• Theresa Fersch

11 Soggy Miles O Porriño

Last night after we were showered and settled in, we visited the cathedral though we did not pay to take the tour and we got our camino stamp. From this point on, we need to get two stamps a day to prove we’re hiking the Camino in order to get credit when we arrive in Santiago. 

We got wonderful gin and tonics and tapas in a small restaurant our Airbnb lady recommended and then had dinner at an Italian place. We were told to eat on the Main Street and not by the cathedral because those places are expensive and “not very good.” We ran into some German pilgrims at both places which was funny so we sat with them. Eventually Julia came in with her new friends. She was planning to leave the Camino when I met her because she wasn’t enjoying it the second time around as she enjoyed her first Camino last year. But seeing her now, with her new friends, she said tomorrow she’s planning on hiking 40kls! So I was happy to see her enjoying herself. 

The nice gentlemen from England I walked with, named Bill, saw us and in true pilgrim form, walked into the Italian restaurant and just sat down with us without even asking. It was great to have him though! We talked all night about our different hiking experiences.

In the morning, our Airbnb owner said she would make us breakfast and we agreed to sleep in until 7:30 AM. I was thinking that would give me an extra hour to sleep but I forgot about the time change so when 730 rolled around, I was still fast sleep and it was dark out. When I got downstairs to the kitchen, the Airbnb lady had the biggest most beautiful spread of food. We started with eggs, bacon and sausage and then had homemade bread, marmalade’s, baked apples, pound cake, fruit, and vegetables, meats, and cheeses. It was amazing! We ate until we were completely stuffed but when she return to the kitchen, she told us we did not eat enough! I took some food with me since there were a few stops today and we thank her whole heartedly for the amazing send off.

Since we already walked the Camino to the Cathedral last night, this morning, the lady told us to take the flatter route along the river and pass the cathedral. We were grateful for the sound advice as a long distance hikers never want to walk the same path twice. 

It began raining shortly after we started walking so we pulled out our umbrellas. Last night, Vegemite sent me an article saying a study found that people in their 40s who walk slower, may also have a higher risk of dementia and age faster than those who walk swiftly. So today as the guys forged ahead of me, I called out to them that my risk of dementia is much lower than theirs is because I’m taking twice as many steps. “I am actually walking two Caminos while you lazy guys slog through just one!”

My ankle was really hurting when I woke up this morning so I popped three ibuprofen (vitamin I), and I was feeling ok for the first couple of hours. We were doing a road walk for a good bit of the morning which was not fun, but it one point, we veered off to the right and up the hill. I’m not sure what happened, but as soon as I hit the elevation, I experienced what felt like an electrical shock that shot up my right leg from my ankle. I screamed and drop my umbrella. I did some angle rolls and the pain went away as quickly as it hit me. Brian offered to call me a cab but the mysterious pain was gone and I was fine to keep walking.

I’m very frustrated by the frequency at which I have to use the bano. Fortunately, there are slightly more trees to hide behind than we’ve had the last few days but it’s really uncomfortable to need the bathroom every ten minutes. At the end of the day, I found micro cuts all over my legs. I realized it was from squatting in thorn bushes for 15% of my day. 

Almost three hours into our hike, I was really starting to slow down. I was so relieved to see a cozy cafe at the top of a hill in a tiny town we were passing through. It would be the only real stop all day. When we got there, the Dutchman, the Germans from last night, and a guy from Seattle named Jim were resting. Simon the German said, “wow, you’re even lazier than we are. We left the albergue so late, the cleaning people threw us out.” Brian told them all about the amazing breakfast we had. In the meantime, I walked up to Simon and stood right next to him. “Simon, you call me lazy but your legs are literally twice the length of mine.” Everyone was was like WOW at our difference in height and several pictures were taken of us together. 

We talked to the Dutchman a bit more and learned his name is Danny. He said he was surprised that we were Americans because we were not loud and obnoxious and taking up the entire room. I’ve noticed a lot of negativity towards Americans since my last Camino. Since the last election, the rest of the world does not look too highly on Americans. As Brian and I walked on in the rain and I was thinking about how embarrassing it is to be an American right now, we passed a big van that said “for the USA!” and it had a bunch of backpacks and food in it. If you followed me on my last journey, you know that I don’t have much respect for these tourists who have their packs carried for them. Apparently, we are already entering that part of the Camino where people do not carry their own packs and they just have tour buses aid them the whole way. 

In fact, at a rest stop, Vegemite said that he had forgotten how superior he feels around “tourigrinos.” I told him, I was laughing this morning because as I was passed by a bunch of people without packs I recalled on my first Camino how hard I worked to not feel entitled or superior, but this morning, I thought to myself, “no, I am definitely better than these people.” LOL. 

While Vegemite forged ahead of us, Brian and I left within view of one of the other but walking separate for most of the day. It rained the entire morning, and we reached a crossroads in the trail. If we headed right, the day’s hike could be much shorter but it would take us through about 4 km of industrial land. If we headed left, we would take a longer more scenic route. Brian and I opted for the scenic route. That wasn’t fantastic either though. 

