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How to keep civilized and keep your cool on the Camino

Day Two on the Camino – Roncevaux to Larrasoana (25k, roughly seven hours with picnic)

We’re awakened – or should I say I’m awakened – by the lights flickering at 6:30 a.m. and some classical music wafting in the background. Jay, as well as many others, has been awake for hours thanks to some world-class snorers among our lot. I make a mental note to thank my friend Lori for the tip on earplugs and nearly fall out of my upper bunk as I try to climb down the ladder.

My legs are in full whinge. Every muscle tight and screaming. It takes me a moment to loosen up and walk like a human but as I look around I realize I’m not alone. The Camino draws all ages and all levels of fitness. I’m really sore and I’m sure there are people who are really, really sore but we all stumble on.

A quick breakfast of our leftover baguette bought in St. Jean yesterday, a pear, and – joy of joys – a café au lait made by a handy vending machine I happily discovered in the auberge’s communal kitchen, and we’re off.

Keeping it Civilized

The volunteers who run the auberge point us in the right direction. “There are many ways,” the man says to me with a smile. “But this is ‘the way’.” And we begin a gentle descent down a rocky trail, leaving the Pyrenees behind as the landscape unfurls into pastures filled with golden light and the sound of cowbells.

The weather is perfect – warm but not too hot, an Indian summer teetering on autumn. Compared to yesterday, this hike is easy, or at least, easy enough. After about three hours, we stop for a picnic lunch of bread, cheese, and wine (Pilgrim tip: buy a bottle of wine, pour it into two water bottles, and voila! It’s easy to carry and makes lunch on the trail highly civilized.).

Keeping Our Cool

We walk through Burguete, a Swiss-like mountain village and favorite getaway of Ernest Hemingway’s in the 1920s, and on to the town of Zubiri. We could stop for the night but a quick look at the pilgrim auberge (dirty bathrooms, rickety metal bunkbeds, caged windows, and a surly woman at the desk –only 4 Euros for the night but hardly the charm of Roncevaux) convinces us to move on.

We run into Nick, our British friend from the day before, who is soaking his feet in a stream. He suggests we check out a small family-owned inn in the town of Larrasoana about an hour’s walk away. When we get there we learn that a double room will cost us the princely sum of 40 Euros for the night. I look at Jay – this is not what we planned. He looks at me like I’m crazy. He’s right and he wins.

It’s the best night sleep we’ve had in days. Quiet, comfortable, and a hot shower that feels like heaven. Between that and the pilgrim meal we enjoyed at a local restaurant (again, three courses – soup, stew, dessert, wine – and great company), we’re doing all right and looking forward to strolling (ha!) into Pamplona tomorrow.

Day’s Wish List:

What we wish we’d brought:

Less stuff. Common wisdom is that your pack should weigh no more than 10% of your body weight. Last I checked I wasn’t tipping the scale at 200 pounds. It’s ridiculous what I’m schlepping (computer, work papers, silly stuff) and by day two, I’m more than just a little angry at myself.

At the inn, I rip my towel in half and I empty out bottles of unneeded toiletries. I’m starting to understand arctic explorers who shave down their toothbrushes to reduce weight in their packs.

Word to the wise: You need less than you think and remember – you have to carry it all.

What we’re glad we have:

A knife and a wine opener – both purchased in St. Jean since these things can’t be brought on board a plane and both extremely handy to have for civilized picnic lunches.



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