My way

Oops! I did it again!

I did things my way (like Frank Sinatra!) in the end the Camino turned out to be more of an exploration of the North of Spain than anything else.

From Leon I took a bus to stop I’m Astorga. Another beautiful place that I would have never visited was it not for the decision I took to be a pilgrim. From Astorga I moved to Ponferrada where I visited it’s amazing old town with the impressive castle and from there I finally arrived in Lugo. And again I got a fantastic surprise visiting the old town (the new town sucks) with the Roman walls and amazing cathedral.

I spent the night in Lugo where I met Miguel, a couchsurfer, and his friends. I was surprised about the fact that in the north in general when you order a drink you receive a “pincho” and a “tapa” at the same time so basically you can actually eat just by ordering drinks that are extremely cheap. Comparing to the life in Barcelona, Lugo and the north of Spain are heaven. The salaries are the same as in Barcelona but everything is extremely cheaper. Miguel rents a two bedroom flat in the very center of the city just beside the cathedral and pays for the whole apartment less than I paid for ONE ROOM in Barcelona. Again, was it not for the dreadful weather I’d move to the North immediately.

In Lugo I had lunch at the only vegetarian place in the city called “Cafeteria Reina” where I was attended by a girl from Barcelona!!!

The following day I had luch at the “Legends Cafe” where they serve a delicious and impossible to eat without making a mess vegan burger.

After Lugo it was finally time to get to Santiago. So after 2 days I took a bus and arrived in Santiago de Compostela. I wasn’t even exited or anything. I was just happy I was there but when I arrived in the city center and saw the amount of tourists invading the town my enthusiasm was instantly killed.

I checked in at “Roots and boots hostel” very close to the center but far enough not to be in the middle of the swarming. The place is absolutely amazing with a fantastic garden at the back where you can chill drinking a beer in company of others guests but the management has a serious problem of bad temper. I made an innocent joke with the manager and his snapped saying the if I wasn’t happy I could just go and when I apologized he insisted to tell me that I was free to go and that he didn’t like my jokes. Same thing happened to Eszter I girl met there. She used the “wrong” toilet and the manager’s partner snapped at her saying that she didn’t have the right to use that toilet. Eszter apologize a few times and the lady kept on barking at her. I guess they are fed up with tourists but if that’s the case maybe they should consider changing their job.

A part from that I had an amazing time in Santiago but only because I spent my time with some beautiful people met at the hostel. The send day of my staying my and some other hosts after the visit to the cathedral (and the failed attempt to follow the soporific mass) decided to by some groceries and cook in the kitchen at the hostel. We had a blast and spent the afternoon sitting at the table in the garden eating and drinking and laughing and for a few hours we were each other best friends. And that’s what I like about traveling. We were from Spain, Italy, Hungary, Germany, Slovenia and the UK. We had nothing in common but at the same time we knew each other very well. That’s the magic of spending time traveling and sleeping in hostels. I already miss those guys!

Face the truth

So. The Camino was for me a flame that burned out very quickly. Unfortunately. I thought that since I’ve done the ABC the Camino would be a piece if cake but I was wrong. On my fourth day I had to acknowledge the fact that the long walk to Santiago was over for me. Until yesterday I was able to walk at least a couple of hours a day but today my knee hurts and I don’t want to force it anymore to make it worst so I decided that I will do the walk, but my way.

I’m on the train to Leon now. I switched from the Camino del Norte to the Francés. In the North it is too cold and if your not walking you’re just getting cold. Hopefully on the French Camino the temperature will be nicer and I will be able to enjoy at least what’s left for me. Two days ago a went from Santander to Santa Cruz de Bezana by walk. It took me two hours and I arrived exhausted. I spent the night at the Casa del Pelegrino run by this wonderful woman by the name of Nieves and her very quiet husband. The morning after I took a train to get to Santillana del Mar. One of the most beautiful village in the North of Spain. Unfortunately the weather was really bad and after visiting a little bit I sat myself in a cafe and sipped hot tea until I took the bus to Comillas. Another beautiful place in Cantabria but again the weather was not on my side.

I spent the night at the Casa del Pelegrino that was way less nice than the previous one but there I met a very funny German guy from Hamburg travelling with his dad. Together we had dinner at a pizzeria nearby “Pizza Italia” and I was so hungry and cold that I had a pizza (sans cheese of course!! 😉) and after that also a plate of spaghetti in tomato sauce. I don’t know if it was really good but to me it was delicious!

