Camino del Norte.

I wrote a draft of this for a scholarship I am applying for. Escribí este como parte de una solicitud de beca. 

I have felt accomplished during various moments of my life, such as graduating from the University of Kentucky, living in Spain for nine years despite many obstacles, obtaining my B1 certificate in the Catalán language or not completely embarrassing myself on the GRE. However, nothing makes me feel more accomplished, while humbling me at the same time, as my experience on the Camino of Santiago. Me he sentido que he logrado algo durante varios momentos de mi vida, como graduarme de la Universidad de Kentucky, vivir en España durante nueve años a pesar de muchos obstáculos, aprobar el examen de B1 en catalán o no hacer tan malo en el GRE como pensaba. Sin embargo, nada me das más un sentimiento de logro, mientras me humilde a la misma vez, como mi experiencia en el Camino de Santiago. 

The Camino of Santiago (sometimes known as “The Way”), is a series of trails across Spain that lead “peregrinos”, or pilgrims, to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. In medieval times, people would undertake this way as a way to pay penance or to buy their way into heaven. During the centuries, fewer people did the pilgrimage. During the later half of the 1900s, the way was once again discovered, and people set out once again to walk or cycle across Spain. The most popular route is the Camino Francés, or French Way. I opted for a less congested way through the mountains and rain of the North Coast, the Camino del Norte. Something about walking across my new adopted country was very appealing to me. El Camino de Santiago es una serie de rutas por todo España que llevan los peregrinos a la Catedral de Santiago de Compostela. En la época medieval, los peregrinos hicieron el camino para pagar penitencia o pagar su entrada a cielo. Durante los siglos, menos gente hizo el Camino. Durante la segunda mitad de Siglo XX, los peregrinos descubrieron el Camino una vez más, y empezaron a caminar o ciclar por España de nuevo. La ruta más popular es el Camino Francés. Elegí un camino con menos congestión, un camino que iba por los montes y lluvia de la costa norte de España, el Camino del Norte. Algo me atrae de caminar por mi nuevo país adoptado. 

Every day on the Camino is a challenge with many obstacles facing you. First, one is almost always tired. The average day is around 25 kilometres of hiking, which converts to 15 miles. Even if the way takes you through level terrain, which it never does, it is 25 kilometres of walking. Your feet and legs are exhausted on the first day, and often times you have blisters. The rest of your body feels the tiredness, and a 20-pound backpack doesn’t help matters much. At night, it is often difficult to properly rest as the sleeping situation tends to be in an albergue, or hostel, with as many as 50 other pilgrims in the same room, rustling and snoring. Cada día en el Camino es un reto con muchos obstáculos. El primero es que siempre estás cansado. Un día normal es sobre 25 kilómetros de caminar. Incluso si el camino te lleva por tierra plana, que nunca hace, todavía es 25 kilómetros de caminar. Tus pies y piernas están agotados en el primer día, y muchas veces llegas con ampollas. El resto del cuerpo se siente el cansancio, y una mochila de 10 kilos no ayuda. Por la noche, a veces es difícil descansar bien dado a estar en un albergue. Puede ser tanto como 50 otros peregrinos en la misma habitación, moviéndose y roncando. 

Second, often times, especially on the Camino del Norte, there are long miles without any sign of civilization. You’re hungry, thirsty, and you forgot to buy food and water in the previous village. You have to keep going. You have to plan ahead of time where you’re going to sleep. Nevertheless, no matter how much planning you do, you don’t know what you will encounter along the way. You don’t know how steep the mountain is, how far the 10 miles between villages will feel or what nature will throw your way on any given day. Segundo, muchas veces, especialmente en el Camino del Norte, caminas muchos kilómetros sin señales de civilización. Tienes hambre, tienes sed, y te has olvidado comprar comida y agua en el pueblo anterior. Tienes que seguir adelante. Tienes que planificar antes donde vas a dormir. Sin embargo, no importa cuantos planes has hecho, no sabes que vas a encontrar por el camino. No sabes el pendiente del monte, como los 12 kilómetros entre pueblos te va a costar o que la naturaleza te va a dar. 

Third, in the north of Spain, the weather is completely unpredictable. It may be warm and sunny one minute, and pouring down rain the next. Tercero, en el norte de España, no hay manera de prognosticar el tiempo. Quizás hace calor y sol un minuto y el próximo te cae un diluvio. 

Fourth, you have to follow the yellow arrows or get lost. You miss one arrow, and you could walk miles before realizing that you are completely lost. Cuatro, hay que seguir las flechas amarillas o te perderás. Si pierdes una flecha, puedes caminar por kilómetros antes de darte cuenta que estás perdido. 

