Our night in the private albergue was indeed more pleasant than the others we’ve spent in terms of the accommodations. Dinner was excellent, and breakfast (desayuno) was decent. But still the snoring! It is really truly amazing just how much of the human race cannot sleep without making such a racket as to drive the rest of us mad. We had such a much smaller room last night, and I thought for sure the odds would be in our favor. Alas, two snorers in a room with only 8 people. All night long it went, droning on right through my earplugs. Within a night or two more, I may actually be used to it. Still and all, it was a decent night’s rest, and I’m grateful for the little albergue outside Pamplona.

Kat started getting a blister on the second day. She threw some Compede on it, something they sell over here in Europe but not at home. It is supposed to create a nice tight seal and cushion over a starting blister and keep it from going nuclear. Well, perhaps it does not work on American heels.

She stuffed her feet into her hiking boots, well seasoned and broken in after 2 years and more of use, but by this morning, she had blisters popping up on both heels and several toes. There were some dark moments in there when we were considering options like going back to Pamplona and getting a hotel room for a day or two. Kat had her moment of bursting into tears – supposedly, every peregrine has at least one. When we thought all was lost, our wonderful Germans, the brother and sister we’ve seen along the way ever since Stansted airport in England, came in to help. Krista doesn’t speak a heck of a lot of English, but she swooped in with some homeopathic advice and a cool little tubular piece of foam that we cut and slipped over the most painful little toe. Once all taped up, she tried to shove all the little piggies into the boots, but aiee! ’twas too much.

Kat thinks it might be a weird kind of karma. She told all her friends before coming over here how worried she was that I, who had probably not sufficiently broken in my new boots and was not faithfully training with my pack on and miles walked, would get horrible blisters and hold up our progress for countless days. So far, my feet have been right as rain. I take off my boots a couple times a day and rub some cream with menthol into them. It seems to be working quite well; not that I’m getting cocky – definitely don’t want to do that.

At any rate, Kat put on her sandals instead, and I took a third or so of her weight (including the offending hiking boots) into my pack to lighten her load. I didn’t quite know what I was getting into at that point, feeling all arrogantly noble, selflessly taking on the extra poundage like a loving husband should. We had to hike pretty well straight up this morning to a pass over a ridge filled with massive wind generators as far as the eye can see. If you watched the Martin Sheen movie, The Way, you’ll remember the scene from the famous monument to the pilgrims at the top of that pass where Joost, the fellow from Denmark, makes the comment, “You mean you can do this on a bike?!?”

Kat’s sandaled feet held up remarkably well through the day. You wouldn’t believe the hills she climbed in those things or the descents she made with grace and panache! We made the side trip to the chapel at Eunate where a hundred delicate arches surround a quaint, rounded chapel. We made our way through Obanos, Puente La Reina, and along the way to Muneros where we found another private albergue for the night.

Oh, and about that back pain – wow! is it amazing just how a few extra pounds can make the whole day so much harder. My back and shoulders haven’t been this sore in I don’t know how long! We talked along the way about stuff we need to get rid of – all the little extra things we brought along that we thought would make life a little bit easier. In truth, we thought they were all things we would truly NEED along the way. Ignoring the advice of sages who’ve made this trek before and lived to tell their tales, we loaded up with all kinds of crap that we really don’t need; at least depending on where we opt to spend the night.

For instance, I have yet to buy (or even find) a canister of Camping Gas for the new little “lightweight” cook stove and kit I brought along to boil water for coffee in the morning. Each morning, we’ve either managed to be somewhere with a ready stovetop for boiling water or else happened across a little tavern where boiling water was easily had. As we are getting into more populous areas, the most we really need to do anyway is hike a couple of kilometers till the local tavernas open and get cafe con leche to start the day off right.

And the solar charger I brought, convinced that each refugio we stayed in would only have one lonely outlet against a far wall somewhere; completely unnecessary! Every place we’ve been has had plenty of outlet space right handy. We have yet to eat the two emergency packets of mac and cheese we brought or the emergency “food bars” or the mixed nuts or all the prunes. No, we’ve still been buying bread and cheese and sausage along the way and carrying that too! Something has got to change! We’re eating that mac and cheese either tonight or for breakfast or it gets left here for some other poor fool.

I left my second pair of pants at the albergue this morning. They kept falling down all day yesterday. I guess they were just a bit too big. I don’t think I’ve actually lost that much weight yet. We’ve started calling these things, camino droppings. We see the unintentional ones along the trail and the intentional ones in the refugios at night. My pants joined a camelback water bladder at the place this morning, and my shirt that also didn’t fit joined a whole hodgepodge of items at the albergue in Roncesvalles.

We’ve decided that a whole batch of stuff is getting shipped back home in a box as soon as we get to the next decent-sized town tomorrow. Every damn thing that we don’t absolutely need is either getting trashed or shipped out of here, depending on its relative perceived value after we get home.

And that’s really the key – relative perceived value. What is of value, and what is a liability? When we are fat and happy at home in our huge American house with all our luxuries, we think nothing of running to the store and picking up another something we think we need or want and stuffing it in some nook or cranny. Then we get out here, and we don’t want any of this crap. But then again, we’re hiking through a first world country, where despite the high unemployment rate and everything we hear about how Spain might be on the edge of needing another European bailout, there is new construction everywhere we go and ancient houses in these small villages being restored to beauty and grace. We don’t need all this crap we brought, because we have enough money to stay in relatively nice places and eat pretty darn good food. Even now, we are sitting in a quaint little courtyard, drinking a bottle of local wine, and our host is bringing up bread and laying out dinner.

At any rate, thinking one day at a time, we need to get rid of some stuff, shipping some of this crap home. But when we get home, what crap are we getting rid of then? What sort of changes are we going to make in our lives so we stop accumulating so much new crap?

Those are questions to ponder tomorrow – it’s time to head in and eat dinner inside as it’s too dang cold to eat out here!