Gurnika in Gernika, Basque Country.
so I didn’t write anything yesterday, it’s understandable. I’ll go
back and see what I can remember…
got up a little after seven having slept like a baby, had a quick
breakfast of tea, bread, butter, jam and some cake and an orange.
Took some cake for the road. That shit is fuel. Fuel made of cake. I
head out across a dewy field, cows mooing, cockrels crowing, a dog-
probably barking at nothing, off in the distance. It’s foggy and
overcast and will reamin so for the rest of the day- but that’s fine,
because there’s no rain and it’s between ten and sixteen degress
throughout the day, great walking weather.
feels a bit harder today. The first ten kilometres are difficult.
After about 12 or 15 I notice my right groin muscle is straining
slightly, it only hurts when I walk up hill. Which there is a lot of.
In fact I’m pretty much either always walking up a hill or down a
hill. And these are proper fucking hills. I knew this route was meant
to be more challenging, but the mental toll it takes on you when you
round a corner and then there’s another hill right before you that
just bends away off to nowhere. The groin is not getting any better,
I decide that I’ll stop at Olatz which is about 20km from my starting
point. I have this little guide I got from a tourist office which
lists a bunch of places to stay along the way, it’s how I found the
last place which turned out to be excellent.
I’m just going to foreshadow a little and say that the signposts in
general are inaccurate, inconsistent and not there when you need
them. And this place, Olatz, isn’t really a place, it’s a few houses
spotted around some farmland. There’s no one around to ask, there’s
literally bugger all here. The little guide thing is probably out of
date, or just wrong, or maybe it’s that a lot of the stuff doesn’t
open until Semana Santa at the beginning of April. Either way Olatz
is a bust.
okay, I’ll power on, my groin hasn’t gotten any worse, I’ll just go
nice and slowly. It’s not even 2pm yet. Because I left so early I
still have plently of time. I decide to stop frequently and stretch
and snack and look after myself.
I’m getting seriously fatigued, I haven’t seen a person in hours, I
decide I’m going to have to push it hard and keep going until the
next reasonably sized place on the trail- which is Markina- which is
supposedly 16kms from the Olatz. So I focus, I start counting my
steps and noting them on my fingers in increments of one hundred. I
channel Terry Fox, I think about the little I know of him… walking
across Canada with one leg- although didn’t he kind of skip/run-
yeah- I up my tempo, I’m doing the same kind of motion, I can’t
really lift my left leg up that well so I kind of throw it forward
with my hip. I mix this up with grabbing my shorts and then just
lifting the leg up so as not to engage the muscles in my leg, this is
alright for a few hundred paces and then I try walking backwards-
apart from being quite difficult in and of itself it’s actually fine
and does not use the muscles of my groin. I’m pretty high up now, the
trail plateaus and on flat land I motor and it doesn’t hurt, in fact
I think the adrenaline has kicked in, my survival instinct (hahaha!)
and I’m making good headway. It’s after 4pm, I’ve already done over
30kms, there has to be something coming up sometime soon…
woodland trail, which, for fucking ages had been pretty rough and
untrodden, joins onto a wide, clearly well-used path- this must
indicate some kind of civilization. I see an elderly couple walking
towards me, I try not to terrify them with my enthusiasm, but ask
them if there is a place to stay nearby. They explain that there is a
place no more than a kilometre away. I ask if it’s obvious- I mean
there’s no chance I’ll miss it. No, it’s obvious. Cool. They ask me
where I’ve come from, I tell them Zumaia. “Zumaia?!” They’re
checking that that is indeed what I said. Yes, Zumaia. The woman asks
if I’m tired. Yes, I’m fucked. I don’t say ‘fucked.’
bye old people and thanks. As I approach the hostel I’m slowing to a
stagger, I’m properly knackered and can’t wait to crush a beer, have
a shower and eat some hot food all at once. There are a couple of
buildings next to each other, I ask a couple who are about to pull
away in their car which one is the hostel. And of course they tell
me, “There is no hostel around here.” “Yeah, yeah, that’s fine-
a hotel or whatever, it doesn’t matter, anywhere with a bed.” They
tell me that the nearest place is 5kms away, they’re driving there
now. I can’t take a lift, it’s cheating. They tell me it’s about an
hour and a half from here.
