I slept in again this morning but only until about 6:30am. People were packed up and gone by 5:30am. This really does a number on my nerves. I worry a lot about my feet and the fact that I move even slower now than I did originally. It’s literally a race to the beds and I lose every day. I never realized just how much slower I walk than everyone. And it’s not that I’m walking slowly. I actually move quickly but my legs are so short that I take four steps while everyone else takes two!
Anyway, back to the beds. Yes, we find beds but I hate being the last one in town walking from albergue to albergue looking for a place to put my things. Today is another short day so I wasn’t too worried about sleeping in but tomorrow is a 30km day and I’m very worried about it. I really hope my feet hold out and I can find a bed when I finally get into town.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the foot situation. I spoke to so many people yesterday who are walking on busted feet. What blows my mind is that no one has a solution. I walk with physicians, paramedics, and ER personnel, and no one can help. I was frustrated with all the bad advice out here. I have come to learn by trial and error that threading your blisters is a bad idea, vaseline is a bad idea, and aloe vera plants (while wildly creative) are a bad idea. Many people swear by them but I stand firmly in the bad idea camp. These remedies may make sense in our daily lives where you can rest your body but on the Camino where you walk day in and day out, these solutions can actually create more problems as you continue to walk. I realize now that the only answer is to not walk. You aren’t supposed to walk on open wounds. It’s as simple as that. But that’s just not an option out here which is why none of these remedies actually work for us. The best thing you can do is surround your blisters with molefoam during the day in an effort to protect them from continued trauma and drain them and air them out at night when you aren’t walking.
Now would be a good time to mention Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities (SOLO) and the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS.) These two companies teach wilderness first aid, including the proper method for treating blisters and I recommend learning from them. Brian learned everything he knows about blister care from SOLO and I should have just followed the advice he gave me from the get go.
The walk in general today was wonderful and thought provoking. The sun was hot but there was a nice breeze. By 8:00am, though, we were already sweating and in need of water. All along the Camino, especially in small villages, you can usually find water fountains that gush with ice cold water. It’s everything you can do to keep from throwing yourself under them when you find them. Interestingly, I’m learning to sniff them out. I’m not sure what it is about the surrounding areas of fountains but I’m learning to recognize where I can find one. It’s a useful skill I’ve developed along the way.
During our second breakfast stop, I ran into the man who walked with me to the doctor several days earlier. I spoke with him and his trail family and we learned that many of us got sick and were throwing up in Carrion de Los Condes. Whatever it was, it hit a bunch of us. The conversation confirmed my thoughts that perhaps we were all passing something around. I was so relieved to be past the point in my journey.
Two random observations: first, in small towns where there is no baker, a bread truck will drive in like the ice cream man and lay on his horn. Residents run out to purchase their bread, eggs, or whatever goods he may be carrying. The first few times I saw this was very confusing because no one came out. I just saw a truck roll up next to us and lay on his horn. After this happened in two or three different towns, I realized what was going on. Second, apparently there are a lot of cuckoo birds in this region of Spain. Over the last three days, I’ve been amused by several on my hike. Cuckoo cuckoo! Just like the clocks.
Once we arrived in the town where we planned to stop for the day, I was feeling pretty good. If we continued another 10km, we could shorten the 30km day we would have tomorrow. As we drank our cervezas, I called to the one albergue 10km away and reserved two of the eleven beds available. This would allow us to walk at my snail’s pace and not worry about having a bed. We also ran into some folks from Boston, which is always a good time. Lots of cheers as if we all know each other or just won the superbowl. They were stopping for the day. The afternoon was too hot for them to continue and the next stretch is nothing but road walking for miles. While the accommodations were tempting in town, we still decided to push on.
About three-quarters of the way there, we came across a massive tree (dressed with the white fuzzy things) that gave us the shade we needed and the perfect spot for me to take off my shoes and rest my feet. As we sat there quietly in the warm breeze, I reflected on how we are approaching the region where that American woman was abducted in April. I reverted to my old ways, contemplating the various ways one could be abducted. Miles of nothing but a road where few cars travel. With every passing vehicle, I thanked God I wasn’t alone.
I thought about many things today, but as I was walking that last 10km in the afternoon heat, something hit me like lightning! I get why people do this now! I get it! So few people in the modern industrialized world have the opportunity to find out who they really are and what they are truly capable of within their lifetime. But when you push your mind, body and spirit to do something extraordinary, like hike for hundreds of miles in unknown territory, you reach a level of self-awareness that is not possible in an average life.
As I continued to walk today, I was met with myself again. “Oh, I remember you,” we greeted like old friends. I continued to push myself. Meanwhile there was nothing for miles. Just the road stretched before me, the crops surrounding me, and a mirage the size of Texas taunting me. I get it. This is why I’m here. This is what I was hoping for.
When you slow things down and remove all the extraneous things, your perspective changes. Your life changes. Simple things become spectacular. Things you take for granted normally are appreciated, adored, loved. Every day I count my blessings. My blessings are different now. They are many. The shade of a tree, the brilliant color in flowers, the welcoming smell of a church, the energetic fist bump from a friend, the cleansing effects of rain, the head nod from a supportive local, the attention of a stray cat or dog, a piece of watermelon provided by a Camino angel, five uninterrupted minutes of privacy, a healing cry, a five minute shower, the sight of wheat crops waving at me in the breeze, the breeze itself. These are all missed when you move too fast. I’m so grateful I have the opportunity to slow life down and see how beautiful the world is. I can’t even describe it. Everyone should be able to experience the world like this. What an absolutely amazing hike today.
After settling into the albergue, which was most interesting because of the talking parrot “HOLA!”, we sat out in the front with the other pilgrims catching up and watching the goings on of this very small town. The town is so small in fact, there isn’t even a grocery store. Across the street was apparently where the locals frequent. Several Spaniards sat in the shade and talked all evening long. And why not? What else is there to do here?
After dinner we spent most of the evening talking outside with Sarah the Russian and a very eccentric German guy whose name I never caught. Niko and I then took a late night walk around the town to confirm that there really was nothing to see. Confirmed. We did notice one strange thing though. While the buildings were not all that impressive, all of the doors were really nice. It was as though they put all their investments into the front door and had nothing left for the rest of the house. Or perhaps they already knew what I discovered today. There is immense beauty in simplicity.
I’m looking forward to reaching Astorga tomorrow where we will tour the famous chocolate museum!
Want to read about my entire adventure on the Camino? Check back in September when my book will be available!
Lazy evening. We sat in the sun and watched the rain clouds come and go.