Finally, did I mention you’re walking across an entire country? Finalmente, ¿he mencionado que estás caminado por un país entero? 

When I began preparing for the Camino in 2015, my first few hikes were actually on the Camino del Norte. I was living in Bilbao, and I ventured out for a few day hikes on the few sunny days. Each village I arrived to was an accomplishment. I reached the summit of that mountain. I actually ordered in Basque (an incredibly difficult local language spoken only in the Basque Country) at that café. I was addicted to hiking and addicted to the Camino. Cuando empecé a preparar por el Camino en 2015, las primeras rutas eran por el Camino del Norte. Estaba viviendo en Bilbao, y fui por unas rutas por el día en los pocos días asoleados. Cada pueblo donde llegó fue un logro. Llegué al cima de aquel monte. Pedí en euskera (un idioma local que es muy difícil y solo se habla en Euskadi) en aquel café. Estaba enganchado a senderismo y al Camino. 

In 2016, I set out for 10 days, hiking from Santander to Gijón. Every day, arriving at that albergue was an accomplishment in itself. I hadn’t gotten lost. I hadn’t run into any wild life. I had survived the elements. My legs hadn’t given out on me. When I crossed from the province of Cantabria into the province of Asturias, I felt that I had really done something. En 2016, fui durante 10 días, caminando desde Santander a Gijón. Cada día, llegar al albergue era un logro grande. No me había perdido. No había encontrado vida salvaje. Había sobrevivido los elementos. Mis piernas seguían funcionando. Cuando cruce desde la provincia de Cantabria a la provincia de Asturias, me sentí haber logrado algo especial. 

I ventured back out last summer, from Gijón to Ribadeo. It was the rainiest weather I had encountered along the way. I was getting blisters, which was a new experience. Rumors of bedbugs were circulating amongst the pilgrims (I never got bitten though, and I did just knock on wood). Each passing kilometer was more difficult. The way became long and winding, rejecting the short, straight line to connect two points with a twisted, curvy line doodled by a two-year-old. Volví al Camino el verano pasado y caminé desde Gijón a Ribadeo. Era el tiempo más lluvioso que había encontrado por el camino. Tenía ampollas, que no tenía antes. Había rumores de chinches circulando por los peregrinos (ninguno me mordió, y sí, acabo de tocar madera). Cada kilómetro más era aún más duro. El Camino se hizo sinuoso y largo, rechazando el camino recto para conectar dos puntos. 

All of this made the feeling I felt when I crossed over the Asturias-Galicia border even more euphoric. I had arrived in the region of Santiago. I had walked across 600 kilometres of crazy adventures. I had done it. I felt amazing. Todo eso me daba un aumento de euforia por cruzar la frontera entre Asturias y Galicia. Había llegado a la región de Santiago. Había caminado 600 kilómetros con muchas aventuras. Lo había hecho. Me sentí increíble. 

I am leaving Spain this summer, and my hasta luego to the country will be the last 200 kilometres to Santiago. Arriving to Santiago and receiving the Compostela certificate, after achieving 10 years in Spain against all odds, will make the arrival to Ribadeo accomplishment seem small potatoes. Este verano dejaré España, y mi hasta luego al país será los últimos 200 kilómetros a Santiago. Llegar a Santiago y recibir la Compostela, después de lograr 10 años en España con tantos obstáculos, hará la llegada a Ribadeo parece pequeño. 

I already feel accomplished just having arrived to Ribadeo. Ya me siento haber logrado algo con solo llegar a Ribadeo. 

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7 thoughts on “Camino del Norte.

  1. I’m obviously behind on my blog reading, but this was well-timed for me, as I leave for Camino del Norte (see, I got it right this time!) in just 3 days. I’m looking forward to those twisting paths. As for Boulder, I’m sorry to hear they didn’t see the opportunity they had to work with you, but you’ll find something better. (I lived near Boulder for 10 years…talk about weather that changes minute by minute! Spring in Colorado regularly swings from 60 degrees to heavy snow in an afternoon. The first year I was there, it snowed in June.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t said it yet on the blog, but I was accepted by Uni Illinois-Urbana Champaign which is an awesome school with an even better reputation, so Boulder’s loss. I was hoping for Boulder for all that Colorado scenery. Anyway, the entry of the news will probably come while you’re out walking 🙂

      ¡Buen Camino! You will have many, many, many twisting paths.

      Liked by 1 person

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