• A ti, abuelcita

    Day 34: Parga Natura ➡️ Goimil. DM: 28.4 mi. 

    Day 35: Goimil ➡️ SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA. DM: 20 mi.

    Total Mileage: 650 trail miles

    My grandmother died unexpectedly last September. 

    I just so happened to be back in the States when her health started to decline. We got a call from the Carmel hospital on my second morning back in New York — her lungs were filled with fluid — a sign of heart failure.

    Here I thought she had a heart too big to fail. 

    The doctors told us she had a good deal of time left, but we flew across the country to be with her anyways. 

    I visited her twice in the hospital. During the first visit, she made a request.

    Can I give this to you to wear for the next day or so? I look at her neck and see the cross necklace she has worn since her son, my godfather, died 28 years ago. 

    I don’t want them fussing with it — she says, as she secures it around my neck. They had to run a quick pre test on her that afternoon before the minor operation scheduled in 3 day’s time.

    During the second visit, she made another request.

    Can you cut up some watermelon for me just the way I like it? It’ll be something to look forward to after the operation.

    Anything for you, Gramme. I’ll bring it to you right after.

    The watermelon that I meticulously sliced sat in the fridge. She did not make it through the operation.

    I have not taken the cross necklace off since. 

    One of the main reasons I chose to do El Camino, instead of the PCT or the AT, is because I know Gramme would have wanted me to. Religion doesn’t play a role in my life right now, but it did in hers. 

    She would have gotten a kick out of my adventures the last 5 weeks. She would have done all the research about El Camino ahead of time — unlike me — and told me that it’s one of the most special times to do it — a Jacobean year. 

    She would have been riddled with anxiety when I shared the gory details of the VDP. 

    She would have sent me joy-filled texts after I decided to switch to the CdN— I can finally sleep now, Carolyn. 

    She would have reprimanded me for almost fainting — be kind to yourself, Carolyn.

    She would have told me how blessed I am for having a friend join me on the trail — may the Holy Spirit guide you both.

    But Gramme, remember Sol’s Jewish?

    She would have been over the moon about my writing a blog — Just don’t use so many curse words, though, ok?

    She would have said a rosary each day for me — you’re always in my heart, Carolyn. 

    Today, when I walked across the plaza up to the Catedral de Santiago, I held her cross necklace close to my heart.

    Likewise, Gramme.

    —————————————-

    What next, you might be wondering? I’m off to Finisterre! It’s 100km from Santiago.

    Am I walking? Hard no. Time to take the bus.

    I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported me through this thing. I couldn’t have done it without you!

    Some SHOUTOUTS in no particular order:

    Paul and Ciaran – for being the best Camino trail mates I ever did meet. Thank you for your companionship on the VDP, for your dinners, gear, and countless recs 

    Sol – no hay palabras! Gracias por su energia, amistad, las sonrisas, y conversaciones. Patagonia?! 

    Los padres de Sol – gracias para Sol! Y para leer mi blog. 

    Decathalon Spain – for being located so conveniently along the CdN. If you need a brand ambassador, lemme know. 

    Anna and Ryan – for the bottle of wine in Iten and for being the most dedicated blog subscribers

    White noise app – for getting me through some long nights of snorers at albergues

    Señora Iglesias – for giving me intermediate Spanish proficiency. And for putting up with a teacher’s pet

    Noelle – for picking up my call 

    Random luggage storage hombre in Santiago – for tracking down my suitcases when they got lost 

    Dilanthi and Yash – for convincing me to do a blog 

    Author of VDP guidebook – for corresponding over email and telling me I was crazy for attempting the VDP

    Woman at the Santiago CORREOS – for spending hours tracking down my lost jacket

    Whitney Houston – for the groovy tunes

    Elijiah – for introducing me to snickers as fuel for long distance runs/treks

    Bain – for hotel points 

    Katie – for inspiring me to, at long last, use hiking poles. Game changer.

    Spanish tortillas – for powering me through marathon mornings

    Doc at the Fuentes de Cantos centro de salud – for treating my blisters and letting me borrow your crocs for a day

    Grace, Laura, Hailey, Khalyani, Dileas, Haley, Soph, Kate, and anyone who reached out to me at any point — for your encouragement

    Mom and Matthew – the trail felt much lonelier without you. For your endless love, last minute problem solving, and patience — especially over this last year. You’re the real heroes.

