Our routine…

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Our basic digs… not unlike our little twin beds we grew up with…

We’ve got this gig down pat, but it didn’t happen over night.  For some reason or another, this was what I thought about while walking 25 km’s on the Camino today.  I thought about how clumsy we were with packs and poles and packing and repacking and that without really being aware of it, one morning we woke up and we were spot on, in sync.  Our morning routine, to get our walking gig going, has almost become a dance for the two of us.  We’ve got it down.  So, with only a few days left, I want to post our day and how it rolls.  I feel like I may be a bit late to the game on this, but it’s what came to mind today so will roll with it…

Our mornings start at 6:00 or 6:15 on a “sleep in” day (a day with less than 24 km’s to walk).  We know the shuffle of who to the bathroom first while the other is on their phone, checking to see what happened in the world while we were “gone” then we change places.  Our laundry that was washed in the sink the night before with packets of shampoo or bar soap,  because we no longer carry soap (I left it behind many towns ago on accident), is checked to see if it is dry, and it usually isn’t so is safety pinned onto our packs.  It’s a good system, and I’d do the same thing again if the opportunity arises, but it’s not fail proof…. (I’ve lost 2 socks and a pair of underwear somewhere along the Camino).  We lay out our “outfits” for the following day the night before, which isn’t all that difficult as we have 2 or 3 to choose from depending on weather, which basically has been the same every day, which has been absolutely perfect…chilly in the morning turning into warm, but not hot, and sunny by afternoon.  For me the whole laying out the clothes is even easier, as I sleep in my “fresh and clean” outfit for the following day, with a bit of modifying to make my clothes seem more like jamies, i.e., taking the pants off, but other than that, I’m set.  Susan, the more dignified of the two of us, has proper sleepwear, but I simply couldn’t be bothered by the extra ounce or two of weight. Besides, I’m so much more streamlined on my getting ready in the morning than she is, allowing me more time to write posts like this!

We have the packing and re-packing down pat, and can maneuver through that whole process in a matter of minutes before doing our final final on the room,  which means Susan reminding me to look under the bed, in the bathroom, under the bedspread and so forth.  I’m lousy at this.  Case in point, I’ve left behind a watch, a night retainer, a night guard and some lotion.  Seems to be my thing that if I’m going to lose stuff, I pick the expensive stuff, with the exception of the lotion.

After the check, double check on the room, we make our way down to the hotel restaurant (and with some, but not all, of the posada/hostel/albergue places we’ve stayed, I have to use the restaurant word generously, just to keep this a bit more “real”…. it is more like a bar that serves coffee and maybe someone in the back will bring out a tray of toast).  Our hopes, enthusiasm and anticipation of a proper meal showing up started waning at about day 4.  We have now gotten real and usually try to buy yogurts and a banana the night before and share a plastic spoon that we got 2 weeks ago to eat the now warm yogurt, which sadly broke this morning.  It’s not ideal or even kind of good, but it is something our bodies need far more than 14 pieces of toast, which is actually a true and sad story.  We don’t complain about the coffee, however, and have grown to love Spain’s cafe con leche… our basic of basic morning fuel.

Because we start so early, we usually walk in the dark for the first two hours, using our head lamps to light the way.  It always feels far earlier than it is, (7:00ish) as the streets are vacant and all is so dark. It doesn’t start getting light until 8:30 or so and who knows when people start coming out of their houses given the weird schedule of the Spaniards!

The layers of clothing come off one by one, quicker if we leave with an uphill exit, slower if it’s on even terrain, and we both seem to know exactly the time to shed first the outer down jacket, then the over shirt and for me, switching the fleece hat out for the bandana then eventually for the hat, when the sun becomes strong.  We passed some “newbies” to the Camino the other day, who had started in the city we had just left, and they were continually taking off the jackets, putting them back on, taking them off again and so on and so forth.  Susan looked at me, shook her head and said, “Rookies.”  We know the timing on this, through trial and error, and don’t waste a minute with unnecessary removal or adding onto.

Our routine is to stop at the first bar (cafe) that we come upon, but not before at least an hour or so of waking.  This is not always a given, especially during our time on the meseta, when we had to walk 4 hours for that first cup of coffee as the hostel didn’t serve breakfast until 8 and we were long on the road by then.  We have a little more hope of finding “real” food at our “second breakfast” and often will have an egg sandwich or a tortilla con potatatas (potato egg dish), but lately we are so tired of both of those that we will get our cafe con leches and will dig through our packs and snack on crackers, cheese, fruit, bits of candy bars and whatever else we have leftover from what we bought the night before.  The theme here is, we are hungry!!!  We spend a good deal of our day either talking about food or in search of it, neither of which is very satisfying.  The pilgrim dinners, that are served earlier than their usual 10:00 starts for dinner, are basic, predictible and pretty boring… a piece of chicken or pork and french fries with a glass of red wine and yogurt or flan for dessert.  It will do, but is never much to look forward to after walking 5 or 6 hours when we are famished.  We do like the beer though, and the wine, provided we spring for a decent bottle (less than 5 euros).  IF there is a bar that we pass, early to mid afternoon, we will stop for lunch, but if not, we finish off the food in the packs and improvise.  Three times, we have been lucky enough to find lentil soup for lunch, a rarity among sandwich-heavy menus, and an absolute delight given the very heavy bread diet here in Spain.  It made such a happy impact on us that I can clearly remember each of the bars where we had it!

 

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14 pieces of toast kind of seems like a lot… but they love their toast here!

