• Stop while you’re ahead

    Day 14: Gurnika ➡️ Bakaldo DM: 27.9 mi 

    Ascent: 4304 ft

    Es un mundo pequeno. 

    This morning all the pilgrims congregated at the cafe in the first town we hit for some breakfast, which made it easy to make some trail friends. I joined up with two peregrinos.

    5k later and the Canadian and I have discovered that we both played a sport in college. She played hockey at Cornell, and, of course, grew up with my close friend from college. En serio?! The discovery stopped me in my tracks. 

    Retired college athletes can’t stop talking about the fact that we played a sport in college. I’m sure it’s charming to be around. So, naturally, the hockey player and I spent the next several miles trading stories from our days of playing college sports.

    The 3rd peregrino was a trooper for putting up with us.

    The company made the next 10 miles and steep ascents fly by. Next thing we knew we were in Bilbao and drenched in sweat. I think we were trying to relive our glory days — as — need I remind you? — retired college athletes.*

    It seems the heat has followed me up North. The cool morning and good company had me feeling like super(wo)man, though. Mile 20 and only 12:30?! There’s gas left in this tank!

    So, I proceeded to make one of the worst decisions of the trip so far (which is saying a lot if you’re up to date on this blog) and decided to push on. I dropped the 2 new friends at Bilbao and kept going.

    De acuerdo, college athletes aren’t always the sharpest tools in the shed. Don’t they always tell you to stop while you’re ahead? Yeah, my b.

    At 3pm it was 95F and I still had miles left — mostly uphill. Heat is a Petri dish for blisters, so of course, I sprouted a fat one under my foot. My calorie intake wasn’t where it needed to be for the 28 mile double header that I found myself doing. I knew I was in trouble.

    I made it to the albergue by 4pm, showered and headed to the nearest restaurant – half a mile away. Temp still 95. Another bad decision. Waiting for my food I felt my brain slowly shutting down.

    I start to feel dizzy and disoriented. I panic and google heat stroke and exhaustion. I sit in a fainting-safe position.

    The waitress brings me my food and I almost face plant into the eggs. I get glasses of ice and hold them to my neck and face, willing myself to stay alert and conscious. I feel like I’ve hit the wall in a marathon.

    40 min later and I feel a bit more with it. I call a close friend while I wait for my Uber back to the albergue to make sure I’m mentally ok. At the albergue? Cold shower, ice compress, repeat.

    Safe to say I’m scaling back on the daily mileage. The heat exhaustion incident spooked me — I’m not trying to end up in a hospital out here. So, no more marathon days, especially in the heat.

    *I should caveat that both of us quit. So, we’re not 4 year athletes. Huge difference.

    Day 15: Bakaldo ➡️ Onton. DM: 16.5 mi

    After yesterday’s scare, today’s 20 miler became 16. 

    The heat is supposed to last through Saturday. Can you guess? Yes, I sprouted new blisters today. 

    While my feet took a turn for the worse, I’m otherwise proud of myself. I did a better job of getting calories in me, which is chipping away at the calorie defecit. And, when I met some fun people on the trail who were going 5k further than my revised plan, I stayed true to my rule. No walking past noon in 90+ heat.

    Tomorrow? A 9 miler. Destination? A beach. Lodging? A hotel. 

    #treatyoself

    P.S. some friends have asked me to dedicate a blog post to a FAQ – if you have any questions you want me to answer, slide into my DMs

  • All gas, no breaks

    Day 12: Orio ➡️ Mutriku. DM: 22 mi. 

    Today confirmed I’m an introvert. 

    Or maybe I’m just used to the social isolation on the VDP?

    There are other pilgrims on this route, which brings new twists and turns. It sadly cramps my pee-break style. I’ll adjust. We hope. If dogs can be potty trained, so can I.

    Yesterday, riding an endorphin high day 1 on the new route, I was effusively spewing “buen caminos” to anyone I passed, which scored me some new trail friends and interesting stories. 

    One Spanish gal was deciding whether to move in with her on again, off again girlfriend in Berlin. I told her the uncertainty probably means it’s time to fish or cut bait.

