It seemed like a great idea, but the descent into Zubiri in the pouring rain really tested the relationship……….
Even though I’d known my walking companion for years.
He’s a really interesting character with an unpronounceable Chinese name, so he goes by the nickname ‘Bean’. Originally from China, he’d moved to Thailand where we first met and he now lives in Sydney, my home town.
We did training walks together. And were Camino ‘buddies’ from the outset.
We were going to spend 40 days together, and looked forward to the experience and the bonding.
The long flight, the stopover in Paris and journey to St Jean were all without incident. No hint of the strains that our relationship would be under at times. We just enjoyed the journey and the anticipation of getting underway.
Mind you, ‘Bean’ is the quiet type and it’s hard to know what he’s thinking at times. Most of the time in fact!
Maybe I should have sensed this was not going to be an easy journey, on Day 1?
The climb up to Orisson was in total silence. Though we each sensed the emotion and effort of the climb, I almost felt unconsciously, and perhaps unfairly, that I was ‘carrying him’ up that mountain. I thought nothing of it at the time. I was happy to be there, my senses awash with the whole experience.
The trouble really started on Day 4. We were starting off with short sections. And this day was from Viscarret to Zubiri. It rained all day. And we’d decided to take the ‘easy’ route down to Zubiri, following the road. (Don’t do it by the way, we almost got run over)
I was really comfortable in my rain pants and jacket. Expensive Gore-Tex fabrics that kept me totally dry. And maybe this was the problem. You see, I had gone ‘all out’ on gear, whilst Bean was doing this on a shoe string.
He had no ‘special’ gear, just choosing to ‘wing’ it. Even his backpack was old, leather, and looked more like a kid’s school bag than a serious hiking pack….
The result. He was soaked through. And I mean soaked……. like he had just swum the English Channel fully clothed.
Tired and foot sore we pulled into Zubiri and Bean literally draped himself over a wall heater to start drying out……. I felt somewhat guilty that I had arrived bone dry. I would need to be more considerate and supportive if we were going to make it to Santiago still friends.
There were a few ‘incidents’ along the way…. But my Camino was certainly the better for his company. I have no doubt about that.
On those days when your feet ache, and your back is sore and you have another 10 kms still to go, the company of a good friend, even one that doesn’t say much, is often the moral support that kept me going. Just to ‘be’ with someone is often enough.
Though at times when I had to stop to rest and elevate my feet, he would just sit there looking at me, and I could almost sense the unspoken word. “What………. another stop”? That started to grate a bit….
Walking with a best friend can be challenging, but also immensely supportive emotionally.
In fact we’ll actually walk again together. This year!
But I have promised to buy him a Gore-Tex jacket. I don’t want a repeat performance of that ‘drowned rat’ look, coming down into Zubiri.
My challenge though, is where do I buy a Gore-Tex jacket, for a teddy bear who only weights 85 gms and is 6 inches tall………. ?
Note. Rob and ‘Bean’ walked this, their first Camino, in April/May 2015