Day 24, December 18th, 2011
Expenses, Day 24
Albergue Municipal Estrella: 7.00
Trip Total: 528.16
Day 25, December 19th, 2011
Expenses, Day 25
Fruit, Vegetables, Chocolate: 3.25
Café con Leche: 1.10
Dinner, Provisions: 7.14
Yesterday was a hard day for only 20 kilometers. I had been up late the night before with Jay (British pilgrim, hippie, lives in converted church, makes jewelry out of bits of meteorities, 51 years old) and Ernesto (Venezuelan, recently divorced and changed jobs, wore jeans on the camino in winter (not a good idea), 56 years old) and didn’t get enough sleep. Also, I pulled something in my left shin the day before that on the way into Puente la Reina . . . I should know better than to try 31 kilometers in the rain and slippery mud. I took a couple bad falls, any one of them could have been the one to hurt my leg . . . and so yesterday was a tough day.
Today was better. The weather was better, and so was the leg. I slept about thirteen hours straight last night, which helped my body heal a little. I think that it should be okay by tomorrow. This is proof that somebody can be dumb no matter how many kilometers they’ve walked.
I told Jay and Ernesto my story about the mountain and victory over fear, and Ernesto said something interesting. “You’ve learned something about yourself . . . you’re not afraid to die.”
Hmm. I tried that out, saying it out loud to myself while walking the next day. “I am not afraid to die.” It isn’t quite the truth; I am afraid of death, and I am in no hurry to get there. But what is true is that when it comes to something I believe in (the camino, in this case, even though I don’t know why I believe in it) I will act in the face of the fear of death. Maybe that’s the same thing.
I feel good. It feels strong and powerful to say “I am not afraid of death,” and feel some kernel of truth resonate deep in my gut.
Because the threat of death was real there for a few moments, if extremely unlikely. My survival depended on two things: my ability to keep walking, and the weather staying clear. If I had broken an ankle and it had starting raining . . . who knows when anyone else would have come along. It was so, so dumb to set out across the mountains in the middle of winter with no food! I’m not gonna do that again.
Jean-Luc has set out for Barcelona in my tracks, doing the same path that I’ve just completed in reverse. He has a tent and a kitchen; I gave him my guidebook. He is looking for peace and solitude; I think he will find the latter, at least! I hope he has better luck than I did; he is a beautiful spirit and I wish him the best. It’s too bad that I didn’t get to walk with him further.
We are definitely in Basque country now – that’s what the strange language is with all the Ks and Zs (it’s called Euskara). There is lots of “Free the Basque Country!” and “Peregrino – you are not in Spain!” graffiti. Madrid probably disagrees with that second statement.
It’s Ursula’s 70th birthday today. She’s a retired schoolteacher from Germany and speaks fluent Spanish, English, German, and is working on her Italian. This is her fourth camino – the woman can walk me into the ground. It’s all like Jay says: “Tread lightly upon the Earth.” I’ve spent the past two days walking on a hurt leg, trying to just listen to the work my feet are doing . . . not trying to control it, just listening. The more I listen, the more I “tread lightly,” and the more I find my own stride. That’s the secret, I think, not strength or fitness. Technique.