I wake up grumpy and cranky. Blame it on the Chinese woman occupying the bunker bed beside mine. She must have thought that the whole room is all hers and the 39 of us are just her stuffed teddy bears; releasing anal emissions with full abandon, talking in her sleep, shouting angrily at the ceiling. She tosses and turns like a giant anaconda trapped in a bath tub and snores like a rattlesnake. Still not contented, she coughs mid-fart. In short, I have only been able to sleep for three hours despite the fact that I was already in bed at nine.
My clock says five o´clock. I purposely get up before everybody does because I want to take a shower alone. With a heavy head, I rush to the bathroom which is two towns away from the room. The bathroom of the albergue is communal. After living in Europe for about a decade now, I think I am still not so “European” in this sense. I can´t take shower together with three other people in our birthday suits. So I brave the cold air and thoughts of a ghost encounter. I take a shower as fast as I can.
Before kicking off the second day of my Camino, I go to the albergue´s cafeteria and I see my Basque lady friend. Finally, I catch her name: Isabel. She is still enjoying her breakfast when I bid her goodbye.
The air is cool and everywhere my eyes clap on is foggy and dark. I see the yellow arrow right away, though. I have only been walking for about five minutes when I have the feeling that someone is behind me. I turn and I see HER! Okay, not the bathroom ghost, but let´s just say, a bit similar.
Yes, HER, the giant anaconda in the bath tub with a rattlesnake snore! At first, I am a bit annoyed: why of all people? But then I realize, I am in fact liking her presence. I feel safe that I have somebody with me. We are already entering a forest and it is a bit eerie and intimidating. If somebody attacked us, I would have the giant anaconda to back me up. She has actually become my guardian angel.
Then, slowly, the sun´s mild rays come through the vines and giant bushes. When I look back, the Chinese woman is no longer behind me. Maybe she stops to take some rest. I giggle to myself, another round of fart extravaganza perhaps? Or has she gone back to the albergue because the truth is, she was just sleep walking?
I find myself in the middle of a massive field with a million grazing cows. As I walk on, one of them starts to moo. Ah, the mother-figure of the bunch. The mama-san. The mother superior. Her moo is hysterically loud making me wonder, “Are they having an aerobics class or a milking lesson?” I go nearer to take some photos and shout back “Buen COWmino, ladies!”
Walking alone is not that bad. Actually, I never really feel alone. There will always be something “walking” with me along the way. The birds are always there. The bees. The sound of my shoes hitting the sand and pebbles under my feet. Or the sound of running water from a river nearby. Actually, I think I like today´s path more than yesterday´s. From rocky paths, to paved ones, then there is this long winding path next to the river. I am already rejoicing that after three hours of walking, I haven´t gotten lost yet.
Until I reach Zabaldica.
I am standing in front of two arrows pointing to two different directions. It is already eleven o´clock and I have already walked 15 kilometers. I follow the arrow leading to a highway but change my mind and go back to the other arrow. Then I decide to take a break and sat down in front of the yellow arrow just in case someone passes by.
And that someone turns out to be Isabel, my Basque lady friend!
I end up walking with her following the second yellow arrow. We pass by wheat fields and we follow a steep path leading to the upper part of the mountain. My feet are already aching and the weight of my backpack is making my shoulder blades ache. My energy is draining. We haven´t stopped for over an hour now. I want to take a brake but it seems that Isabel is not going to consider it. Judging from the pace she is taking, God, she has more stamina than I do. We are going up up up the mountain that when I look up I can almost touch the clouds. After a long way up, we are once again going down on yet another steep path. I can no longer stop my toes from being drama queens.
I am stopping in Pamplona, I tell her. She isn´t. She is walking on up to the next town, some four kilometers more. At first, I want to walk with her. But my feet are really hurting and my hips start acting weird too. We enter the small cities of Villava and then Burlada. In Burlada, she tells me that she is going to stop by the post office to send something. She will just catch up. It is my chance to take a break. I walk for a little bit and then find a bench near the road. I can´t bear it any longer. I take off my shoes and my socks and massage my aching divas.
After ten minutes of my deserved break, I grab my backpack and trudge on, dragging my feet and gripping my walking stick so tight I wish it will just carry me straight to my hostel in Pamplona. Then I see the top structure of the Cathedral looming from afar. I´m close. I hasten my pace undaunted by the sting-y and twinge-y feeling every time my toes are pressed forward.
Trying not to limp, I enter the busy center of Pamplona. My hostel is at the other side of the city. Everybody seems to be very occupied with the forthcoming San Fermin festival. Hard-wooden fences are already built for the bull run. Busloads and busloads of tourists can be seen milling around the place wanting to grab the best balconies to see the bulls.
So here I am, finally in bed trying to rest my feet, waiting for my turn to the toilet. We are only four in the room, all tourists, no peregrinos. I think I will have a good night sleep tonight. No fart attacks, no sleep talking, no tossing and turning like a giant snake. These tourists are going out tonight. They will drink until the wee hours of the morning and by that time I will already be up and preparing my toes for the third day of my Camino.
Nats Sisma Villaluna is a Filipino student based in Barcelona. It is his third time walking the Camino, but this time he is doing it alone and for one month. Follow his journey HERE everyday.