In the morning I visited the village and the weather started to improve. I took a bus to San Vicente de la Barquera where I stopped the time to have a quick salad in the park and then I took a bus destination Oviedo.

I arrived in Oviedo under a beautiful sun and I went straight to the Casa del Pelegrino to assure a place. After leaving my backpack I headed back to town to do some sightseeing. Oviedo is a very beautiful city. You can tell is rich, very cared for, magnificent building and a lot of statues in the streets everywhere.

The night at the hostel was the worst I had so far. In a room of ten beds, at least 7 people decided to give a night concert. Never had that! There is always one person snoring in the room, by now I have learned to accept this fact, but the entire room snoring at the same time is a novelty. And I really hope I won’t have to experience that again!!!

My knee today is hurting like hell so I’m on a train to visit Leon, moving from the North way to the French in a blink of an eye. Tomorrow I will visit some other villages in between and probably in two days I’ll be in Santiago.

It won’t be the trip I thought for so long but I’m happy I did it anyway. I’ve visited beautiful places and met beautiful people. It’s still a nice experience and I will have it in my heart forever. After all there’s always a silver lining in everything.

And now it’s time for a break…

As we say in Italy: il diavolo fa le pentole ma non i coperchi (devil makes the pans but not the lids) meaning that you can make all your plannings but there’s always something that can go wrong.

On my fourth day of Camino something went wrong. The day started on a gloomy note. It was raining and rumor had it that it was the hardest part of the Camino what laid ahead. I woke up early and I was on the road at 8. It was drizzling so I put on my raincoat and embraced the idea that I just has to walk on. As I walked I started to actually enjoying the walk and the foggy landscape that surrounded me. I finally was fully immersed in Nature. No one and nothing around. According to Gronze website I had to walk 7 hours to get to the next stop Markina.

By 12.30pm I was there. I was super happy and with Milena, and Austrian girl I met along the way, we stopped in a restaurant on the main square an had a sandwich. Of course I had to have it custom made because of my diet and imagine my surprise when the cook came into the restaurant with an entire baguette all for me!!!

After food I decided to carry on until Guernica. I felt good, a little pain on my back and a funny knee but it was a beautiful sunny day (after the rain it always come the sun) and so far the view had been fantastic. So I left Milena behind and carried on planning to arrive in Guernica around 7 pm.

It was almost 6 when I arrived at Marmiz that I knew it was one hour walk from Guernica on the main road. I figured it would be a little longer for the pilgrims but I was still perfectly on time. I started to walk up the mountain and up and up and it looked like it was never going down. I started to feel there was something wrong. The supposed 5 km to Guernica started to feel like 6, 7… and the fatigue of the long walk started to wear on me. At every turn of the way I expected a descent but I was always disappointed. After 45 minutes walking up the mountain I was desperate. My back was hurting like hell. There was this muscle that I was pretty sure it was not there the day before, that was giving me hell and the left knee was more than a nuisance now. I wanted to cry and I started to scream cursing Santiago and myself to make the decision to do the walk. It was almost one hour after I started to mount up that it was clear that the walk was finally moving downward. I felt relieved and started to accelerate the pace. I was in pain and tired and wanted to get to Guernica as soon as possible.

Almost at the end of the walk I started to hear the cars passing by and I felt relieved. I passed by a country house and the owner stopped me and asked me if I was walking the Camino. I said yes and he replied: I’m sorry to say but you took the wrong one. My heart dropped and I felt I would die. I couldn’t even think of walking any extra steps. I thought I would stop right there and then and would left myself die. Luckily the man who gave me the bad news also offered to drive me to Guernica. I couldn’t believe at my luck. Had I arrived two minutes later I would have missed him. He said that I was not the only one that got lost. Apparently the walk is badly signalled and many pilgrims go astray.

So, I spent the night in Bilbao at Iker’s and now I’m in Santander ready to try and took my Camino back. A few lessons I’ve learned from these few days:

  • I’m not as trained as I thought
  • Never over estimate your strength
  • Take a rest every now and then when you are tired
  • Listen to your body
  • Distances on papers are shorter than in real life
  • Don’t always follow the yellow arrow (it’s not always well signalled as it should be)
  • On the way up take quick short steps
  • Zig zag your way down (it won’t strain your knees)
  • When you can’t walk anymore take a day of rest and if necessary take a bus to your next stop
  • You don’t have to destroy yourself Do what you can, this is not a marathon
  • Walk in a way that gives you the time to appreciate the view
  • Pack light (and I mean LIGHT!!!