    Am I qualified to be doling out relationship advice to recent grads? Absolutely not. I’ll give myself a pass, here, though. I was simply offering some hand-me-down guidance I had received from the guy I crushed on during one college internship. Standing over our adjoined cubicles he had divulged that, had he married the person he had been dating in college, he’d likely be divorced. He turned 30 that summer and married his girlfriend of three years. Yes, I followed him on Instagram and stalked the wedding pics. I was a super productive intern.

    Spanish gal — take it all with a grain of salt — but, from personal experience, my summer crush wasn’t wrong*.

    I arrived at the albergue at the same time as a mid 50s Swiss woman whose story had about as many twists and turns as the trail that day. Over dinner, she told me about the boyfriends on different continents — all married now. She also told me about how her inner juju has been telling her to stay in the town a couple days. 

    Can’t you feel it?! The energy that is here is unlike anything.

    I may have been still riding my day 1 endorphin high, but I don’t think I was quite on her level.

    In bed back at the albergue, I was about to put my ear plugs in, when, tap, tap. It’s the Swiss woman poking me. She wants to tell me a story. I oblige. She talks to me in a whisper.

    I’m telling you, this Camino is special. Last time, I met a man whose spirit had died. Every couple of days we would see each other. He started to transform.

    My bunk mate, who had finished brushing her teeth, stood impatiently next to our bed, unsure what to do. 

    Swiss woman didn’t notice and continued whispering — When I was in Santiago, who did I see but this man. He sobbed into my arms and told me he had come new into this world again.

    I glanced up at my bunk mate and then back at the Swiss woman, unsure what kind of reaction was merited. I nodded.

    The Swiss woman nodded back and cleared the way for my bunk mate to get into bed. 

    Needless to say, I said fewer Buen Caminos on the trail today. 

    *I think my college ex and I would both agree. 

    Day 13: Mutriku ➡️ Gernika. DM: 28 mi. Ascent: 4291 ft

    This CdN (Camino del Norte) route has me feeling like CNN post Trump presidency. There’s just simply less to report on. But, who knows, a blister could heat up again just as easily as Trump could stage a 2024 come back. Blisters never really go away.

    The VDP route was the equivalent of walking across the US. You get your fill of one road towns and vast plains with nothing in sight.

    In contrast, the CdN is like walking down either coast of the US. A mix of charming villages and larger, touristy areas. All with infrastructure for pilgrims (eg water taps). You get the small waterfront town vibes a la coastal Maine, cruise into a larger city like Boston for the Spanish equivalent of clam chowder, and then get some gorgeous Newport-esque sea-side landscapes.

    Having been broken in on the VDP, I feel like a Camino pro out here. The Irish brothers, the real Camino experts, taught me well. 

    Up at 6, lather Vaseline on the toes at 615, and out at 620. Or earlier. 

    Drink at least half a liter every 40 minutes.  

    Swap into a clean pair of socks at the halfway point.

    Get to the Albergue by 3pm ideally.

    Always offer to take the top bunk. Unless you get there before everyone.

    Offer to start a laundry. You’re helping everyone. And yourself — the Albergue won’t smell as bad.

    Get. Sleep. 

    Marzia, the plucky Italian from the VDP, still texts to check in. She has 600km to go on VDP. I have about 715km left. 

    All gas, no breaks.

  • El Camino del Norte

    Day 11: Irun ➡️ Orio. DM: 25.3 mi

    The Irish brothers weren’t not right – going North was absolutely the correct move. 

    Yesterday on my first train, I will admit that I started to doubt the decision. The train thermometer stubbornly hovered at 40C until Madrid. Still too hot. Oi vei, Carolina.

    But, on my second train — to San Sebastián — the thermometer started making moves. From 40 to a nice 18.7C. When I looked up from my kindle, the landscape had completely transformed.

    Green hillsides and mountains, oh how I’ve missed you. Why, it even rained once en route. Rain! What a concept!

    On VDP, my mornings consisted of leaving at 6:30 and booking it as far as I could go before the midday heat — 15 miles before noon. The rest of the day I spent dreading the next morning.

