Camino del Norte Part II

Day 2- San Sebastián

On that first day walking from Irun to San Sebastian, I started out with not much of a plan. I had no idea really what to do except look for the arrows and follow my little life-saving Camino del Norte app that I had found for my iPhone (thank god for this app). I had opted in not getting a guidebook. I set my alarm for 6 am. My brother Garrett had randomly messaged me a video of a Matt Costa and Delta Spirit concert that he went to. I feel so disconnected from life in California. I couldn’t hear any noise in the video. Some biker guys woke up super early and left. I was waking up when they were leaving. I ate breakfast: coffee and some packaged mini muffins. I made my way out of the albergue and saw the two Lithuanian girls that had stayed in the makeshift basement bunk area with us. They both had light blue hair. I asked if they wanted to walk together. One of them said, “Well we’re going to eat breakfast over there”. She pointed to a small area on the side of the street that had planters with trees and plants growing out of them. I said okay, a little sad and worried that I wouldn’t have anyone to walk with, but started on my way.

I was a little confused finding the route at first but I found it after a few minutes. The beginning of the way was just making it out of the little city. When I finally found the part of the way that turned from road to dirt, a great feeling of happiness and accomplishment overwhelmed me. I began to cry. I really cannot accurately describe what I was feeling at that moment. I was truly afraid before starting this, but I made myself do it. I think a part of me was in disbelief, but I really felt like I was finally doing what I was supposed to be doing. I was so happy, peaceful and fulfilled, and it was only my first day.

I started out just fine, maybe was walking for an hour, and then refilled my water at a church courtyard. I went in the church for a moment, then looked at the beautiful view of the bay from the church courtyard. Everything was so beautiful; I was near tears each time I saw a new view. I never really realized how much happiness could be found from nature’s beauty.

I continued walking down this long, monotonous trail through some trees for probably about 3 hours. It was a bit rough. I ate my orange and banana I had with me. Water, not so much. I didn’t want to waste it before I reached the next place, but that was a mistake. A man who probably lived nearby was on the trail searching for sticks to carve into walking sticks and he just gave me the one he was holding that he had already made before. He told me he makes them as a hobby. I gladly took it and marveled at his kindness. I had also found a suitable stick earlier that day so I continued along with both. Thank god I had them.

I made it to an established road and ran into this little old man who started talking to me right away. I guess he had done the Camino like a million times- both the northern and Frances routes. But he wasn’t doing it at the moment- he was just walking into town from his house. He was really cool. He lives in the little port town we were about to reach. He told me some stories about his experience, how he had once RUN the Camino and met a German guy who ended up meeting his future wife on that same trip. They are still in touch. He told me to go eat and drink something at the little town (San Pedro, I think) and then after that it would be about an hour and a half to San Sebastián.

Upon seeing the ocean in San Pedro, I was so relieved. I don’t know why because I still had a ways to go but I guess it just calmed me. I sat down next to the bay in this little plaza called Plaza de Santiago. While I was sitting there, a group of loud locals walked by me a talked to me a bit in Spanish. They said they make a pilgrimage every day to Santiago- to the Plaza de Santiago that I was sitting in. We laughed and they continued onto their next bar. I got beer and this thing called Gilda (pronounced “heelda”), which is a tuna-stuffed green olive with pickled peppers all wrapped with an anchovy on one toothpick.

It was small and not enough food. I ate some rice crackers I had bought the day before but I should have eaten more. I paid the bill and continued on my way. I had to cross the bay in a little boat that cost 70¢. It took maybe 2 mins and I was accompanied by Canadian woman and a Dutch man. They were older maybe in their 50s or 60s. I found out later that they were cousins.

I got to the other side, walked along the water, and then began climbing a stair-trail for way too long. Luckily, it was overlooking the beautiful ocean. I continued up the stairs for quite a while. I didn’t drink enough water and was pretty dehydrated.

When I finally caught view of the beach of San Sebastián, I was spent. But I had made it. It looked like a Cali beach, which was cool. I thought of just jumping into the ocean with all of my clothes on and just risk my bag being stolen. But I had to make it to the albergue before it filled up!

Little did I know, the albergue was all the way on the other side of the city; about a mile and a half of shade-less boardwalk. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but after walking about 18 miles that day and out of shape, it was hell. I made my way on the slippery tile of the boardwalk, placing my entire weight on my uneven wooden walking sticks, clacking along with my backpack and hiking shoes, ignoring the concerned looks of tourists and locals in their bikinis, sandals and sun hats. I was dehydrated and starving. It was honestly miserable.

Finally, I arrived to the albergue. I walked in, weakly removed my bag and shoes, and had to lie down on a bench in the lobby. I lay there for a moment, gathering myself. When I finally felt like I wouldn’t puke if I stood up, I went to the front desk and asked desperately if they had rooms left. I had to put my head on the desk while I waited for her to respond. Pathetic, I know. The lady said yes, matter-of-factly, they had plenty of space. The Dutch/Canadian duo, Dorothy and Willam, came in right after me, seemingly energetic. Huh. I’m so dumb for not training for this.

The front desk lady gave me my bed and directed me to it. “Down the stairs”. I had only seen one set of stairs and it was outside. So, in my foggy state, I went down the stairs outside. But I couldn’t find my room. What the hell. I knew I was doing something wrong. I went back to the front desk and asked “Lo siento… ¿dónde estaban las escaleras?” The lady just looked at me, laughed a little and pointed in front of the desk, directly behind me. There were the stairs. Oh.

I was so relieved to have a bed. I couldn’t really do anything except get my sleeping bag, drink water and lay in my top bunk. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t move. I felt horrible. I looked to my left and saw an Asian woman with shoulder-length hair reading. She was stretching her legs on the bed while she read. She seemed quiet and serious. This would later be disproved! (Yuning)

my face when i first arrived.. haha
my face when i first arrived.. haha

About an hour later, I found the energy to take too long of a hot shower and go to the market. I ate a banana while I was shopping. I spent a really long time in the store, mainly because I couldn’t think straight. I thought about how far I had walked that day… 31 km (about 20 miles). Joder. There were a lot of young, party people in the store. I assumed they were there on vacation. I got some weird looks from them (possibly because of my paleness from dehydration and exhaustion) but I didn’t care. I bought some eggs, yogurt, bananas, cherries, muesli energy bars, pistachios, an avocado and PowerAde. When I was done, I went out of the store and sat on the nearest bench. I had no energy. I ate some pistachios and cherries and drank the PowerAde.

Once I got back to the albergue I felt a little better. I went down to the kitchen and made an egg and avo sandwich for dinner. An Asian guy was there eating some left over pasta that someone had made. I wanted wifi and he said he had a hot spot thing that I could use but it ended up not working. I went into a large dining area where there was wifi available. I face timed with my mom and told her about the day. She told me to go see these chain sculpture things down by the beach.

This was the first day I saw Jaco. I didn’t meet him but I remember seeing him sitting outside smoking a cigarette. I think I half-smiled at him and he half-smiled back.

I also saw Kim on this day; she was in the same room as me. We never really spoke but I think we probably smiled at each other, said ‘buen camino’ and all that. I remember thinking that she had definitely done the Camino before because she was extremely prepared with a good-sized bag of blister-preventing tools.

I went on my way to see the sculpture thing. That was when I met Sylvain. I asked him and the wifi guy if they wanted to go see the sculpture thing with me but they had already seen it. Fine. I was happy to go alone anyways… I made my way down there during sunset and it was so beautiful.

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