We woke up early in Roncevalles earlier than we planned to.
Sometime around 5:30 a.m. someone’s alarm went off and off and off and off. They were either sleeping through it, something everyone in my cubicle couldn’t do, or they had gone to get a shower and forgot to turn it off before they walked down the hall to the bathroom.
Just before 6 a.m. they woke up or came back and the irritating noise of the alarm stopped.
Which was perfect timing for the official wake up call to begin. Suddenly the whole hall was filled with the sound of Gregorian chants, a surprisingly lovely way to wake up. Lights came up a little and everyone started to stir.
I’d been lulled to sleep the night before by the delightful sound of the “cat lady” on the bunk directly below me. We dubbed her that because when she fell asleep, she did not snore, she purred like a cat. It was strange and funny at first but eventually it was very soothing as I tried to drift of into sleep after the excitement of our first day on the Camino.
We packed quickly and were on our way by 7 a.m., walking outside to wet weather, the pilgrim crowd was leaving Roncevalles in a slow trickle as some tried to sleep a little more, some moved but slowly and others were long gone by the time we walked out the monastery door.
The wisdom of the Camino for day 2, “Start out like an old man so that you can finish like a young one.” A new friend on the Camino had given us this sage advice and I embraced it.
During the constant passing or being passed along the way on day 2, the greeting, “Buen Camino” became entrenched in our vocabulary and slowly developed into an automatic response. In my diary I wrote:
“Buen Camino is the ‘greeting’ passed between pilgrims or given to pilgrims. It sometimes lands as a curse instead of a blessing. As you overtake someone going slowly, ‘Buen Camino!’ As you pass someone who is struggling up a hill, ‘Buen Camino!’ As you go by someone taking a break, ‘Buen Camino!’ But it’s never really a curse – in those hard moments it is a reminder for the giver and the receiver that it is a good journey – even in difficult times – especially in hard times, a reminder – the way is good and beautiful.”
It was like prophetic encouragement, “There are better days ahead!”
Entering into Zubiri, we saw a group of pilgrims sitting outside an albergue just after we crossed the old bridge. “No beds left in the whole town!” one young guy told us. I smiled and said, “we have 3 beds reserved.” “Tourist!” he responded grumpily and turned back to his other bedless friends.
When we arrived in Zubiri, my feet were aching and blisters were forming. I’d spent a lot of money on great shoes and excellent socks so I would avoid blisters and foot problems. I was discouraged and confused why both investments seemed to be failing me. My friends Bill and Derrick walked down to a cold, slow river stream at the edge of town and I waded into the cold water, wearing sandals, hoping to soothe my hurting feet. It was at this moment, this time and this place, where we made another new friend on the Camino.
Lolee. My spelling is probably off but you get the idea. She became one of our Camino miracles and became a beautiful part of our entire journey. As I soaked, eventually joined by Bill, Derrick stood on the shore and engaged Lolee in conversation as she walked up to see what these three strange fellow Peregrinos were up to. Looking back now, knowing how central Lolee would become to our whole Camino experience, I realize there was more appointment than coincidence to our first meeting.
That night, at our albergue, we had a gourmet meal. The conversation around our two tables was entertaining, enlightening and as delicious as the food. Fellow pilgrims from all over the world shared some of their stories and some of their ‘whys’ for being on the Camino. In between courses and over glasses of wine, we shared life, shared hopes for the way and once again made connections with other pilgrims we would continue to see now and then along the way.
My desolation for that day was receiving a picture of my granddaughter via wifi – worrying she might not remember me by the time I got back home.
I took my sorry feet to bed, hoping they would be happy when I woke up in the morning and I prayed the Our Father as I fell asleep.