“These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do- today these boots are gonna walk all over you” *she sings to the Pyrenees between sobs as bruises form on her hips under her backpack and her feet throb * I LOVE THE CAMINO!
I would say I’m just kidding but all of that is true! Except the crying part- I haven’t cried yet, but I’m not ruling it out as an activity to be done after tomorrow’s walk where we climb 400m in elevation. But I really did sing that to the Pyrenees and I really do have bruises all around my pelvis from Sheldon, my backpack, and my feet throb so bad you’d think my heart fell from my chest and took up residence in them. But I really do love the Camino!
I love it for a lot of reasons. (I also hate it for a lot reasons- some of which are the same reasons I love it- but that’s a different story) First of all, the foothills of the Pyrenees are breathtaking. Literally. Because you’re climbing up them. See what I did there?! HA.
But actually, they are quite stunning and even as you’re panting and sweating, dragging your weary legs behind you, you can’t help but be in awe of God’s handiwork. I mean, dang. (Even if you do find yourself whispering “Could you make your handiwork a little less steep, JC” to the heavens)
Uphill isn’t actually that bad. It’s the downhill that’ll get you. Yesterday, our first day, we walked 17 miles (if any part of you is saying “Oh, that’s not so bad” consider us no longer friends) and I swear there wasn’t a flat part on the journey. Always up or down as we made our way through the foothills. Side note: the name “foothills” was probably originally “footkills” because they kill your feet, but over time and through translation errors became “foothills”
The first 10 miles were actually really fun. The next 3 were hard. The final 4 made me contemplate throwing myself off the trail and falling down the mountains. Even if I survived and broke every bone in my body, it couldn’t have been as painful as those 4 miles.
Ok, ok that’s a little melodramatic. But the last 4 were not fun. I think the combination of having walked 13 miles already with backpacks for the first time, mixed with the fact that it was the hottest part of the day made for a rough final stretch- but we did it!
The first 10, though, man I was living the life. Yelling either the species binomials of the wildflowers we passed (SO to Dr. Rohrer and Plant Systematics #biomajor) or the lyrics to whatever song was stuck in my head at the time (including by not limited to The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music, The Boots were Made for Walking, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (LOL the mountains I walked through were in fact high enough to keep me from you, sorry not sorry), I Have a Dream, and Edelweiss) until I could hear the rhythmic taps of walking sticks coming up behind us. Then I’d quiet down and wait.
Eventually someone would come along and they’d either match my pace for a little while, or with a quick smile and a “buen camino,” they’d be off (turns out at about mile 7 you start to get really irrationally angry that the old lady from Ireland and the old man from Norway have passed you. Like I just ran a freakin half marathon- I should be in good shape for this. You’re old, stop passing me. And then you try to calm down and mentally give them props for kicking your butt. But I digress.)
Sometimes they match your pace for a little while and you try to communicate in whatever way you can- whether it’s grunts and gestures with the old French man, or fluent English with the college kid from Michigan. But eventually you break away from each other and wait for the next part of the world to come pass you by.
And then for the next however many miles, you play leapfrog with your newfound stranger- friends. You pass them as they stop for a snack, then they pass you as you adjust your boots, but eventually you all make it at different times to whatever little village you’re staying at for the night.
Everyone goes their separate ways to the different albergues and hotels and they drop their packs and shower and then everyone reconvenes at the local bar.
And suddenly it’s like a family reunion. Everyone is loudly and excitedly greeting one another in broken languages, happy to see familiar faces. There are bottles of wine and loaves of bread everywhere and music playing and suddenly no one cares about the treacherous walk of the day or the blisters on their feet- they’re just happy to be with each other.
Tables are being shared by 5 or 6 different nationalities as food is passed and stories are told. The stories probably aren’t that funny, but everyone is laughing anyway and you kind of wish you could just freeze time in this moment.
For extroverted, relationship based kiddos like me, this is the best part of the camino.
And then you wake up and you do it all over again. You walk and walk and walk some more until you think every bone in your body will shatter if you take another step, and then you walk another 3 miles after that. Time passes quickly and you marvel over the wild flowers and the hills and the different animals you see and you wait for another peregrino to come alongside you so you can exchange little snippets of your lives.
It’s quite the experience, folks.
There are a billion pictures I want to include but, as a true pilgrim would say “ain’t nobody got wifi fo dat!”
Hopefully we’ll encounter some kind of wifi haven and I’ll inundate the cyber world with pictures of our glorious trek, but until then, google it or something I guess!
As time goes on and the newness of this whole thing wears off, I’m sure the blogs will get fewer and farther between, but thanks for checking in on our little adventure in the footkills.
Buen Camino, my friends!