So. At this point I know I won’t walk the whole 800 km and it’s fine. I will do only the easiest parts in order not to fuck up completely my knee. I only have two and I’d like to keep them healthy as long as I can. Also, I don’t have THAT much time so I have to make it quicker than I thought. Lesson learned. Now I’m off to bed.

Tomorrow is another day to visit Santander and walk the 9 km to get to Santa Cruz de Besana.

Here I go again. Dedicated

It’s been almost a year exactly that I was boarding a plane to Manila. Now I’m waiting for my bus to San Sebastián to begin the Camino de Santiago (Saint James’s way).

This has been a dream since my walk last year in Annapurna. Or maybe even before and it was also a dream my mum had. She makeover had the time to fulfill it, so I’ll do this also for here.

When I left Barcelona a few days back, I was relieved. My love for that city is still very alive but I’m sure now I can’t live there anymore. It’s like a lover you have, that you love very much but can’t live with. My love story with Barcelona is over. And it gets clearer every time I leave it. Is still need to meet my new lover so in the meantime I snoop around.

I’ve spent a few days in Bilbao that I LOVE and if it wasn’t for the weather I would move here tomorrow. But during my trips and my life in general I came to the conclusion that I cannot live without a large amount of sunny days. And Bilbao unfortunately lacks that.

But it’s OK. I’ll keep searching and when the time comes my new lover will come to me with open arms. For now I just enjoy my time wandering around. I’m actually really excited to start this new adventure. I don’t know what lays ahead of me and that’s the beauty of it all. In Bilbao I spent my days with Iker a beautiful local soul and if this time is an example of what’s next, this long walk will be just beautiful.

The legend and the truth

To travel is amazing. Is cool. Is exciting. But to travel is also tiring and exhausting. Now that I’ve been back for a month, I realize how tiring traveling can be. The fact of moving constantly, the fact that you have to readapt every other day and face new realities and new people can be tiresome. I don’t how many times I had to repeat my story. Where I’m from, where I’m going, why I’m traveling and so on. Over and over again. Everybody goes “Wow! I wish I could do the same!” and maybe they really mean it, but then they don’t do it. Maybe because they know deep down inside that to travel is actually a “job”, it takes a toll on you, like every other job. Maybe they know that it can be lonely, and that sometimes you feel lost and abandoned. That traveling is not just about money and meeting people and see cool stuff. Traveling is also getting to know yourself, testing your limits. And sometimes it is scary. Sometimes you don’t know if you’ll make it, you don’t know what you’re going to eat that day, or if you’re even eating at all, you don’t know where you will sleep and who you’ll meet. Of course it’s all part of the adventure and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world, but sometimes we all need to stop and make home even if for a couple of days. We all need a little consistency, for some peace of mind. And then your feet start to itch again and you’re ready for your next adventure, for your next connection, your next flight. Now that I’ve been back for a month, I feel the urge to move, to pack my bag and go. I’m nervously checking the flights and I’m already thinking about my next trip. I have this need to meet new people, see new places, eat different things. I need to feel free, to be out in this world, the travel bug had infested my body and there’s no cure. I just need to travel. I can’t explain the adrenaline that rushes through your veins when you arrive in a new place, when to talk to someone new, when you have to face a new problem in a strange land and you manage to solve it. I really miss all that, and even though I love my family and I like to spend time with them, the call of the wild is stronger. I left this instinct sleep for a few years but now that it’s awaken again there’s no way to put it back to sleep. I watch the pictures from my trip and I’m back there, with the sounds, the smells, the breeze and my heart starts to long. I have to be patient and wait just a little longer and I know it’s for a reason. But it’s really hard, I’d take the first plane out if I could, but I’ll try to calm myself and use this time to organize better my next trip. I’m like the scorpion from the tale, it’s beyond my control.

Summing it up: India 

Some LOVE it,  some HATE it and someone like me loved some aspects of it and hate some other.  But when I left (and I was looking forward to leave) I was sad and felt I wanted to stay longer.  India is a strange and magic place.  When I got my request for visa approved I was almost disappointed.  I had read so many bad things about it that I was almost terrified to go there.  And since I had no expectations whatsoever I was able to actually enjoy it after I realized that it was not so scary after all.  My experience in India has been some kind of an adventure.  There were moments that I asked myself what I was doing there and others that I couldn’t get enough and I wanted more.

