Started out the day irrationally proud of myself. Yay, I made it through my first day of the Camino! Yay, I slept in a youth hostel and showered in kind of a sketchy bathroom! I was not deterred by the mildewy smell of the water from the dispenser. Or the Savannah paper mill smell outside. Good job, Lis, you are a real hiker now. You can take any experience this Camino thing can throw at you!
And I didn’t even blink when Drew told me we didn’t have time to ride the funicular in San Sebastian (ok, maybe I pouted a little).
A few hours later, we were hiking through this beautiful, rolling farmland that feels eerily like Bainbridge, with blackberry vines, ferns and apple trees. We pass the sweetest little pilgrim aid station and some baby cows. And then…the hordes came. A group of kids almost RUNNING down the same rocky paths that just kicked my butt. You could hear the Europop from their phones and the screeching and tittering between tween queens. And the calm Zen of my morning went out the window. Instead, I became crazy freaky–I kicked into fifth gear just to stay ahead of what Drew and I dubbed the “zombies.” I got angry at the horde for destroying my rhythm, for *making* me want to hike faster instead of enjoying the experience. I felt bitter and resentful towards them for their youth, their boundless energy and strong muscles. It is not until an hour or so after we leave the kids behind at their lunch break, that I begin to feel it–shame. It’s not the kids’ fault that they are on the same paths that I am walking on. And it is not a crime to be young and fit. What kind of a horrible person am I to feel that strongly toward strangers? Ok, maybe I’ve not got this Camino thing worked out yet.
Around this time, we get to Orio, our planned stop for the night. My shins are starting to scream, but the albergue is only supposed to be 2km away, on the other side of town. So we power through. I entertain myself by admiring all the graffiti covering every concrete barrier and overpass. Note to self: Need to learn Euskara so I can understand all the political statements spray-painted all over town. And then, there it is! The albergue looks like a school, chain link fence around a play area, concrete block building. There is no obvious entrance, so we go around back, looking for an office. I start repeating the Spanish in my head, and bracing myself (because, you know, people) when this woman comes out of the building and starts frantically waving her arms. “No!” she says, before I can say anything. I am stunned and stand there, frozen. She keeps saying “no,” and other, unintelligible things in Basque before going back inside.
But now what? My body was achy all over, and my mind had already skipped ahead and anticipated rest. There was nothing else to do but step back onto the path and up a big hill. Every breath burned, every step was heavy. My head hung down, and I stared at my feet, actively willing them to keep moving, counting every tired shuffle. 1, 2, 3….by the time I got to 100, we were at a little flat place next to a grape arbor, and the albergue was out of sight. Though we were nowhere near a stopping place, and I was tired, oh so tired, getting to that crest felt like a huge victory.