    Sponsored by Cliff Bar.

  • The final countdown

    Day 32: Lourenzá ➡️ Vilalba. DM: 26.8 mi. Elevation gain: 4232 ft 

    Sol may be gone, but the Camino is keeping her spirit alive. 

    I walked into town for dinner with my bunk mate, a young German gal who aspires to save the world by working for big multilaterals like the UN. You know, cuz, that’s where the real impact happens. 

    In walked a family that she recognized, which saved me from having to debate her on the point. 

    The German gal gives me the quick highlights of their family history as she waves them over:

    The parents are from Argentina 

    They have three kids 

    Who mostly grew up in the States

    I could almost hear Sol — Ma friend, we’ve got some fellow Argentines up in here!  

    We get to talking and the son tells me he was just accepted to Princeton in Africa. He spent some time in Tanzania and now wants to work in the region long term.

    I almost ask him if he was sent to a tennis academy in France at age 11. 

    I offer him my number. I see the Mom raise an eyebrow. 

    What — you think I’m trying to cougar? No no no, strictly for networking purposes — no te preocupes.

    When the family leaves, the German girl also asks for my number. I tell her I have 0 contacts at the UN.

    I may have scored a new Argentine friend but I am definitely missing my OG one. Today’s marathon felt extra long without DJ Sol there to play some groovy 80s tunes.

    I left later than normal, and, had to summit frickin Mt Everest over miles 7-11, so by the time I got to the Albergue it was 5pm. Late! 

    I was so tired and distracted after a catch up call with a friend that I put 0 thought into dinner logistics. I sat down at the first place I saw. The waiter reassured me that they did indeed serve food at 8pm. A restaurant open before 8:30 right next to my albergue? Too good to be true. 

    I look at the menu and quickly realize it is actually too good to be true. Es muy cara. Since when did Vilalba become like the gastronomic hub of Spain? I look up, and, through the power of observation, notice that there is a Michelen star sign posted on the door. Muy bien, Carolina.

    The waiter comes out and I don’t have the heart to tell him I need to go find a restaurant that serves a pilgrim’s menu — 2 courses, 1 dessert, 1 drink all for the price of 12 euros.

    I’m not looking for a small, expensive entree with delicate flowers and other inedible garnish on the side. Does he know I summitted Mt. Everest today?! Necesito mucho comida. Mucho. 

    I do a mental inventory of the food items I have in my pack at the albergue. Thank god for my emergency stash of snickers and clif bars. I buckle myself in for a treat yoself dinner and order the cheapest appetizer. And dessert.

    Not gunna lie — it was fully worth it. After subsisting off a diet consisting mostly of Spanish tortillas (eggs and potatoes), bread, clif bars, nuts, and French fries for weeks — Vilalba’s finest tomatoes tasted #fresh. The whiskey cake was also dope.

    Day 33: Vilalba ➡️ Parga Natural. DM: 17 mi. 

    Idk who sponsors / runs the Camino. But whoever does has a sense of humor. Starting at the 200km mark they’ve posted cement blocks indicating the kms left — to the nearest thousandth — every 400m. Yes, that’s 3 decimal places. 

    Walking by them is like watching paint dry. Oh wow, look at that! I’m .003 km closer to Santiago! And here again! Ballin’!!

    I did, though, stop today for lunch at a place called the KM101 cafe. Because, obviously, #supportlocalbusinesses.

    I’m starting to meet people who are just doing the 100km — so they can get the credential at Santiago that they definitely deserve after the huge distance they’ve covered. Don’t get me started on the people who electric bike this thing.

    Today, emotional and exhausted, I tried to take a mid afternoon nap. I’m staying in an albergue that has several rooms. It creates a more private experience. Or at least that’s probably what the couple I’m sharing a room with thought — until I opened the door and saw them in a PG13-looking embrace on the top bunk.

    All good — I’ve never been good at taking naps anyways.

  • Estas peacocking

    Day 30: Luarca ➡️ Tapia de casariego. DM: 25 mi

    I felt like a little kid being sent to school as Sol waved me off with a buen Camino at 6am. What if the other kids don’t like me? What if I get lost? Did I remember my lunch?!

    I thought I had made some headway into being an independent adult, but yesterday proved me wrong. I’d been procrastinating figuring out my post Camino plans. I mean, I know who I am hoping to see, and where they are, but the logistics of it all? Ninguna idea. I’d been waving it all away — blaming it on the uncertainty of El Camino.

