worse today, but it was more bothersome. I think I keep expecting it to get easier and then I’m disappointed when the pain sets in. There have been more painful days than today, but somehow the pain is easier to handle when you simply expect it and accept it.

Regardless, I found myself realizing I wasn’t having fun and was just wanting to stop at the end. My misery eclipsed my resolve. I plodded down the road awash in my own misery, waiting for the day to end.

And then, suddenly, I was at the boat dock which signaled the end of the hike for today. The boat goes from Somo to Santander, where I plan to stay tonight and tomorrow. Yes, somehow knowing tomorrow is a rest day wasn’t enough to make today any easier.

I felt/feel like I just want to go home. I want to sleep in my bed, cuddle with my husband, play with my dogs, cook yummy food in my kitchen, and be in my own space. I’m lonely, but tired of talking to strangers.

Alright, enough whining. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. Maybe I just need some rest.

Camino Day 7: Noja to Guemes

I am in shangri-la, the Albergue in Guemes (actually called Albergue La Cabana del Abuelo Peuto ). This one is special and my guidebook said “not to be missed”. I see why. It’s like, for one day, I live in a special commune. There are many pilgrims here, we had lunch together and now we are all resting. It is a beautiful day and the shared rooms are all facing a nice little outdoor space. This is where I sit now, watching the laundry on the lines flapping the the breeze, listening to many different languages being quietly spoken in small groups spread around. People are lounging in the grass, gathering on the shady porch, and one lady is playing a guitar and singing softly in Spanish.

Paradise.

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There’s a meeting later and then a shared dinner. Breakfast in the morning. The cost? By donation, what you feel you should give. I understand they run this primarily with volunteers and any extra funds go to support various service projects. I plan to donate generously.Today’s walk was pretty and scenic, lots of farmland and vistas, sheep, goats, cows and donkeys. It was nice, and I was in the regular levels of pain (second half of walk developing the characteristic limp of hurting feet and burning legs). One girl called it “the dance of the pilgrim”. I thought it was a nice way to say we all waddle like toddlers at the end of each day.

So….from hunchback, to pimp, to toddler. Progress? I wonder how long it takes to get through a whole day and walk like a normal person at the end of it.

Camino Day 6: Laredo to Noja

I still can’t believe how much my little toe recovered overnight. It was a little sensitive for about 5 minutes walking today, then it was TOTALLY fine.😁

Today’s walk was pretty good. Yes, aches and pains here and there, but nothing too intense and all pretty “normal” for the Camino. But, as I come to realize, EVERY day of the Camino presents you with a challenge of some kind. I think that’s kind of the point of the Camino.

Today’s challenge was that I (and many others) ignored the longer, new-and-improved Camino and took the older and shorter “primitive” Camino to Noja. Oops. In the rain….major woops.

See, this one goes up and over “El Brusco”, a small mountain headland over the sea between Berria and Helgueras. The path is narrow, steep, rocky and (when raining) muddy and slippery. Slipping and sliding in mud with steep dropoffs uncomfortably close is not a fun way to spend the day. Then it was time to go back down, sliding, slipping, trying not to fall. I did not see a single person who wasn’t obviously terrified and regretting the decision. But, there’s a point fairly quickly where retreating is no better of an option than pushing forward.

All that said, I made it without falling and without major injury (minor scratches and pokes from very unfriendly thorn bushes). But….boy was I flithy! Mud everywhere on my legs, on my clothes (yes…the ones I washed yesterday😒), hands, arms….you get the idea. I had used every kind of strategy to get down the mountain in one piece, and it showed.

But, I met a few nice people as we worked our way down and offered each other moral support and encouragement.

After that, it was just a few more miles and I was done for today. Now, I am clean and warm and dry, resting comfortably and trying to motivate myself to get dressed and go explore this nice little beach town. Or, maybe I will just read and take a nap.

Views from today:

Sorry, no pictures of the scary parts…was too busy not falling!!