That’s right – I am doing the Camino de Santiago! It became a tradition of mine over the years. I think I know what you may be thinking and the answer is ‘No’. It never gets too old or too boring because every time is like the first time if you love walking in nature – also I’ve never once taken the same route (and last but not least – I’ve evolved since I last walked the Camino so that changes everything including my outlook on life while walking). You can start from Spain, France, Portugal, Italy or even Palestine! This time I am doing the Camino del Norte in Spain and I am walking it solo. I would have loved to complete the whole route but my time in Europe is limited so I’ll be covering two stages out of four in 2 weeks. 300 plus kilometres. By foot and no cheating.
Camino del Norte
The Camino del Norte or the Northern Way is the Camino route of the Northern Coast of Spain from San Sebastián to Bilbao and on to Santiago de Compostela. It’s one of the most challenging routes on the Camino. It follows the coast line most of the way and as I have discovered today, you will pass through the most charming fishing villages, sandy beaches and green hills. Side tracking a bit but one of my favourite things about Northern Spain (besides its beautiful picturesque scenery) is the food! I’m obsessed with the Grilled Octopus dish which is basically Octopus and Potatoes drenched in olive oil and flavoured with paprika. It’s delicious! I normally have it daily (unfailingly) when I’m in Northern Spain. Back to Camino del Norte. Here’s a map so you can see the route I will be covering. My last destination is somewhere between Santander and Gijón. The village’s name is not shown on the map.
Day 1 – I left my San Sebastián hotel and reached Getaria. I walked 27 kilometres for 6 hours and 30 minutes. My legs and feet killed me and are still killing me as I haven’t done long distance walking in a while. The route was quite hilly and had some steep slopes. If you have knee issues I wouldn’t recommend it.
Instead of describing how beautiful the scenery was, let me use this space to tell you what went through my head while walking alone for almost seven hours. I thought about water. I thought about my feet. I thought about how hot it was under the sun and about the cool breeze under the trees. I thought about my father. I thought about what martial arts move would be effective if some crazy person decides to bother me. I thought about my next snack-break, and the next, and the next. I thought about blisters and how to avoid them. I thought about the people I love in different places on earth. I thought about what it would be like to have thick skin. I thought about my mother worrying about me. I thought about a friend of mine in Egypt who’s going through hell but keeps going. I thought about how lucky I am to be able to do the things I love independently. I thought about my sisters, about their thoughts, worries and courage. I thought about how thankful I am for my life. I thought about ‘courage’ and ‘confidence’ a lot. I thought about ‘ways’ to overcome grief and whether time is truly my friend. I thought about how Spanish people know how to live life and enjoy the simple things we humans take for granted like good friends, a loving family and togetherness. I thought about what a nuisance this flu of mine is. I thought about my close friend’s 40th in Zanzibar and what special gift I should get or even create for him. I thought about the months I spent in Italy over the last two and half years and the wonderful people I met there and love. I thought about thinking and how to stop thinking and after sometime I actually stopped thinking. I was totally in the moment. Until my feet started acting up and then it was all about my feet and when am I going to reach Getaria.
Did I meet new people along the way? Yes. My favourite people though are the old Spanish people from these parts who stop pilgrims and ask them where they’re from and where they’re heading. I had that today and explained where I was from and where I was heading in broken Spanish mixed with Italian. One old Spanish woman hugged me when she found out I was walking it solo and told me I was very brave. She made my day because it cemented some of my ‘courage’ thoughts about leaving fear behind. Somehow I always connect with the old irrespective of what country I am in. Old people remind me of my father. Their curiosity and innocence touch me.
Did I listen to music while walking? No.
Did I enjoy my aloneness? Yes.
Did I walk for hours with no one in sight? Yes.
Did I get scared at any point while walking? No. But I was a bit apprehensive when I took my first few steps into the woods.
Am I exhausted? Yes.
Am I happy? Yes, and fulfilled. Completing 27 kilometres on the first day is an accomplishment.
I’ll tell you more tomorrow but I promised in my previous post that I will tell you more about San Sebastián! So here goes.
Or Donostia to the Basques. San Sebastián is located on Spain’s north coast in the Basque Country. It is well known for its excellent cuisine and is home to countless Michelin-starred restaurants. It is known for Playa de la Concha and Playa de Ondarreta – beautiful beaches with bayfront promenades. I am amazed at how the Spanish (like the Italians) love the sun! San Sebastián is also known for hosting events such as the San Sebastián International Film Festival. If you’re a museum lover, you would love it. If you’re a foodie, you would definitely love it. If you’re a beach lover, you would love it. If you’re into history and culture, you would love it. If you love holidaying in a place with lots of people, music and life, you would love it. If you love cobbled streets and historic buildings, you would love it. If you generally love enjoying life and aren’t bothered about crunching numbers 24/7 and getting cross-eyed, you would love it!