cost of abandonment of common sense: an unhappy ankle

crossing the pyrenees: route de napoleon

out of st jean, one may choose between route de napoleon and valcarlos valley to get to roncesvalles, crossing to navarra, spain.  the route de napoleon has been favoured by both napoleon and medieval pilgrims due to its open nature, though it is a fairly stipp clime, the highest point being col de lepoeder, 1450m above the sea (st. jean is only 170m above the sea). with length of 25km with the stiff ascend, it is an arduous journey. we began with much fog and hidden sun, but as the day went on, the sun came out and it truly became the most beautiful day i had in the camino.

fueled with hope, i ran through the mountains- i arrived at roncesvalles, the common first stop just after noon.  and unfortunately, this is where i made the big mistake. without taking the consideration for the long journey ahead, this excited monkey decided to pass through roncesvalles, continuing to zubiri.  what i realized well into the afternoon was that most of way from roncesvalles to zubiri, another 20km, is mostly stiff downhill-  wearing the light barefoot-style running shoes, i decided to run through the downhills.  i arrived at zubiri well into the early evening, 5pm, exhausted and sweaty.  

next day was another long one, from zubiri to pamplona, well-over 25 km, once again, much of it on downhill.  so like a proper impatient monkey, i sped through the path.

it was on the third day morning, i realized something- i wasnt alright. 

my left ankle swelled quite a bit and it was quite painful- of course, the night before, i was tired and thought such pains were only natural, however, the ankle was warm and angry- ah. the downfall of being too eager.

this was the first time in my life that i have experienced such thing- of course, i have broken my arm couple times and dislocated things and such, but to actually do damage to myself for two straight days to the point my body said no...  

crossing from pamplona to cizur menor

ive been doing things faster than average all my life. in fact, i never doubted in many things- things always felt in such way and ive been lucky enough to navigate things through my own pace.  and now, i had to take a break.  the day was full of rain (this was the flood that hit navarra, roads were buried and things were underwater), and looking into next day's journey, which involves another stiff clime to mountain perdon (790m), i had no choice but to stop.

i dragged myself through rain, mud and tears for 5km.  on way, i sat in a cafe and called minnow and seriously considered dropping the trail and come home. the price of one's own failure was real and young and eager me did not know how to take it.  

i took refuge in a small albergue in cizur menor that day.  checked in before noon. went to the local mass. and tried to find some inner peace- but did not find it.  it was perhaps the saddest day in my trail. facing the fact that one have failed- of course, an injury is an injury, but the fact i was not listening to self was quite disappointing.
mass at local church of cizur menor, full of kids and families!
but no pilgrims, ha...

however, i now wonder if it was a necessity- to fly over the mountains. i have not felt that free in a long time. while many took their breaks and sweated, i, not knowing what may be the price of it, flew through the hills. the glorious sun and beautiful valleys- perhaps i am still glad that i did the dumb thing and ran.  as there are nothing like gliding with little wings out, with wind and hope under it.  dear cost but what an exhilaration!

these three days were the most memorable in my mind.  the launch. flight. crash.  i promise to not to bore you with all the little details of this trip. but eventually this ankle injury brings me to the point of acceptance in burgos- to go home. to stop a journey. however, in retrospect, it is also a beautiful thing, to soar over, even it results in a small crash.  

and you, the lovely people, i carried you guys in my heart during these three days. bursting with love for my friends, family, i was free, happy, beautiful. yes, i felt beautiful. in great nature, with freedom of thoughts and surrounded with love, i was beautiful. and for that, i thank you all- for transforming a mere silly monkey, even just for the short days.  the true riches of one's life is so much easier to see when the background has been taken off. then one may find a new perspective- of how one's constructed.

i am constructed with love.
thank you.

more camino thoughts coming soon! :)

a comet called camino de santiago lands on monkey head

st jean pied de port, pyrenees-atlantiques, france, 630am 

we are going back a bit in time in this post- ive been writing, then erase. write. erase. abandon and come back. abandon it again.  there are plenty of things that wants to get out yet they werent quite ready...

i do enjoy the intimacy of writing to friends. the taste of words. the fragrance of memories and thoughts. all very delicious, magical, often intimidating and sad, smudged with life bits. the idea of taking the time to form sentences to see where it all goes.