    Today, in contrast, was dreamy. I wore my new running shoes that I purchased in Merida. Yes, I am amassing an exorbitant amount of new shoes on this Camino adventure. C’est la vie. 

    I feel absolutely pampered on El Camino del Norte. An overcast morning? What a novel concept. Running low on water? Well, is it, could it be, why yes, there’s a water tap up ahead. Been hiking for 3 hours and need a breakfast? Your choice of the next 3 villages for a Spanish omelette. Just finished a steep ascent? Ah, there’s that nice coastal breeze. Needing a boost at mile 21? Well, what a nice surprise — a kind gentleman has erected a pop up snack tent.

    Not sure if he was trying to evangelize me — from the pamphlets I saw on the table, he probably was — but, hey, the fruit bread was needed.

    I felt like I had already walked today’s segments — the Irish bros had taken me through their pictures from their 2019 trek. I knew about the boat crossing. I expected the Basque independence graffiti. And the steep ascents coming out of each village. I feel like I’ve jumped on the stair master, but, hey, I’ll take uphill battles over heat exhaustion and blisters any day. Plus, you know what they say — never skip glute day.

    Irish bros, if you’re reading this — you are my heroes. Thank you.

    Cue ABBA, coast into cruise control, and let it rip.

  • Change of plans

    Day 9:  Torremejia ➡️ Merida. DM: 10 miles 

    I had a lot to think about on the trail today. 

    Yesterday, sitting at the only open cafe in the one road town we found ourselves in,  the Irish brothers dropped a bomb on me. 

    So, lookie here. We’re both leavin tomorrow and we’ve got an idea fer yew — yells one of the brothers from across the table. It’s 2pm and all of the local workmen have congregated at the table next to us for an afternoon siesta of beers and cigs. The cacaphony of noise isn’t mixing well with the 104 degrees and heat exhaustion.

    My eyes widen. I knew bro #1 had only planned to be here for a week holiday, but I thought #2 was in it with me hasta Santiago. No?! 

    Brother #2, though, tells me that the 100+ degrees and the long mileage that I had been pretending were nonissues were a recipe for disaster. 

    Ah, yes, so you do get smarter with age. 

    But, here’s what we’re thinkin. You can train up north to Irun and start one’er the Northern routes.

    My eyes get wider. I distract myself by glancing at the hooligans next to us. Table of hombres is down to 5. Temp down to 103. 

    Listen. When we get into Merida tomorrow, it’ll be early. It’s a big city. We can rest up, buy ya sum light runnin shoes and cold weater gear. And then set ya off with a train the next mornin.

    My head swivels back and forth as they make their case. They come at me from both sides. 

    It’s cooler.

    And there’s people. You won’t be alone.

    And you can do the same distance as this route. Take what you’ve done here and add it to the other.

    We knew ya like to make your goals.

    But, see here, you’ll still be doing what you set out wanting to do. 

    Why make it so hard fer yerself? 

    7 days in and they already read me like a book. Damn. 

    Table next door is down to 1 hombre. He orders 2 more beers. Temp still at 103. 

    They’ve made a pretty good case, or maybe my mind is burnt from the heat. We start looking up train times and talking routes. They sell me on the Northern route. They averaged a marathon a day on it. Beautiful coastline views, forests, and croissants? The distance adds up to >1000km. I’m happy.

    The lone wolf from the table next door slams down some euros on his table. It doesn’t look to be enough for the number of empty glasses on the table. He tosses his cigarette, lights another, and ambles over to his car. We watch as he pulls out, ignores, or doesn’t see, the stop sign and jets off into the distance.

    Well, that was no Irish exit — I joke. 

    I think yewd be best going up North — Irish bro #1 says.

    Case closed. 

    Temp down to 101. 

    Day 10: Merida ➡️ Irun. DM: 0

    Bain taught me to be a problem solver. And to leave myself open to the 10% possibility that I’m wrong. Well, this VDP route certainly was a problem. And I certainly was wrong.

    Last night, our albergue did not have AC. When the thermometer still read 101F at 10PM, I lost all pretences and shed clothing. Not anything anyone hasn’t seen before.

