Monday, November 04, 2013

Camino 2013 - Getting To The Beginning

Getting to the start on my last Camino was a rather stress filled affair.  This time was a bit more boring and full of tedium.

Mom picked me up and dropped me at the airport like she did last time.  I was carrying two bags: my pack and a small carry-on with my camera, documents, and other important things.  My poles and pocket knife were not on me.  I'd been wondering how to safely get them to France.  After the lost luggage incident I was a bit lot paranoid.  The solution was to ship the poles and other sharp TSA unfriendly items to Gv.  She combined them with her pointy things and checked them when she flew to Paris.  We figured, since her flight was direct with no connecting flights, the chance of them getting lost were minimal.  We were right in the sense that they got there without issues.  Of course if I'd just checked my own poles they probably would've gotten there.

Security went smoothly despite me being worried about the safety pins and laundry bars in my bag - I was sure they would be confiscated.  They weren't.  I worry too much.

My flights to Chicago and Madrid were on time and I had no problem fitting my pack in the overhead bins. My pack was actually a bit smaller than the one I had last time and appeared tiny next to some of the roll on carry-ons other people had.  I met a pilgrim from Minnesota in Chicago that was doing the last 100 km.  I recognized her from the Camino guide book sticking out of her pack.  We talked about the Camino until our Madrid flight started to board.

I arrived in Madrid shortly before eight in the morning.  This is when the boredom started.  The next part of my getting there was a flight from Madrid to Toulouse, France.  My flight left at 1:15PM so I had nearly six hours to kill.  I wandered around a bit trying to figure out which gate my plane would leave from.  Turns out they don't announce the gates until about two hours before the flight.  The only thing odd here was I had a small head wound when I got off the plane.  I guess I hit my head getting in the plane (I left a blood spot on the window).

I went through security and looked for a place to eat.  The only thing open was a cafeteria style place that was between the breakfast and lunch  periods.  I picked a ham sandwich (a staple of the Camino - I decided to start a little early), an apple, and something to drink.  I tried to pay with my credit card and it wouldn't read.  I paid with cash but now I was all paranoid.  Why didn't my card work?  After I ate my lunch I looked for another place I could test my credit card and found a vending machine that accepted credit.  Looking through the junk food, a pack of Principe cookies caught my eye.  I swiped my card ... it worked ... and I got a pack of cookies.  I felt some relief.  I then promptly worried about my ATM card and calmed that fear by withdrawing cash from a nearby ATM.

About the Principe cookies.  I did eat a few this Camino but I did it with moderation.  In the end I only ate four tubes of Principes.  I'm kind of proud of that.

They announced the boarding gate and I found a place nearby to sit.  I was flying EasyJet.  They don't have assigned seats.  It's kind of a first come first served kind of thing.  Fortunately for me I was like the fifth in line or so when they started boarding.  My bag got in the overhead bins.  Many other passengers ended up having to check their carry-ons.

In Toulouse I caught a bus that took you to the train station.  At the train station I ran around like a crazy loon trying to find a kiosk to print my e-ticket.  I think I wasted five or ten minutes trying to figure out what I was doing.  I printed out my ticket and then tried to find who I needed to talk to to exchange it for an earlier train.  I'd bought a ticket on a later train to give me time.  I figured I would change the ticket to an earlier train if I got to the station in time, which I did.

It took me a few minutes to realize that to change your ticket you had to take a number.  It took me a few more minutes to figure out how to take a number from the kiosk.  It then took about fifteen or twenty minutes before my number went up on the screen.  All these minutes turned out to be wasted - my ticket had no assigned seats therefore I could take any train at any time to my destination.  I should have guessed this when the kiosk wouldn't allow me to exchange the ticket.

I got on the train and sat back and watched the French countryside move by.  The train had a few stops including Lourdes.  You can walk the Camino starting from Lourdes if you want to.

I switched trains in Pau.  I started to realize that there was very little signage in English.  Frankly there was none at all.  I would have trouble traveling alone in France.  Fortunate for me I would be meeting Gv whose first language is French.

After Pau the rain started coming down.  Not the best sign.  It was raining when we arrived in Oloron-Ste Marie.  Gv was not there but I had directions to the hostel she had made reservations at.  I put on my pack, pack cover, rain jacket, and hat and headed out into the rain.  Less than a block later I ran into Gv.

She led me back to the hostel and I discovered a nice room with it's own bathroom.  I took a shower, put on fresh clothes, and caught up with Gv as I repacked my bag for the next day.

I was tired after nearly twenty-eight hours of planes, trains, and buses but I ended up having a restless sleep.  I think all the anticipation made it hard to clear my head.  Last Camino I'd had three nights to sleep before I started walking - this Camino I would have only one.  I hope it would be enough because I had over 600 miles of walking ahead of me and I was ready to get started.

Let the adventure begin.

P.S. I took only two pictures along the way to Oloron-Ste Marie and neither were interesting so no pictures this post.

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