May 21st, 2014: Today was Day 20. It was storming and adventurous.

By Shannon

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The alarm goes off at 6:30am. But I’ve been tossing and turning already for an hour. My right hip is so tight and sore that I couldn’t get comfortable all night. Even though I am awake, I don’t want to get out of bed. I can just barely see out the window and I can tell that it’s rainy and cloudy today. Even though I tackled the Pyrenees yesterday, I am not anxious to get out there and hike again.

I don’t have much time to think about it because one of the volunteers that works the albruge starts walking up and down the hall yelling at us to wake up. (Evidently they are very strict about the 8am departure time.)

Getting out of bed is no easy task – every fiber of my body is in pain. But there’s no choice but to get up and keep going.

Eric and I agree that we will walk separately today, with the exception of meeting for breakfast in the next town.

As we leave, we kiss goodbye and he takes off, zooming ahead of me. I keep my eyes on the trail as to avoid walking through a gigantic pile of mud, and focus on just keeping a steady pace.

With each step I think, “I can do this. I can hike by myself and not worry about what’s happening with Eric.”

When I enter the town we agree to meet in for breakfast, I see Eric sitting on the side of the street waiting for me. I’m relieved to see him and it helps to quiet those anxiety ridden voices in the back of my head.

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We decide on going to a cafe where we see several other pilgrims. It’s warm inside and all I can think about is coffee.

The Cafe we stopped at came with a doggy in the window.

The Cafe we stopped at came with a doggy in the window.

After breakfast, I’m dreading the fact that Eric will be taking off ahead of me any minute. Soon I’ll be walking alone for the next 8 hours. I know I can do it. But I’m scared. What if there’s a storm like yesterdays. What if I fall? What if Eric falls.

I manage to push the voices aside before we say goodbye.

As Eric speeds ahead, I am suddenly all alone on the trail. No pilgrims ahead of me and pilgrims behind me. As Spanish begged approaches me on the trail. I tell him, “No. I don’t have anything.” But he just walks closer. I speed ahead, leaving him looking ahead of the trail for the next pilgrim.

Again I am all alone. To quiet my fears, I decide to listen to an audio book. I’ve never listened to an audio book before but the other night I downloaded several because I figured it would be a great distraction on the hardest of days.

In this moment, I felt very alone on the trail.

In this moment, I felt very alone on the trail.

I select “A Fault in Our Stars”, a book I’ve been wanting to read for a long time, but that I know nothing about. With the first line, I am hooked:

“Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.”

As I listen and walk, I am completely immersed in the story. It’s as if John Green knew I need to hear this story while I walked the Camino. After all, it’s about a young girl who has lung cancer and is tied to oxygen tanks 24/7. Right away, I get a glimpse into what I am guessing Eric’s Mom Lourdes felt being attached to her oxygen tanks.

With each word being read aloud, and each step I take, I feel lighter. Although there are dark clouds looming in the distance, the fears I felt earlier completely disappear.

As I pass an open field and marvel at view, big drops of rain start to fall from the sky. Just then there is a loud crack of thunder. I pull my poncho over my head, and tuck my ipod into my sweater so that it doesn’t get wet and I can keep listening to the book.

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Just then, a woman who is walking by me very cheerfully says, “I like your headband. I have the same one.” I pull my earphones out of ears and we start chatting. Her name is Taylor and she’s hiking with a few of her friends. She introduces me to everyone and we all start talking. It’s started pouring down rain so it’s nice not to be so alone and to have this distraction.

We all decided to all stop for a coffee in the next town. But when we get there, the only cafe is completely packed with no room for anyone else to enter. It’s tiny with only a handful of chairs. We try and wait it out, huddling under a small awning right outside, but since the storm isn’t going to let up anytime soon, it doesn’t seem like anyone is in a rush to leave. (I don’t blame them.)

After a quick peek at the guide book, we decide to make a dash for the next town and try and stop for a break there. But we only get a few feet before it start hailing and lightning all around us. There’s a group ahead of us that keeps walking but we decide to take shelter next to a little grocery story with a deck (that happens to have a roof over it).

We sit there shivering while the storm rages on around us. Even though I am worried about where Eric is and what’s happening with him, I am too cold to worry too much. After about 45 minutes goes by, several of the women in the group are ready to go on. I don’t want to go out there in the storm, but I also don’t want to have to walk alone in this.

As we debate about what to do, Alex one of the women in the group wonders if she should take a cab because of the horrible hip pain she is having. Although Eric and I have our rules, I say screw the rules, I’m not hiking in this storm, and I tell Alex, I’ll go with her to Zubiri (where Eric will be waiting for me.)

I give Alex’s friends the name of the place Eric and I will be so they can meet back up when they get to town.

Alex and I head out to figure out how to catch a taxi. But our lack of Spanish really proves to be a problem. The owner of the grocery store tries her hardest to help us, but in the end, she says, “no taxi”. We walk back to the cafe, but it’s closed for siesta, a construction worker motions us over and offers us to stand out of the rain in one of the hallways of the house they are working on. We stand there for a few minutes but since it’s not really getting us anywhere, we decide to move on.

Alex and I talk briefly about what to do. We realize we aren’t going to be able to get a taxi, even though we saw other’s jump into one when we first got into this town. (Thanks, Universe, guess this is your way of making me stick to the rules.)

I ask Alex if she thinks she walk the 12 more kilometers we have left. When she says no, maybe we should stay in this town, I tell her I have to get to Zubiri because Eric is waiting for me.

I don’t want to suggest this because I’ve only hitchhiked with Eric, but I ask Alex how she feels about hitchhiking, because I don’t know what else to do. She says she’s never done it before but she’d be willing. I tell her if we are uncomfortable with the person who stops, we won’t get in.

We walk over to the road and just then I see a nice SUV coming down the road and I stick my thumb out. Even though I am scared, I want to get out of this storm and this girl I just met is counting on me to be able to hitchhike.

I had just finished telling Alex it might take awhile to get someone to stop for us in this storm, when the older gent men driving the nice SUV pulls over. He says, “Pamplona?” and I say, “Zubiri”. He says, ‘yes.”

The man who stopped for us speaks no English and we speak no Spanish. After some failed attempts at trying to communicate, he switching the CD he was listening too over to American music and “A wonderful world” blares through the speakers as we drive through the storm.

It only takes him 15 minutes to drive us to Zubiri. It would have taken us at least 4 hours to walk.

As we hop out of the car and walk towards the Casa Rural (a private home, kind of like a B&B), the sun starts shining through the clouds, and the rain stops.

Alex and I giving Eric our best impression of us hitchhiking.

Alex and I giving Eric our best impression of us hitchhiking.

Alex and talk and laugh excitedly about everything that just happened. When Eric sees me he says, “What are you doing here?” Turns out he had just gotten there about an hour before and was expecting me to walk up crying and traumatized, much later. But instead I am laughing and talking excitedly about my recent adventure. I love the feeling of knowing I took care of myself in unfavorable situation today.

Eric at our Casa Rural, happy and surprised to see me in one piece. Also WTF, weather? Way to clear up the minute we get to town.

Eric at our Casa Rural, happy and surprised to see me in one piece. Also WTF, weather? Way to clear up the minute we get to town.

That evening as I lay in bed, slightly tipsy from the wine served at dinner, feeling warm and dry, reflecting on the days events, that same sense of fullness and happiness washes over me again.

Distance: 21.8K
Location: Zubiri, Spain

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