As I was walking in the rain this morning, pushing through the pain, I recalled a time about five years ago when Brian was on the Appalachian Trail and called me from a hospital with his most recent injury. I remember I could not understand why someone would put themselves through all of that pain and suffering. Today I realized a lot of people ask me why I do this to myself and I understand where they’re coming from because I used to wonder the same about Brian. I also realized that I have frequently asked myself that question of women who bear children, especially those who bear more than one child. I never understood it. I could see making that mistake one time but why when millions of women almost died during child labor, 18 months later, choose to do it again? I believe it’s because they’re doing something extraordinary, because they are doing something that pushes them to the brink of their physical and emotional limits, they do it because many people can’t, they do it because when it’s over, they are a different person and they have changed their life forever, mostly for the better. So I understand that now. Some women bear children and I hike across countries. 

Other than getting lost in my thoughts, today’s hike was not great. There were indicators that other people also did not enjoy today. For instance, as we walked through one section, we could see the remnants of someone throwing a tantrum. A guidebook was shredded into hundreds of pieces and food was thrown all over the ground. Sometimes you’ll see that on really steep climbs as people are desperate to shed some weight, but that’s not what this was. Someone was just having a really bad day. It was pretty much the only thing I heard Brian laugh about all day. He was very demoralized by all the rain and road walking. 

Shortly thereafter, we caught up with Vegemite who was sitting by a vending machine under a small wooden shed. There were just no stops today. I had to go to the bathroom for the 7th time in 5 hours but the shed was surrounded by thick thorns and there was nowhere to hid. I had no choice but to go right behind the vending machine. The guys stood in front and watched for any passing pilgrims. Vegemite said he too went to the bathroom numerous times in the last few hours. I told him that makes me feel better because I was beginning to wonder if I had a bladder infection. He laughed and said he wondered that about himself too. I joked yesterday that it’s weight loss and that could be the case but I really don’t know.

As we sat and waited to get feeling back in our feet, the obnoxious group of day hikers with only tiny packs sped by us without even saying Buen Camino. Brian was like, “why are they even carrying a day pack? What could they possibly need in the 4 kilometers they’re walking?”  “I don’t know. I just want to stab people today” said Vegemite.  Needless to say our spirits were not super high today. We also realized the one hour time difference, leaving later than usual, and having no real stops really messed up our internal clocks today. It was already 1pm and it certainly didn’t feel like it. I decided to get a snack from the vending machine since I hadn’t eaten much since breakfast and couldn’t stop laughing when I saw the machine was also stocked with condoms. “Guys, I think we’re doing this trip wrong.” I joked. “I can’t even find a place to pee. Who on EARTH needs condoms out here?”

The final 3 miles of our walk today were pretty awful. With the highway to our right and fields of used tires to our left, I buried myself deep under my umbrella, making it impossible to see more than 2 feet in front of me. I was confident I was not missing anything amazing. In the last mile we did walk through a beautiful wooden park with a lovely stream and park benches along the way but I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to be done for the day. We cut off the last kilometer of the trail by illegally crossing some railroad tracks. Some younger local who was sitting by his window at a house nearby, cheered us on and whistled at us as we walked across.

We met Vegemite at a cafe and I asked for some kind of zumo (juice) and a “simple sandwich.” When it came out, I was quite pleased to realize it was a grilled cheese sandwich with some ham. I immediately started feeling better as I devoured it and considered ordering a second. I brought snacks for the day because I knew there weren’t any real stops all day but I underestimated how much I can eat right now. 

Vegemite said his chafing was bothering him. I told him I brought medicated cream for that and I’d appreciate if he took it off my hands so I wouldn’t have to carry it but he said it wasn’t too severe. He left before us to head for the Airbnb but Brian and I stuck around for a while as our feet were really hurting. We walked on a bit more to find our Airbnb which was another full apartment. My feet and ankle were hurting something awful so I laid on the bed and rested. 

I was thinking about those who stay in albergues look down on us the same way we look down on those who don’t carry their own packs. In a Camino facebook group, I just read someone screaming about how you can’t have a life changing experience if you are always comfortable and stay in a nice hotel. I agree entirely. But that’s because I’ve been there and I’ve done that. I have no interest in experiencing another life altering cosmic shift. Don’t have the energy for it. I also have no interest in proving anything anymore. I’d prefer to lie here on my comfy bed feeling quite satisfied with my accomplishments. Perhaps those who aren’t carrying packs also don’t need the approval of others to measure their self worth. Perhaps they’ve also “been there, done that.” Crap! I did it again! I got all self righteous just like on me last Camino. I don’t need to compare myself to them. Their actions in no way diminish my own accomplishments. And if I know that, there’s really no reason to look down on them is there? It amazes me the things you think about when you lose the distractions of the every day hustle and bustle.

I passed out for a solid hour before waking up and showering. It’s starting to get cooler. I wore my jacket all day today and I’ll be wearing a sweater for The first time tonight. 






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