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Day 1, what should have been an 8 hour day was 11, thanks to me getting lost and apparently ending up on the “for the fittest” trail, which I am far from currently! No better way than to start by diving into the deep end!

Lessons learned: yellow arrows are blessings and reminders that we all have them in our lives if we choose to watch for them and follow them as they are trying to point us on our best path forward.

Day two was much shorter, but no less a steep day leading into the village of Zarautz. I was excited to find some good snacks along the way. I ended up fasting for 15-18 hours since breakfast is not served at the pensions before 8am and I was well on my way to the trail by then. I took a stop after about 5 hours of hiking to fuel up.

The hardest part so far, is getting into the eating habits of this area. The food isn’t the problem, the timing of it is. I wake at 5:30am to walk 8-11 hour days, often over rugged, mountainous steep inclines and declines, by 8PM I am tired and wiped out. That’s when the restaurants open up for dinner. So I have been living the OMAD (one meal a day) lifestyle on this journey thus far.

I wonder if any of you notice my doppelgänger, the black sheep. I think he is my spirit animal:).

Seems I am the only solo female on this adventure and the two solo men I have met are only doing the Irun to Bilbao leg of the trip.

I have also only met two others going the entire 5 weeks and nearly 1000km distance to Santiago de Compostela. And more surprisingly, I have only seen a handful of folks, including myself, carrying their packs. Everyone is portering their packs from one hostel to the next.

I have had many reflective days recalling my adventures over the years, most of them solo, as that is what I need for my own reflection and healing. Backpacking for 7 months when I thought there were only moments to live at 22 years old. Trekking in the Himalayas for 2 months when a dear friend was too ill to take the trip and gifted it to me. Which years later I was able to give back to her and her family using my skills as a doctor.

My lungs at nearly 50 years old on the Camino trails felt similar to me from my 20’s in the Himalayas:) Humbling for sure! But mostly thanks to several bouts of pneumonia, scarring from fluid build up from the cancer 30 years ago, Valley Fever, and most recently, a massive mold exposure that kicked off asthma that had me scared it was cancer progression there for a while.

Over 20 years ago, Steve and I rode our tandem through the Rockies over many major mountain passes with 70 pounds of gear and camped the entire 2 weeks, that’s when I finally decided I could actually get married and we just celebrated 20 years married and will celebrate 30 years together end of September.

5 years ago I took a special trip with some girlfriends to do a walking tour of Croatia—-moments so full of joy and laughter. I find that experiencing other cultures, religions, healing traditions, cuisines, and architecture fuels my spirit and drives my curiosity to continue to learn and evolve and to share and to grow. And though I enjoy the moments with my loved ones, these solo moments are what refill my cup more than anything.

I’ve enjoyed such simple and fresh foods on my journey so far.

Another good mountainous hike through the forests to sweeping views of the Cantabrian Sea from Zarautz to Deba.

Daily ritual of get up early, start hiking just as the sun is starting to rise, walking meditation and on the steep inclines, all my years of breath practice coming in handy. By the time I reach my destination, around 3 or 4 pm in the afternoon, I do my laundry while I shower (as hot water can be sparse), ring it as dry as possible and hang wherever it can dry overnight, then fall into bed for a good siesta for 20-40 minutes. Awaken, check in via text with Steve (as it is about 6 or 7am PDT by then), head out to sight see and get my pilgrim stamp, perhaps pick up supplies and maybe a 2nd coffee for the day.

Then, when everyone else is starting to come out and play, I slither to my room, turn on my white noise and put in my ear plugs and eye mask (stays light til 9:45pm!) and try to get 8-9 hours of sleep before doing it all again.

For many this may seem monotonous, even boring, yet, for me—-it is sheer delight. So simple. So gratifying. So spacious. Each day I look in the mirror and start to recognize myself more and more. The bags receding, the darkness lightening, the puffiness all but gone. The fret lines between my eyes and forehead have already softened.

I feel percolating ideas starting and a surge of creativity rising.

Just when I was feeling proud and impressed with myself, Deba to Markina happened…. OY. A day that should have been 8 hours, stretched into 11 thanks to unseasonable rains (and cold!) and treacherous hiking conditions on steep slopes that resembled waterfalls flowing over slick rocks and clay soil. A perpetual slip and slide and not one where I was squealing with joy.

Between the distance, the weather, the getting lost once, the complete lack of any facilities and no place to eat my packed snacks in the downpour, I ended up with wrinkled, frozen feet, 27 hours fasting, extreme exhaustion and my spirit a bit crushed.

  .

The word for me that day was equanimity (mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation).

And the wise words of a therapist, Maureen Fallon-Cyr who helped me tremendously many years ago, taught me to strive for this versus my usual “ups and downs” experience. It is so easy to be seduced by the highs and to feel so devastated by the lows. Today was living that in real time. When 1PM came I realized I was only half way to my destination after hiking for nearly 7 hours with no food, in pouring rain, I almost gave up. But with no one to call, no busses or taxis, not even a single soul that day (everyone else must have sat that one out!!) I had to keep moving forward and finding a way to just BE with it all.

Such a great lesson not to put too much into good or bad news. It is just NEWS. It is just information. How you choose to react/respond to it is entirely your choice. Though it was one of the most grueling days I have experienced in this life thus far, and even frightening at moments, it was such a gift. A gift to remember that all is good. That to feel the pain in my body means I have a body. That feeling despair in my spirit means I am still alive. And that tomorrow will be another day.

And just like that, the sun did came out again, emerging from the mountains and the forests into the big city of Bilbao, Spain. Beautiful, lively and lovely! Found a GREAT health food store, even a book on keto, and enjoyed exploring the hundreds of walkways, churches, squares and parks this city has to offer. I get to hang here an extra day before a few more long mountainous days ahead and then things start to ease up in the 2nd half of my journey.

I just love taking it all in. My heart is fuller every day and my pack feels lighter every day. That is the goal of the Camino for so many and a week into this journey, I’d say I am succeeding 🙂