Zubiri to Pamplona

It was better, much better than the day before. Not having anything to eat or drink until 11 am did not help but, boy did that spinach tortilla taste good when I finally got it. I was lucky go get a bed at one of the biggest albergues in Plampona and have decided to stay an extra day. I feel there is a lot to see here plus I want to get my telephone situation worked out. Had dinner with my Irish friends

In Basque Country
Many pretty sights in the villages

Granny went over the mountain

Ah, the Camino Frances doesn’t let you in that easily. To set off in pouring rain is challenging. Oh well, only 8 km you think but that’s a lot of rain! The pass over the Mountains from France to Spain is split into two days for some modern pilgrims. Others do the whole 27 km in one day! Too much for me so I was happy to sleep at the fabled Orisson lodging. The bonus was that the second day of the trek was brilliantly sunny and the views were magnificent. Now just waking at Roncesvalles with no idea where I will sleep tonight. The Camino provides they say. We will see.

French rain
Spanish sim

The Journey Starts

It started a long time ago

It started when I began to walk up this toboggan hill in my local park, when I started to stomp around the track using my hiking poles (see them thrown down in the grass?). It started when I saw on Facebook that a friend I had met on a winter break in Mexico was walking the Camino. If she could…… It started when I found out what Gallicia was. It started when I realized I could be broken into pieces and yet be whole. It started with reading, with watching You Tube clips. It started when I booked tickets in 2020 – but Covid 19 had other ideas. All that wrangling to get my money back, that despair before a vaccination was available, all that feeling so old and hopeless crystalized my determination. Just as heat and pressure change coal into diamonds, the past two years have worked a change.

Was I really ready to walk in 2020? The world and its vagaries had other ideas. Perhaps I will be thwarted again, who knows. My days of saying “I’ve made up my mind” are done. I have learned the lesson that other people, world events, co-incidence can really throw me, bat me aside, show up “my mind” for the little thing it is. Still I’ve set another date and even booked one night’s lodging at Orisson Auberge, half way up a mountain. I don’t have a plane ticket. I don’t even have a valid passport (every day I check the mailbox and I really think I’ll get it next week) but everything will be planned around that first day’s walk in mid September.

Even when I had no real hope of getting to the Camino de Santiago in Spain, I still kept on doing my laps and climbing up the toboggan hill again and again. I’m not a sporty person and normally I hate exercise but something made me keep at this even through a Montreal winter.

I have to fight my own moral compass too. With the terrible fires and floods all over the world I considered making a vow never to fly again as a sort of personal effort to show our dear world that I respect it, that nature should be cherished. I’m not ready yet though. This might be my last big trip. After all, I am 73. “But at my back, I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” (Andrew Marvel) I will keep on trying – but no more “I will do it!” The ego of that is better controlled.

So although the slope looks gentle and easy in the photo, I assure you it is not! Yesterday I climbed up ten times. Sometimes I come down backwards for balance and to save my knees. Sometimes I practice the zig-zag path that minimizes the jolting on the joints. The day before I loaded a back-pack and walked around the huge park close to my house. After all, one has to practice carrying weight too.

I have set my foot on the path again. I did it with that reservation for a bed at the first stop on the climb over the Pyrenees Mountains that is one of the traditional pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. Part of my discipline will be writing this blog too. I invite you to accompany me on my preparation to walk along one of the oldest pilgrimage routes in Europe.

Poetry on Track


A project to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostella in Spain this spring has been shelved because of the Corona virus. I had trained all winter because, after all, when granny makes up her mind to walk 800 kms, she had better be in shape. I lost 10 pounds and found I fell into a trance-like state as I walked mile after mile in all weathers. Montreal is blessed with a substantial hill that residents call our “mountain”. Many times I walked up the slopes and steps of the mountain to prepare for the notorious first days of the hike from St. Jean Pied de Port that begin the classic Frances Route.

Restless at home and lothe to completely give up my dream, I took to walking the track in my local park. I made it my goal to walk ten laps a day and to work up to higher numbers. Even under Corona lock down I am allowed to go out for a solitary walk each day. I ran into the problem of counting how many laps I had done. Of course I could just keep track of time and walk for an hour, check my pedometer for distance and head off home for my lunch but today, I hit upon a way of keeping count. I looked for a rhyme for each lap and this is the “head poem” that emerged.

ONE – Just begun.

But something is finished, a dream. What’s begun is resignation, adaptation, appreciation of this little Camino that just goes round and round. The Road is in my imagination.

TWO – Blue

Just like the sky battling to show its beauty through low clouds. The clouds are beautiful too, shifting, grey and shades of white, torn by a north-east wind. Let me glimpse that open sky, just for a moment.

THREE – For me

Alone, in quarantine, striding along with no one to agree that it’s a good idea or object that it’s not. Walking for my body, for my mind.

FOUR – “The door “

Subject of a poem recently published that I will not share for fear of  hurting someone, for fear of hurting myself, perhaps. Decision made and firm.

FIVE – The bee hive

My neighbor’s bees coming to visit, coming to swarm around my home forced tulips, to take sustenance from them. Remembering them as they swarm for water in summer in my garden.

SIX –  Fix

I can’t fix this. Years of “fixing” all for nothing. Time to endure now.

SEVEN – Heaven and Hell

Where are they? What are they? Who can tell us? Who can know what would be hell for me and heaven for another? Walking to heaven.

EIGHT – Late

Is it too late for me ever to walk the Camino? I  should have done it years ago, like so many other things.

NINE – Pine tree

Standing in the wind as I pass the half-way mark around the track. Sure of yourself, watching the walkers, the runners, the dogs, the children. Putting out your cones every year with no thought, no deliberation, no agony

TEN – The pen

Solace, friend, helper, enemy, adversary, rebel, triumph.

And that’s how I kept track of the laps today.