on 27th of may, 3am in the morning, as i fall into sleep in the bustle of city night, i had one thought that came across my head, like a comet: go to the camino.

i wasnt too sure at that point what camino was. i still cannot remember where i have heard about it.  or why it came to me then.

it's one of the three medieval pilgrimage route (other two are to jerusalem and to rome), leading to santiago de compostela, galicia, spain, where supposedly body of st. james was transported from rome and was buried..  the route i took, camino frances, the most popular one, starts from the southern pyrenee, st. jean pied de port- 800km journey. and you can now walk or bike, or take the donkey (teehee).  upon completion, pilgrims were given pardons (indulgence) from the catholic church (though now, if you do the last 100km on foot/ 200km on bike, it is considered 'completed'),  and since the dark days, thousands of people have walked on it.

with slight confusion, i texted the bookbomber to test the water: do you think i am crazy?

whiplash text back at 305am: go!

and by next day, i had everything arranged- the travel, finances, discussion with minnow.  on 3 june, i flew to manchester. main options to getting to st. jean is either getting to biarritz airport or to bayonne train station and take the bus to this little town.  i flew manchester-paris, then TGV from paris to bayonne, then to crowded bus full of 'pilgrims' to st. jean,  on 7th, i was walking from st. jean pied de port.

with 5 kg of backpack, i was a drop of water in the eternal wave of people, seeking for - well, many different things.  i am still not sure what have brought me to step one. and now that i have finished, i am not sure what it is that has came out of it. too soon to tell.

about the logistics of camino itself:

once one has obtained the pilgrim passport (you can acquire one from st. johns brothers across the world or get one where you arrive, should you start at a main departure point, like st. jean), one is to get it stamped every night- stamp will include location and date. this is to verify that youve done the camino as specified by the church if one plans to obtain the indulgence (compostela) upon arrival in santiago.

as a pilgrim, one usually stays in an 'albergue,' a minimalist hostel.  they open in the afternoon and stamps your passport. you\re likely to be put on a bunk bed with others (some municipal ones are quite big, housing over 100 people per night).  the main advantage would be the social mingling and the cost-effectiveness (municipals ones cost 5-10 euros per night, private ones from 10-15 usually), but there will be minimal furnishing and one is expected to get out and start walking by the morning (9am usually, though most people tend to start much earlier (esp. when it's really hot!).

daily routine: wake, (eat optional breakfast), pack, walk, check into an albergue, shower, wash/hang clothing, inspect and care for feet (some horrific blisters out there and other injuries), make the bed (thanks to bedbug problems, all places require you to put on disposable liner sheets on bed/pillows. major pain if you are short and are allocated on upper bunk), forage/cook/eat/drink, sleep. repeat.  people did took time for rest days- popular stops are the big towns such as pamplona, burgos and leon.

in my pack were:
sleeping bag liner, wool undies (top/bottom)
non-walking clothing: a skirt, a tanktop and long sleeve
walking clothing: hat, detachable leg pants, a t-shirt
a hoodie and waterproof jacket
3 pairs of socks and undies
pair of sandals (for shower, etc)
notebook, guide book, 2 pens and 1 pencil
solar charger, usb charger, three cables
two mp3 players (which was not used), earphones
small pack of: bandages, needles, ibuprofen, nail clipper
2 x travel size toothpaste, toothbrush
one bar of soap (hair/body), a comb, travel towel
water bottle, a sandwich (always!)

like a snail, i packed as little as possible.

it was amazing how heavy the pack felt at times though.  digging through the shoulder, under the beating sun. also under pouring rain. navarra had one of the worst flood damage while i was walking the camino- to a point where the route was completely buried under water and people had to take the highway.

the first night, i ran into two aussie brothers and they become the bookend of my travel (wait for it!).  after sharing the sleeping quarter with the two gents, curled up in a prawn position (the mountain regions can be quite cold, and to minimize the weight, i did not pack a sleeping bag but only a cotton liner- brrr. i wore pretty much everything i owned haha!), next morning, at 630am, i started my first day of camino, going over the mountains.

what was i going to find?
i was not sure, but i sure flew over the mountain pass-
with this newly found freedom/restriction of the camino.
like drop of water, riding on the great eternal wave.