Week two of our Camino de Santiago is in the books, and we are both still alive!
We are over one third completed one third of our journey from a kilometre perspective,
This week, knowing that 20 or so kms each day was something that was very attainable, we decided to set out to see if we could up the ante a little by walking a full marathon!!
And so, sickeningly early, on a dark Monday morning we loaded up our backpacks, leaving the little town of Najera and headed straight to Belorado, some 44kms away (sidenote: some guidebooks actually measured this at 49kms, but for consistency, we better stick with the book we have been using since the beginning)
It took us nearly 13 hours, breaks included….and trust us, in this heat…you NEED breaks. But in the end, we arrived, physically drained, at our small albergue in Belorado! We are so beat, we were barely able to celebrate our accomplishment, but nevertheless went to bed with huge smiles on our faces!
The smart thing to do however in this situation would have been to take it a little easy the next day – however sometimes, we aren’t that smart. Twenty-four kilometres the next day, and twenty-seven the day after that. This was the day we would arrive in Burgos, a Spanish city where we had planned to rest for a day or two. We were almost there, only a dozen kilometres away, when Shawna’s feet simply didn’t want to walk for her any more. We had spent waaaaay too much time on them over the past two weeks, and it was clear, they needed a break.
We got a ride into Burgos from an awesome French couple, vacationing in the area, and spent the next three days seeing the sites of Burgos, stocking up on second skin for blisters, and of course pampering our legs with massages. Our feet are now fine, and we are ready to continue our pilgrimage!!
And so, just a quick summary of how we spent our time over the last week.
August 14th – Torres del Rio to Navarrete (33.4 kms), staying at the El Cantaro
August 15th – Navarrete to Najera (18 kms), staying at the Albergue de Peregrinos de Najera
August 16th – Najera to Belorado (44 kms!!), staying at the Albergue Cuatro Cantones
August 17th – Belorado to San Juan de Ortega (24 kms), staying at the Albergue de San Juan Ortega….an old medieval abby!
August 18th – San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (27.5 kms), and caught up on a little R&R at the Hotel Jacobeo for the next three nights!
August 19th – Rest day in Burgos
August 20th – Rest day in Burgos
For me, this week was filled with some fabulous highs and some frustrating lows. As most people do, I’ve realized that this Camino is harder than I thought it would be. Aside from the obvious physical challenge of walking 20-40km per day, there are mental and emotional challenges that come along with this.
You have to be mentally tough to keep walking on certain parts of the journey that are more difficult. For me, the leg from Belorado to San Juan de Ortega on Day 12 was particularly a head game.
We started the day off before 5am and after walking 12km I was irritated at the fact that we kept seeing signs for pilgrims promising a cafe in the next village, only to find that they were still closed. How I wished for a 24-hour Tim Hortons or a giant Starbucks pumpkinlatte at a a time like this!! Perhaps it sounds superficial, but I think part of it for me is just the break and the energy you get from being in a little cafe with locals buzzing about the latest gossip or heading to work…it’s like a short opportunity to be a part of something before walking onwards and leaving yet another small town behind (and the caffeine buzz doesn’t hurt either).
Finally, we came across a little cafe just before our path took a steep incline for the next 6km, taking us up to a peak of 1162m. The way up was a pretty little path shaded by trees, which was a real blessing because the forecast for the day was over 35 degrees and we had felt the heat setting in at 10am already. At about the 19km mark we had another incline that was high enough that you could watch each of the pilgrim’s ahead of you shuffle up in the blazing heat…the trees had cleared and the red dirt path uphill was fully exposed to the Spanish sun. Up we went…on we went….and to me, it seemed like the path went on and on and on. There came a point, and this is hard to admit, when I had to stop on the side of the road and throw my bandana on my face to hide my tears. This DAMN Camino was busting me…and I’m supposed to be an athlete. How irritating!!! My feet hurt and I felt slower than the slugs we see making a slimy path across the road in the early mornings.
