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Blown Away by Spain! Camino de Santiago, Spain

October 21, 2018

 

“The engines have been taken out of the boat and are in the shop being worked on.” Bill told us.

“Well, while you finish working on the boat we will spend the next few months in France and Spain hiking the Camino de Santiago. We’ve wanted to do that for a while now and it will give you time to finish the boat.” I said.

“You can meet me in Florida when you get back from Europe and we can then cross over to the Caribbean and sail south from there.” Bill said.

“That sounds like a plan!” I said.

Our original plan this fall was to cruise the Caribbean on Bill’s boat. My only hesitation was that it was hurricane season. Thankfully, I didn’t have to argue my point, as the boat wasn’t ready.

We were not ready to hike because we had planned on a cruise. That is why I find myself now huffing and puffing across the Pyrenees and into Spain after a nearly 500 mile journey that began in France.

I was thankful for our decision. The weather in France for the past six weeks has been perfect and we were assured by the Pilgrims office in St. Jean Pied-de-Port that it was the perfect time to cross the high mountain pass. Rain was in the forecast but not for our crossing.

We have watched from afar the terrible hurricane season back home in the states. We followed as Hurricane Michael roared across the Gulf and tore apart communities in Florida, and Georgia. I read a report, that compared Michael’s aftermath to hurricane Katrina and how it affected Gulfport, Louisiana (the media’s mistake, not mine). 

Ol and I set out around 7:30 a.m. for our mountain crossing. We went in search of my last chocolate filled French pastry and stopped to visit the beautiful cathedral to say our prayers.  With the aid of the street lights we began our climb out of the city to the trailhead. We knew that many people left at 6 a.m. even though sunrise wasn’t until 8:15 a.m. I was a little bit comforted when I saw quite a few people behind us.

The road was steep and I was glad this wasn’t our first day on the trail. We quickly passed hikers both young and old. Ol and I settled into a nice uphill pace. The only thing that passed us were taxis hauling lazy hikers up the mountain.

Wait a minute, taxi’s! I didn’t realize that was an option! We are purists and wouldn’t have done it (at least we wouldn’t admit it). After a lengthy hike (3 or 4 hours), we finally exited the paved road and could see the trailhead. We noticed the cheaters (I mean hikers) getting out of the taxis.

I don’t know why the taxi thing bothered me, but it did. There are two ways to begin the hike. Some people take the trail around the mountains (which is what cars do) or, serious hikers can go over the mountain and across the pass. 

Half way up the mountain we noticed a sign warning about the weather. There was a calendar to show the months that the pass is closed (November-February). As we climbed the temperature dropped and it was noticeably cooler. We were no longer sweating as we climbed. I was thankful for my long pants and shirt.

We continued up the rocky trail and looked back over the valley. We still had a few hours before we reached the top and the wind was beginning to pick up. Earlier, we stopped to refill our water bottles at the lodge that was now closed for the season and like everyone before us disappointed to find that the water had been turned off. The pilgrim’s office told us that we could get water here and now I was getting concerned about water.

Gradually, the wind began to strengthen. It was now getting very windy and chilly. At first the few gusts that nearly blew us over were met with nervous laughter. We felt like reporters on the weather channel.  After the winds became sustained, we could see other hikers also struggling. 

The winds reminded us of our “O” hike in Torres del Paine, in Patagonia Chile, earlier this year. Thankfully there were no shear mountain cliffs or suspension bridges. 

We continued to move forward. I dug in and used my poles and when needed grabbed Ol.  When a big gust blew both of us sideways a few feet, we had to stop. We saw some hikers turning back. 

We sheltered behind a big rock and ate our sandwiches and tried to regain our strength. Thankfully, as we made our way into Spain the winds lessened and we finally reached the tree line where we were protected. We were in Spain and the half way point of our journey! We were excited, but happier to be out of the wind!

Over dinner we learned that the winds we faced were in fact hurricane force winds up on the mountain. Portugal and Spain had been the landfall for Hurricane Leslie, a rare event in this part of the world.

 

So, while we were worried hurricanes affecting our family and friends at home, we found ourselves in the remnants of a European hurricane. So even though we tried to avoid hurricane season, it still managed to find us. The lesson for us is to keep an eye on the weather back home, but don’t forget to keep up with the weather locally as well.

 

 

 

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