Remember, Pilgrim, You are in the Basque Country

September 19, 2014 § 2 Comments

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I’m not sure what age, or what experience, causes us to appreciate when someone is better at something that we are, as opposed to resenting him or her for their superiority. Whatever age or achievement that is, I’m glad about it. I’m not the only helper at the farm. There have been multiple workers, like me, who come and go. Some I’ve had more fun with than others, some left before I could write down their full names, and each has been significantly better at something (many things) than I am.

When Matt, who was here for a bit but has since moved on to Madrid, asked if I wanted to join his weekend trip camping in the mountains, I was thrilled. Scratch that, I may have invited myself. Last Friday, we packed our rucksacks, hoarded water, and walked to the highway where we proceeded to hitchhike to St. Jean Pier du Port, a town several trails run through. We walked on a portion of the historic pilgrimage Camino de Santiago which runs throughout Spain. Hikers spend weeks and months on the trail, so we felt like major posers each time a passerby looked and identified with us.  We could only do a small stretch, as we didn’t want to spend our two days off strenuously walking to another country. Farmers gotta farm, ya know?

Camping with Matt was like having a friend with a boat: you get the perks and the views but you can’t really navigate it yourself. I am not a natural when it comes to hiking in foreign countries. He is.  He outlined our route, seeked out a proper place to illegally camp in the forest, pitched the tent, packed our food, identified each plant I pointed at with curiosity, brought up the excellent point that every vehicle in the basque country was a white van, and patiently waited whenever I stopped to hold my thighs and catch my breath. He offered to let me wear his glacier glasses since I misplaced my sunglasses. He owns a pair of glacier glasses.

So hiking was good. That is one pretty piece of land.  Images I’m happy to think about: hills, horses, the two of us eating sheep cheese we purchased from a vendor at the top of a mountain, Matt reading Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in French via headlamp in the tent, solitary houses in the middle of valleys, roadside with my outstretched thumb, an unreal amount fog at sunrise, a crypt in a Spanish church we explored before crossing back over the border. It goes on. They’re images I don’t want to forget. They’re proof that we’re here, that we’ve been there.

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