It’s now 0500 on day 3 of my Camino Frances and everything I read about sleep deprivation due to snoring in the dorms has become a reality.
Upstairs in our dorm room, it sounds like 3 freight trains are roaring through the room. My earplugs seem to have no resistance against the cacophony, so knowing there’s no chance of sleep, I’ve come downstairs, bought a coffee from the vending machine and curled up on the couch to write in the cosy, common loungeroom.
And as I write, I reflect on how the snoring, blisters and physical exhaustion are difficult elements of walking the Camino. Yet the camaraderie, scenery and personal gratification inspires and drives your determination to push through.
Walking over the Pyrenees on Day 1 attested to that. To say it was physically challenging is an understatement. During the toughest inclines, my legs were like jelly, I felt dizzy and at times, was on the verge of vomiting. But despite the discomfort, something was pushing me up those mountains. Was it spiritual or simple determination: I don’t know?
Despite the challenges, Chu and I limped into Roncesvalles 10 hours after leaving Saint Jean.
Chu is a wonderful lady from California who I met on my first day in Saint Jean Pied de Port. Something clicked and we just started walking together. Chu is doing the entire Camino and as I can only do part of it due to flight changes, we will soon part ways.
She’s such a warm, funny woman with a wealth of trekking knowledge and walking together seems to fit us both well. We’re both independent woman who enjoy our own company, and over these last two, oh so tough days, we’ve been a huge support to each other. We walk comfortably in silence, neither of us feeling the need to fill that silence, which is quite rare when you first meet. At different times we’ve walked ahead of each other, knowing that we’ll reconnect somewhere along the track. It’s comforting to know someone’s ‘got your back’ but also comforting knowing we’re walking our own Camino.
After our tough climb over the Pyrenees, Day 2 was supposed to be a little easier. And it well could’ve been if our bodies were not trying to recover from the Pyrenees climb. Day 2 presented different challenges, our bodies hurt, we’d both developed blisters, which made the rocky terrain difficult.
We walked with pain, yet we also walked with laughter.
Day 2 took us through rural farmlands where there’s an abundance of sheep, cows and horses, many of whom wear large bells that filter a sense of calm across the Spanish landscape.
Yesterday whilst walking through a thickly forested area we could hear the calming bell somewhere nearby. As we rounded a corner, a horse appeared. It was grazing about 3 metres from the path. We were not concerned or afraid. But within a few minutes another 5 joined their bell wearing leader. Again we were not too concerned and continued past them and on our way.
Before long we heard the bell jingling close by, and on turning around, we saw our new friends now sauntering along the path behind us. We stopped, thinking they would just keep moving on, but no, as we stopped, so did they. They watched us curiously and as we started walking again they followed suit, yet as they walked quite a bit faster (they obviously didn’t have blisters) they got closer. Before we realised they were soon right behind us. We tried stepping off the path to let them pass, but again, when we stopped, they did too. And when they did, they simply waited and watched with an occasional munch on a wayward piece of grass.
This went on for about an hour until Chu decided we ‘hide’ behind a tree to let them pass. So on finding a thick tree that seemingly hid us well (and safely I might add) we waited. Our new friends sauntered closer, yet to our surprise, just as they arrived at our tree, they turned on their hooves and bolted in the opposite direction never to be seen again. We were left somewhat perplexed at this sudden change, yet also found it highly amusing.
So alongside the snoring, aching bodies and blisters, the laughter has been in abundance.
The Camino stirs many emotions and despite the physical hardship I’m grateful to be having this incredible experience.