Pobena to Castro-Urdiales, 22 km
Sylvia was a good hiking partner. She’s Korean, 29 years old and speaks only a little English. It was like walking solo but having company. I’d seen her the night before in the albergue but we’d said little to each other. In fact, based on her interactions with the rest of the pilgrims, I assumed she spoke no English at all. She’d caught up to me this morning. I’d stopped to take pictures of a group of Italians standing on some cliffs overlooking the ocean. As I turned and continued walking down the trail Sylvia fell in step with me. She seemed very shy but I assumed she was a little nervous about hiking alone. After 5 minutes of walking side-by-side along the edge of the cliffs, I broke the silence and asked her if she could speak English. I was surprised when she said “Yes, a little”. Thus a new connection was born.
Sylvia had a small strand of beads in hand, they were the length of a bracelet. I asked, “Oh, are you Buddhist?” I’d had a similar set of beads when I’d practiced Buddhism back in my teens (hey, it was the 70s). “No, I’m Catholic.” she said. I immediately felt stupid for asking. Of course she is, she’s on a Cathloic pilgrimage and she’s carrying a rosary. Sylvia’s an accountant and had saved up all her vacation time and money to walk the Camino. I’d meet very few people that were actually walking the Camino because of religious convictions, it felt good to be walking with her.
We walked 22 km in the cold, blustery wind and rain. We eventually found the coastal town of Castro-Urdiales. The “Albergue Municipal de Peregrinos de Castro-Urdiales (Cantabria)” is a box-shaped, adobe building, located on the Plaza del Toro. It’s right behind the bull fighting ring but was closed for Siesta. I’d had it, I was done. I was cold, wet and exhausted. I’d found my limitations, or they found me. My feet were killing me, my knees were screaming at me. I could of ignored my feet but I was afraid I’d done my knees permanent damage. There was an old, antiquated bar built into the side of the stadium and it was still open. Maybe I should just go in an lay down on the floor. Sylvia and I walked in and found some refuge, no one would take our order though. Five minutes we found out why. We were pushed out the door, it was 1400 and they were closing for siesta. The albergue didn’t open until 1500 so we had to sit outside, miserable in the rain for over an hour. Solomon, our host, was 15 minutes late. He walked up, pulled the key from under a rock next to the door and guided us into our refuge. We signed the register, had our credentiales stamped, and immediately crawled into our sleeping bags to try to bring our core body temperature back to normal. I laid there for at least an hour before the chill subsided.
Our trek was much longer and harder than it needed to be. Sylvia and I had made a wrong turn at an intersection. She thought we should go right, along the coast. I said, “No, it’s this way,” with my typical over confidence. I was wrong. Our trail carried us over some very steep mountains and added many more kilometers than needed. As I laid in my bed recovering I realized that I’ve somehow changed and, because of it, my navigation skills have suffered.