    Yup, definitely time to switch routes. 

    Marzia texted to check in on me. I told her I was calling it quits and taking a train up north. She’s the last one standing from our original UN crew — and I’m confident she’ll make it.

    I, on the other hand, have 11 hours of time on an AC’ed train today. 

    I said goodbye to the Irish brothers this morning. Bro #1 gave me his sleeping bag liner (adios hefty, cheap sleeping bag I purchase at the Karen decathalon), his puff jacket (because I did not pack for the northern cold), and tons of compeed (to keep my blisters under control). 

    It was the chef’s (bro #2) birthday yesterday so we went for a nice dinner. They refused to let me pay. 

    The chef’s daughter FaceTimed to say happy birthday and I finally got to put a face to the name. Like any proud father, he talks about her incessantly. I know all about the med school apps she’s submitting and the doctors she’s shadowing to get experience. She’s my age.

    I see his eyes twinkle as they talk. I smile reflexively. 

    It’s already much quieter without the Irishmen. Safe to say my next Camino compatriots have huge shoes to fill. Pun intended.

  • The Wild, Wild West

    Day 7: Zafra ➡️ Villafranca de los Barros. DM: 12.5 mi 

    I finally had the el Camino day that everyone who has ever done a Camino always talks about. Sans gorgeous northern coastline. And cool temperatures. And encounters with friendly pilgrims along the way. Ok, so basically, just shorter mileage and a village in between for a 9am cafe con leche to go and a respectable pit stop. My internal pipe system just hasn’t adjusted to these early mornings quite yet.

    I allowed myself a later start. This trip has also confirmed something else about me — I am indeed not a natural early riser. That 7am wake up felt like pure bliss.

    To keep myself entertained, I like to play a fun game. It’s called — How Fast Can Carolyn Catch Up With the Irish Brothers? Yes, I might be losing a bit of my sanity.

    But it does help keep my spirits up in the heat and my mind off my painful feet. Plus, the brothers are exceptional company. They call me Carolina and make fun of me for my liberal, Californian tendencies. They also make fun of me for my spreadsheet tracking our daily mileage and projected finish time. See?! I did do some planning for this trip! 

    They wash my clothes when I’m too preoccupied with re-dressing my blisters. And, you can’t make this shit up, one of the brothers is even a chef — who whipped up some TexMex fajitas for us last night. Did I win the El Camino lottery?! Yes. 

    Day 8: Villafranca de los Barros ➡️ Torremejia. DM: 17 mi. 

    The weather forecast for the next week reads 100-104F with a side of no shade. Que bueno.

    Today had me almost wishing I kept that umbrella hat. At 630AM, it was already 75F. The Irishmen told me that Clint Eastwood has come to this part of Spain to shoot Westerners. I am beginning to understand why. Carmel ain’t no Andalusian summer.

    My blisters and toe still duelen muchisimo, but I’ve either adjusted to the pain, am getting better at treating them, or have figured out ways to keep my mind off it. 

    For example, last night I made the best purchase of the trip yet – a bag of mini snickers. I’ve never been a candy person — my brother and I would give away all our Halloween candy the next day at school. It scored us popularity points, which, we severely lacked. But, I had a gut feeling about Snickers yesterday at el supermercado and decided to go with it. Don’t they tell you to never grocery shop when hungry?

    Nah. I say always go with your gut.

    Today, five hours into walking in 90+ degrees with no shade, I decided to treat myself to a mini snickers every 5k. It got me through the 17 miles. And, yes, obviously I treated myself to another snickers at mile 17. I like to round up.

  • Stop to smell the roses

    Day 5: Monesterio ➡️ Fuente de Cantos. DM: 13 mi

    My load was much lighter today. I hadn’t pooped in three days. Today I pooped three times to make up for it. 

    More importantly, though, the Frenchman arranged a taxi to take him to the next village (his blisters aren’t improving). So, naturally, the rest of us sent him off with our heavy backpacks. Merci!

