the del Norte/Primitivo route.
Spain: From Irun to Santiago de Compostela, 500 miles.
Post 24 and 25; June 24 and 25, 2016, Friday and Saturday.
Day ten and eleven of trekking: Pobeña through Castro-Urdiales to Islares where I camped; now heading to Santoña.
How far have I come on my journey?
I’m sitting in a little café in Liendo, which is somewhere between Islares and Laredo. I’m hoping to make it to Santoña today, which means I’ll take the nice ferry ride, Santoña ferry, across the little inlet on the Bahia de Santoña. (I know I said Santoña too much, but the word is everywhere.) And so, my two trekking partners for the morning, two girls from Barcelona, and I sit here drinking coffee solo, and discussing the Camino, where we’ll end up tonight, world politics, and life, life, life. The two girls are only on the Camino for six days, and hope to do it in segments over the next year, for a complete Camino. That’s the only way they can take off time. They both feel the Brexit, voted on Thursday in England, was not a good thing and they are explaining why to me. They are wondering what I’m doing here all the way from Los Angeles (they have no comprehension if I say I live in Santa Monica).
So, as I write this, it is Saturday, June 25th, at 11:00 a.m., and I’m sitting here with the two girls, maybe women, whatever you prefer. But, they made it clear they preferred “girls.” So, what do I do? They are nutritionists, and we pretty much eat whatever they serve here, and drinking coffee so as to survive, basically. If all they served was chocolate donuts, we’d eat them. Yesterday, from Pobena through Castro-Urdiales to Islares was grueling. Just grueling. The two girls feel the same, and to make matters worse, they stayed in the albergue where someone snored so horribly loud that they could not sleep. So they are complaining and they talk about how his feet were somehow in their face at night, especially in one girls face, oh mercy, she slapped them a few times, but all the man did was stir a little. . . . And of course, they saw (but refused to talk to) the man in the morning as he got ready to leave the albergue, and they described my friend Carlos to the “t”. Yes, Carlos, the world class snorer. Which, in some ways explains why I did not sleep at the albergue last night, but instead slept in a campground . . . in a hut. Please, there is no point in going on about the accommodations. I’m hoping no one snaps a picture of me today. I have PTAD (post traumatic accommodations disorder).
So, for the record, I left Pobeña on Friday, June 24th at about 4:00 a.m., by myself. It was very dark so I had to use my headlamp to find the glorious yellow arrows that always lead the way, and they did until I found the “surprisingly long flight of steps—with a stunning walk along the coastal hillside” as Perazzoli/Whitson describe on page 81 of TNCs. Yes it is stunning, and I soon met up with three other trekkers from all around Europe and we all decided that the Camino is life and life is a Camino. Some of us needed attitude adjustments, and others, were as happy as can be. And we adjusted issues on each others backpacks and carried on at a pace quite too fast for me, but I hung in there all the way to Onton. So, yes, yes, yes, the trek from Pobena to Onton is beautiful. Sort of like trekking the coast of Big Sur while at times dangling on the edge of a cliff. The sky was overcast all morning, with dew so thick that we had to have backpack covers on to keep something in our life . . . dry. Because we weren’t. Yes, all of our worldly possessions are in our backpack. Anything far away at home is meaningless now, and, indeed, when we get home we shall . . . get rid of all excess, of which there is . . . much. I did this when returning home from the Camino in 2014. Frankly, my little home loft seems sparse now. But, I think, what else can I get rid of? What is there that does not bring me joy? Get rid of it! (Dang! I can’t remember the lady who wrote that wonderful book about organizing your life. Later I’ll get it.)
So on Friday afternoon, somewhere between Onton and Mioño, I meet up with another trekker friend, Diego, who is originally from Columbia and now lives in Florida, close to Cocoa Beach as a retired Army guy. Very easy to trek with, and about my age, which brings up all the discussions one can imagine about strong, healthy, vibrant, good-looking, sophisticated, and very humble, men like us (as we trudge forward)! Then we run into Carlos somewhere around Mioño. How he got ahead of us is beyond me; I left about two hours ahead of him, but the winding way of the Camino, means there are short ways and there are long ways. I guess Diego and I went the longer ways to get to Mioño.
And so, the three of us, me, Carlos and Diego, trek our way on a Friday afternoon into Castro-Urdiales, where the town was “happening.” There was a festival going on, people everywhere in the streets, and the waterfront was “alive,” active, crowded (in a good way), and the cafes full of people, mostly locals, with a few foreigners here and there, but I didn’t see any other pilgrims. We definitely went to the Parish Church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion, got a really cool stamp on our Credencials del Peregrino, then visited the castle next to it, and the harbor area and ended up in a crowded café drinking vino tinto and celebrating … everything, and nothing particular.
And as I sit here in Liendo, at a little café drinking too much coffee with two girls from Barcelona, I’m wondering, how far have I come? Right now, I don’t know. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, I have come really far. As to the distance, I will calculate that later. First, the three of us decide, let’s take a moment, sip our coffee, and individually, each decide for our self . . . how far we have come on our own personal Camino . . . and we are not talking—distance.
And so I leave Liendo. I slog along by myself, reflecting. I’m thinking about something one of the Barcelona girls said: “The Camino is the place to find your ‘self’.” She said that she feels she had lost her “self” over the years. Who is she? She’s on a quest. What is it about women that sometimes they can look anywhere between 25 and 45? And I’ll get in trouble for saying this, but she could be any of those ages, as far as I can tell . . . at least with a backpack on, the trekker look, the trekker determination, and that desire to know her . . . self. Beautiful, at any age.
And so a bunch of us, tired, feisty, trekkers slog our way to Laredo, and enjoy parts of it . . . the beach, the long long long boulevard by the beach, did I say the beach, the long long long beach . . . and we just keep going, we all decide to make it to the ferry ride across the Bahia de Santoña . . . and we do make it, and then we get into glorious Santoña . . . and we are so happy, and finally we find the albergue everyone is staying at . . . and I run into Leo from France and Carlos de la Camera, my good friend . . . and
shall I say it now . . . or later
. . . there are no more beds . . . but there is a tent available in the back on the grass . . . and it’s about 5:30 p.m., on a Saturday night in Santoña and I basically
. . .