I pulled myself together and San Juan finally showed itself at the 24km mark, just as our guide book promised. It was this tiny little town of just 24 people, border by huge fields of sunflowers…really quite beautiful. Though the day was a killer, it ended well-the Abby we slept in that night was a really cool experience, we invited a really interesting Australian woman to join us for dinner who told us all about her world wide journeys, and we made friends with the two brothers who owned the restaurant in town and were kind enough to book us a hotel in Burgos for the next day (our treat for reaching the 1/3 mark).
This is just a glimpse into one of the harder days on the Camino. I hate to type that I actually cried on the side of the road (so very pitiful thinking back on it now) but it’s only fair to tell the whole story. There’s so much to this journey…so much to learn about yourself, about the fellow pilgrims you meet…about the spirit of “The Way”.
In this past week there have been cities we’ve stayed in that are fabulous- Najera and Burgos to name my favourites. And there have been one-horse towns, like Naverette, that I really can’t wrap my head around. I think this is such an interesting part of this way of travelling- you see it all. If I was simply a tourist, I would visit Burgos and think of how beautiful this Spanish city is with it’s tree lined river walk and huge, gothic cathedral. But I feel I’ve been able to see more of the variety Northern Spain has to offer-the quirky rural areas where we still haven’t figured out if anyone lives in….the huge surprise when we ran into a golf course along our way on Day 9…and the beauty of the country side-with it’s vast vineyards and sunflower fields.
We have just finished two delightful days touring Burgos so tomorrow morning, at 4am, we will get back on the pilgrim trail. This was the first city so far that we have spent enough time in to really enjoy. We both agree we could stay here for a month or so-the pace of life is just right, there are loads of beautiful buildings and streets to explore and glasses of wine are on offer for 50 cents! Perfect for Enzo and I!!
It’s been a great break and we both feel re-energized to tackle the next 2/3 of the Camino. We are told that the next 10 days are in the Spanish desert and have been difficult for a lot of people. Time to make sure we carry lots of water and leave really early in the morning!!!
I hope to have some really great walks to tell you about when we check in next in Leon!!!
Don’t ever tell Shawna about an athletic challenge you are interested in completing, unless you are fully prepared to follow through.
I should now this by now, but…nope. I go and open my mouth.
“You know what I would love to try one day. I would love to see if we could complete 50kms. Just to see if we could do it. You don’t have to come, if you don’t want”
Instead she replies with, “How about tomorrow? It looks like there is a small hostel 44kms away.”
“Well 44 is less than 50″, she challenges.
It was a tough one. Carrying an additional 15% of our bodyweight on our backs, spending the entire day trudging down the road, where you can actually see the heat coming off the path….we won’t do that again.
Or, who knows…maybe we will.
This trip (we hope) is all about challenging yourself, and that day was just one of the challenges we will put ourselves through.
I think one thing to remember when travelling as a couple, is that your “travel partner”, is still, first and foremost, your wife or your husband. There have been a few times where I think we have forgotten that, and it doesn’t help when at the end of an long day walking that we are placed on separate bunks in a 25-bed dormitory. It is important for us to realize that we are both extremely tired, and that because of that we need to be more patient than ever before.
We are also learning quickly that if you are arriving somewhere on a Sunday, you had better have brought your groceries with you. Otherwise it is a white bun with a cocktail weinie for dinner for you, my friend. Thankfully, wine is always available to wash it down.
I am really loving these early mornings…there is something incredibly peaceful about taking your first steps before 5:30AM. Also, you feel intelligent when your day of walking is completed by 11, and you do not have to spend hours simmering in the summer heat.
Our break in Burgos has been well-deserved. The risk is that the longer Shawna and I stay here, and take in the cafes and culture, the harder it is to get walking again, but I think we are ready to get rolling.
What about you? Have you everything thought of walking the Camino? Any questions on this crazy walk? Feel free to leave us a comment below, and we will get back to you asap!!