    On arrival at Fuente de Cantos I immediately went to the Farmacia — to ask the location of the nearest Centro De Salud. Around the corner and open before noon? Why it’s an El Camino miracle!

    The receptionist at the Centro de Salud told me to go to door 3 and wait for the doctor. I sat myself down in a long queue and was shocked when, 5 min later, a doctor poked his head out and hollered: “hay una inglesa aqui?”. Si, soy yo. 

    At the examining table, the doctor clicked his tongue at me while he unwrapped my bandaged feet. Ai, ai, chica, no, no, no, no.

    He assured me, though, that my big toe is NOT infected, just really swollen and damaged. With a final disapproving tongue click, he gave his prognosis: pain meds, a couple days of rest, and sterilizing spray to prevent infection. Check back in a couple days.

    But, doc, dontcha know your girl is tryna walk el Camino?!

    Re-bandaged and with a pain killer in me, I headed to the albergue, letting the doctor’s message sink in. My spirits flagged further when, back at the albergue, I heard that one of our crew decided to throw in the towel and head home today. This woman is no Camino rookie — she once walked from her house in Germany all the way to fucking Santiago. And, she also knows a thing or two about pain, having birthed seven children.

    If you know me, you know that one of my best qualities is my stubbornness. If you know me, you also know that one of my worst qualities is my stubborness. If you don’t know me, well, surely you have better ways to be spending your time than reading this?

    I do know, though, when I’m reaching my physical limits. And, yes, this VDP is flirting dangerously with my physical limits.

    So, I grabbed a bag of ice and spent the rest of the day in bed. Don’t count me out just yet, Doc.

    Day 6: Fuente de Cantos ➡️ Zafra. DM: 16 mi. 

    Today was the first day that I, dare I say it, enjoyed the walk. Like, I genuinely smiled on the trail, not like the smiles I’ve been forcing the last couple days to trick myself into thinking I’m ok (idk I read some psych study in the science section of the NYT once).

    The morning was a bit cooler and the breeze kept up. It made all the difference. My toe is still swollen and tender and red, but it doesn’t hurt as much. Or maybe it’s the placebo effect of doc telling me it’s not infected? 

    One of the hilarities of yesterday (before convalescing) was meeting Franny — a woman in her mid 70s who is somewhat of a vagabond. She walks. And walks. And walks. And then sometimes she’ll stay put for a couple days and post up at the albergue’s bar — where we found her — and then walk again.

    When I asked her how many days she’s planned for the VDP, she gave me a puzzled look and replied — I don’t know?! However long it will take me!

    She then wagged her finger at me and said — you must enjoy the miles. No ‘I must get here, or I must get there’. You are young and you can. But, what is the point? No, be slow like the turtle — motioning at her neck.

    And, but of course she was sporting a turtle necklace.

    Today, I spotted Franny from a distance at mile 5. When she was more clearly in view, I saw her stopping to smell flowers and stare up at the sky.

    When I passed her at mile 6, she sent me off with a wave and a “buen Camino”. I have to give this nomadic 74 y.o. major props. I mean, she could be my grandmother. Indeed I can’t help but wonder if she has a granddaughter somewhere who loves her dearly and will one day miss her terribly. Like I miss mine.

    P.S. Random hombre in Santiago confirmed that my two suitcases have indeed arrived.

  • Marzia!

    Day 3: Castilblanco de los Arroyos ➡️ Almaden de la Plata. DM: 17.5 mi

    Today I (mostly) found my footing again — no pun intended. I felt fresh with my new pack and new hiking shoes. But the damage from the old shoes has indeed been done. Blisters were angry and my left big toe throbbed all day. Duele muchisimo. 

    At 10am, I coasted up to 2 chummy Irish brothers — a sight for sore eyes for this Americana-el Camino-first timer. While one yelled out to me “would you like a ham sandwich”, the other offered me a banana. They probably thought I looked hungry. They weren’t wrong.

    It felt like a release to unload on the 2 Irishmen, in English, re all of my ailments. They immediately started regaling me with stories of the mistakes they made on their first Caminos, which made me feel both better and much, much, worse.

