The Camino Broke Me

Roncesvalles to Urdaniz – 26kms

I was so terrified of the trek over the Pyrenees, but that was a piece of cake compared to this stretch. This day broke me.

I had a rough night’s sleep with a bad tickle in my throat and despite being awake at 5:30am, I was still late for meeting BC at 8am. I hadn’t even had breakfast I was so sluggish.

BC was very gracious though and came and sat with me while I quickly ate some brekkie, snuck away a couple of boiled eggs for the day’s walk and went and packed my back pack – badly.

Half an hour later than planned, we headed off. There is a sign as you are leaving Roncesvalles that shows 790kms to Santiago. Why anyone walking would want a photo of that sign is beyond me when you have already walked 24kms. That sign makes it look like you haven’t done anything at all!

It was a delightful walk to our first village of Burguete and all my sluggishness disappeared. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but if I had the time over, I would push through Roncesvalles and stay here instead.

I was so enamoured with the colours and the buildings, poor BC was having to wait, but how can you not be when you see this?

Not long after this, we were back into the forest. It is so pretty and you regularly feel like you are in a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale.

We’d been enjoying the walk so much, we didn’t register that over two hours had passed and we hadn’t eaten and energy levels were dropping.

At the top of a hill off the path was a paddock fenced off with a barbed wire gate. Being Canadian and exceedingly polite, BC felt very naughty when I opened the gate so we could sit quietly on the grass overlooking the valley below and eat our boiled eggs. Was a fabulous break though that seemed to open the door for other Pilgrims behind us to do the same.

Just before Espinal, we came to another oasis. A little cafe with shade and wonderful WiFi. It was the first time I’d been able to touch base with everyone at home since leaving St Jean and I was so happy to chat to everyone, I didn’t want to go.

It had been such a beautiful morning that I was really loving the Camino. It was after Espinal though that the wheels fell off.

Straight after the oasis, we started to climb but it was over 30 degrees, barely any shade and the ground was incredibly rocky and uneven. And somehow, it managed to get worse.

As much as we were going up, the going down was really steep, really rocky and really uneven. In the blazing sun.

To make matters worse, 9kms out of Zubiri, I ran out of water from my bladder. There was over 2ltrs of water in that bladder and I had sucked it dry.

Fortunately, 4kms out of Zubiri, another oasis. A stallholder offering cold drinks and a seemingly novel way of obtaining mostly women’s underwear!

The sign to Zubiri said 3kms after that stop. Like every other sign on the Camino, it lied and the descent here was simply brutal.

By the time we finally arrived, BC and I were too shattered to care about the beautiful bridge into Zubiri. What was even more horrifying for BC was that everything was booked and there was nothing available until just before Pamplona, another 16kms away!

I had a bed booked another 2kms on from Zubiri, so we went into the tourist office to a) see if they could find a bed for BC and b) get them to call my hostel so they didn’t give my bed away.

The tourist office told BC there was nothing, leaving her standing there looking completely broken, then called my place. The owner asked to speak to me and after confirming I would make it for dinner, I asked if she knew of any bed for my friend. She said she had a sofa bed for emergencies that BC could have and we both nearly cried with relief.

A scary half an hour walk along the road later, we arrived and I was done. I could barely put weight on my feet and my body ached like it never had before.

I managed a shower and a delicious communal dinner before somehow making it up to my bunk bed.

You would think after that day I would be out cold, but between my body hurting so badly, my throat swelling up further and a loud snorer that made my earplugs useless, I was miserable and doubted that I would be able to get up the next day to do it again. It was incredibly demoralising.

Thankfully, I connected with home and with my Camigas and got an overwhelming outpouring of support and knew that somehow I would be able to keep moving.

I mean, how much worse can it get, right? Right?






19 thoughts on “The Camino Broke Me

  1. Karen,
    That’s a tough day! If you can do that you can do any day.
    Thank goodness I’ve read the next blog too. No matter what happens day-to-day, your purpose for this journey is always there picking you up and nudging you forward… proof….evening when you are feeling broken.
    You’ve got this!

  2. I agree. The signs are very demoralizing. So glad the Camino continues to provide as it always does. “BC being given a sofa to lay her head for the night.” You are going great guns. Keep going Karen.

  3. Love your honesty and it’s just like every other hurdle just one foot in front of the other, and repeat. ❤️

    1. It’s my throbbing feet giving me most grief. I find by the end of the day I am having to pull my sandals out because I can’t take another step in boots and there is still 4kms to go!

  4. KAREN!!!!!
    Am loving your Blog!!💕❤💕 You write with so much soul and heartbreak! Your vulnerability makes you strong. Keep going best you can. Enjoy the fabulous sights and company. 🐞🐞🐞🐞

    1. Thanks Marita. Pausing for the sights definitely helps. Views just take your breath away. Glad you’re enjoying the reading.

  5. Wow. What a day! Congrats for pushing through. Sounds like you really had to dig deep. How good that you could contact friends for debriefing. Sending good vibes for today. Xx (you don’t know me but enjoying your blog)

    1. So pleased you’re enjoying the blog. It was just what I needed having the caring thoughts come through. Makes the day a little easier knowing how much people are behind you. 🙂

  6. Wow. What a day! Congrats for pushing through. Sounds like you really had to dig deep. How good that you could contact friends for debriefing. Sending good vibes for today. Xx (you don’t know me but enjoying your blog)

  7. Keep your chin up, you’re doing an amazing job. When I get stuck on a really hard area and it’s crushing me, I started to sing this silly song repeatedly all the way down the Rocky Mountain. (In my head of course) 1-2 buckle my shoe, 3-4 knock at the door, 5-6 pick up sticks, 7-8 don’t be late 9-10 a big fat hen! lol! This silly little song has gotten me up and down some hills and mountains. Good luck and looking forward to hearing about your next section of the Camino. A peppermint foot bath is great for Erving your feet. Maybe ask if some of the hostels have some peppermint you can make a foot bath out off??

    1. That is all really good advice, thanks Samantha! I have been going with Dory’s “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming” but grasping at anything right now so will happily try your one!

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