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Adventures on the Camino...

Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (5), Portuguese, Norte, Primitivo(2), Aragones, Finisterre/Muxia (3), Camino del Rey
#1
On this the 10 year anniversary of my first Camino and also to mark in March my 10th Camino of various sorts, I'd thought I would retell of my first Camino embarrassment/adventure. My story may amuse some veterans or rekindle some memories of their first times... in which case, more embarrassing stories please.

In the beginning of April of 2008 I arrived in SJPdP for my planned 33 day walk to Santiago. I knew it was 33 days because Brierley told me so. And although I had eagerly read through the guide (since forums like this excellent one were not readily available then) as my source of information, guidance and inspiration. Okay maybe the spiritual musings in the guide may have inspired me to skip a page or two, but I digress.

On the morning of my (mis)adventure I had overheard some people talking about the route options and the mention of the "Ancien Chemin de St Jacques" via Saint Michel was a nice quiet option towards Roncesvalles on the Napoleon Route (the purple route for those following along in their old Brieley's). I knew the map said there was plenty of water along the way and I wouldn't need more then my one litre bottle. It was a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky and very warm temperature for early spring in the mid 20's. I had my new pack containing 18kg of gear (I'm a big guy who needs a big pack I thought) containing everything I'd need. What could go wrong?

Brieley said to look out for the yellow flashes or arrows, and on some routes in France, the familiar red and white flash. Oh good I thought, there is one of those red/white flashes now... a little faded, but still telling me I'm on the right path. I continued to walk to the quaint little village of St Michel and even stopped along the way to chat with a local to show off my Canadian schooled french by a friendly Bonjour and pointing and saying, "St Michel?" with a friendly "Oui" in response. All good. This Camino stuff is easy. But where are all the pilgrims? Oh well onwards and upwards. After St Michel I came to a fork in the road where the left fork had a pole with a yellow square on it. Awesome, amazing how well these trails are marked. So I walked and walked following the yellow squares (days later I would discover later the yellow squares identified hydro electric poles and had nothing to do with the camino...).

I was careful to keep hydrated, since it was getting hotter, and the sun shining constantly. I admit I was a out of shape and using the Camino kick start my new exciting middle aged body, so found the uphill walking taxing. As I got down to the last quarter of my bottle I started looking at my Brierley map for when my first refill would be available. According to the map I should have passed it 30 minutes ago. Oh well I thought, the map creator used what we call in the mapping business "cartographic license" so maybe it is off a little. I continued on, passing a few abandoned farms and animals in some fields, but no people. Eventually my poles with the yellow flashes forked off to the east and I knew that was not the direction I needed to go. So I continued on the road up the mountain.

I was now getting to later in afternoon. The trees were well passed, as was my water. I knew that I was dehydrated, overheated and starting to get exhausted. No water anywhere or shade to cool off. I continued to walk and with some elation saw some cows and sheep crowded around a small water trough off in the distance. I got to the trough and tried my best filter the bits of "flavour" floating in the water. By that time I knew that a little bacteria in my water was better then heat stroke and dehydration. Feeling a little better I continued on. Eventually my path ended and I had the option of going higher through a mountain pass or head down towards a small road down the mountain. Exhausted by this point I took the latter. Many years later I tried to trace my steps via some good maps (yeah Google!) and discovered that walking for many km along the France/Spain border and at one point was within 1km of the Napoleon.

Around 9pm I made my way back to SjPdP as the Pilgrims office was closing. I sheepishly explained to the gentleman in the office how I spent my first day of the Camino. He estimated that in the 14 hours that I had walked that day I had gone over 40km. He suggested I take a taxi to Roncesvalles and consider stage 1 completed.... kind of. I agreed.

Two weeks later in Burgos I was chatting with a pilgrim, talking about dumb things pilgrms do. He relayed a story he heard about some stupid Canadian getting lost his first day and running out of water and drinking with the sheep. I earned fame (or infamy on Camino radio), and ten years later I can admit to it.