    They also confirmed my fears that the Via de la Plata (VDP) is indeed the hardest Camino route, porque:

    1. VDP is in the south of Spain – aka the hot temperatures are much more extreme than the routes that hug the north coastline
    2. The distances between villages are much longer (eg 17 miles). So si tienes una problema (like no water or food), es muy malo
    3. Fewer pilgrims do the VDP (for above reasons). Which means it’s also more difficult to get help, when, for example, your toenail feels like it’s peeling off

    And of course they made fun of me for the size of my pack.

    “We knew ya were an American from a distance because your pack is eyuuuuuuge”

     “But boyzzzz, don’t you know I’m working on my calves?”

    After meeting up with those two, the next 7 miles washed down easily, despite my feet situation. When we arrived at the town, they bought me lunch and una cerveza con limonada, and then gave me clear instructions for how to lighten my load and treat my blisters.

    That extra shirt? Chuck it. That solar charger? Same. That umbrella hat? Ixnay. The razor? Nope. Mints? Extra nope.

    Let’s be real, who am I trying to impress out here? Definitely no one.

    By 8pm I was ready for bed, but, because all supermarkets in Spain are closed, I dragged my sorry ass downstairs to the restaurant below my albergue. The Irishmen joined — because, again, Sunday’s — accompanied by a Spanish gal, a plucky Italian woman in her 60s, a German woman I had seen day 1, and a Frenchman whose feet had also seen better days. 

    Surrounded by el Camino experts, I tried to add value by serving as a translator between the Spaniard/Italian and the Irishmen. After the Irishmen filled the gals in on the sorry state of my feet and my heavy pack, the conversation moved onto tomorrow’s departure time. 5am seemed to be the consensus given the 21 mile forecast.

    The plucky Italian, though, pointed at me, motioned speed walking, and said “ma la giovane raga a alle 9am”. 

    I may be young and fast, but everyone knows that the slow and steady win the race. 

    Day 4: Castilblanco de los Arroyos ➡️ Monesterio. DM: 21.2 mi

    Marzia, the plucky Italian from last night was wrong. I did not leave at 9 am. I left at 530am. Porque estoy aprendiendo.

    Today confirmed I’m an extrovert. The 8 miles I bagged before the 1st village — alone — felt long and slow. My toe was throbbing and some unfenced guard dogs gave me a scare.

    But, spotting the United Nations crew from last night at the only open cafe in town #1 almost made me forget my toe situation — almost.

    Toast and cafe con leche in me, and feeling more confident with a crew of fellow peregrinos on the trail, I felt like I had a new pair of legs. I set out on a quick clip — this sun is no joke. Marzia was a steady companion for the remaining 13 miles. Sometimes when we would trade places we’d have a quick conversation, which consisted of her speaking Italian at me while I nodded or shrugged my shoulders. I told her I hope that when I’m 62 I can walk at her pace. I don’t think she understood.

    Later in the day, Marzia and I hit a stride in our ability to communicate. As she thread my blisters, we took turns speaking into our phones to Google translate: “is this going to hurt?” “No, because the skin is dead.” Mmmm perfecto.

    Marzia, you’re a saint. Google, I know you access all my data but you’re also a saint. Grazie Mille.

  • Sevilla, mi carina

    You know when your dog comes to you with its tail in between its legs? Yeah that’s me right now. 

    It seems I spoke to soon re blisters. And I thought my $20 Amazon pack situation couldn’t get worse — but, oh, it did. I’ve always self-identified as an athlete. Pushing past pain thresholds is my bread and butter. But, a couple miles into my “easy breezy” twelve miler this morning, y, sabe que estoy en un gran problema. Suffice to say, today caused a crisis of identity. 

    When I arrived at my albergue at 11am this morning, I could barely make it upstairs to my room. That is not an exaggeration. I make a plea to my albergue hostess in broken Spanish for una mochila de trekking y zapatos. She points down the street. I put my birks on and hobble in that general direction to find a store that indeed sells backpacks and shoes. But not for trekking. En serio?!

    Back at my albergue I start madly googling for outdoors stores anywhere near me. No hay ninguna. Isn’t the Camino supposed to have good provisioning for una peregrina estupida como yo?

