Day 1 of the Camino - OMFG!!
Updated: Apr 7, 2019
St. Jean Pied De Port - Espinal 31.8 km (under the stars)
Insane, utterly insane and off the scale, I could of never foreseen that day that lay ahead when I set off that morning!!
I'd slept like a log in my shared room, one of the guys offered to go on top but I said I'd like to give it a go. ;) Getting down in the morning was fun, I was trying to graciously sliding down the ladder, that was not going well so I jumped, what a Muppet I about twisted my ankle, maybe I will let others ride up top in future! ;)
So off i went to the Office thing to get my Camino credentials; A passport type book that i get stamped along the way, all very pleasing. I was ridiculed for the size of may bag and asked to weigh it, I had no interest in the weight but he insisted. So it weighs 15kg and that's without water, apparently that insane lol. I have since come to agree that yes that maybe the case, I should be carrying no more then 10% of my weight so approximately 6kg!!!! Well I like a challenge!!
So to put you in the loop, I did some limited research on the Camino, I'd read a book, watched a film a few of years ago, seen a documentary and googled some real life pilgrims and face book pages. So I felt I had enough info to head out, I knew of an app if I needed it, but the way is well marked so I wasn't too concerned. I half heartedly tried to get a map on arrival but failed and wasn't interested in the book. I wanted to experience my own Camino, O boy I got that wish on day 1!! So as far as google was concerned I was out of season and so didn't need to reserve alburgue's (hostels) and there are loads so if one is full you just head to the next, easy!!
No, no, no, no all lies! I head off. Now when I arrived to Saint Jean Pied De Port I was somewhat surprised to see mountains all round, any clips I'd seen that I had remembered were flat areas. This was not flat!!! I did a 7km hike up a mountain and at various points just felt I would die pmsl. It was crazy, it became very apparent my bag was way to heavy. I do not know how I even made it up. The last 1km I met Katy, she was brimming with tears as she'd heard the reality of our situation. So neither of us were aware how hard the first day of the Camino is, Katy also had a ridiculous rucksack, had slept very little and had't eaten much, she was a lady on the brink! So hugs and reassurance done, we headed off up the hill to Orisson for a tortilla de patata, this is to become a staple of my diet as gluten free. GF is a nightmare in a county that every meal revolves around bread. I'd had no breakfast and hiked up a mountain and the day before I eaten a bar of chocolate and fruit, hardly the energising stuff of mountain hiking army style with the rucksack!!
Ok peeps, I'm returning to this blog on day 4 as the days fly by and I Iove them and almost don't feel I have time to blog. BUT I want to share the experience and it would be nice to have the record of my travels. Many a time I wish I had journaled my recovery from ill health as it could of inspired others. Maybe this journey can be an inspiration, I know my friends who I whatsapp regulary with ickle videos seem to think so. :) Also I want to practise my writing skills, I enjoy writing, I get lost in it and it's like a form of meditation to me and something I want to explore.
So here's the deal, I haven't figured out the spell check on this google chrome thing works, my grammar is pretty shocking, but I don't want to spend time editing when there is so much to immerse myself in and enjoy. So I will type and post, read away but please ignore the errors!! :)
Back to day one, yep I have notes as didn't want to forget what was such a massively challenging, character building and rewarding day!!!
So me and Katy arrived at Orisson already in the knowledge this was the first albergue and we knew it was full, we also knew we were about fooked from the mountain so far and had now found out the next albergue was 20 km away over much bigger mountains. Why o why did no one mention this insane first day!!!
So at this point I was thinking I was going to be sleeping under the stars, now I had brought a tent but didn't pack it as so many had said it wasn't needed, boy did I wish I'd of packed it now. I had a mat, sleeping bag and emergency heat bag so i could rough it if needed. That was until it dawned on me I had no food and had eaten very little!! So my motivator to achieve what seemed impossible was the need to eat!! Pretty basic need!!
So I walked and walked, I encouraged Katy to go ahead as she was faster and not at all kitted out for a night under the stars if it came to that. Our paths crossed many times throughout what was a very long day, we certainly helped and supported each other!!
The mountains were massive and honestly never ending, I'd take a picture and then get higher and take another as the view got better and better, I must of done this 10/15 times!!! Now there was a lot of pain, this was a constant slog up the mountains, the Pyrenees at that, I had many breaks as I would just get to the point where I felt I couldn't possible go any further. This day I learnt how truly amazing the human body is. Strangely nature kept me going, the stunning views and the insects that seem to be sending my signs (I'll save this for another blog). The sheep, horses and cows all with bells on providing the sound track the the mountainous trek, such a beautiful sound to accompany the stunning views. :)
So to summarise the rest of this insane day......
At the top of the mountain I am walking in the clouds, quite mystical and definitely tapped into me feelings of being on cloud 9 lol.
I arrived at Roncesvalles to be told there was no room, now this place is massive, truely massive and this was the biggest blow. It had taken about 10 hours to get there and I was beyond worn out, may body felt shafted. I begged to be allowed to eat and sleep outdoors but as I no tent I was sent on my way. Now at this point I need to say they offered me a taxi, to another village to find a bed, I didn't and hope I won't ever take a taxi on the Camino. For me I am well aware I am a modern day pilgrim but I plan on walking every step and facing the hardships that come my way, oh and they did follow! That evening!!
So I walked to the next village to be repeatedly told there was no beds, thankfully I found a pub place with a fridge selling food, pure heaven after only one slice of Spanish omelette and 2 sugar sweets some kind Canadian lady gave on the mountain climb. So I sat by a river eating food thinking what to do. Happy as I am to try sleeping under the stars I was beyond broken, I desperately wanted a bed, it was damp and getting dark. So I download an app, got my head torch out and headed down the road to the next village. Again i was turned away, repeatedly until it was about 10.30 pm, so after walking for 13 plus hours. I sat on the pavement for an hour or so, ate more food, put on lots of clothes and then found the best spot I could to sleep under the stars, annoyingly the stars were hidden behind the clouds!!!
Ok, so not ideal, but the reality was I loved the whole experience and spent the whole day feeling grateful that I was rising to each and every challenge. Now not so long ago a like a year/year and a half I could barely walk any distance, I was in constant flare up with RA, I was close to having to leave my job. I was losing myself to the constant pain, I wasn't enjoying life and on reflection pretty sure I was suffering from depression which is common with those with RA. So no matter how much I hurt that day, the fact that I was hiking in the Pyrenees, with a 15kg bag felt like my own miracle. I would of taken that day on repeat rather then to ever feel the pain and desperation I felt with RA. I may of created my miracle with my RA management but nevertheless it truly does feel like a miracle and every day I am just so grateful at getting my health and chance at life back. :) :)
One humongous thing about this day was the difference my friends and family made. So I have 2 whats app groups set up, I set them up on this first day of walking. The idea was I can share my journey and keep in touch with all those people I care about. Throughout the day I made many short videos, why? Well because I am a twat, I like being silly and sharing, making myself and others smile.
The videos made me giggle when I was struggling my most. They made me feel close to my friends. Then when it was dark and I couldn't find a room the support I got from friends and my brother was brilliant. I was alone in Spain walking down dark roads, yet at no point did I feel alone. I felt the most loved and supported that I have ever done in my whole life and this emphasised what a wonderful support network I have. How much I love you all and how wonderful that I could feel soooooooo loved and held that night. You shared my burdens and my success's that first day and forward, thank you. I love you all. :)
Smiles and positive vibes
Nat :) xx
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