    Who the hell knows when I’m going to finish, right? 

    Wrong. A fifth grader could do that math. Total distance left (145 mi) / insert assumption about daily mileage (20-25) = 5-7 days. Come on, Carolyn — you are going to business school, aren’t you?

    La verdad is I am le stressed. I have too many suitcases in too many places in Spain. And airline baggage limitations are too stingy for a girl who is using Spain as a stopover whilst moving from Kenya to los Estados Unidos. Before you take any pity on me — my mother and brother already schlepped back a couple of suitcases from Nairobi. You could say my foray into a #minimalist lifestyle isn’t going well.

    The best way to confront overhwelm is to procrastinate. The best antidote to procrastination is to have a friend call you on your bluff. Sol did just that. On her birthday, she gave me the gift of spending two hours googling how to get me back to the US. Alas, fuel prices have skyrocketed, so her initial searches brought back ‘spenny results.

    But, after she pulled out some tricks she had in her back pocket (who knew purchasing a round trip is cheaper than a one way?!), I finally have my departure flight. Gracias al mejor compadre, Sol!

    Backwards mapping everything else, I’ve realized I need to finish El Camino between Thurs-Sun next week. Time to turn on the jets.

    Sol and I did, though, make the most of our rest day in Luarca. We were joined for a couple hours by two peregrinos — Vinny y Fex — at a bar. We’ve crossed paths with Vinny a number of times. He’s a bartender in Ibiza. Yes, everything that you’re picturing right now is accurate.

    To help me “learn Spanish” Vinny has taken it upon himself to enunciate everything and also demonstrate what he’s saying in a very exaggerated manner. Now just multiply that by ten and you’ll get a sense for what he’s like when he’s had a couple bebidas.

    He ordered a bottle of Sidra — porque, Carolina, sabes que es el ultimo dia en Asturia, el origin de Sidra? — and, in high key bartender style — poured it from the vase, 5 feet in the air, into the cup on the ground below. And then handed it to me.

    It was a sunny day, so, naturally, he rolled up his sleeves. He also started hiking his shorts further up his thighs. And further.

    He then started doling out life advice to myself, Sol, and Fex — all a good 10+ years younger.

    In overly-enunciated Spanish, Vinny described — how, when we die, we should not show up to the gates of heaven in a suit and tie — all prim and proper — to hand ourselves over to the afterlife.

    No, chicos — you must rev up in a motorcycle with a cloud of dust behind you. Que tal, Dios?

    Vinny got up off his stool to demonstrate said entrance — motorcycle imitation and everything. When he sat back down he rolled up his shorts even higher. Sol looks at me and I read her mind. Bro, why you peacocking?!

    As Vinny poured another round of Sidra — this time missing the cups a couple times — he laid out his future plans. One of his three goals is to learn English. He’s decided the best way to do so is to move to the US. Vinny looks at me, pointedly, as he says this. I stare back in silence.

    Vinny, if you want a proposal, you’re going to have to give me more than Sidra pours and overt displays of masculinity. 

    Or, if you check 2 of my suitcases on a flight to the US so I can avoid extra baggage fees, maybe we can talk. Maybe.

    Sol and I were able to make an exit and enjoy the rest of her birthday by the sea in peace.

    Needless to say, I’ve planned a couple long-haul days to get ahead of los hombres. 

    Day 31: Tapa de Casariego ➡️ Lourenza. DM: 24.3 mi 

    Today had me feeling emotional. Laura Branigan’s Gloria came on shuffle. It was one of Sol’s favorites and we had always broken out in dance when it came on. My solo yells of “I THINK YOU’RE HEADED FOR A BREAKDOWN” felt empty.

    The 5 hours of nonstop rain probably didn’t help. 

    I got broken into long distance trekking on expo. Expo was the 11 day backpacking trip that my high school offered sophomores. We were put into groups of ~8, and made to carry all our food and gear for the trip. Some people barely weighed more than their packs.  

    Did we sleep in tents? No — that would be too luxurious. They made us sleep in inverted V-shaped dwellings that we erected with hiking poles, tarps, and string. 

    When was the trip? February — which — I’ll hesitate to call the “dead of winter”, because, anyone from like Boston or Calgary reading this blog would literally laugh out loud. But, it did hit freezing a couple times. More importantly, it poured almost every day. My memories of the experience are of being drenched and freezing.

