Day 147:Kissed by a Girl!

Had a really great day yesterday. We walked out of Cizor Menor up the gradual slopes of Alto de Pedrón. My knee throbbed so bad but, I walked through the pain because I enjoy Team Brasil’s conversations and wanted to keep step. Meteorite John is a riot. I don’t know where he gets his energy! He was trying to keep up with Bruna, and he would get to a town ahead and be waiting for us on a perch at the entrance to the city to watch us come hobbling through!

Team Brasil and I caught up with John and Bruna in Zariqueigui, only for a minute as they are fast walkers. This town is where Henrique and I reloaded our wine pouch. Here we also ran into the girls from Faroe Islands again. Little did I know that this would be the last time I would see them. Had I known that I would have chatted them up more. Really like that mother and daughter. It’s so cool they are doing the Camino together.

We walked on steadily uphill towards the windmills that seemed to line the crest of the mountains for as far as the eye can see. Hundreds of windmills humming as the semi-truck-sized turbines turn. Kinda of a soothing sound. Like the sound of the wind blowing through the trees, only constant and about 100 decibels louder. Turned one corner in the trail out of the thicket, and out of nowhere it seemed, iron statues lining the top of Alto de Pedrón. The statues seemed to fit in between the windmills. This is where I should have been on the first trip the first day! We walked all day looking down at the highway I was on last trip. Team Brasil brought to my attention that the passerbys probably thought I was a crazy tolo (fool)! I said, “that’s a mild comment compared to what I was thinking right now!”

It was super windy at the top of Alto de Pedrón, which I guess is why they put the windmills here in the first place. Brilliant observation, huh? One of the iron statues says, “Donde se Cruza El Camino Del Viento Con El d Las Estrella”, which means “Where it crosses the path of the wind with the stars”.

We took tons of pictures together and played photographer to a bunch of people starting to reach the top. We then started the descent down. I dragged way behind because of my knee. It was in excruciating pain now. Alone for the first time that day, I started to reminisce about the first trip. Started thinking about Lindy. Thought about how much I missed her and wished this was all a bad dream and that I could go home to her. This is the first time this trip that I had a breakdown. I cried all the way down the mountain. No one at the bottom asked me “what was wrong”, if they even noticed. It was actually much appreciated that no one asked. They probably thought I was crying because of my knee! That’s one if the reasons I like this group so much. They just did what you do on the Camino: leave people alone at the right times. This trail is mystical like that. They let me talk about her when I felt the need to, and they very rarely asked about it. When they asked, it seemed to be at the right time.

I did met a guy from Philadelphia on the way down who had recognized my accent at the top. He said, “Happy 4th of July comrade!” I had forgotten, ashamed to say, until that moment that it was our Independence Day. Ironic that a guy from Philadelphia would be the one to remind me!

At the bottom of the hill was a cool-outdoor Albergue with a cafe. What was even cooler you ask? Everyone in our pack was sitting down and having a Pepsi, beer or wine. No one was in a hurry. Bruna had gotten a flyer at the top for an Albergue in Punta la Reina that had a pool and was only 10€. She had called and made reservations for us. That’s why they were relaxing. They knew we were stopping in Punta la Reina and that the walk wasn’t that much further. Maybe 6km. So we cut up and laid in the sun and said hi to the familiar pilgrims passing by, or yelled Buen Camino to others. It was like we were watching the parade of pilgrims while sitting on the sidelines.

This cafe was were we met Loic from Paris. He works for the mayor of Paris. He immediately said the Mayor was gay. I said, “Doesn’t shock me!”, as I was shielding my eyes from the glare of his shiny white, bald head. He chuckled and joined the group. We had passed this guy several times since the beginning. He was always ominously smoking battery-sized cigarettes while standing straight up sporting a camouflaged backpack and genuine looking military boots. Looked to be mid thirties.Think Timothy McVeigh meets Billy Corgan. Nice guy though. Fun to hear him speak [really] good english with his French accent.