I guess I’m walking. It’s getting cooler and it’s getting dimmer, the
sun doesn’t go down until a little after seven, but it’s nearly five
and I’m not confident that it’s as close as those people said it was-
and I’m really fucking tired. I imagine myself as the Terminator-
seriously, this is the shit that goes through my head- in the sense
that I can’t be stopped, I will kill John Connor- no, wait, I’m The
Terminator from the second film, the one that’s trying to save John
Connor and I can’t stop until I’ve destroyed T2000 by somehow melting
him in a giant smelting plant and then I can melt myself because
there’s a microchip in my brain which will fuck up the future more
than it is, apparently, already fucked. And Terry Fox, I mean, he had
one fucking leg and he was smiling and he was a symbol, wasn’t he- I
bet he never got almost nearly savaged by dogs every 45 minutes
been walking for fucking ages. I’m on some kind of normal road,
there’s a house, there are cars outside. A man is stood smoking, I
wave and say hello, he says hello and then he beckons me over. I walk
down the driveway and then he tells me to put my bag down, come
in this house there are a dozen or so retired guys, they’ve just had
a whole spit-roasted lamb and now they’re drinking wine and brandy
and whiskey. They pour me wine, they give me excellent ham and cheese
and bread, we speak Spanish, we speak English, they tell me that
Markina is not far away, the next bit is easy, they all live there,
they just come to this house for the meeting of their club which is
meant to be about cultural things, but they always end up just eating
and drinking apparently There’s a guy with a crutch who’s an ex-naval
captain, a squashy dude with a beret, the guy who ushered me in who’s
quite mashed, another guy who’s really mashed and keeps putting ham
and cheese into a bag for me… then there are three very old dudes
who play some kind of card game, another guy starts a song which the
Captain tells me he doesn’t understand because it’s in Basque, but
it’s pretty jolly. I drink another wine and then before I walk into
town with another guy I’m ‘forced’ to drink a little of the local
brandy. Fucking awesome time, obviously, the reason we love to travel
walk into Markina with this guy who has just retired. He’s super-fit,
walks everywhere, does marathons. The walk is all down hill and very
steep, he glides down like a mountain goat and I lollop down like a
chump. We talk in a mixture of languages, neither of us having
mastered either. He talks about the problem of being retired, not
knowing what to do, his old job, the economy of the town, the
industries there and then we shake hands and he points me in the
direction of the centre where I’m told just to ask anyone for the
‘daughter of Augusto,’ which I do and I’m directed to a hostel.
43Kms. Holy fuck, I am shagged. I forgot to mention that the guys had
asked me why I’d done two parts of the Camino, usually people do what
I did in two stages and apparently they are the two hardest stages of
this particular route. Ahahaha! No wonder I’m fucked.
I don’t feel as though I have really captured half of the mental
torment that happened to me yesterday, I am also acutely aware that
having started off recording my travels with some vim, some
enthusiasm and with a decent slice of wit that I am, now, to an
extent, just writing things down that happened so I can later have my
memory jogged and then write something that someone might want to
read. That said, I shall still send these out to the lucky (?) few
who have been chosen as my foils.
is/was today. I wasn’t sure how I was going to fare after yesterday.
Well, last night I got into the hostel dorm, only one other person
there, a 50-something French woman called Beatrice who is perfectly
lovely and speaks decent English, no Spanish. We chatted briefly
before the lights went out, she’s done the Camino Frances (the most
popular of Caminos) before, a similar walk in Japan and she just
decided last week to bowl over here from her home in Geneva to take
two weeks to walk. Cool. So lights out at 11.30pm last night.
Amazingly she doesn’t try to have sex with me which is weird because
she’s French and I’m clearly quite easy pickings and there’s no one
else in the dorm. Whatevs.
time to switch to the present tense.
she heads out about an hour before me, I take my time, eat some
fruit, some bread (it’s like catnip for these people) and cheese that
the guys from the Cultural Club gave me! I roll out and start
walking, not sure how my body is going to react, not sure if I’m
going to be crippled today.
follow the first few yellow arrows. Cool. Then it’s not clear and I
just follow my nose. A woman from the third storey of a building
shouts down at me. It’s 10am, I started late, but still, she’s
shouting at a stranger with a backpack on. She points and tells me to
go another way, I listen. Then about two minutes later, another guy
who has been observing my flailings confirms what the woman said and
points me down a particular path. I look back after five minutes and,
like a concerned parent sending their child into school for the first
day, he watches until I am out of sight. Not a lot happens in this
smash out a few kms. I feel a bit tired but none of the injuries are
aggravating me. My groin feels okay, 75 % recovered, I decide. I also
realise that, having stretched and explored my range of motion this
morning, the muscles/tendons/stuff in my groin that is
tight/pulled/fucked is exactly the same stuff I would only really use
while having sex. Hilarious. I confirm with myself that these
muscles/tendons/things aren’t needed right now, not unless Beatrice
realises that I will literally hump anything, fully fit or not.
little way on, maybe only 3kms, I catch up with Beatrice- who knows
what she was doing for the first hour- not having sex with other
travellers, obviously. Anyway, we walk a while and chat. She asks me
why I’m doing this, something I’ve been asked a lot so far and expect
to continue to be asked. I say, for my mind, for my body, for
something to do, to see Spain- all things I’ve said before, but also,
that I don’t really know. We get into a chat about her walking
through Japan and here and it touches on religion, she sorta- it’s
tough because translation is a bitch- says she thinks their are
things to garner from all religions. Later she shows me a rock she
found in the shape of a heart- this is also in the company of a
Catalan dude on the trail that we ran into whom she knows from her
previous Camino- she asks if we can see how much it looks like a
heart. I explain that it looks like a heart if a heart is what you
are looking for. She reiterates, “But no, look, it’s a heart.” I
make a comparison to people seeing baby Jesus in the form of a potato
chip, or-my fave- a pork scratching. No one gets the pork scratching
reference, but it’s okay. Beatrice gets the joke and is fine with it-
she’s French after all, they love this shit, but I still think she
attributes some significance to the fact that a rock- of which there
are bjillions- takes a form that vaguely resembles something else.