    The pinnacle of Expo was “solo”. It was exactly as it sounds. 36 hours on your own. With the clothes on you, a sleeping bag, a tarp, and a string. Nothing else. Not even food.

    I enjoyed it all so much I applied to be an instructor my junior year. 

    On Expo I learned not to complain and to stay positive. There’s always a worse counterfactual.

    Today, while I was walking in rain for 5 hours, I thought of expo. And I thought of how thankful I am to not be in the middle of god-knows-where- Spain in 104 degree heat on VDP.

    As if she read my thoughts, Marzia, the plucky Italian from the VDP, texted me today to tell me she’s made it to Santiago. She even sent a picture. I’m truly in awe of her. I’m ~95 miles behind — and here I’ve been mucking it up on the CdN! She’s the real champ.

  • Sol for Sol

    Day 26: Gijon ➡️ Aviles. DM: 16 mi 

    Day 27: Aviles ➡️ Pitu. DM: 17.5 mi

    Day 28: Pitu ➡️ Queruas. DM: 24 mi 

    Day 29 (Sol’s birthday): Queruas ➡️ Luarca. DM: 7 mi. 

    PSA! Today is Sol’s birthday! 

    On the trail, Sol shared a confession. She did not invite me to her birthday party in Nairobi last year. 

    But Sol — I remind her — don’t you remember I baked you a cake in Kakamega? 

    Our friendship last year started with Sol texting me — a day before her birthday — asking if I was free to celebrate her birthday with her in Kakamega. I had only met her once before that. If you’re confused — don’t worry — so was I at the time.

    Not knowing anything about her nor her preferences, I baked her a cake and bought birthday hats for a mini celebration in Kakamega. Evidence below!

    Guess that wasn’t enough to score an invite to her big banger in Nairobi the next weekend.

    She tells me that if I had cut one “n” from my last name — and reached Jew status — maybe she would have extended an invite.

    I have started to second guess whether her suggestion that we do el Camino together was genuine or pure lip service.

    This year, in attempt to lock down our friendship, I pulled out the big guns. I bought us matching bucket hats during our stopover in Gijon. As if our hiking outfits couldn’t get any more ridiculous (see picture below). The hats have scored us a couple trail friends — we bring #bighatenergy. I heard we’re trending on El Camino Reddits. And, my mom will be happy, the hats provide ample sun protection.

    Gijon also brought some other happy surprises. Sol bought another quick dry towel to replace the one she lost. And, she found a Pokémon card on the sidewalk. 

    Caro, you do know what Pokemon is, don’t you? — Sol has lost all faith in my knowledge of anything outside of running, work, and the Sound of Music. 

    We’ve started the analog version of Pokémon Go with the other peregrinos. Have you heard we’re trending on Reddit?

    Maybe in an attempt to reassure me that I’m not a friend of convenience Sol paid me a wonderful compliment the other day. She told me I look blonde. She had me convinced — maybe the VDP sun has brought some blessings? — until, a day later, she declared herself a brunette.

    She definitely has black hair. 

    One of us must be color blind. 

    We are taking today in Sol style to celebrate her birthday. It’s also her last day on the trail, so we are treating ourselves to an easy 7 miler with a beach-side destination. The sun has finally come out! Makes sense. Sol for Sol :).

  • Sergio knows best.

    Day 24: Isla ➡️ Amandi: DM: 15.8 mi

    One week in and Sol and I are starting to resemble an old married couple. 

    She knows I appreciate a timely 630am departure. I know she needs a caffeine hit before mile 2. 

    She knows the needs of my verging-on-post-menopausal bladder. I know that she needs me to remind her to drink solo una vez cada hora. Sol was born from a camel.

    I know that the best way to give her a boost is to play some Ariana. She knows that I will walk anywhere, any distance for some Whitney Houston. Girl’s got lungs. 

    Like any old married couple, we have also learned things from each other.

    I taught Sol that agua is indeed a masculine noun en Espanol. I was definitely the Spanish class teacher’s pet. Sol told me to get over myself.

    She, in turn, is expanding my pop culture knowledge — and fluency in Judaism — with an endless repertoire of Curb Your Enthusiasm videos. I don’t understand all the jokes, but, the sense of humor is growing on me. She tells me I also have Seinfeld to look forward to. I can’t keep up.

