Day 11 June 9 Of Birthdays and Garlic Soup

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Belorado to San Juañ de Ortega – My Birthday Today was the start of my 5th decade and the weather was to gift me with another cold, head-wind morning. Thinking mother nature could have been a little more thoughtful on this significant milestone, I set off with an expectation that it had to get better as the dawn arrived. Word had spread among many of my pilgrim friends that today was my birthday and the occasional versions in various languages were often the very backdraft boost needed to keep me going.  I love how many Europeans don’t just sing happy…

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Day 10 June 8 Goodbye 4th Decade

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In the darkened rustling of others getting ready for the road, I looked at my watch and thought it said 6:30 but the light from the lavatory corrected my vision and revealed it was only 5:30 AM. Already up, I tried to quietly pack the rest of my things for those still sleeping (a courtesy that is either painfully adhered to or grossly abused – are your reading this you 5 Spanish elders!) , and pinned my still damp hand-washed socks to the outside of the pack so they could dry as I walked. (yes, I have a second pair)….

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Day 9 June 7 The Miracle of the Rooster and the Hen

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Ventosa to Santa Domiñgo de la Calzada 31 kilometers. One of the longest days on the trail. Left at 6 AM and wearily arrived around 3:30 PM with only one or two stops for rest. It was to be the beginning of many days walking switchbacks through vineyard after vineyard. Passed through Najera, Azofra and many other small villages. When many would pass me on the trail earlier on the pilgrimage, I remember chewing on the thought that maybe there wouldn´t be any place for me to sleep if I didn´t go faster. I´m thrilled to say I let that…

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Day 8 June 6 Flying In The Face of the Mirror

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There is an old saying that goes, ¨Damp in the sky, damp in the heart.¨ It´s about 2 minutes old for I just made it up but it seems to describe quite accurately the morning leaving La Groño. A light drizzle fell from the pre-dawn sky and although the city afforded awnings and business doorways to duck under for protection, it also meant pulling out the backpack cover and adjusting the walk. Mark ventured ahead. I walked solo through the industrial edges of town, jogging tracks, and a very large city park before entering into open terrain. Even with a…

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Day 7 June 5 Tomorrow I Won´t Eat The Las Papas Fritas

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Another early exit by almost everyone in the albuergue. Today was to be the first attempt at 30 kilometers. My original schedule from Saint Jean Pied de Port had me stopping in Viaña but Mark´s guidebook and many of the others were going to venture another 6 to 7 kilometers to the large city of La Groño. It was still a little before 6 AM when Mark and I left to venture west. The guidebook had said it was worth stopping in the small village of Torres del Rio for there one would find a rare sepulchre – a Knights…

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Day 6 June 4 The Early Bird Misses the Wine

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Before falling asleep, some around me in the floor to ceiling bunk beds, were discussing leaving at 4:30 AM due to the possibility of another day of unexpected heat. Sounded good to me, so I set my mental alarm clock – you know the kind where you see the number in your mind and like magic, you wake up at that exact moment. It worked and sure enough my eyes opened from the most unusual night of dreaming. Having pre-packed everything the night before, I eased my way out of the darkened, snore-filled albuergue. Fortunately there was a group of…

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Day 5 June 3 And Then There Was Heat

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It was to be a day of increasing heat. Every man, woman and child seemed to gravitate indoors or into shade, and yet today´s trails were to be more exposed than ever. At my pace it was approximately 7 and a half hours from Pueñte la Reiña to the town of Estella. By 10 AM I was soaked through and through and kept my eye open on every fountain available to refill my water bottles. “Hot, no?” came the voice behind me and soon Paulo from Bologña, Italy was walking with me. We both searched for ways to communicate to…

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Day 4 June 2 Going solo

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Mark expressed an interest in crossing town to see the starting gate where the bulls are released for the famous running of the bulls through the incredibly narrow streets. I decided I would go ahead and head out on my own. Secure with fruit and water, I left the now quiet streets of Pamploña and began to make my way west of this amazing city. Of course now being prepared with food supplies, the morning brought opportunity after opportunity for a chance to get a morning cafe con leche or criossant – sustenance breeds sustenance. Following the arrows out of…

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Day 3 June 1 The Hungering

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Earplugs, earplugs, earplugs…..can we get an amen? After being in a room with Lucca one understands and appreciates better sleeping through foam – gorgeous, beautiful creations – particularly the kind that mold to the entire inner ear cavity. Others in our space for the night were not so happy. Claire and Kathryn from Germany looked at me with a painful glint in their eyes which seemed to beg.. “Perhaps we can all pick him up and take him outside?” Mark and I, along with Claire, Kathryn and the rest of our dormatorio, abandoned the room shortly after 6: 30 AM…

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Day 2 May 31 Let’s Try This Again

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Mark and I departed Burguete somewhere around 8:30 in the morning and knew, from the maps given us that this day, we would be walking a more even terrain. At the Hostel in Burguete I left a pair of shorts, some boxers, a perpetually damp shirt that wouldn´t dry and my two beloved books that I thought I could not live without- Paulo Coelho´s The Pilgrimage, detailing his extraordinary and mystical journey on the Camino and a new favorite Love Without End, a book that tells the experience of a famous American portraiture artist who painted Jesus – literally –…

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Day 1 May 30 The Agony and the Ecstasy

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Author Irving Stone must have been traversing the French Pyrenees when he penned his novel, The Agony and the Ecstasy. My spiritual teachers gently mentioned to me prior to my leaving that I must be willing to embrace both compassion and acceptance towards the self. It was to be my greatest challenge and my greatest gift. The ecstasy was the unparalled beauty of the landscape. My God, how could I be in the midst of all this ~~  vibrant, verdant covered mountain ranges, fields of wild flowers, herds of sheeps, cattle and mares with their colts all wearing bells around their…

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May 29, 2009 Saint Jean Pied de Port

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Bonjour – Arrived in Biarritz France on the eve of the 28th after layovers in Frankfurt, Germany and Lyon, Spain – gorgeous resort town on the coast. Gear arrived and we took a taxi to Hotel Argi Eder in the heart of town with a speed that puts Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to shame. Traveling with one of my oldest friends, Mark Wyrick. Rinsed out airplane clothes in this incredibly affordable hostel, only to discover that our new motto for this morning was, ” quick dry, my ass.” Ventured out for coffee – much was closed at 7 AM but…

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