León, 27th May, 2014
They say that time heals all kind of wound and that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. It’s true. I have been saying goodbye for seven years now. Those who envy those of us who travel a lot, who live a few months here and a few months there are right. Because there is nothing better than being, as I like to call myself, “citizens of the world”.
You travel, you learn foreign languages and you stop being from one country. For every country you live in and every language you learn there is another life you get to live. But there is more than just that. Farewells, farewells, farewells: they kill you slowly, but never completely.
You get used to them, but saying goodbye is never easy. You leave some friends here, others there. You are able to fit your whole life in a backpack, even though you leave with one but always come back with more. Every adventure comes to an end, and after this one, there will be another one. This is the life I have chosen, and I do not regret it.
León, 2nd June 2014
I was running late, as usual. And this time it was good, for I had no time to cry, just the time to hug my friend Rita and jump on the train to Pamplona. I would see her again two weeks later, when I shall arrive in León on my way to Santiago. Here my Camino begins.
DAY 1: 3rd June 2014. Roncesvalles – Zubiri, 21.5 km
Real Colegiata, bed 272. There are probably 500 people sleeping in this very room. I might have slept a couple of hours, if not less. I am not sure whether the lack of sleep is due to my excitement or if it was simply because the guy in the bed below mine did not stop snoring for a second.
Still, I can’t wait to start this first day. Last night, after getting my very first stamp in my Credencial del Peregrino, I joined the other pilgrims in the church.
Despite my atheism, I attended the Pilgrim Mass, celebrated in different languages, where the priest pronounced his blessing before the beginning of our pilgrimage. It was an intense moment of communion: totally different people from all walks of life, coming from different countries and speaking different languages, all united inside a small and dark church in the remote village of Roncesvalles, getting ready to share an adventure made of physical and emotional challenges.
It was mainly the feeling of the unexpected that gave me shivers. I knew where I was today, with no idea of what would expect me tomorrow. I was embracing the Camino in a sort of naive way, both ready and unprepared for whatever would come.
Leaving the Colegiata I met Wanda, the Polish woman who was sleeping next to me. Together, we stopped and listened to the birds singing in the early morning. She had tears in her eyes, for she had missed that sound on the last time she had walked the Camino, in autumn. It was her third time: I would later find out how for many people the Camino could easily become some sort of addiction. A good one, of course.
Green fields populated with cows, sheep and horses were my only companions during those first hours from Roncesvalles to Zubiri. When the day started to get warmer, I happily switched to the company of Armando and Jesús, two elderly brothers from Santander. Armando, blind on one eye, had lost his wife the year before. They always wanted to walk the way together, and I guess that now she’s somehow with him. Jesús, on his seventh Camino, convinced him to walk together.
Some agencies organize luggage transportation services, carrying the pilgrims’ backpacks. Despite their age, these two funny men that kept me company by singing Italian songs I have never heard of were each carrying their own backpack. And they are walking faster than me.
21.5 km later we arrived in Zubiri, where I got a bed in the albergue municipal. This would then become my daily routine every time I reached a destination: finding a bed, showering and hand-washing my clothes. After a pilgrim’s menu with my new friends, I went for a walk in the village and refreshed my tired feet in the cold water of the river.
DAY 2: June 4th, 2014. Zubiri – Pamplona– 22 km
Es muy largo el camino hasta Santiago, peregrino.
No tengas prisa, ve despacio y disfruta de cada paso
Poem I invented while walking
Another day spent walking among green trees and bushes, sometimes alone and sometimes with the company of other pilgrims. I am starting to get blisters.
Together with a couple from Prato, Michele and Sandra, and a guy from Como, Diego, I booked my bed in an albergue run by German volunteers. After eating and sightseeing in Pamplona, we spent the evening drinking bad wine together with Getda, the volunteer that looked like Fräulein Rottenmeier, and another German pilgrim who’s planning to take the bus tomorrow because her feet hurt too much.