    I have also learned what Reddit is. Sol explained it’s enabling people to help people. How radical! After this Camino is over, I think I’m going to start a Reddit thread helping Alito further apply 13th century law to modern times. Because we all believe in regressing instead of making forward progress, right homeskillet? 

    I also introduced a word to Sol’s vocabulary — peacocking — just the other day. Yes, she’s already used it against me. As we departed our Albergue at 6:43AM, she told me that I had been “peacocking” to the other peregrinos at dinner. 

    Caro, no MPA this, MBA that. Say it straight. Policy. Business. 

    You can bet there was no stop for a cortado that morning. 

    She also has given me feedback on my interpersonal skills. Sol tells me I need to work on confronting problems. I need to communicate more directly. We now start all of our conversations with — I feel. We’d get an A+ in couples therapy. Yes, I’m still a teacher’s pet. 

    The easier day helped Sol’s blisters. It also brought a nice change of pace. I made my first breakfast in three weeks. We even left at 9am. It also gave one of our favorite peregrinos, Maximo, a chance to catch up. He’s an older Spanish gentleman who has done a number of caminos and walks with a twinkle in his eye. 

    Last night at the albergue he was explaining to Sol in rapid-fire Spanish why the towns have fully booked accommodation. Sol was nodding and throwing in “Claro’s” intermittently. Sounded like she was tracking. 

    Sounds like there’s a religious festival? – I ask Sol, looking for explanation. 

    Eh – she shrugs — I had no clue what he was talking about. 

    Sol — I start — I feel — like you need to work on your communication.

    Ma friend, touché.

    Day 25: Amandi ➡️ Gijon. DM: 19 mi

    Today began with a comedy of errors.

    Over un cafe this morning, our albergue host, Sergio, told us what it had been like to do caminos back in the 80’s.

    Los flechas no existen. Tuve que preguntar para direcciones. (The arrows marking the way didn’t exist. I had to ask for directions) 

    I bet you also had to walk uphill both ways, right Sergio?

    He challenged us to go a day without our phones. Old Camino style. 

    Sure, sure. 

    We confidently bounded off — only to realize 400m later that we forgot our hiking poles. 

    We high-tailed it back and nabbed them before Sergio saw us. 

    Alright, take 2. 

    Mid conversation ~0.75 miles later, Sol tells me she forgot her Tevas. And a shirt. En serio?! 

    Sol’s true goal on this Camino is to slowly rid her pack of all items.

    I run back, sans pack, to Sergio’s, and avoid eye contact as I grab Sol’s items. Dashing back to Sol, however, I realize that I, using my phone, had led us 0.75 mi in the wrong direction.

    De acuerdo, we should have gone sin mobil, per Sergio’s instruction, and asked for his directions. Point taken, Sergio.

  • Comme ci, comme ca

    Day 22 Pendueles ➡️ Pineres de Pria. DM: 21.5 mi 

    Day 23: Pineres de Pria ➡️ Isla. DM: 17.2 mi

    Sol and I have a symbiotic relationship. Her top bunk preference pairs wonderfully with my bottom bunk preference. She can talk about music artists for days — I can sing their lyrics. They’re American songs, so, home field advantage. 

    She drinks hardly any water. I guzzle down liters every hour. I navigate to ensure we get from A to B — her spanish allows us to ask important questions, like, can we have some extra bread, or, what’s your stance on Roe V Wade. 

    Can’t be too careful with these religious peregrinos.

    Sol is going through Camino growing pains. As a tennis athlete, she’s used to shorter spurts of speed. She starts off the day at a sprint — fueled by una cortado and a healthy dose of 90s rock. I’ve since established a rule — no music pre 11am. I’ve also established many other rules. I won’t mention them, though, since she is finally reading my blog.

    Sol also initially wasn’t hungry. A couple long and windy days later and she’s worked up the El Camino appetite. We order seconds of everything. The waiters must think we’re pregnant American women fleeing the disaster that is the US of A. Leave while you can!

    And, Sol’s sprouted her first set of blisters. Where did she get them? A post-hike run. Are we surprised? If you know Sol, you shouldn’t be. She started playing Rocky as we arrived at our albergue and decided she had some steam to blow off. Yes, you can bet there’s a new rule about post hike runs.

