Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 27: Good Morning!

I pose with a road sign on my way out of Roncesalles.
Santiago, here I come!!!! =)
September 7: The lights of the hostel click on at 6:00 AM sharp, and pretty much all 200-or-so pilgrims started packing up to hit the trail. They definitely wanted to make sure everyone was awake, though, going so far as to even play music through the alburgue. In my opinion, they couldn't have picked worse music. It was slow, organ-type of music like you'd expect to hear in a church that was more likely to be me to sleep than wake me up from one. They should have tried playing something to get people's hearts pounding like Eye of the Tiger. If that didn't wake up everyone in the hostel and get them pumped and ready to head out, nothing would!

For me, however, it was still too dark outside. I've been trying to take at least one photo every single kilometer I hike, so I can't hike in the dark. My camera doesn't take very good shots in the dark. Unable to sleep with all the light and noise, I read my book for a bit instead to kill the time.

By 7:00, I was finally ready to hit the trail myself as the sun finally started lighting up the landscape.

In Burguete, a short hike out of Roncesvalles and one of the places Earnest Hemingway like to hang out, I stopped at my first Spanish store to resupply some of my food. Roncesvalles had no markets for resupply. The store wasn't very big, but I already liked it vastly better than most of the French stores I had to resupply from. They had better backpacking options that I could cook with my stove, and I loved that fact that I could now read many of the labels since they were all in Spanish.

Burguete was a favorite place for Earnest Hemingway
to stay while in the area.
The sheer number of pilgrims on the trail continued to surprise me. I ran into the Israeli girls again and told them, "Boker tov!"--good morning in Hebrew. Tamar seemed amused at this, so even after noon passed, I continued telling her "boker tov" whenever I saw her. Eventually, she would sometimes sneak up on me in town or someplace when my guard was down and beat me to 'boker tov.'

I met a lot of other nationalities, however, but I didn't know how to say good morning in their languages, so I started asking everyone how they would say good morning in their native languages, and I started keeping a list of them in the back of my journal. Today, I would learn it in Dutch, Korean, Chinese, and in Polish.

The Chinese version was most problematic for me. I repeated what the Chinese girl said, but she shook her sad sadly in frustration as I failed to nail the pronunciation over and over again. I swear--to my ears--it sounded exactly like she said it--but she just shook her head and rolled her eyes for several minutes. Then I said it once, and she perked up. "Yes! You got it!"

"I did?" This was actually a surprise to me, because honestly, I thought I said it the same way I had said it before when she said I got it wrong. I said it again, and she shook her head again.

If this little episode taught me anything, it's that I don't think I will ever try to learn Chinese. I tried saying it for a few minutes more, and sometimes I got it right, and sometimes I didn't--but as far as I could tell, I always said it the same way EVERY SINGLE TIME! It was very frustrating to me!

When I first heard good morning in Dutch, I immediately knew I was going to have trouble with one of the sounds the man used. Somehow, he managed to sneak in a strange k sound between two consonants and I wasn't sure how to make that sound with my mouth. I tried stumbling through it, and I stumbled I did--the man thought it was pretty amusing--but he told me it was good enough that any Dutch speaker would have no trouble understanding what I was trying to say. I just had an accent, but it was good enough for people to understand. Whew. I didn't want to go through another Chinese experience! I still tried to get that strange sound into the words whenever I told anyone good morning in Dutch to make my pronunciation as good as possible, and none of the Dutch I met had any trouble understanding me. =)

Korean took me a minute or so to say, but once I got it down, I had no trouble repeating it. I imagine I still had a gringo accent, but none of the Koreans had any trouble ever understanding me. Given the sheer numbers of Koreans hiking the trail--I must have passed at least 20 of them on the trail this afternoon--I had a lot of practice using it. =) "on-yon a-say-o" (that's how I wrote the pronunciation in my journal) became the standard greeting I'd use for any Asian-looking person I met on the trail, and nine times out of ten, they really were from South Korea and knew exactly what I was saying. (That one time out of ten, it was someone from Japan, China, or--in one case, New Zealand.) Invariably, the Koreans always seemed the most excited when I greeted them in their own language. =) Perhaps it's the shock of an obvious white guy from the United States actually knowing how to greet them in their language. The two people who taught me the greeting in Korean also said that they didn't really have a greeting for "good morning"--that's it more of an all-purpose greeting that can be used at any time of day--which just meant I had that many more opportunities to use the phrase throughout the entire day. =)

I crossed Vivian a few times throughout the day--my new Australian friend that I met the day before--and when she learned about my quest to learn how to say "good morning" in as many languages as I could, she asked me how do I say it in Australian.

"Good morning?" I asked, wondering where this was going.

"No," she told me. "It's g'day mate! You have to say it like you had a stroke or something."

I laughed and tried to say it like she did, but she always criticized me that it wasn't drawling enough. From then on, I started saying g'day mate to any Australians I met on the trail. =)

Then there's the Polish good morning. I distinctly remember when I learned that one. I was sitting at a viewpoint, high on a ridge, just relaxing. I had planned to cowboy camp that night so I was in no rush--I didn't want to set up camp until at least 7:00 in the evening so I had a lot of time to kick around and kill. I decided to stop for four hours at one particularly nice viewpoint at the top of a ridge chatting with all sorts of people passing by. Some stopped to talk for a few minutes. A few others stopped to talk for as long as a half hour. I think they were mostly just exhausted from their day's hike and I was a convenient excuse for them to stop and rest.