Something we weirdly equate with love. Not with life and death, which
would, perhaps, be more redolent really. Anyway, Catalan dude enjoys
we ran into him, they carried on walking and I stayed behind to
caught up with them in Bolibar, a town named after the explorer Simon
Bolivar. B and I have a coffee and Catalan dude cracks on- I still
can’t remember his name. As we’re having an extended break, we run
into other people B knows, an Aussie woman and a Basque man, they’re
a couple having met on the Camino Frances last year. I like that.
That’s cool. It seems par for the course. But unless I meet someone
who can walk 42kms and imagine themselves a
just aint gonna happen.
leave the three of them, explaining that I’m gonna run on an try and
make good time, excusing myself by saying that I like to walk
quickly. Jessica, the Aussie, kindly accepts my exit and just says
that it’s cool to do the Camino however you want to do it. She has
done this before, she is definitely better than me. Not as fast or
powerful, but better.
crack on for some time. It’s a bit harder today, I’m not sure why. I
feel fine. I’m more aware of my pack than I’d like to be. I have a
tiny map from the last place I stayed that has a break down of the
next three stages (obviously just two stages for me) and it shows the
peaks and troughs as a graph. I love stats. I geek out on this shit.
This stage is a bit peaky-troughy. I realise that I’m obviously going
to do the full section of around 25kms, which, because of the
inaccuracy of EVERYTHING in Spain turns out to be almost 29kms. That
last 45-60mins really matters. In the last quarter I pass the Catalan
dude who’s having bread, cheese and ham by a river. I say hi, I crack
on, secretly glad I’m passing him- it’s not a competition (it is
obviously a competition). He says it’s only another 5kms from this
point, he has GPS, he knows, he’s also done a Camino before. Yeah,
he’s also Spanish. The last 5kms is almost 10kms and really a bit of
a shit bag.
haven’t yet mentioned sink holes, but they’re common around here,
patches of dampish ground, little rivers that form under the earth.
Cool. I walked in a few. Squelch. Also dogs. I’m getting a fucking
gun. Although I’m getting better at handling it, there are some
crazed fuckers out here on chains that are like the hounds of hell.
When a friendly sad old dog came up to me I was too paranoid to even
pat the fella. Even a placid cow gave me the heebie jeebies. And
there was an angry goat behind a fence that I was convinced hated me.
I bowled into Gerika. A guy drives by me and hands me a flyer for a
place to stay- it turns out that this is the only place to stay that
isn’t an actual hotel. I have my own room en suite. Genius. I shower,
wash my shit, dry it very dangerously on and electric heater and then
start writing. The others arrive- the Catalan, Beatrice, Jessica and
Javi and a young German kid. Yeah, I was here over an hour before the
next person and everyone left before me. It’s not a competition, but
if it was I’d be winning.
all hang out at a bar next door owned by the same guy, I eat mussels
and have a beer and some wine. The Catalan guy is the only one who
really drinks. He’s also the only one of the six of us going the full
way. He tells me that when it gets hard you have to remember that in
Galicia (the final week of the Camino) all of the places to stay are
three Euros, all of the wine is cheap and very good and the plates of
food are like mountains. I do like this guy.
young German kid has over 30lbs of gear. Insane. Apparently he has a
salt and pepper shaker. And a duvet. Genius. He’s 18 and a
vegetarian. Good luck with that learning curve.
I forgot to mention that on the walk today I thought of myself as
Little Red Riding Hood, alone in the woods- seriously the shit that
goes through your head. Then at another point of paranoia, perhaps
brought on by one of the ten dogs that wanted to eat me, I imagined
myself as Dr. Richard Kimball from The Fugitive, being chased by
Tommy Lee Jones. Just an aside I wanted to remember.
was also writing a poem (out loud) as I walked, which went something
this is a hill, I walk the hill and then turn a corner and there is
another hill, I can see the top of the hill but then when I reach it
I realise there is another hill above that hill. The geckos sun
themselves and then rush into the rocks when they hear me. I am
scared of the geckos because the dogs have made me scared of
everything. Sink hole. Wet foot. More dogs. Ham ham ham ham ham ham
finally I’m going to start recording everything I eat right here and
everything that hurts.
Pear, Orange, Tea, ham/cheese/bread (3 times), raisins, dates,
coffee, 2 squares of chocolate, 2 small beers, mussels in tomato
sauce, bread, 1/2 bottle red wine, 3-4 litres of water.
Groin is 75% recovered. Right shoulder is not enjoying the backpack.
Calves are tight. Hammies a bit too.