After recharging our phones; taking advantage of their free Whifee; and having a snack, we got back on the road. Made it to Obanos by 2pm. This is the town that I almost quit in last time. It seemed so much different coming in the right way. While filling up our wine pouches with this incredible 3€ a bottle local wine that Henrique discovered, Pago Isarpe, we ran into Don Draper. While I was trying to cut a deal with Jose Mori to import his delicious wine, John Michael walked up behind me and says, in his deep South African accent, “I thought it would only be a matter of time before you found ‘your something to do’ for work!” I turned around and was shocked that he caught up with us. I was fairly sure I would never see him again. Happy to run into him again and I immediately got his info because he was slower than us and I figured we would lose him again. (By the way, you will be able to buy this wine on this website for $15 a bottle in a few weeks:) ha!

We all walked into Punta la Reina, which was a slow steady 3km down from Obanos. Don Draper and I mused back and forth over the walk. Its what I enjoyed about our walk two days prior. He also said he is done worrying about whether his decision to sell his ownership stake in his advertising business was a good one. Said, “worrying is like praying for something bad to happen”. I said, “where did you hear that?” He lifted his Camino guide book and said, “right here”, as he pointed to the last line on the page! Ummm…seems Valeria, from my last trip, lifted that phrase too. I thought it was here original saying. Who cares. Still profound.

Don Draper was moving faster for some reason now. He said he shed a few backpack pounds and it has improved his performance with better speed. We walked past the hotel I died in last time, Hotel Jakue. Walked through town and up this steep incline just over the bridge leaving town. We hiked to the Alberque Bruna reserved beds at. At the top of the hill the hostel appeared as a mirage in the desert. Big yellow house on a plantation; people splashing in the pool, eating outside like it was a backyard BBQ and drinking beer like it was…well 4th of July! What a way to end this trip. Only it gets a little better.

We all dropped our bags after checking in and jumped in the pool. Pushing people in; splashing people; running around the pool like we were 12 years old. Good times. Good times indeed. I needed this. New friends on a strange road all doing the Camino for very different reasons. It works. I had a moment of clarity about what I need to do when I get home. I love The Way.

We all went to eat in town and had a big dinner. Henrique found me a hot dog for my 4th of July. We drank two pitchers of Spanish wine, aka Sangria and cut up like old friends. Once back at the hostel, I got kissed by Bruna the Brazilian girl. Said she had her eye on me:) She said I hope that this is ok. I hesitated for a spell. We talked about Lindy as we laid out in the field and looked at the stars. She was very curious about her and how I was coping. Very sweet girl. We starred at the stars for an hour before each resigning to our own bunks. The stars were big and extremely bright….deep in the heart of Spain!

Got up this morning and caught the 7am bus back to Pamplona. It was truly sad saying goodbye to everyone. The good thing about this trip is I walked away with good friends that I will stay in touch with this time. It’s funny that life works exactly the way you need it to when you are in time with God.

It’s about 10 am back here in Pamplona. I am writing while sitting here watching them get ready for their biggest day of the year: the Running of the Bulls. I feel much like I assume Heminway felt, except sober. The energy here is unreal. They are putting up additional wooden barricades to help herd the bulls and protect merchants store fronts. The drinking has already commenced for 70% of the city, as the voyeurs file in for the weekend in their fancy clothes. I assume they will change for tomorrow, or maybe they will watch the chaos from their flowered balconies. I would join in the festivities but my train to Barcelona is in 5 hours. I will have a beer and go buy some trinkets before I leave. This place is starting to feel too familiar, by the way. In a good way that is.

I truly love Spain. I love the Camino. I love the spirit of the people. This trip is just what the doctor ordered. Had a ton of alone time with God. Had some breakthroughs on insights into myself. Had some revelations about things in the word that I have been struggling with; and God put a group of great people around me in my short time here. Wish I didn’t have to go home. Washington, D.C. on Sunday night for the National Brain Tumor Society is a commitment I need and want to keep. Barcelona tonight for a great dinner. Home tomorrow on metal wings, after a tour of the Segrada of course. They were closed last trip.

Ciao for now,
Michael

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