And it was during this four hour break in the afternoon that a Polish girl wandered by. I didn't know she was from Poland just by looking at her. In fact, the only nationality I could really peg with any sort of consistent accuracy was Koreans. But I was eating a snack, and she wished me "Buen provecho!" as she walked by.

This got my attention because it suggested she knew Spanish--or at least knew it better than most people on the trail. (Which is really odd when you consider that I'm actually hiking in Spain, but English was actually more common than Spanish! One girl I met who was actually from Spain said she hadn't met a single other Spaniard so far.) So I asked her about that, she she stopped to chat for a few minutes, which is when I learned she was from Poland.

"Ooooh!" I said, pulling out my journal. "How do you say good morning in Polish?"

I wrote it down, made sure I was saying it right, and eventually she continued on her way. My journal entry for the day started: Learned how to say "good morning" in Dutch, Korean, and Chinese. I wrote a bit about each of those experiences, completely forgetting at the time about the Polish version which I added later in my journal: Oh! And I learned it in Polish. Lots of studying to do!

I find this amusing--the passing nature of my Polish entry, because as time would tell, the Polish girl would play a much larger roll in my hike than all of the others combined. I didn't even write her name down in my journal. I'm not even sure I asked her name at that first meeting, but I would later learn her name was Karolina and had I known how big of a roll she's play later in my hike, I'd probably have written much more about her in my journal that afternoon. I didn't even write that she told me how to say 'good morning' in Bulgarian, which I faithfully wrote down but had no intention of memorizing until I actually met someone on the trail from Bulgaria. With all the new languages I was learning, it seemed prudent to save languages from which nobody came from for another day. =)

Most churches I saw tended to blend together
after time--all old, majestic affairs. This one
had a decidedly modern slant to it!
But I couldn't write a biography of everyone I met this day. I talked to dozens of people throughout the morning and afternoon, and I had enough trouble just trying to remember where they were all from. At this stage of the hike, I was just recognizing faces--a bewildering number of faces!

After my four hour break, I started getting itchy to walk again and headed down the trail, eventually pulling into the small town of Zubiri where I was immediately told by about five different pilgrims that all of the alburgues were already full.

"No problem!" I told them. "I was planning to camp out anyhow!"

But I was a little curious what other pilgrims without the gear for camping out would do about this problem. I was a little surprised that lodging was so difficult to come by. It was September now, well after the July and August peak season, but all of the alburgues were still full?

Rumor had it that more than a thousand pilgrims left Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port within a few days of each other and that this September had pilgrim counts far higher than anything they had ever dealt with in previous years. Even back in May, the numbers were double what they had from previous years, and it appeared that the unexpected large number of pilgrims were straining the capacities of the alburgues.

I bought a pint of vanilla ice cream to eat, filled up my water, and chatted with the other pilgrims wandering around town until, about an hour before sunset, I headed out on the trail again to find a place to camp, eventually stopping just past the town of Aquertta.

The campsite was perfect. Well-hidden from view, far enough off the trail so there weren't any signs of toilet usage, on relatively flat, cleared ground.

Then a car drove past. Through the trees, I didn't see a paved road a mere 30 feet up the hill from where I set up camp. I didn't mean to camp so close to a paved road, but since it took more than an hour before that car drove past, I didn't worry about it. If I couldn't see the road, they weren't going to see me. And it clearly wasn't a very busy road if I could be camped here for an hour before a car drove by.

At sunset, I heard giant BOOMS coming off from the distance. I have no idea what that was about, but it sounded like someone was shooting off a cannon.

At about 10:00, well after dark, I was about to turn in for the night when I heard music filling the air. The nearest town was nearly a kilometer away, so I was a little surprised that I could hear music at all. It wasn't especially loud at this distance, but it must have been incredibly loud at the source to carry so far. Certainly none of the pilgrims in town would be getting much sleep with that kind of racket! At 5:00 in the morning, I woke up when the music finally stopped. The sudden quiet actually woke me up! I was more than astounded that whoever it was was allowed to play such loud music so loud and so late at night. Nobody in that town could have gotten any sleep at all. I heard there was a festival of some sort going on, but I had no idea what it was for. Just that they know how to throw really LOUD parties!

I so wish I had one of these in my backyard. =)
You don't even really need markers to follow the trail.
Just follow the pilgrims ahead of you instead! =)

Even in Spain, the stop signs still say "STOP". *shrug*

The plaque on this memorial dedicates this 'monument' to a
Japanese pilgrim who died in 2002 at 64 years of age.
I assume he died on the trail at this point, but the plaque
doesn't actually say (nor what he died from).

Another food truck, parked along the trail. Definitely a popular stop for pilgrims!

Pilgrims loiter on the streets of Zubiri.
(Most of the people in this photo are pilgrims--not locals!)

The trail passes through some industrial areas here. I don't really know
what this plant is for, though.

The picture of the bicycle going down the stairs
made me laugh. =)


Anonymous said...

Shingo Yamashita , a veteran Japanese pilgrim, 64-year-old was found dead on November 8, 2002 between LinzoaĆ­n and Zubiri (Navarra).

Amanda from Seattle said...

Ernest Hemingway and role, not roll....and there were more....your spell check is horrible!!