    We’re likely going to take it easy for a day or two to help her recover. But, let’s count our blessings here. We don’t have COVID nor bedbugs, like two peregrinos we met on the trail today. Serves them right for supporting overturning Roe V Wade.

    Plus, while rain is perpetually in our forecast, Sol did finally purchase a raincoat. Thank god. However, she’s lost the towel she bought three days ago. Comme ci, comme ca.

  • Holmes parts the Red Sea

    Day 21: Comillas ➡️ Pendules. DM: 24.4 mi

    Today, at mile 17, Sol called me Elizabeth Holmes. She tells me we have the same smile. She described it as maniacal. 

    To be fair, the circumstances were pretty grim. It was pouring rain, we were walking alongside a highway, and hadn’t stopped since breakfast. 

    Sol, if you had read my blog before joining me, you would not be accusing me of false advertising. You’d probably also have reached the appropriate conclusion that — based on the number of unforced errors I’ve made on this trip — white collar crime is beyond me. I obviously don’t appreciate the Holmes comparison.  

    Just put your rain jacket on, Sol! – I yell over my shoulder. 

    I don’t have one! – she yells back. 

    I do a double take. Weren’t we at the Santander Decathalon just two days ago? Didn’t we walk past a section with an incredible selection of rain jackets? 

    I mean, she could have been frickin Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.  

    Sol also shared that she is very near-sighted and chooses not to wear contacts nor glasses when she walks. 

    Between the two of us, it’s truly a case of the blind leading the blind out here. 

    She rallied for the next several miles, though. Then, at mile 21, she requested that we take the “scenic route” along the coast. She had had a rough day, and so, even though it meant a longer route, I conceded. 

    I was shouting her praises for convincing me to take the detour — the coastline views were dope — until we found ourselves at a fence. Staring through a herd of 50 gigantic cows at the fence on the other side. 

    We both went silent. I start walking around, trying to scope out a place where there might be a break in the barbed wire. None exists. 

    I turn to Sol — 

    We can’t go over it. 

    We can’t go under it. 

    Oh no! 

    We’ve got to go through it! 

    Turns out hiking poles have many use cases. Need to scare a bunch of cattle away from a fence so that you can scale it and dash past them? Just let out some gutteral bellows a la Elizabeth Holmes and whack your poles together repeatedly. It does the trick.

    They told me this Camino would be a pilgrimage but they didn’t tell me I’d be Moses parting the frickin Red Sea of cows. 

    One minute later and we find ourselves on the other side of the fence with 50 cows throwing us some serious side eye. 

    Elizabeth Holmes may be able to get away with multi billion fraud. But can she scare away a herd of cattle on a Spanish cliff side? Honestly, with that voice, probably.

  • Enter Sol stage left

    Day 19: Santander ➡️ Santillana Del Mar. DM: 24.5 miles 

    2 truths and a lie about Sol.

    1. As the U16 #1 ranked tennis player in LatAm, she moved to France to train under Serena Williams’ coach. Before he was Serena Williams’ coach.

    2. She has both Argentinian and Polish passports.

    3. She drinks 5 cups of coffee. Daily.

    All true. No mentiras.

    I had heard a lot about Sol before I moved to Kakamega, Kenya. She works a lot. She plays a lot of sports. She is always caffeinated.

    She’s going to be your neighbor. Perfecto.

    She told me yesterday we have a lot in common. Except religion. She’s the only Jew on this Camino.

    But, we’re both left handed — which, obviously, is more important.

    Sol took my advice to bring only the bare essentials to El Camino quite literally. She did not bring a sleeping bag/liner nor a towel. Yes, I did tell her to bring both.

    I know Sol well enough to have expected as much. Which is why I told her to meet me at a major city, where a Decathalon is en route. Que conveniente. 

    The real reason I did el Camino was to hit up all the Decathalons in Spain.

    My experience at the Santander Decathalon was mucho mejor que el visit to the Sevilla Decathalon on day #2. Sol, a native Spanish speaker, fluidly navigated through the store.  

    Bolsa de dormir? Pasillo 2. 

    Toalla de secado rapido? Pasillo 15. 

    Tratamiento de ampollas? Tambien Pasillo 2. 

    Por supuesto, Sol refused to ask the store attendant where the clif bars were that I wanted to purchase. Like a good friend, she wants me to be fluent by the time this adventure is over. Estoy aprendiendo, mi amiga!

