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Camino de Santiago: Six days in

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I didn’t intend to take a rest day this early on, but I have a massive backlog of freelance work and wasn’t making immense amounts of progress while typing frantically in dim dorm rooms surrounded by people napping, so I decided this morning to stay in Puente la Reina, where I have a very comfortable single room, and lock myself in until my To Do list is decimated (in the figurative rather than literal sense – a 10% reduction would not be great progress). Which means that I may end up sleeping remarkably little tonight, but then tomorrow all I have to do is walk 22km or so to Estella in the morning, and once I am there I can nap with an easy heart because I will have nothing hanging over me. Which sounds blissful. And at least in Navarra there is a regular supply of coffee vendors along the route.

Anyway! I am six days into the Camino de Santiago; the day of the UK election (and what a farrago that has been) I got up early to vote, taxi’d to Glasgow airport, flew to Paris, got the bus to Montparnasse and the train to Bayonne through flickering lightning (six days ago – feels like about six months), and the next day I got the train to St Jean Pied de Port and started walking. So far I have walked 91.5km, shortly under 160,000 steps; I have crossed one mountain range and one national border; I have slept in five different places (Orisson, Roncesvalles, Larranoaña, Pamplona and here) and drunk bucketloads of coffee and red table wine. So far I have only lost two items: a hat, in a forest between Linzoain and Zubiri; and a fleece, yesterday, because I neglected to consider that something that is very securely strapped to one’s pack when said pack contains a Platypus with 3l of water becomes much less secure when said you’ve drunk pretty much all your water. Going to have to buy a replacement hat because it is scorchio; the fleece feels much less necessary right now but no doubt in a week or two I will be chilled to the bone and bemoaning its lack. The loss of two items is not bad going by my standards, though when considered as a proportion of the items I have with me it is … less good.

According to my semi-obsessive spreadsheet I am only 11.75% done, so it is very early days, but some observations so far:

  • My body is coping much, much better than I thought it would. I had been expecting problems with my right ankle*, right knee and hips, as they’re the bits that generally start to feel creaky after a strenuous hike, but they’ve all been absolutely fine. Likewise my feet – gallingly enough, I only have a single blister, and it’s from the flipflops I brought to change into once my walking is done for the day. Ipanemas, how can you betray me like this?!
  • I’m also coping much better than expected with having to carry my pack. It’s somewhere between 8 and 9kg I think, so more or less 10% of my body weight, as advised, but I still thought I would struggle. But no! I have had occasionally achy shoulders at the end of a day’s walk, and sporadically twingey back muscles, but otherwise I’m totally fine. (Famous last words, probably.)
  • I am coping about as well as expected (i.e. not at all) with the heat. The temperature up until about midday is pretty perfect, but afternoons can be brutal, peaking around 3pm when the earth feels like it’s radiating all the heat it’s been absorbing right back up at you. Yesterday’s walk from Pamplona to Puente la Reina was almost exactly the opposite to how I’d expected in terms of difficulty: I normally hate relentless uphill slogs, and so had expected to find the stretch from Pamplona to Alto del Pérdon really tough; instead, it was a breeze – I strode up to the top of the hill much faster and more happily than I would have dreamed, and then really suffered through the downhill stretch – 8km or so, should have taken me two hours, but ended up being more like three and a half because I had to stop and lie down and recover from the heat at every given opportunity. It’s supposed to be cooler tomorrow for a couple of days, but I’m getting up earlier and earlier to try and beat hte heat, and may end up entirely nocturnal at this rate.
  • I’m not reading nearly as much as I thought I would, which is a bit sad; I blame my prolific journalling (which isn’t going to change) and my backlog of work (which hopefully is). In Bayonne I started reading The Ethical Carnivore by Louise Grey, on a friend’s recommendation, which I then put aside in Orisson in favour of Obabakoak by Bernardo Atxaga, on the basis that I should really read a Basque author in the Basque country, which I then put aside in Pamplona in favour of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, because obviously. All three are great and I should (and will) finish them, but right now I’ve been distracted by VE Schwab’s Our Dark Duet, which came out yesterday.
  • Items that I am most thankful for so far: Smartwool socks; my new 25l Berghaus backpack; my Platypus hydration system; the John Brierley Camino guide.

Highlights so far:

  • Waking up to a valley full of mist in Orisson, and hiking across the Pyrenees (Day 2).

P1010057 View from Orisson

  • Early morning walk through the witchwoods between Roncesvalles and Buergete (Day 3)…

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  • Walking out of Pamplona yesterday morning (Day 5) under a stunning dawn sky, followed by…

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  • Breakfast at Zariquiegui, after an uphill hike, sat on the side of the road under a wall of roses, followed by…

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  • The pilgrim monument at Alto del Pérdon, set amidst wind turbines (one of my all-time favourite things), and then…

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  • Honestly I just really like this photo, taken somewhere between Uterga and Óbanos yesterday afternoon, while I was dying of heat.

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*Sprained in ten years ago when, while emotionally elevated, I fell off a step in a nightclub and continued to dance for hours, and it’s returned to trouble me in my old age. The follies of youth.

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Written by Jess

June 14, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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