Day 17:

198 miles walked (12 limped and some of it ran), 302 to go!

Day 17: I’m a mess from the ankles down. Today was definitely my absolutely worst day on the Camino. I started off today by putting bandaids on all the blisters on my feet that I got from having to walk yesterday in the flip flops since I couldn’t wear my hiking shoes due to my painful big toe. I covered all the blisters and the pads of each foot, which were still incredibly sore, with kinesiology tape, which is a stretchy breathable tape. I put on my double layer socks and my Tevas, and headed out.

The day before was the warmest day so far on the Camino and this next day was one of the coldest with only the day I went over the Pyrenees being colder. As I walked out of the town, I was hoping the symbols I saw on the side of the church were not indicative of how my day was going to be.

The day started out with a long flat stretch, and the cold wind was blowing so hard that despite headphones that fit snuggly inside my ears, I could barely hear my audible book. With the wind, the temperatures were probably in the 40s. I could have tried to distract myself by chatting with another Pilgrim, but my feet were already so sore that I knew I was going to be poor company. It had also rained the night before, so the ground was quite wet and muddy in places which was not ideal for somebody walking in socks and sandals. The weather forecast also said that it should be starting to rain around 11 a.m. that morning. Also not ideal for somebody walking in socks and sandals.

As I walked, the mud was caking on the bottom of my shoes and some chunks of mud were flipping up into the backs of my sandals, so I would have to stop occasionally and clean it out.

After the long flat part, came a monster hill. At least it warmed me up as I hiked up it, but the wind increased and I was grateful for my multiple layers of clothing and my gloves, and my feet were even staying warm, albeit increasingly sore, but at least warm. As I climbed, the views were stunning.

As I walked down the backside of the mountain I just climbed, my feet were really causing me a lot of concern. I was feeling pain with every single step. I stopped a few times and sat on the side of the road, and took the sandals and socks off to inspect my feet, but they were covered in tape, so I couldn’t really see if things were worsening or not, but I could see the growing bulges of filling blisters. As I sat there, a few very kind Pilgrims paused and asked if they could help. I thanked them but really nothing short of them carrying me into the next town would help. I knew I had no choice but to keep going.

After about two and a half hours, I left the Burgos region and entered the Palencia region.

After what felt like an eternity, I reached a small town and there was a restaurant, so I decided to stop and have a meal and rest my feet. I ordered a delicious breakfast and that did manage to lift my spirits for a little while.

I also chatted with a couple of other Pilgrims who were also suffering their own aches, pains and blisters. A funny thing about the Camino is that a lot of the conversation centers around feet. It is perfectly socially acceptable to kick your shoes and socks off under the table during a meal and even show other Pilgrims the problems you’re having. A Brazilian guy showed me how both his feet up to the sock line were red, swollen and covered in rash; he thought it might be an allergic reaction to wool socks, sweat and laundry soap. An Italian guy recently showed me his 3 toenails that had turned black from the walk. Losing toenails is a battle wound I would like to avoid. But really, everyone in one form or another is in the same boat.

Soon it was time to hit the road again and it hadn’t started raining yet, so hopefully I could get to the next town before that happened. But before I did, I decided to take another look at my feet and I saw that between my toes was a huge open sore from where the flip flops had rubbed away the skin. Any future hopes of becoming a foot model have definitely been dashed :).

Sorry to include gross feet pictures here, but this would not be an honest blog about the Camino without them.

As I left, I knew I had 9 kilometers left (5.6 miles) to walk to the next town I was staying in which would probably take another 2 hours, but maybe more because of my slow, shuffling and painful steps. There would be no towns between the town I was leaving and the town I was heading to, so no possibility of giving up and hailing a taxi or any other such rescue.

As I carried on, I was trying to concentrate harder and harder on the book I was listening to, so I could forget about all the pain I was feeling. Every single step hurt and I could feel the blisters growing. I was really getting into a dark and miserable place. At one point, I took out my phone and turned on the GPS to see how much time remained. Another hour. It might as well have been 10. The road stretched out endlessly in front of me.

As I slogged along, I kept checking my phone feeling like a lot of time had passed, but each time it had just been minutes. I was torturing myself. Finally I decided my feet hurt if I walked slow and my feet hurt when I walked fast, so why didn’t I just run? I had sent my big pack ahead that day because I knew my feet wouldn’t be able to take the extra weight, so all I had was my day pack and my walking stick. So I switched my audible book to music, and I started to run.

I used to jog regularly and even though it had been years since I ran, I fell quickly into my old comfortable jogging rhythm. I started to cover ground a lot more quickly, and my feet actually started to get a little bit more numb and less painful. I came up on and startled two pilgrims as I went jogging past, and I just gave them a big smile over my shoulder. As I ran, I imagined my family and friends lining the road on each side and cheering me on. I could actually picture their smiling faces and saying the encouraging words they were posting on my blog and on Facebook. I could see my friend Linda saying, “You got this!” and my friend Dave saying, “Keep on keepin’ on!” I saw my aunt Ginger saying “So proud of you honey!” and there was LeWeldon shouting, “I love you bunches!” and Albert nodding, “Mad respect.” And there was Rob hollering, “I can’t wait to join you!” And my friends Tina and Karen saying, “We’re living vicariously through you!” And my friend Susan calling out, “Love you lady!” and Chuck laughing and saying, “Tear it up beautiful.” And my friend Lisa saying, “Kicking ass like I knew you would.” And Randy cheering, “Go Cuzzie go!” And my mom smiling and saying as I passed, “You’re on a journey that will change your life forever.” And there was Kevin who I teased mercilessly about wearing Tevas in SF shouting, “How ya liking those Tevas now?!” As I imagined all this, I was soon laughing and crying as I ran on.

Through alternating between jogging and power walking, I startled another pair of Korean Pilgrims I’d met before as I sped-walked past and one of the young guys just smiled and said, “Oooh, fast.” Soon I closed the distance to the next town and checked into a nice hotel for $40. I had even gotten there before my backpack which arrived a half an hour later. I asked the guy at the front desk for a room with a tub to soak my feet, but he said none of the rooms had tubs, so like a good Pilgrim, I made due.

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