    11am and we finally hit the trail — 5 hours behind schedule. Sol operates on Sol time.

    Catching up made the miles fly by, and, before we knew it we were at the destination. Nah, let’s keep going. Neither of us knows how to do anything in moderation. Sol’s right — we do have a lot in common.

    Pushing to mile 24 ended up being a great decision. We found ourselves in a quaint village with a picturesque albergue. With private rooms. And una cena para los peregrinos. 

    Sol, leaning down from the top bunk — These albergues aren’t too bad. What have you been complaining about?

    Just you wait, ma friend. 

    We met two men in their 60s who went to high school together and have done several El caminos. They heard we had come from Santander — at 11am.

    En serio? You guys walk at a fast clip. 

    Either that or walking with una compadre es mucho mejor.

    Day 20: Santillana Del Mar ➡️ Camillas. DM: 14.5 mi 

    Sol had an important call today, so we decided to make it a short one.

    The rain held off and we had incredible coastline views. We danced our way through the hillsides — Christopher Cross’ All Right has become an anthem — and made it to the destination by noon. 

    Rest of the day? Beach.

    Toenail #1 — from my VDP days — just came off. Poetic justice? I think yes.

  • The end.

    Day 18: Laredo ➡️ Santander. DM: 25 mi

    I’ve made it!

    Alas, no, not to Santiago. I still have 330 miles left until I hit that bad boy.

    But, 303 miles, a couple blisters, and a new route later, and I have made it to the end of my solo adventure. 

    Tomorrow brings a couple changes. Sol joins! A week of straight rain in the forecast! And, just maybe, some trekking poles! I’ve never used them, but an Aussie told me on the trail today that they take 30% of the weight off. 

    Smells like an ROI of no blisters.

  • Here’s to the nuns!

    Day 16: Onton ➡️ Castro Urdiales. DM: 9 mi

    Day 17: Castro Urdiales ➡️ Laredo. DM: 21 miles

    The best part of my #treatyoself day in Castro Urdiales was not staying at an albergue. A bathroom to myself? What a luxury.

    Albergues are not optimal for light sleepers — between the symphony of snores — surround sound style — and 5am alarms. I’ve downloaded a white noise app to use with headphones, but even that has its limits. I tell myself I’m just getting some practice reps in for when I’m a sleep-deprived mom. Based on this, I’m not sure I’ll adjust well to that.

    In my sleep deprived state, today gave me a newfound appreciation for nuns. They run tonight’s albergue, and, because I’m the only woman in the group, they gave me a room separate from todos los hombres. 84 cents for every dollar earned? Boys, I raise you a private bathroom! Conservative gender norms for the win.

    Ma friend, Sol, is flying from Berlin to join me tomorrow. If you know Sol, you may know that one time she almost walked from Kakamega to Kisumu. She’s also a retired college athlete. I promise I’m also friends with non college athletes.

    FAQ – some answers to questions I’ve been getting:

    What does a day look like? What do you eat?

    My main goals of the day are 1) to walk and 2) to consume calories so that I can walk.

    Typical day on VDP:

    Leave by 5 – 6:30

    Have a bar and some fruit 

    Arrive by 11-noon 

    11-3: Shower, laundry, lunch out 

    3-6: rest 

    6-8: supermarket and pharmacy run; cook dinner at albergue 

    9: bed 

    On CdN:

    Leave by 630

    Stop @cafe for a Spanish tortilla + coffee ~9

    Fruit/bars until destination 

    Arrive by 3

    3-7: shower, laundry, rest 

    7-9: dinner 

    9: bed 

    What do you think about? 

    In the mornings I listen to the birds and enjoy the quiet. 

    Post breakfast, if I don’t meet up with people, I’ll listen to some podcasts, and then music. If you have music recs, PLEASE, PLEASE share. I like everything except hard rock and country.

    How do I know where I’m going? 

    I follow the yellow arrows! And my handy dandy app. 

    What have I learned from the Spanish? 

    That it’s acceptable to have a beer at any hour of the day. 

    Am I glad I’m doing this? 

    Yes! Even the VDP segment. I’ve never traveled solo. This is teaching me that I have an incredible capacity to make silly decisions when I don’t have the benefit of leaning on someone else’s common sense. It’s about time I became independent! 

    Am I excited to have company on this next segment? 

    Yes! If anyone brings the heat, it’s Sol.