June 16, Irun

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Yesterday we set our feet on the Camino for the first time. It is an interesting feeling in a number of ways. To have a destination 860 kilometers away and know that I won’t be riding in any vehicles for then next month and a half is new. Exciting. A little scary. We met someone yesterday who just completed the trail starting deep inside of France who averaged 45 km per day (28 miles)! Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever walked 28 miles in one day. I don’t really want to travel at that pace but it would be good to know that I could. We are giving ourselves a 10 to 12 mile per day average. Even that makes me nervous day after day.

Then there is the social aspect. It is 6:15 and there is much activity astir here in the pilgrim hostel. The rustling and stuffing of backpacks, low chatter in a half dozen languages of people young and old, the thumping of stocking feet and opening and closing of doors mixes with the morning chorus of the ubiquitous house sparrows. There is an excitement to the first day on the trail with the other pilgrims. Meeting others who are on the trail, no matter what language, creates a bond of respect and curiosity and mutual helpfulness. And there is a sense of helpfulness that poured itself on us from the people of the town as we encountered a closed church and pilgrim passport office on our Sunday afternoon arrival. Two elderly gentlemen coming out of a bar to tell us that the church was closed and where the pilgrim office was in gestures and Spanish and smiles.

Yesterday, crossing the bridge into Irun we encountered our first yellow arrow, the sign of the trail we will be following to Santiago and it stirred a lot of excitement in Daisy and in me, too. For her it was a familiar friend and her practiced eyes picked out the yellow dots, arrows and scallop shell signs easily while my eyes were adjusting to a new set of search images. For me it was the first time that I registered in my gut that I am on a trail traveled by millions of people, with intention, for generations and generations, that I am stepping not only onto a trail but into a tradition. And that tradition, today marked with spray paint arrows, has been tended and cared for for a very long time. The way is prepared. This is a very new experience. Different from knowing that a wilderness trail is maintained and cared for and hiked by many. There is something stirring about this trail that I can’t describe. It is stirring something in my belly that I can feel but I can’t name.

We are also, of course, eating memorable food. Yesterday I had a small single scoop of hazelnut gelato that was truly the best ice cream experience in years. And the pork loin sandwich on a toasted baquette with cheese and roasted green chilies was exceptionally delicious – and that is just ordinary fare. I love Continental Europe for its food!

Oops. Gotta go. Everyone is up and packed for the trail.

(Footnote: first my camera battery went on the fritz, then we have had a real challenge on this trail finding WiFi so posts and pictures are likely to be delayed. Plus, I’m still on a learning curve with the blog site, not to mention time to write . . . . . So far I have found posting pictures on Facebook to be pretty fun so maybe friend me or go to my page if you want to see more images.) Linden and Daisy are more particular about only posting the very best pictures on Facebook but they are shooting more so you might want to check that out, too. I got a new camera battery today so that should help some. aloha from San Sebastián.)

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