Indians with their barefeet, their obsession with hair, with their constant talking, their clumsiness, their naivety, with their contrast of poor covered in gold,  their attitude of Jack of all trades , their constant trying to get more money from you, with their despise of stray dogs,  their togetherness,  their faulty legs (mainly men), their loud music in the buses, their habit of spitting, their food served in newspaper pages and most of all their inquisitive bobbing heads are the most annoying but at the same time charming people I’ve ever met.  

With the hindsight I realize that India should have been a trip by itself.  By the time I got there I was already tired and extremely annoyed by anything that was not working in a western way.  I could not really make the best of my time in India for this reason but at the same time, especially towards the last days when my homecoming was approaching I realized that I wanted more,  that I wished I had stayed longer.  Now that I’m back home I miss the mess that is India.  I miss the colors (not the smells…),  the smiles,  the friendliness,  the carelessness that characterizes life in India.  I miss the easy going attitude,  the chats in the streets or wherever as a matter of fact, their way of seeing life,  the it’s OK attitude.  I’m already thinking of going back some day.  Don’t know yet when.  But I feel I have left something behind and wanna find out what it is. 

The end is the beginning is the end… 

And like everything else this trip has also arrived at its end.  I left Goa with a bitter taste in my mouth as I knew that I was not coming back. At least for a while.  Arrived in Mumbai in the morning I went to my host house.  Rintu is a nice guy from the north east of India that has moved to Mumbai for his studies and has not moved back.  He smiles from down the road,  a nice and honest smile that makes his round face shine.  He looks more Indonesian than Indian so I tell him but he confirms that he is Indian.  After a shower and a quick chat we have breakfast in his place and then we take a bus to go to the train station to go south where the historical area is.  Mumbai is a big city but I like it more than Delhi. The weather is much nicer and people seem more relaxed.  Rintu takes me around,  we walk for a couple of hours and I’m in owe of the beautiful crumbling buildings,  remainings of the British era.  I take a lot of pictures as usual and the heat is quite hard to stand after a while.  So we decide to go for lunch at a local unnamed restaurant where we have thali.  My last one… 

I was on the mood for beer so after a shower and a quick nap for dinner with Rintu we go for beer and food at a place nearby his house.  The following morning we wake up early but we’re both very lazy so we chat,  have breakfast,  we take tea and chat some more and only at 12 o’clock we decide it’s time to go out.  We go to a mall nearby (India distances) where we meet a couple of Rintu’s friends and where we shop the ingredients for the dinner that I’m asked to cook.  Brunch was nicely offered and cooked by Rintu so for supper is my turn.  I happily agree as cooking is always a pleasure to me.  I cook spaghetti with vegetables in tomato sauce and Rintu is very satisfied. We chat some more and then it’s time to head out to go and get my 3.00am flight to Venice.  

Parting time is a difficult moment for me. Although I know it’s good for me to go home it’s still very sad.  These last 2 days spent with Rintu and his friends have been very good and made me think of all the good things I lived during the last 7 months and all the beautiful people I met along the way and that it will be be hard for me to readjust to “normal” life back in Europe,  a lifestyle that I’ve often longed for during these months but that at the same time I don’t feel mine anymore.  In India,  in Asia people are maybe less “civilized”, trash is very common in the streets and hygiene level is not what we know.  But people seem more carefree,  happier,  they dress in color and talk to each other.  Once again Asia has been a good school of life for me.  I learnt so much of myself,  of the world,  of the fact that I call myself open minded but in the end I’m prejudiced and racist as those that I judge.  I have tried to get rid of all the conventions acquired during my life in a privileged society that considers itself better than the eastern society (unknowingly most of the times) but where we’re all stressed and grey,  where the colors we use to wear in general reflect the status of our souls,  grey and black.  A friend of Rintu just got back from Paris and complained of the fact that people look sad and angry and they dress all in black (comment made also by a friend from KL). 

It’s good to travel abroad,  I know.  And at every trip I realize how much I don’t know about life and about myself.  Landing in Paris to catch my connection to Venice I shed some tears.  I’m happy I will soon see my friends and my family but I know already that I will miss these last months. I will miss the train rides,  the colors,  the food, the smile on people faces,  the interest that people have shown towards me (although at the time it was really annoying having to repeat over and over the same things).  I will miss my portable wardrobe and the excitement to try a new restaurant,  to visit a new city.  It will take me some time to grasp the entire experience that I lived in the last months and probably when I’ll see the whole picture I will be taken aback.  In the meantime I will try to enjoy my family and my friends that although miles away have been with me the whole trip.