    On a whim, I email the dude whose “via de la plata” guide book I also had my brother bring in the suitcase he brought to Nairobi (which, granted, has been much more useful than the Amazon backpack). An hour later, this expert’s response: “regarding walking the Via as a first Camino and walking in summer, these are two things I try to discourage people from doing for their own sake”. Good.

    Of course, I had read something to that effect when I was choosing the Via de la Plata route several months back, but had ignored the advice. I’m just walking between towns, right? How hard can that be? Que linda, Carolina. 

    My sense of urgency escalating, I try to engage in another Spanglish conversation with my albergue hostess. Maybe my Spanish improved, or maybe she caught onto my rising levels of desperation — next thing I knew,  I was in a taxi. With her friend. And his daughter. Driving to the Decathalon in Sevilla. 

    Yes, past the hilly, shaded countryside that I had trekked across just hours prior. Past the orange groves that I had quite honestly blacked out from earlier in the morning. Past the flat stretch where, yesterday afternoon, a kind bike rider had handed over my sleeping bag that he had carried from where it dropped off my pack 1 mile back. Past the fields of sunflowers that had added to my day 1 chutzpah. Yes, all the way to the Decathalon that, por supuesto, I could have visited in the 2 days I was touring around Sevilla before I started el Camino. 

    My ego took a hit, but I have 0 regrets. I’ve purchased new, larger, shoes that should be more forgiving as my feet swell over the day in the heat. And, I’ve purchased a new pack, which is indeed fitted para una mujer.

    I’ve also rid my pack of ~8lb. I’m sending that dead weight to the random hombre in Santiago who offered me a great deal on the internet. Obviously. Passing grade for today? Definitely not.

    Guillena ➡️ Castilblanco de los Arroyos. DM: 11.8 mi

  • Oh the places you’ll go!

    Yesterday I shipped two suitcases with my wordly belongings to a random hombre in Santiago (because you should always trust great deals on the internet), and today I set off from my hotel in Sevilla, feeling extra cheeky on day 1. Early morning departure to get the best of that Andalusian summer heat? Por supuesto. Cafe con leche to go? Claro que si. 

    My first encounter with a fellow peregrino, Luis, who I learned has weathered many an el Camino, further boosted my ego. His northern Spanish, in contrast to the neuteralized Andalusian lisp, was easy enough to understand. More likely, he was taking pity and speaking extremely slowly for la Americana. Either way, when I told him I’m planning to walk all 600 miles of the Via de la Plata, hasta Santiago, he gave me a quick up/down and quipped “el mas duro y largo!”

    Yes, Luis, I did choose this route simply because it’s the longest of the el Camino routes— como una Americana ingenua.

    As anyone who has ever done any kind of trek will tell you, the two most important items are your shoes and your pack. As someone who has gone on previous treks, yes, I should in theory know that. 

    I realized 4 miles in that my great plan of ordering a cheap backpack on Amazon and having my brother bring it in his carry on to Nairobi was not as fool proof as I thought. The hip straps simply do not synch tight enough, which is obviously muy malo for weight distribution. A quick Google confirmed I purchased a unisex pack. Alas.

    However, I DID manage to remember sock liners, which are definitely the only reasons I don’t have blisters after the first 16.5 miles. 

    All in, I got 50% of the trekker’s maxim right, which in my book is a passing grade for day 1. 

    Mom — if you’re reading this, please tell my 70L Osprey that I miss her dearly and am so sorry that I dropped her so quickly for a 50L unisex random brand pack. Que triste.

    Sevilla ➡️ Guillena. DM: 16.5 mi

  • Hola

    I’m setting off this week to walk el Camino. Like any self-righteous millenial, I refuse to use Instagram. But, enough family members and friends have raised hackles that I decided that some sort of social media – adjacent activity was warranted to reassure everyone (mostly my mom) that I’m alive.

    What can you expect? Probably some quick updates from me at undefined, irregular intervals, most likely accompanied by pictures of gelato.

    Nairobi ➡️ Sevilla; Daily Mileage (DM): 7