Lessons learned. Don't let anyone tell you that you only need one bottle of water as there will be always water around (you know the camino provides don't you?). Don't use Brierley maps to guide you if you are lost.... but they sure are pretty! Learn the difference between a yellow arrow and a yellow square. On your first day just follow other pilgrims and hope they aren't lost Canadians!
 
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Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
#2
Confession time. My Camino embarrassment is all about pride and vanity, as it's supposed to be I guess. It happened three days before my arrival in Santiago, just after Portomarin in the Café Descanso del Peregrino at Gonzar. A bustling venue, busy with pilgrims eating and chatting away. My plan was a quick bocadillo and a coffee and then onwards.

At that moment I had been walking exactly 84 days. I was lean and as tough as old boots, and thought I was very Zen. Thoroughly in the zone, well adjusted to albergue and pilgrim life and loving every moment of it. A wee bit complacent maybe, but that was about to change dramatically, and it taught me how precarious my so-called balance and feeling Zen really was.

Back to Gonzar. I found a table, settled in with my bocadillo and coffee and started to eat. When I bit into the roll something cracked, and it wasn't the bread. I felt a surge of panic flood over me, I fiddled around a bit with my tongue in my mouth and discovered I had completely bitten off a front tooth. I held it in my hand, looked at it and silently freaked out. Wishing like crazy it wasn't so, wishing I could rewind time to five minutes ago and avoid this.

Nothing changed of course. Even worse, that tooth in my hand seemed to mock me. "How Zen are you now?" it seemed to ask. "Everything still hunky-dory?" I was shaken to the core. At the same time I felt sad, incomplete, panicky and immensely pissed off. I was suddenly a pilgrim no more, I had become a victim in a matter of seconds.

It took me a full day to come to grips with this new scenario. I turned to my smartphone a lot, to examine my new appearance in selfie mode. I looked like something out of the Pirates of the Caribbean, so I didn't smile a whole lot. I had no choice but to accept the situation. Act practical, make an appointment with the dentist just after my return flight home in five days. But I still raged occasionally. It wasn't supposed to end like this!

Two days later I walked into Santiago. A bit grim, to tell you the truth. Not Zen at all, and even less chatty than normal. But with a new found modesty, and a profound sense of the relativity of it all. All by courtesy of walking minus one front tooth.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
#3
During my first camino in 2004 signage on the Valcarlos alternative out of SJPdP was miniscule yellow arrows painted on popsicle-like sticks and rather randomly attached to trees, logs, etc. Eventually I sensed that I was going north within a dense wood where the correct path should be basically west. Backtracking to the last marker nailed to a moveable stake I spotted with RELIEF a distant farmer; he walked towards me as I walked towards him. When asked the way to Arneguy he simply quarter-turned the stake and replied "Oh those children they just love to confuse you pilgrims". ...Luckily the signage has VASTLY improved over recent years and there are no more moveable arrows, but a basic sense of direction is still most helpful.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2012
Camino del Norte 2012
Geneva/Le Puy/SJPP/Bilbao 2015
Prague/Geneva ?
#4
What a day @dgallen! Loved your story and your telling of it. You made me laugh several times. :D
So I walked and walked following the yellow squares (days later I would discover later the yellow squares identified hydro electric poles and had nothing to do with the camino...).
Two weeks later in Burgos I was chatting with a pilgrim, talking about dumb things pilgrms do. He relayed a story he heard about some stupid Canadian getting lost his first day and running out of water and drinking with the sheep.
On your first day just follow other pilgrims and hope they aren't lost Canadians!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#5
@dgallen, what a great story! Thanks for humbling yourself all these years later to share it with us! I personally love the cute Brierley maps, but like you, I've skipped a few of the pages, too. ;)
 

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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#6
@Purky, thanks for sharing your most embarrassing moment, too. Yeah, those bocadilla breads can often have some very hard crusts. Although I've never broken a tooth on one, I have cut my lip a few times. :(
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances starting SJPdP Sept/Oct 2015, April/May 2017
#7
I love the reminder to respect the mountain. I walked the napoleon route in September 2015 and got caught in hurricane strength head winds. Made it safely to Roncesvalles but it was dark by the time we got there. We got a bed (lucky!) in the overflow but there was no dinner left. Met a woman when I walked last year who left from Orisson before 8 am and didn’t arrive at Roncesvalles till 10:30 pm. She didn’t get lost just had a hard time getting up and down the mountain. It happens.

