Ups and downs

Today we woke up to a rain that persisted all day. You don’t see any photos because it was too wet to take the phone/camera out of the inner dry pocket of my rain coat. That is all I will say about the rain because it became something that was just there and was not oppressive. I had read other pilgrim’s writings about how their breakfast consisted of cafe con leche doble and bread. I thought that was a choice they made. When I entered the dining room this morning the table was set with bread, butter, jelly and large bowls. I thought ah, cereal…maybe oatmeal. I watched others with their bowl approach the bar where milk was poured in the bowl. But where were they getting the cereal? I traced the approach to the bar back and saw a woman add coffee to her bowl. Odd. Maybe that’s common in whatever country she’s from. Then I watched others. The bowl was a giant coffee cup (doble) and the milk was…the only source of protein. So I joined the ranks of those who started the day with cafe con leche doble with bread and butter and jelly. The day started going up steeply as I told you it would. Then it leveled off into a gentle up. We had been walking on a paved road so far. About a km from where the Camino left the road there was a truck parked with awning. It was a former pilgrim who would stamp one’s pilgrim passport and had hot coffee and other snack food items for sale. It was a wonderful gift. He warned us that in 5 minutes we needed to turn right off the road. Five minutes later we reached that intersection. It wasn’t that it wasn’t well marked, it was just that it was difficult to see any path there through the grass. But we turned right and an occasional splash of yellow paint on a rock reassured us that we were on the right path. We walked along a path about a foot wide on the side of a hill. On either side of us were meadows with occasional grazing sheep. Eventually the path led down to a wider path that was very well marked and we entered Spain.
The Spanish Camino had a marker post every 100 meters (with the number to call for emergencies). The route leveled out for quite a stretch which made for good walking. Then we started going down. It surely would be a joy to go down after so much up, right? At first I thought so. Then I was really glad I had walking poles. Then as my legs got rubbery and wobbly I realized that down is not all it’s cracked up to be. Plus it was a little slippery from…moisture. We did make it safely to the monastery at Roncesvalles, checked in, got our sellos, picked out bunks (indoors and dry!) and went to make a reservation for the pilgrim’s meal. After a shower, a cup of coffee and a glass of quite good Basque red house wine I was feeling good. I can’t believe I haven’t talked about food. The pilgrim’s meal last night was a great vegetable soup, roast lamb, white beans in a great sauce (a little pork fat as ham for flavor), with house red wine and bread and gâteau for dessert. It was great and it was easy to overeat. Once again the vistas today were stunning. I has also been amazing learning the stories of those traveling with us. Some of them are truly heroic. When I can get to a full key board instead of my iPhone I will tell some of them. Almost time for dinner then a church service. Tomorrow more down but more gradually. Sent from my iPhone

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