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.

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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.

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.

Poha and techno music at breakfast 

At Mumbai train station I bought my ticket to Goa for the following day and then I booked a Uber to go to my hostel.  The stupid driver took an eternity to get to the meeting point and he dropped me off half way through.  I protested of course but there was really nothing else I could do so I got off the car,  I told him to f#ck off and booked a second car.  And this time the driver took me to the right address in a very polite and friendly way.  Arrived at Welcome guest house  I was taken aback by the horrible choice I made.  Of course I checked first on Trip Advisor and Booking.com before but somehow I got tricked.  The reception of the hostel was smaller than my bathroom and the room (just one) is behind a curtain behind the reception.  Basically on the street.  Thankgod the place is located in an alley so it is still pretty quiet.  But I had the “last” bed,  in the middle of the room,  no electric socket,  no head lamp.  Of course I asked to get a better one but the guy at reception replied it was all booked.  All the guests were local except from me and another western guy.  

I resigned myself and said that it was only for one night but when I woke up in the middle of the night because this Indian guy was snoring like a pig with sinusitis (he woke up the entire dorm!!!) I realized that the place was “all booked ” because there were a few friends of the receptionist passing some hours there and now they were gone.  I was furious and changed my bed with one close to the wall so I managed to at least charge my phone (my tablet,  iPod and power bank were all dead…) and when it was 6 am I got up and left for the train station where I boarded the 7.10 am train to Goa. It was supposed to be a 12 hours train ride but we left 20 minutes late and by the time we arrived at destination we were 1.30 hours late.  From the station I had to drive 20 minutes to get to the hostel and I had to bargain some 1/2 hour to finally meet a guy decent enough to not take complete advantage of me.  With the wind in my hair (…) we drove on his motorbike and when I arrived at the hostel it was already almost 9.30 pm.  

I usually book 2 nights wherever I go but for some reason unfathomable to me this time I just booked one.  The managent at Folklore hostel were super nice and professional in a friendly way when I did the check in and when I told them I was planning to stay 2 nights they told me that they were fully booked for the next couple of days.  The hostel is recently opened but it works very well.  Spotless both the rooms and the bathroom, decent Wi-Fi and good breakfast.  I had Poha and black tea and it was nice and quiet in the garden but then for some reason they decided that they needed some music to accompany the breakfast.  And they thought that techno music full blast at 9.00 am was the best option…. But then in the following days I discovered that techno music is pretty popular here.  It doesn’t matter time or place. It always sounds appropriate… Figures…. Since I couldn’t spend another night at Folklore I booked a couple of nights at Caterpillar hostel some 10 minutes drive from my previous location.  And it was one of the owners and managers of Folklore to drive me there!!!

Caterpillar is more expensive and less nice thank Folklore but still a nice stay,  as I could use the kitchen and cook food for myself.  As soon as I checked in I walked the 10 minutes that separate me from the beach and what a disappointment when I got there!!!  There were lost of bar all playing loud music,  people screaming on the shore for getting splashed by friends,  water scooters and banana boats.  Not what I really expected.  

On my second day there I had breakfast at this place called Michele’s Garden Cafe (there is also a guest house annexed) . The place is very nice and the food pretty good but a little too pricey for the amount they serve. Then for lunch I followed Happy Cow advice and went to Bean Me Up where I had the best vegan lunch so far.  It was massive and a bit expensive but it’s all local organic food and they make their own bread.  But this unfortunately was not enough to keep me there longer and although I finally managed to move out of the city and get to the beach I was still not satisfied and after a couple of days in Anjuna I decided to try my luck and move further south to Palolem.  

Summing it up : Nepal 

I’m on the plane to Delhi.  Kathmandu and Nepal are still a fresh memory.  All in all I can’t really say that Nepal has been a pleasant experience.  Since the moment I’ve touched land I’ve had problems and worries.  Until the last moment. 

 The Annapurna base camp trekking has been nice,  although cold. Being in nature,  away from cars and traffic and people and chaos has been a refreshing break.  The last few days I had a roommate – Paul – that literally saved me from going mad.  I met a few nice people,  even locals,  I had good food but I don’t really think I’ll be back to visit Nepal,  at least not in this life.  I also cancelled my volunteering because goimg to the Dang would have meant to travel “12” hours on a bus. And honestly I wasn’t ready to do that.  It would have been too much.  It would have been fatal for my nerves.  The “6” hours bus back from Pokhara had already been very tiring.  I was not ready and willing to face again another “ride in hell”.

