Editor’s note: Gleb Velikanov, a regular at PRC group runs, is hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. He started on Sept. 8th. He will walk 550 miles at about 15–20 miles per day. (See overview maps below to get your bearings.) Gleb is posting updates from his long walk with us every few days. This is his second such post. Enjoy his journey!
Embarking to hike a trail is always a good thing. It seems, however, that the gods of travel were intent on keeping me away from Europe this time. After a 40 hour flight delay in Seattle, a transatlantic flight, another flight to Paris, then to Bayonne in southern France, I felt like I would never make it to Saint Jean Pied de Port, the starting point for Camino de Santiago’s Camino Frances route.
As soon as I got to my hotel room, though, something switched. I went into hiking mode. Hitting the trail the next morning became the most natural thing.
On the first day, after getting to tourist-filled SJPP at 2 PM, I only managed three miles before getting a bed at an albergue (al-berg-ay), a hostel that usually provides dinner and/or breakfast. The entire Camino is peppered with albergues along its route. I figured I would get some rest and put in some decent miles the next day. Boy, did I….
Jet lag ruined my sleep. By 2 AM, I was ready to hike. I made it over the steepest portion of the entire trail, the Pyrenees, in complete darkness, in the rain. I ended the day with a little over 25 miles at the municipal albergue in the town of Zubiri. Twenty bunk beds in two rooms, accommodating a model-UN-esque collection of people from all over the world is the best way to describe it.
The social aspect of this trail is quite fun. You get to break bread and spill wine on your shirt with all sorts of people. My Spanish and German are getting better by the minute, with enough native speakers of both languages readily available to be tormented by my attempts to communicate in their native tongue.
The next morning jet lag was a bit kinder. I was able to sleep in until 4 AM. Not wanting to match my effort from the previous day, I settled for a modest 22 miles to the town of Urtega. The terrain allows all sorts of flexibility; it is relatively easy walking. The route switches between a well-maintained trail and road. The climbs are manageable.
I did discover possibly the greatest aspect of the Camino: civilization. I walked through the city of Pamplona, full of ancient buildings, cobblestone roads, old churches, and of course stores, restaurants, and cafes with food! That day I enjoyed a mouth-watering lunch of fried eggs, local ham, fries and bread, all doused in fresh olive oil at a cafe merely 50 yards away from the trail.
My “trail legs,” the ability to hike long days on a consistent basis, is not there just yet. I am a little bit sore. Hoping the jet lag goes away, and I’m able to sleep past 5 AM, I am ready for the next section of the trail. Bring it on!