Sunny Day – Cloudy Mind
One would think I should have felt gung-ho on a radiant morning like this one, my fifth day on the Camino del Norte, but I didn’t. My state of mind didn’t match the bright sunshine. Instead my thoughts were clouded with indecision and I felt alone, until a Spanish peregrino brightened my day.
I couldn’t leave the albergue at Gran Camping Zarautz fast enough. Although there was a restaurant, I didn’t want to spend anymore time there than necessary. Breakfast could wait!
It didn’t take long to walk the remaining two kilometers into the lovely little beach town of Zarautz.
A café along the beachfront was just opening so I offloaded my pack and sat down for my favourite Spanish breakfast – a café con leche (coffee with milk), pastel de chocolate (chocolate pastry) and a freshly squeezed zumo de naranja (orange juice).
After fueling up at the café, I followed the Camino along a paved road and through another small beach town called Getaria, 6.3 kilometers from Zarautz.
The Camino continued along a highway.
And meandered along country roads again.
Crumbling stucco revealed the ancient stone walls and weathered beams of an old farm house. The timeworn doors and windows, once a freshly-painted mint-green, were now faded and splintered. There’s something beautiful about it though. When dwellings get old here, instead of being torn down, they become a charming reminder of ancient family and rural history.
A house like this is the foundation of centuries of family stories. Its existence connects the ancient past to the present. Sometimes I feel severed from that connection when the old is torn down and replaced with new – the evidence of history erased. Seeing this old house gave me comfort as I imagined the lives of those who resided there. For the moments I stood there I felt connected to its history.
I found a perfect resting spot on this old bench. It was built here for good reason and I was lucky to have it all to myself for a while until six male pilgrims approached.
They would want to enjoy this view too. Who wouldn’t?
So I left it for them to appreciate and continued on my way.
The Camino led through a young vineyard where I could hear a tractor working. A whitish vapor cloud puffed up at times. At first I thought it was water vapor, but no. The tractor operator wore a full protective suit including a full head and face shield. Wet particles landed on my skin while I walked along. I held my breath until I passed.
The red Spanish roof-tops contrasted beautifully against the green, patchy countryside.
Some friendly horses met me at this gate as I approached. What a lovely place to graze!
If only they knew how much people pay for a view like this. Maybe it’s best they don’t and just continue enjoying an uncomplicated life of eating grass with their friends.
Although the scenery was stunning, I was missing the camaraderie of other pilgrims.
I should have felt peaceful walking through a landscape of lush farmland, much of it with a view of the sea, but I didn’t. A nagging feeling kept arising. Some things that were important to me along the French Way, didn’t seem present along the Norte – the camaraderie, Camino spirit, the coincidences and synchronicity that would always happen. Or maybe it was just that I wasn’t open to it this time. Maybe I was hoping and looking too hard.
A Patient Walking Companion
A Spanish peregrino (pilgrim) passed me while I was taking a panorama photo of the scenery with my phone. He stopped, turned and spoke to me in Spanish. It didn’t seem to bother him that I was slow to respond after our quick greeting. Regardless he beckoned me forward with a single motion of his hand through the air as if doing so would scoop me up and propel me forward.
His name was Sebastian. We walked together for the reminder of the day. He didn’t speak or understand English, so I communicated with him using the little Spanish I knew.
Conversing with Sebastian was the complete opposite experience from the previous evening with the rude and dismissive hospitalero (host). In contrast, Sebastian was extremely patient and kind while I slowly processed his words, formed answers and then asked him questions of my own in broken, present-tense Spanish. He answered as best he could so that I could understand. It was a great conversational Spanish lesson; however by the end of the day I was mentally exhausted!
I learned that Sebastian would turn sesenta y seis (66) the following day. He has walked many Caminos and in different seasons, including the Camino Frances el invierno pasado (last winter). He was walking to Deba where he would work as an hospitalero por dos semanas (for two weeks). I told him I would be doing the same in mid-June, but in Grañon along the Camino Frances in the la Rioja region – “Soy un hospitalero también, pero en el Camino Frances en Grañon el quince de junio.” Not only were we fellow pilgrims, we would soon be fellow hospitaleros. Sebastian has been an hospitalero many times in his life and I am certain he is a very supportive and understanding one – definitely a good role model for me.
We stopped for a café con leche before continuing the rest of the way into Deba. On the descent, he warned me in a way I could understand, “Muchos abajos y muy peligroso!” (many downs and very dangerous), so we carefully descended in a zig-zag pattern down the hill in an effort to save our knees and avoid slipping on loose gravel.
The Albergue de Peregrinos
Sebastian led me to the tourist office in Deba where I retrieved a key to the albergue he would be working at, Albergue de Peregrinos. It was located above a train station and had a big yard with picnic tables. There was also a cozy sitting area where pilgrims, mostly male, hung out and conversed in either Spanish or French.
Nobody spoke English in the albergue, so I decided to walk to the supermarket and pick up toothpaste and laundry soap as well as dinner and lunch items for the next day.
The Camino del Norte: My Next Steps
That evening I really struggled with my next steps. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue walking along the Camino del Norte. Thus far, there had been no communal dinners and pilgrims seemed to only connect with those who spoke their language. I felt alone in an albergue full of pilgrims which was always a place of camaraderie on the Frances. It felt different along the Norte although the language barrier likely had much to do with it. Sebastian was a rare gem.
In the morning I had no desire to walk any further along the Camino del Norte and with the train station right there I suddenly found myself watching the scenery whip past me while on my way back to San Sebastian once again, but this time to catch a bus to Pamplona.