Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, pilgrimage, Spain

September 3rd, Day 2: Roncesvalles to Zubiri: A Journey Shared is a Journey Halved

The sign leaving Roncesvalles.

I wake up at 5:59 a.m. one minute before the lights are turned on and Mozart starts playing. I get up, get dressed, and I’m out the door by 6:30. I head to the vending machines for my 2,60 Euro breakfast and the machine gives me two granola bars. I feel like the luckiest girl alive! I head to the canteen area and sit down to have breakfast and begin chatting to a Swedish guy, who is in the same predicament as I am. He also thought there was an ATM in Roncesvalles. Needless to say, he gets the extra granola bar. I wish him a Buen Camino, and as I walk out the door, I run into Terry and Juanita from my train ride to Pamplona. Today is their first day walking and I wish them a good journey and I’m off!  I’m on the path by 7:00. There are still a few stars visible, but light is appearing quickly, and I wonder how long the morning chill will linger in the air.

As I leave town, I see the sign for Santiago – 790 kilometers. I don’t even bother translating it to miles.

The 3km walk to the next village of Burguette goes by in no time. I start walking with Lydia, a college student from Boston who is doing the Camino with eight others for college credit. She’s wise beyond her years and I’m impressed by the realizations she has had about life at such a young age: being disheartened by the materialistic culture of the US and already questioning the life society has laid out for her. It took me a lot longer than my college years to articulate some of my unhappiness with the path I was on, and despite being in a much better place now, I only wish that I had questioned things at an earlier stage in my life and traveled sooner and younger.

Sunrise outside of Burguette

Another 3km goes by and we reach a little town that I recognize from the bus ride two days prior. It’s 8:30 and things are just beginning to come to life. The smell of bread baking fills the morning air. I stop to doctor my blisters that have begun to form and Lydia goes ahead with her school friends. I head on solo. I feel like I could walk for miles. My energy is high, but my legs and feet are telling me something else.

I pass Jen and Kyle at a small shop further along and they offer me a granola bar. (What is it about granola bars? I guess I’ve just been given back the one I gave away!) I move on, but my feet are hurting! Ray catches up with me and we stop so I can doctor my blisters again, using inefficient plasters and padding. Here, I meet Sean, Ray’s walking partner from Ireland. Moments later, I meet the other two people they have been walking with: Gill from Israel and Tammy from Canada.

A typical distance marker on the Camino

At this point in time, I’m not feeling too social, due to the pain in my feet, but the more I talk to Sean, the more I forget about the pain. I learn that Sean heads up a Camino Chapter in Ireland and is constantly bringing people to the Camino for week long visits. He tells me about his various trips and his experiences of sharing The Way with a number of different family members and friends.

In what feels like moments, we arrive in Zubiri. It’s 1:00 and we debate on covering another 5km to the next town, but decide to stay put for the afternoon and evening. I’m hoping my feet will benefit after a long afternoon of rest. I find the ATM and it’s such a good feeling to have some Euros in my pocket.

I pay my 8 Euros for my bunk and make way to my room, which is just down the hall from Tammy, Gill, Ray and Sean. Instead, my roommates are five older, heavy set Spanish men, who speak no English. I don’t mean to judge but they all look like snorers!!

Bar Valentin in Zubiri

I head to lunch at Bar Valentin with the crew from earlier and enjoy some vino tinto and a sandwich. The food and the fact that I’m now in flip flops makes me feel as if I’m coming back to life. The walk wasn’t challenging by any means today, but the pain definitely prevented me from enjoying it as much as I had the day before.

We split ways after lunch to relax, reflect and journal. As I make my way to the riverbank, I see Sean sitting on a bench in the small town square. I walk over and thank him for the conversation on the last hour of the walk. I tell him that our chat helped me forget about my feet. He said, “We have a saying in Ireland: A journey shared is a journey halved.”

jamon y queso sandwich, 4 Euro

I lay by the riverside all afternoon, savoring an afternoon of rest and soaking in the sunshine… no thoughts of tomorrow or post-Camino, just being truly present in the moment…a feeling that, for me, can sometimes be fleeting, and interrupted by daydreams of tomorrow or taken over by all the thoughts in my head.

Slowly, more people begin to arrive in Zubiri. It is a hot afternoon, and many have struggled with the second day of walking. Unfortunately, because September is such a popular month to walk the Camino, most of the albergues are full, and the last pilgrims to arrive can’t find accommodation.

A few of us offer up our beds, happy to sleep on a sleeping pad in our sleeping bags under the stars, but no one will accept. I then see Terry and Juanita arrive. They look spent and they are having a hard time finding somewhere to sleep. I want to hug Juanita, but I can tell from the fragile look on her face, that if I do, she will break down. They end up being able to reconnect with the woman who hosted them in Pamplona. That woman drives to collect them from Zubiri and puts them up for the night, and offers to bring them back to Zubiri in the morning so they can begin again where they left off. It seems as if everyone has found a place to rest their heads for the night, even if it means moving on a few towns by taxi.

A potluck picnic dinner on the riverbank in Zubiri

Later in the afternoon, our crew reconvenes on the riverbank, and we have a pot luck picnic consisting of bread, cheese, meats, olives, and wine. I really start to feel a sense of camaraderie with this group, one that I expected the Camino to foster. We share stories about how we all learned of the Camino and what brought us here. Spirits are high as we eat and drink, and village children play around us, putting together a marching band and sharing our chocolate we bought for dessert.

‘threading’ my blisters.

After sunset, I make my way back to the albergue for a shower and to doctor my feet. I pray they won’t let me down tomorrow. I meet and chat with David, one of the Spanish men from Burgos. He asks me what I expect from the Camino, and I tell him that for me, it is all about the experience – walking, nature, meeting people, helping people, being helped. He nods as I speak, and I know he is truly listening to my answer. And, he replies to me a few times at the end of our conversation, “Enjoy the Camino…. Enjoy the Camino.”

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