 So I decided to buy my visa to India (which surprisingly enough was extremely easy) and leave the country before planned but at the moment of buying the ticket I was stuck as the website didn’t accept my cards and according to Nepal laws you cannot fly on a ticket bought by someone else….and once again I was stuck.  Chance though sent me a guardian angel called Paul from France.  Without even knowing me Paul offered to buy the ticket for me and soon said and done he booked the ticket to Delhi and paid it with his own CC (of course I have to pay him back). And finally, at peace knowing that I was finally able to leave the country I managed to enjoy my last moments with Paul and some other cool people met thanks to couchsurfing. But I really think that Nepal has been a big disappointment because I was expecting so much.  I was so looking forward to visiting that I had imagined a land of fairy tales.  But that doesn’t exist and Nepal is just another country in Asia.  With its pros and cons.  Anyways… 

Once again I met a few cool people that by themselves made the trip to Nepal worthwhile.  I trek up to 4000m without any training.  I escaped two or three life threatening situations (in traffic)  so I guess I can still consider this stop as a positive one.  

Maybe next time – if ever – I come back,  I will just skip Kathmandu and move to nicer places. 

The good thing about Kathmandu are the restaurants.  I tried a few,  here is the list in no particular order :

 

Bangladesh – summing it up 

October 16 – 9.01am. Gate 1X at Dhaka international airport.  My flight is in 2 hours. 

My adventure in Bangladesh ends here,  where it started 2 weeks ago.  Just 15 days have passed but I feel I’ve been here much longer.  In these 2 weeks so many things have happened,  so many wonderful people have crossed my path.  I still cannot believe at what I’ve faced during my stay in Dhaka and surrounding.  Dhaka,  a city that I didn’t even know it existed, has stolen my heart.  And not for the city itself.  As I said time and time again,  Dhaka is not a beautiful city.  It’s not even a friendly city. 

 

Everything is a mess,  it’s dirty,  is tourist unfriendly,  it’s chaotic,  it’s hot but Bengalis  are the most amazing people I met in my life.  To them the guest is the king,  the guest deserves all their attention,  the guest has to be attended in every possible way.  The guest doesn’t have to miss of nothing.  

During my stay in Bangladesh I’ve felt like a movie star.  Never in my life I had so many pictures taken.  Strangers in the street,  at the restaurant,  in the park stopped me to take a selfie with me.  I have been stared at and scrutinized to the point of being uncomfortable.  But I felt like home everywhere I went. The Bengalis heart is bigger than anyone’s heart.  I’ve been helped by total strangers,  I’ve been given food and drink for free,  just for being a guest.  I’ve been asked time and again where I’m from and what do I do in Bangladesh (just visiting???  As if they could not believe that someone wanted just visit their country). 

Bangladesh,  where men go hand in hand on the street,  where the ads are still hand painted on the walls,  where having drinks means drinking tea at the closer “tong”, where there is no official bus stop and traffic lights are non existent, where Barcelona is know for Camp Nou (Sagrada Familia… What’s that?), where people eat with their hands,  has a special place my heart. 

But many of the people that have accompanied me these days have a dream to leave the country.  Usually to Canada or Germany.  I discovered that there is a big community of Bengalis in Italy.  Youth don’t like their country,  they wanna flee,  they believe that everything is corrupted and that there is no future for them here.  Government doesn’t make things easy for anybody.  This is a jungle (especially in the traffic)  and everybody tries to survive as best as they can.  

Once again I didn’t travel to the “best” parts of the country.  I haven’t been to Cox’s bazar,  the longest beach in the world,  I haven’t been to the islands or haven’t seen any waterfall.  But this place will always be special to me.  

Thank you Joy,  Shoshee,  Rossi,  Rasel,  Pryom,  Adnan,  Shammi,  Mukul,  Shariful, Dola,  Ishti and everybody else for making this trip memorable.  You will always have a friend in my.  I will never forget you.