Day 1 (Irun – San Sebastian – Irun – Hondarribia – Pasaia)
I woke up on the bus. It was 6am. We passed the border of French and Spain. The destination is San Sebastian, where we would arrive around 6:30am. We drove past Irun and took the exit to a rest stop. After we stopped, the driver said: “We rest until 8am)
Hm. I thought, walking along the highway for 30min back to Irun or waiting till we leave to San Sebastian. I decided to wait, I was not in a rush. My Self-said to me: “Good boy”.
After a few stressful month in my life in privat and at work, I needed time for myself. This was the main reason for my trip. No meetings, No timelines, No due dates. Live by the day, how it comes. Live by my affects. 10 days to get to Bilbao. Walking, hitchhiking, train.
As I waited in the coffee shop, men and a boy, a bit younger than me joined me. The men, heading to his home, is a magician. The boy, a Mexican who taught Spanish in France. Both with fascinating life stories. I listened, asked what their passion is, how those it make them feel living by them (making people laugh or teach a language). That is what fascinates me about every human being: Their passion, joys and also fears.
The sun came out. I said farewell and wished them all the best for their life’s. I went outside, found a quiet spot with a glint of light from the rising sun. I sat down and meditate. The world stopped for a short moment until I returned back to it. This very short moment after the meditation, when I open my eyes gives me so much calmness, clarity like nothing else.
The buses left at 8am and I had to switch to another one. I saw a girl in hiking clothes.
The bus parked in the bus area at the San Sebastian station. I left the bus, grabbed my backpack and looked around where to catch a train to get to Irun. Slowly, with all the time in the day, I went upstairs, found the counter and bought my ticket to Irun. A couple of minutes later, the girl from the bus walked into the hall. I walked over and asked if she needs a ticket to Irun. She noted and I showed her where to buy the ticket and that the train is leaving in 10min. After she walked back and we started talking. She wants to hike the Camino del Norte [CdN] (one of the trails to Santiago de Compostela, which follows the northern coast) and that she is from Germany. We switched to German and talked about the hike.
As we arrived in Irun, we went for a cup of coffee and I learned some more details about the CdN. I knew, I needed a pilgrim pass to stay in the harborage and she showed me where to get it. We said goodbye but will see each other again on the trail.
I went to the church, where an old priest opened me the door. It was closed for visits but open to obtain the pilgrim pass (btw, which is for free). I asked if I could sit a while in the church and he let me in.
I grew up in a religious household, was a altar server for 10 years and went to the World Youth Days in Cologne. Growing older, I distant myself from the catholic church. My faith in a sort of higher power persists, but not in the one god.
That power, for me, is everywhere in everyone and everything. It is the beauty and the ugly. It is joy and sadness. It is hope and frustration. It is the balance in the world. In every moment.
I enjoy the feeling in churches. It helps me to physically disconnect from the human-made world and makes it easier to concentrate. It is quiet, the air is fresh. I feel my Self. My consciousness.
I left Irun following the road to the next town, Hondarribia. As I walked towards the town center, I passed by beautifully maintained gardens. The people love their garden and I am grateful for it. The smell of the roses and the mix of colors makes me present in this place and moment.
I bought fresh bread and veggies to snack and sat down at the gates of the small and pretty old town. As I sat there, eating bread, peas and a pepper, I feel the looks of tourist walking by me. Are they afraid? Am I looking dangerous to them? Or is it the unknown they fear?
The unknown. It is everywhere. Do we close our eyes or walk towards it? With curiosity. Stepping up to it, slowly, it reveals its curtain, showing what is soon to be known. The unknown is neutral. The known can be anything. Are you not curious?
I kept smiling, as always. The smile is a universal sign. A sign of safety, friendliness, a joy of life.
And there, people are smiling/greeting back 🙂
I walk through the old town. At every corner, moments worth to stop, to be taking in. The flowers hanging from a tiny balcony, the lady who shakes the bed linen, a note written on the wall “Such mich” (“Search for me” in German). I stopped. Who wrote this? Who are you? Who am I searching for? Two words who will follow me the whole trip.
I decided to walk towards the Camino del Norte. Leaving the old town, I walk on a gravel road along old farms, each again, with beautiful colorful flowers. It goes up. 500m gain and I feel the heat. I feel my legs. I feel alive.
At the top, I stopped to inhale the view over the French and Spanish coast of the Atlantic Ocean and the countryside on the other side. A breeze goes by but the sun is warm. I sit down, cross my legs and close my eyes. Breathe in, breath out. After 15minutes, I open my eyes and there is it again. This feeling. I cry. Deep and pure joy.
With this feeling, I walked along the top of the hills with a few other hikers/pilgrims behind/in front of me. I am not alone. I thought it would be (hiker)less. Now I am here, I enjoy their presence.
As I got closer to Pasaia, I passed a couple pilgrims and walked into the German girl from the morning. (I am not naming persons since I haven’t asked their permission). We walked the last 2km to the only harborage. As we arrived together, I talked with the owner since she knew no Spanish. Unfortunately, after talking, I wasn’t sure if one bed is free or no bed. In the end, I didn’t care, since I didn’t want to take the last bed since I am not hiking the Camino.
The owner told me and the German girl that there are women who let people stay for 20€ each. As we called her, another young girl arrived and said she got the last bed. I later found out, that she is on a tight budget and not sure if she will finish the whole trail due to her savings. (Information: Some harborage are for free or cost 5-10€).
I felt good with how everything turned out.
Waiting for our host to arrive at her house, the German girl and I went to have dinner. An older German walked into us and we explained to him the situation. He would join us for dinner and try to stay with us. We had a great conversation, where I learned a lot of both. Her, wanting to challenge herself by hiking the trail and him, who did already the main Camino to Santiago de Compostela and now hiking this one.
After dinner, we went to our host, which is a lovely lady with a cute but loud tiny dog. She showed us around and after a shower, I sat with my two new friends together drinking tea. The men told me more about his life. About the time as he grew up in East Germany. Before the wall, he lived for a year in West Germany but went back since there was nothing for him. The Stasi (Ministry of state security) knew of his return and put him for 6 weeks in a dark cell (no window, just a candle). They couldn’t understand why he returned, thinking he might be a spy. He told me more about his life, about his time at the military, learning what you can eat on trails and how he now, after his retirement, find the joy in hiking.
We went to bed. As laying in bed, I recaptured the whole day. I quickly fall asleep, with the feeling that I have lived this day in my life to the fullest. Present within the moments and present within my Self.