May 22nd, 2014: Today was day 21….It had it’s ups and downs.

By Shannon

When I hear the alarm go off at 7am, I don’t feel ready for the day ahead of me. Because of tightness in my right hip, I tossed and turned all night, finding it impossible to get comfortable no matter what position I was in.

While last night provided some much needed relaxation with a nice Spanish dinner, cooked by our hosts, lots of red wine, and good conversation with some Canadian women we met the day before on our hike up to Orisson, I do not feel rejuvenated and ready for the 21.1 KM (13 mile) hike that is ahead of us. At least the sun is peaking through the clouds and I am hopeful that we won’t have any rain today.

After breakfast, Eric and I stick around and chat with our hosts over coffee before reluctantly putting on our packs and heading out the door. I can tell Eric is really sore from his speed hiking yesterday, so I am hoping that we’ll be able to match our pace and stick together. I’m pretty sure that if he speeds ahead of me today, I’ll sit down on the trail and just wait to be rescued.

But, then just as I feel like I am setting into a nice, steady pace, Eric stops just ahead of me, turns around and says, “You’ve got to pick it up. If we keep this pace, we’ll be hiking for 10 hours today.”

A single tear rolls down my face. His comment breaking me. Doesn’t he know how hard I’m pushing myself?

I yell back at him, “I am pushing it! You have no idea how to motivate someone.” I’m pretty sure he said something back to me about being a drama queen.

As we hike on, following a trail that leads us in and out of forest trails and onto roads, through small villages, the sun disappears, and dark rain clouds set in. I decided the only way I am going to be able to get through this is by downing everything out with “A Fault In Our Stars”, so I press play and pick off where I left off yesterday before I met Alex an her friends.

When I downloaded “A Fault In our Stars”, I didn’t know the story line at all, but listening to it now, I know this is exactly what I need to hear in this moment. Not only is the story inspiring and uplifting, it reminds me how grateful I am to have the freedom to walk, breath, and move through this world without chronic illness. With each step I take, I start to feel more connected to myself and this moment. It reminds me to appreciate the man I love and life a little bit more.

When we get to a small hamlet called Irotz at the 11.8 mark, we decided it’s a good place to rest our feet and have lunch. It’s cold and sprinkling so we take cover under the entrance if the Iglesia de San Pedro and eat Tuna straight out of the can, which is something I never thought I could do. But hiking makes me not care that I’m just eating straight up tuna out of a can.

My hip pain is getting worse the longer we sit there and the only things motivating me to get moving again is the fact that it’s getting colder and getting to Pamplona means that we are have a one week break to relax and explore the city.

As we continue walking, the small trails and towns disappear, and turn into a sidewalk through a park next to a river, before winding an curving high above the river, eventually leading us to a trial right along side a busy road. At this point, my inspiration from listening to “A Fault In Our Stars” is long worn off. I’m just trying not to lose sight of Eric and reminding myself to put one foot in front of the other.

As I reach the top of a steep hill, I see the two frenchmen who drove me to look for Eric that day in Orisson, walking toward me. And I wonder why they are walking away from Pamplona. They wave excitedly at me, pointing toward Pamplona, which I can just barely make out in the distance (at least that’s what I think I am looking at).

They stop me and say something in French. I think I made out the word “Jambon” (ham) but I have no clue. It could just be that that’s one of the few words I actually remember from French class. I ask, “Did you already go to Pamplona?” but they speak no English so they say something to me again in French, that makes me think they are talking about ham.

Since this conversation is going nowhere, we wave goodbye, and I watch them walk away from Pamplona. When I turn to start walking, Eric is waiting for me at the bottom of the hill, looking very confused, holding his walking sticks up in the air, as if to say, “What was that about?”

When I reach the bottom of the hill, I explain to him the exchange and we laugh about the oddity of the whole situation. What were the chances that the two guys who “rescued” me in Orisson, were walking the opposite direction and we ran into them right there? And why were they walking away from Pamplona anyway?

We take a water break and pull out the guidebook, we only have 5KM left and it looks pretty flat from here on out. So we decided to pick up the pace and push ourselves. But our big push only lasts until the town of Villava at the 17.3 KM mark, which we mistakenly thought was Pamplona.

With our spirit crushed and my headphones (I accidentally dropped them and stepped on them), we unhappily continue on. Although the terrain is flat, we are now walking on sidewalk through small cities. With each step we take, I actually feel like I am getting further away, not closer.

The weather is warming up, so we stop on a bench to rest and take some off some of our layers and it takes everything each of us has to stand up. Eric’s muscles are hating him from yesterday and both of my hips are so tight and sore I feel like the tin man in Wizard of Oz.

Finally, after what feels like ages, we reach the the bridge that leads us to the walled city of Pamplona. Once we enter, we pull out the directions Jose (the guy we rented an apartment from) sent us. They are in Spanish so Eric is trying to make sense of them, when all the sudden, a man walking across the park, yells out, “Hola Shannon and Eric.”

Turns out that because we are arriving two hours later then what mentioned in our email exchange with Jose, he decided to come and wait for us/look for us at the city’s entrance. After we made reservation with him on AirBnB, we looked up our website and had already read Love On El Camino, and knew what we looked like.

As Jose, leads us into the city and to the apartment, he and Eric speak in Spanish, and I feel so grateful that this stranger, came to find us so that we didn’t have to exert the energy that would have been necessary to find his apartment. Because right then, in that moment, it was everything I had to keep walking and not let myself just fall to the ground.

Walking up the steep stairs to the apartment, which is on the second floor. I keep reminding myself that as soon as I enter the apartment, we are in one place for a whole week and I don’t have to but on my stupid hiking shoes for 7 days. All I have to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other.

As we enter the apartment and my pack slides off my back, I feel an overwhelming sense of relief take over. Relief that I made it further than I thought I could. Relief that Eric and I did not lose each other day. Relief that my muscles and blisters now have a chance to recover.

Distance: 21.1km
Location: Pamplona

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