As for embarrassing, once answered a call of nature. In Australia it would be called a bush wee because we call a spade a spade. Went to great trouble to find a totally secluded spot and was employing all the usual environmentally correct practices only to look up and see a hang glider silently gliding overhead.:oops::oops::oops::p:p:p
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Future (God-willing): Madrid, Salvador, Primitivo (2018)
#8
On the Baztan route where our written notes indicated a left turn, the signage clearly indicated straight ahead. Fortuitously as we were standing there debating what to believe a local couple came along the “straight ahead” path.
They assured us it led to Espelette.
We believed them and followed it never seeing another arrow. By the time we were half an hour from the Town Hall closing (where we had to pick up the albergue key), standing on the side of a road with no idea where we were (despite having just shown a farmer our paper map - he couldn’t locate our current position), a car pulled up and the driver asked if we were lost!
We readily accepted the ride offered to us - which incidentally lasted seven minutes so we wouldl ever have made it in time on foot - and did not feel like we were cheating because our 20km stage had already turned into 30!
 

Marbe2

Active member
Camino(s) past & future
2015 SJPD to Burgos
2017 Leon to Santiago
Pamplona to Santiago Mar. 2018
Burgos - SCDC (Oct 18)
#9
Though not on the Camino, back in The 1980s, I got lost in the Austrian alps at an elevation of about 2300 meters. luckily I eventually saw a farmer way down below whom I signaled to with my whistle. I had fallen, lost my pack, water, food, and had lost quite a bit of skin on my gluteus Maximus. Eventually, a helicopter came and I was lifted to safety and medical care! Seasoned Austrian hikers told me, as soon as you realize you are off the trail, try to retrace your steps- do not try to continue...Being Off Trail in the mountains can be especially dangerous.
 

Paladina

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Cycled caminos francés, Finisterre, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles et al (2018)
#10
Back to Gonzar. I found a table, settled in with my bocadillo and coffee and started to eat. When I bit into the roll something cracked, and it wasn't the bread. I felt a surge of panic flood over me, I fiddled around a bit with my tongue in my mouth and discovered I had completely bitten off a front tooth. I held it in my hand, looked at it and silently freaked out. Wishing like crazy it wasn't so, wishing I could rewind time to five minutes ago and avoid this.
Belated commiserations, Purky! I missed this Zen message when you first posted it, just as I missed a piece of my front tooth after walking into an unmarked plate glass door in an albergue at Puente la Reina. On reaching Santiago, the first appointment after the cathedral and the Compostela was with a dentist. The helpful staff in the tourist office informed me that there are 101 practices in the city, which suggests that Camino dental casualties are legion. The treatment, incidentally, was excellent, and it was a great relief to be able to smile unselfconsciously at my misfortune. I hope you’re now smiling broadly too.
 

Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
#11
I hope you’re now smiling broadly too.
My teeth always make my dentist smile. He once commented that "God didn't intend this when he created man", to which I replied that he didn't know what he was on about. First, he is a dentist and not a theologian, so he isn't well-versed in the ways of the lord.
Second, if he couldn't appreciate the miracle and wonder of how everything fits together, no matter how impossible it looks, he would have been a horrible theologian anyway. Don't quit your dayjob. But he is a great dentist, I have to give him that.
It took him about two weeks to make and fit (!) a crown on my missing front tooth, but he did a divine job and I'm happy to report that I have the smile of an angel ever since.
 

Paladina

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Cycled caminos francés, Finisterre, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles et al (2018)
#12
he did a divine job and I'm happy to report that I have the smile of an angel ever since.
Last year I had an encounter with a tooth fairy on the Camino; this year, with luck, an angel. Even if your dentist does not have the makings of a theologian he evidently has mastered the making of a crown, and that’s more helpful to you than the ability to calculate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Now you can smile for miles and miles...
 


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