Saturday, December 04, 2010

I Have Two Words for You, People – Flat Land

I often start out a day with a tune in my head that doesn’t leave me for hours. Sometimes it doesn’t leave me for days. What starts the particular tune is usually a mystery. I can try substituting another tune, but often this strategy is unsuccessful. For example, this week I’ve had Toto’s Africa stuck in my head. I’ve hummed it in the car. I’ve whistled it through my teeth at work. I tried substituting Bowie’s Major Tom, but that lasted for 5 minutes before the default kicked back in. It can be a little annoying.

Along the Camino, I had a saying stuck in my head. “I have two words for you, people…” and then I’d fill in the blank with whatever was appropriate at the time. During the first 100 miles, the blank was usually filled in with “flat land”.

Thursday, September 23rd, our second day on the Camino, was a 17-mile day. From the elevation drawing in the guidebook, this stretch looked like it would be mostly downhill with a couple nipples here and there. The nipples proved to be more like thirty degree (or steeper) inclines – that lasted for a kilometer or two. And one thing I know about myself is that I do NOT like walking uphill.

The day started out easy enough.

It was in a forest like this that I noticed crocuses blooming on the ground. How odd, I thought to myself…crocuses bloom back home in the late winter. When I commented on the little blossoms to Kathleen, she informed me that they were saffron. (I later read somewhere that saffron is a crocus species, 70% of which grows in Spain.) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it was so nice to have a horticulturist as a hiking buddy!

At the first village of the day, Burguete, I was enthralled with the red and pink flowered boxes on the white Navarese buildings.

Yup, I was so enthralled that I totally missed the sign marking the turn-off of the trail from the street. Half a mile later when we realized we were going the wrong way, a little old Basque gentleman told Kathie to just stay on the road and we’d get back on the trail in Espinal. (Kathie continued to amaze me with her Spanish comprehension throughout the trip!) Since we wanted to walk on the actual trail, Kathie asked some younger peeps hanging out the second story window of a rural health clinic for directions. They of course directed us back to Burguete, where we finally found the turn-off after much wandering around.

So now it was going to be an 18-mile day. And where was the guidebook that, had I consulted it, would have told me exactly where the turn-off was? Tucked neatly into my lumbar pack.

Some random photos from the day…

This looks like some sort of shrine. Notice the skeleton of a tent that was offered in sacrifice.

Here’s another example of how much better Kathie’s photography skills are than mine. Notice the nice composition...

And then the close-up...

Now here's mine. Obviously, timing is everything.

Honestly, that cat was just waiting for me to click the button so he could wash his little butt with his buddy looking on.

When you’re tired and hungry, you can eat lunch just about anywhere.

Walk, walk, walk…after a while, it all blurs together. Another village, another church, more trees, more sheep. When we hit Zubiri, however, suddenly we were crossing over land that belonged to some kind of industrial company. Was it a power plant? The path through included a set of wide and uneven steps down, down. By now my left groin muscle was feeling like a loose fan belt – the current was getting to it but the muscle just couldn’t seem to grab on, and the ups and downs were not helping one little iota. 'Twas my own fault for not adequately preparing for the trip. All I could think of was getting to our hotel so I picked up my pace.

Finally, we pulled into the Hotel Akerreta, a restored Basque house. The mom of the family who now owns the house is from California. The dad, who greeted us as we entered, was very nice and told us about the house. Here’s the lobby…

And the chimney of the bread ovens. This was on the landing right outside our 2nd story room. Looks kind of Native Americanish, don't you think? I'm glad they didn't rip it out when the house was restored.

The view outside Kathie’s window...

And we had a very nice dinner.

Outside the next morning – what is that vine-y white flower covered plant, anyway?

The Hotel Akerreta

Next...on to Pamplona.

P.S. I just looked up the lyrics for Toto's Africa, you know - just to make sure I got them right for this post. What do I find but that the lyrics stuck in my head are wrong. Oh well. "I miss the rain down in Africa..." It's gonna be really hard to change now.


Katharine said...

I love uphill! I live to go uphill!

Those good looking Basque men hanging out the window were firemen. What is it about firemen that they are always gorgeous? I would have been willing to be lost a few more times.

Pat said...

You are a rare and wondrous woman!