Madrid for the Camino

Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
Trip End Jul 20, 2011

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Flag of Spain  , Madrid,
Sunday, May 29, 2011

What to pack for an 800 km hike?…..reading all the advice is, well – not much, but as I spread all my crap out on the bed, even without the laptop, there is still a lot of stuff – first the weather is going to be all over the place – brutally hot with cold nights, frequent rain – heavy rain and big winds. Here in Madrid it is smoking hot – loving that – over 30 degrees, and then the heavens unload out of a blue sky and it is a torrential rain shower for 4 minutes – just enough to get soaked…..nice when you are hot but not nice when you are a lowly pilgrim carrying everything on your back.  I will learn to embrace my homelessness even more I hope – I really do look at the street people differently now – they are my 'peeps'!!!!

Madrid is …..Yes……my new favourite place!!!!!!! – It truly is beautiful – as one guy told me last week in Buenos Aires – "you will love it – it looks like here, without the garbage" And he was right.  Super clean and Buenos Aires is super dirty.  In BA, all the garbage goes out into the street each night into huge piles – like in NYC; the buildings are really really big.  What was really cool though was as soon as it hit dusk, big groups, sometimes full families, some working as singles, some in teams, hit the garbage piles, in every neighbourhood and start ripping.  They are so fast – they rip open each bag and sort out the stuff.  Each night I was amazed at the recycling program.  It certainly leaves a huge mess on every street but the piles of plastic, clothing, food, wire – you name it, is bought and sold right at the garbage piles - ….one man’s trash…..  Sometimes I didn’t get back to the hostel til nearly midnight and the garbage gangs were just finishing up.  I like that kind of stuff.  Most of us thought there could be a different/better? system that wouldn’t leave the streets filled with debris, but for now it seems to work.  I never saw who cleaned up the mess after midnight but every morning the streets were nice and tidy.  They have to be because BAs had some of the crowdest?? Is that a word/?? Streets I have seen – like Hong Kong.

So Madrid is grand and not grand – the streetscapes are perfectly proportioned and the vibe is very very relaxed. And the food - everywhere pretty pretty food.    And it is all about the salami.....even the fries are little wieners.....  Not that I have seen too much of the above ground street scape as I have been frantically riding around on the subway out to the burbs looking for sporting goods stores to buy stuff I will be hating to carry oh so soon. And for some reason that 26 hour travel day has put a dent in my energy...not getting any younger - this kind of travel is not for sissies!   To add to it I am in an apartment - fantastic renovated building with an inner courtyard.  My room opens up to this courtyard and the rest of the building is occupied by really really fancy apartments.  The inner courtyard concept looks nice but, you can hear everything that goes on in every apartment.  In one of them lives a severly autistic adult.  Right now he is 'puh' 'puhing' really loudly and the other night he screamed thru the night like a torture victim.  So sad and trying for whomever is his caregiver - just makes you realize, yet again, what struggles some people face each waking hour.  Cool hostal, two old people live here and rent rooms - they do not speak one word of English - gramma talks away to me and I just nod and smile.  The Spanish here is different than South America - well it was different in each country there as well but here, different words from Latin spanish and no 's' sound - it is 'shhhhh'.  Yeah, that's why I can't understand.......

I am taking the train north to Pamplona on Tuesday (3 hrs.) – you may know it:  it is famous every July for the ‘running of the bulls’.  The festival where lots of backpackers come from all over the world join thousands of Spaniards, running through the streets with terrified, freaked out bulls.  Not all those backpackers make it home.  Darwinism again.  Because I bought my train ticket I have to go even though, as yet, now, Sunday night, I still don’t have a pack……I just tried, once again, to get all the crap into my little 22 liter day pack and it is just not going to work….ahhh……the freakin sleeping bag, and extra shoes…..because my feet are killing me -  already after only a few hours walking around yesterday in my hot hot, not supposed to be hot but they are, new boots.  This is not going to be pretty – the feet hurt -and I haven’t even tried walking with a pack…….a loaded pack…… And then the blogs say you have to leave room to carry 2 litres (2 lbs.) of water and your food…..where the hell are those little Jenny Craig portions when they might make sense???? room for food ?  will be skinny by July!

Now I am thinking this might have been a ‘biting off more than you can chew’ idea……maybe should have started with a 5 km hike instead of an 800 km one?……oh well, maybe I will do 10 km jaunt and then ride the bus around Spain, over to France and help my friend Clem and the boys move into their new house – Clem, it could happen yet.

Interesting to me is how many of you have written to say that this Camino is at the top of your bucket lists… come none of you have been here yet?  Wait, let me go ahead and figure it out, learn the lessons – I am grateful for Amanda’s advice and inspiration.  Not sure why it is a draw for so many, but there is a pull that seems to be universal…..for some it is religious, for me, not at all.  Not sure what it is or what it will be….other than damn hard and Robin and Jane, those pretty feet will be no more by mid-July.  At least I have the ‘before’ pictures.

And many thanks to those of you who wrote about my 'Five Year Milestone".  Some of you shared what the last five years have taught you and I appreciate you sharing that part of your life with me.  It is much more interesting when this blog becomes a conversation.   Your thoughts and words mean so much to me:  so often it just seems like I am blah blah blahing all the time and I really want to know how you are as well..

So now I am winding down, going thru early withdrawal from the laptop – it will be hard to not be ‘connected’ – hard but good.  Probably all the ‘cool’ kids will have their iphones or blackberries….me, not even a map as I couldn’t find anywhere to print a pdf file.  I had hoped to find an English book or maps of the Camino but, like South America,  there is very, very little English here.  I know because I am perpetually lost and asking people……damn, should have stayed in school…..

 Here are some early pictures of Madrid – I spent yesterday above ground cause the stores were closed – somehow got into the middle of a Flamenco parade…and also into the middle of the protesters camp….the Flamenco parade was prettier.

So drop me a line, I will be checking in at Internet places to manage my life/finances and do all the regular stuff.  If I can, I will try and get some pictures up – it is so easy with the laptop…don’t even remember how I used to do it before I joined the ‘cool’ kids in Cambodia and bought my first little Acer laptop.

Tomorrow is DDay, have to find a light, comfortable pack that I can bond with for many hours…..the quest continues and then adventure begins.
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Jane MacLellan on

Good luck, Debbie! I will miss reading about your adventures. When those pretty feet start to go south, head for the nearest beach!

Amanda on

Buen Camino Deborah! Savour every fantastic moment of it :).

cathy cush on

I wish you good adventures Debbie - I wish I was part of the journey with you by way of more than the blog. Actually walking would be nice! Take care.

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