It´s amazing how in just over a day I can go from my bed in San Francisco and sleep in a bed in a little town of under 100 people in Roncesvalles, Spain. With all the planning I had done, I got a rush when the bus pulled out of the Madrid bus station and started off for Pamplona. Up to that moment it had just been a piece of data on a webpage but sure enough at 1030 am (i can´t find the colon sign on this Spanish keyboard) the bus began its trip. And then I immediately proceeded to sleep for most of the trip. A large part of this is due to US Airways being the Greyhound of flying. The seats were so uncomfortable, the lights overhead wouldn´t turn on at first and then would never shut off, and my seat wouldn´t not recline. And you have to pay for drinks. On an international flight! That´s unheard of. And to top it off, I was looking forward to breakfast since I was starving and all we got was a semi-frozen chocolate donut that I didn´t see anyone touch.
Moving on, from Pamplona I took a bus to Roncesvalles which is a short 1 hour ride. As I was waiting at the platform, lost in my own thoughts I caught the sight of a walking stick out the corner of my eye. I look over and I see the same person with a big backpack on, and a seashell. I looked around and there must have been over 20 people, all pilgrims who I was going to be walking with the next day. It was really happening. I chatted up this one guy who speaks no English and I speak no Spanish so we communicate in broken French, and after a couple of beers we were understanding each other perfectly. He introduced himself as Carlos, ´like Charles Bronson, you know?´he asked. And I replied with ´si, like Charles Manson too, yes?´ He didn´t find that as humorous as I did.
Moving on to the Camino, we arrived at Roncesvalles last night around 7, got our Camino passport stamped and then went to a pilgrim´s mass. Four priests led the mass and one of the pilgrims (peregrino) got up on the pulpit and sang the most beautiful song which I have no idea what it meant.
Moving on, I began the morning by waking up and thinking to myself ´WTF am I doing?´ Then I packed up all my stuff, was one of the last people out of the auberge (hostel) and walked by a sign saying ´Santiago de Compostela 790 km´(that´s 500 miles) and immediately asked myself again ´WTF am I doing?´ It´s goign to take a few days to get in the groove of hiking and enjoying the journey without worrying about how many more 100´s of kms are left.
Prior to setting out on the trip I debated on whether or not to buy walking poles. Some people recommend buying a pair, others recommend walking without them and picking one up along the way if it calls for you. I opted for the latter approach (sounds more intriguing) and luckily enough I found a walking stick early on which proved to be crucial. Now I couldn´t imagine going through this hike without a stick for the balance and support when you´re working your way through the muck and the slippery descents. Most people brought a pair of walking poles and they´re definitely better off for it.
The hike today was very challenging. It rained all day and it made for very muddy and slick paths, a lot of which were up and downhill since we´re in mountain country at the moment. Still, everyone is in good spirits and we share stories over beers and wine at dinner, and in the case of one girl from Utah she will not hesitate to show people the soles of her feet that are a gray like you would not believe. Goes to show the importance of having actual hiking shoes (she had regular running shoes). I´m going to take it easy these first few days as I adjust to walking this many miles and figuring out how to best wear my backpack.
It´s getting kinda late here; everyone in the hostel has gone to bed. I napped right as soon as we got to the hostel so I´m still awake but I should head out. We´ve got a long day ahead tomorrow as we´re going 28 km to Pamplona. Rain rain go away!