We usually arrive in our town around 3:00, then there is the whole ordeal of finding the hotel/hostel/posada/albergue.  There is such a relief of “Oh we’re finally here!”…. but if the town is “big,” we could have another few kilometers to walk to to actually get to our place.  This is when the feet and the knees and the back all sing in unison and it’s not a pretty song.  There’s a lot of anticipation as to what kind of town we will be in… what it will look like, feel like, and would it be a place I’d return to.  I really do enjoy that part.  We’ve been pleasantly surprised far more than disappointed in the towns we’ve stayed in.  We both have come to love the smaller, quainter villages (less than 100 people, far more than the larger towns.

We find our room, dump our packs, boots off and legs up the wall on our respective beds.  When enough time has passed, 10 minutes or so, we take turns with the shower and wash underwear and socks in the sink with whatever is available (thank goodness for packets of body gel get as few places have bars of soap).  After scrounging for any remainding crumbs of ANYTHING in our packs, and with our “clean” clothes on (and I use that word generously), we make our walk through town to see exactly where it is that we’ve “landed”, find a grocery store to replenish our pack food then find a place, preferably outside and in the sun, for a beer, and simply to enjoy the moment.  We find what we can for dinner, which is not usually memorable or really even good, but we are hungry and our bodies need the fuel.

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Our usual, usual… legs up the wall…

We usually head back to our room shortly after our dinner, finish up on emailing, social media etc. and lights out by 9:30, simply because we are exhausted.  By morning, we both feel ready to do it all over again.

We’ve got this down pat.  It will be a big adjustment both physically and emotionally for the both of us when this comes to an end.  Right here, right now, I can positively say that I’m not near ready.  We’ve got 4 more days of walking though so will have time to ease into it a bit.

I can’t end this post without saying what we say to so many others and what is said to us countless times each and every day and what has come to mean so much to me….”Buen Camino.”  And it is.

Facing my fears…

imageAnyone who knows me well, knows that I have a fear of birds…maybe even an irrational one, that somewhat parallels the fear I have of rodents.  Maybe my fear of birds should be greater (or less??) as they will eat the mice, but so much for keeping things even.  I fear them both.  Not that long ago I was playing the game with my sisters of “What would you do and for how much?” That’s not the official name of the game, as I don’t think there is one, but that pretty much sums it up.  The question posed in that particular game was… “How much money would it take for you to spend the night in a small car (think Prius or smaller) with a raven?” I didn’t have to think long on this….”$100,000???”  “Final answer?”  “Yes.”

When I asked one of my kids this, their first response was, “Can I kill the bird?”  “Kill the bird?????  Are you SERIOUS??? I don’t even want to touch it!!!”

“Mom, calm down.  We’re just trying to assess to game rules…”

So, this is how I preface my blog post.  I’m afraid of birds…

Today, while making our way to Rabanal del Camino from Astorga, our last few km’s was a rambling hike through the woods, a scene very familiar to the both Susan and me given our love of hiking.  NOt long into the trail, we came upon a falconeer, in a small tent, trail side, and dressed like a character from Camelot, complete with a big falcon (I need some assistance on this one…. falcon is the only word I can come up with… I can’t be specific on a type here..).  He was collecting donations for an organization that provides funds for children with cancer and for a monetary donation of your choice,  you could hold his beautiful creature.  I immediately said, “NO.”  Upon hearing that, he began to push me a bit to the point that I was beginning to feel somewhat defensive so began to walk away. I’ve got to say that he was a very kind man, and all thoughts of “pushing” were coming from my perceptions, not the reality of the situation, especially given the fact that my defenses were up and fear was temporarily during the car.  After a few steps, I hesitated, then turned around and meekly said, “OK.  I’ll do it.”  Granted, I was still terrified, but felt the need to push myself.  I had to see this as an opportunity that had presented itself in the most unlikely of circumstances and on the Camino, no less….seeing it for the gift that it truly was.

So, I put the glove on and he set “Julia” on my hand.  I’ve got to admit that feelings of terror, quickly melted into, “I’m doing this!  I’m holding a big bird!!”  This all fell into place nicely with what I’ve been going through for the past 2 weeks on the Camino…. pushing my edges, finding my fear, walking into it and realizing that I’m not going to die or drown or be attacked by a big bird, but rather come out of the situation just a little bit more strengths than what I had entered into it with. The more those thoughts sunk in, while holding the very large bird on my gloved hand, the more comfortable I felt.  The falconeer sensed that and in a joking gesture and with an exaggerated wink, said he was just going to walk away and have a break for a bit and would be right back. I smiled but gritted my teeth and of course he understood, smiled and retrieved Julia from my outstretched hand.

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After the falcon had been returned and the glove removed, he gestured me back to his table and asked me if English was my language of “choice.” When I said yes, he showed me a paper with a sentence typed in several different languages that in English read,

“If you want to see the most beautiful thing in the world, look here…”

Next to the paper was a closed box.  He then motioned for me to open the  box.  I opened it and not all that surprised me, found a mirror.  “Oh, a mirror….nice…”

To which he answered, “No, not a mirror at all.  It is YOU.  It is you.”

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He said he only does this with women as he’s tried it before with men and they either make fun of it or will look at the mirror and comment on the sky or the trees or the people in the background, rather than the person looking back at them.

This was a gift today.  Truly a gift.  I faced my fears, then looked at them in the mirror and lo and behold, the person looking back at me looked just a tiny bit stronger than the one I saw earlier that morning… the one who was anticipating a new day with new experiences and a journey to a new place, but in reality had no idea.