Day 1 on the Camino started deceptively easily. I and another pilgrim left our hostel about 7:30 in the morning, setting out along with the parade of other pilgrims. We were taking the "easier" lower route and wandered by farmers' fields, watching the sun slowly dissolve the mist. It was pastoral and, except for a couple of aggressive farm dogs, very peaceful. We found a coffee shop in a small village, had breakfast and a hot chocolate. All good, and we were making surprisingly good time.
Then we got into the forest just before noon. And we started climbing. But we wandered alongside a beautiful river, stopped for a rest and some food, and talked about what a great route we had. Then we kept hiking, uphill, for hours and hours. My cold starting acting up and I started coughing and kept coughing and kept climbing. If not for the entertaining conversation of my fellow pilgrim, Graham, I think I may have given up. We saw a sign. 4.8K to Roncesvalles. The home stretch! We walked for about a half hour again and came to the road where there was a water fountain with the pilgrim scallop shell. We made stilted small talk with the Spanish family we´d met and asked them how far to Roncesvalles - 6K they said, then, using sign language, let us know it would a lot of climbing. We said, no, it couldn´t be, the sign back there said 4.8. No, they assured us, it was another hour. I sat there beside the fountain, wondering how I´d do it. The heat, climbing, and coughing had made me feel sick to my stomach. Maybe the family could see that. "Do you want a ride?", they asked. I guiltily did. It didn´t take much to convince me. So Graham and I climbed into the van and got dropped off at the pilgrim office. I could barely walk. We went for a beer and waited the couple hours for the pilgrim office to open after the siesta and then stood in line for our beds.
When we got settled in our 180 person co-ed alburgue, (including an hour wait for the two showers in the women's washroom, we headed out for the pilgrim menu at one of the two restaurants in town. Cream of vegetable soup, bread, a fried trout with french fries, wine, water, and a plain yogurt for dessert. Then, back to the alburgue to set up and socialize and wait for lights out and the doors getting locked at 10. More up close and personal than you might want to be with 179 other sweaty pilgrims, but everyone was tired and cheerful.
We woke this morning to classical, churchy music, played at low volume, at 6 a.m. Everyone had to be out by 8. A mad rush getting dressed, brushing teeth, pulling on our packs and heading out. We were out at 7, just as it was starting to get light. Today was a beautiful day walking out over rolling hills, mostly through the forests. We gained a lot of elevation and ended up limping into Zubiri in the afternoon. My feet, ankles, and knees were tired and sore, though not dangerously so. The front of my hips are red and sore, from my pack being cinched tight against them, but at least my shoulders are happy because they´re not carrying the weight. About 5K from the finish today, I was ready to be finished and I can´t imagine doing it all again tomorrow - heading for Pamplona. But I felt the same yesterday and the shared excitement of all the other pilgrims will have me heading out with a smile on my face after a couple good meals and a good sleep. The public alburgue is full today so some of the other pilgrims and I are staying in a new, private one down the street. It´s 6 euros more than the one last night but there are only 9 beds in our room, 2 currently occupied, 2 showers and power outlets to plug in our camera batteries, plus free internet, so I can update all of you. Life is good, the Camino is beautiful and full of great people, all walking for their own reasons. And tomorrow is another day!