The Day When it All Began:
We were all anticipation as we set out for our first day of walking the Camino del Norte. Two utter and complete bundles of nerves and excitement. Would we be up for the task of walking 14 miles? Would our bags be too heavy? Would we kill each other? We didn’t know, but Lizz and I set out feeling absolutely giddy.
We wouldn’t always feel the same way on the same day, but today we mirrored each other with our nerves and with our surprise at just how easy the walk was.
What wasn’t easy?
Packing our bags in the morning! By the end of the Camino, we would be up and out the door in 10 minutes flat. But on day one of our adventure across Spain, we couldn’t seem to fit our clothes in right or strap our shoes on quickly. It took us forever to get out the door.
The Camino will Provide
There is a saying that the “Camino will provide,” and we saw evidence of that nearly immediately when we finally got out the door. As we maneuvered down a steep hill from our hostel in search of both caffeine and the trail itself.
We didn’t yet know how to search for the yellow arrows that serve as waymarking signs for the Camino (a fact that now sounds laughably insane but, hey, we all start somewhere!), so we weren’t sure how to actually find the route!
Then along came Anna, dressed just like us and moving at just about our pace. She was clearly walking the Camino, so we lobbed a tentative “buen camino?” at her, our first of many greetings using the universal language of the pilgrim.
Anna was also looking for coffee and she knew exactly how to find the route. A native of Catalonia, Anna was fluent in Spanish and even knew a little of the baffling Basque Language called Euskera. She was even a native of the Camino, having walked portions of it in previous years and she was a huge help to us throughout the day as we navigated the learning curve of the Camino.
The Awe of it all
As we walked, everything seemed amazing. The animals that we saw, including a goat on its hind legs plucking fruit from a tree, the sweeping coastline views, the fellow walkers with their chiseled legs and massive packs including sleeping bags and tents, it was all so much to take in. I must have taken hours of video on this day!
By the end, I would zip past cows, goats, dogs, and breathtaking views without even noticing. In the final days of walking, it would take a random peacock or an angry cow charging at a fellow walker (this actually happened) to get me to pause.
Arriving in Zarautz
Even though we knew the saying – that the Camino would provide – we booked a room in advance in Zarautz. This would be the hardest part of the Camino for me, wrestling with my Type-A, slightly obsessive need to plan ahead and the inability to know where you will lay your head down to sleep the next day.
But this time, we knew exactly where we would sleep, so we said goodbye to Anna who was bed racing and needed to get to an albergue stat, and we headed for the beach with our backpacks still strapped on.
That water on my feet felt amazing. Lizz was braver than me and plunged right into the frigid waters, but I just waded in a bit and reflected on what was behind us and what was in store for us.
Then Lizz and I enjoyed the sunset with a live band and our first “buen camino” cheers before heading to buy walking sticks (these would prove to be everything) and turning in for an early night.
Tips from a Post-Camino Perspective
Stage Miles: 13.67 (18.5 kilometers)
Actual Miles Walked: 14.8
Bus forward Miles: 0
Total Miles Walked So Far: 14.8 (23.8 kilometers)
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