Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Swimming, for the first time

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Our luck of course meant that the first 3 days of our trip were rained. The climate in northern Spain is very similar to the climate in the northeast, rain included. We tested various combinations of rain gear (or no rain gear) on the first few days of the walk. For me, the best combination of rain gear turns out to be full rain cover for anything more than a drizzle. For Leah and Kayla, it's soak time unless it's truly pouring. Despite all that, the views were still spectacular. 

But we were a bit sad because of the rain. 

Items forgotten

Of course, in the first days of a trip is when you realize what you've forgotten and regret any excesses you have brought. For us, we quickly learned that I was glad I had rain gear (my pack cover, shell jacket, and shell pants made me and my stuff orders of magnitude drier than Leah and Kayla's stuff). Leah also quickly realized that a camp towel is better than an extra shirt... As Arthur Dent always says, never forget your towel. Leah has her own story for how she lost her utensils going through airport security, but I'll save that for another time. I'll do a more complete post about gear items later on, but the most useless item for me so far: spare cotton t-shirt.

Chocolate cereal: you can go more than 30km!

Our next day was the farthest we'd have a chance to go in a while - for reference, we went from San Sebastián to Zumaia, which was a total distance of 32km. For breakfasts what we would do is get groceries at a supermarket the night before or the morning of (most likely the night before, along with getting the meals for the next day) and eat together before setting off for the day. 

What we quickly realized was that if we weren't going to be carrying our breakfast, we can be a bit more elaborate than bread and jam. So the day out of San Sebastián, we tried milk and cereal. Since I picked it out, it was of course chocolate cereal. This was the start of the hypothesis: if you eat chocolate cereal with milk for breakfast, you can walk more than 30 km in a day. 

Meals: menu del día

What many people don't know is that the biggest and most important meal of the day for Spaniards (in all parts of the country) is lunch. Many restaurants (and often bars too) offer a "daily special" menu called menu del día. For the meager price of 8 to 12 euros, you get a starter (often soup, stew, salad, or pasta), a main course (fish, pork chops, chicken breast, steak, or any number of other local favorites), desert and/or coffee, water, and wine (or cider if you're in a province that specializes in cider). (Note: when they say wine, they don't joke around. They put a bottle on the table in front of you and you pour however much you want for lunch. What a great country.). The first time we had a menu del día for lunch was in the small town of Orio (pronounced just like "oreo", the cookie), about 15km from San Sebastián. It's quite amazing to eat a full meal for lunch, take a quick hour-long break, and keep walking another 15km at the end of the day. Unfortunately, we could not find an open grocery store in Orio, so we didn't have oreos in Orio. We did buy a pack of victory oreos a few towns later, just to say we did. 

We would use the menu del día option to our advantage at many later points in time during our trip, since it's a great way to get lots of cheap, good local food at a time when you're really hungry. 

Swimming - of course Leah and Kayla are crazy

If you've ever gone hiking or adventuring with Kayla, you know that she loves swimming. And Leah is up for anything, so when we were walking literally along the ocean for many kilometers, the idea of course comes up to swim. I'm personally not a huge fan of swimming in cold water (especially when the sun is hiding because of imminent rain), but right outside of Zarautz we walked by a few young boys (clearly local) jumping off the railing next to the sidewalk right into the water. So Leah and Kayla decided to just go for it. Sorry guys for posting the pictures, I had to. 

This is before the jumps happened, with Leah and Kayla in their underclothes, contemplating jumping in. Yes, that is the police right behind them, having just walked by and being OK with our display of lack-of-clothing. 

Things to bring if you are a light sleeper: earplugs.

I am not a light sleeper and I hate earplugs, so I did not. This night was the only night I really regretted my decision. 

Whenever you sleep in an albergue, you are basically sleeping in the same room as 20 other people. There is guaranteed to be someone snoring all night. This night in Zumaia, other than being the best albergue we ever stayed at because it had free wifi and an ice cream place right next door, was the worst for noise. Although we were only sleeping 6 to a room, there was one young man who's snore basically caused the house to shake. The rumble would be so loud that it was hard to fall asleep until I hit the point of exhaustion, and when he turned over the brief minute of lack-of-snoring was not enough to get used to the thunder that followed. Thankfully, this Czech young man left very early in the morning and we were able to get a few hours of precious sleep between when he left and when we got up. Needless to say, the next day we were all a bit on edge for not having slept well the night before. 

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