Camino de Santiago: Day 5 (Christina)

From Cerauqui to Los Arcos (35.6 km)

Sore feet are my companions on the Camino today.  I get up around 6:00 which seems to be the norm now and I make two crucial errors before I even begin to walk.  First, I toss one of my water bottles into the garbage.  So far I haven´t used it because water is plentiful along the Camino.  Why carry the extra weight? Second, I decide to wear my wool socks with my sandals to give my feet some extra cushioning….what was I thinking?

At this point I have problems with both feet: a blister that is just festering on the bottom of my right toe on the right foot and pressure spots on the inside of each foot, on the bone just below the big toe.  Each step hurts but after awhile it just becomes part of the walk.  I am deluded into thinking my feet are not as bad as I had originally thought.

The scenery is beautiful today as I pass through vineyards, gentle hills, fields of wild flowers.  The terrain is easier too thank goodness.  But it is stinking hot and humid.  By 8:00 the heat is almost unbearable.

Elizabeth, the Swiss women I met last night, is ahead of me.
She is a fast walker and I can’t catch up.  I give her a nickname today:
she carries a large umbrella on the back of her pack
and she sings as she walks.  She reminds me of Mary Poppins
and I’m sure she’s going to just fly away at any moment. 

I am not in a very good mood today.  There aren´t many pilgrims around so I am stuck with my own miserable company, no one to distract me from myself. Of the few pilgrims I meet, no one seems to want to talk.  Maybe I´m not the only one in a bad mood today.

I love these markers on the ground as I pass through towns.
Each is so original like this one with the cyclist on the side. 

I walked behind this group of nuns all though a small town.
They were carrying palm leaves in their hands. 

When I reach Estella, I find a large grocery store where I buy a sports drink similar to  Gatorade and I down 500 ml on the spot.  I know I am dehyrdated and almost immediately start to feel better, even my mood starts to improve.  But I don´t think I´m really thinking straight because I´m looking for a plastic poncho and ask at the grocery store which doesn´t have one.  As I´m filling my water bottles with the sports drink, I see a camping store across the street and think that would be a good place to buy camping supplies.  Doesn´t even occur to me to go there to find my poncho.

I then pass a commercial winery that has kindly provided a water tap for Pilgrims to refill their water bottles, AND a wine tap.  Yes, a tap that dispenses wine.  Well, I fill up my water bottles with water as I know I will need it for the walk ahead, but fortuitously, I have just finished drinking a coke and have an extra bottle on hand.  So I fill some wine into the bottle and drink it slowly.  Not bad.   I only have a few sips because I still have a long way to go.

Enjoying just a taste of wine in my coke bottle at the wine fountain.

The first 13 km have gone by very quickly today, but as the sun gets higher in the sky, I go slower and slower.  I am plodding along like an old work horse and keep saying: slow and steady wins the race even though I know this isn´t a race.

Just past the wine fountain, I find this old church that
offers an escape from the searing heat.

Inside the church, I find I am alone.  I set down my pack,
take off my shoes and rest for a while. 

This is what I´m thinking about today:  I am noticing that with all the people I am coming in contact with, some attract me and some repel me.  I actually feel an energy emanating from some people – both positive and negative.  Now, I´ve heard about the concepts of energy and chakra and such things and honestly have been rather a skeptic about it all.  But now I´m actually feeling the energy of people.  It´s really weird and hard to explain.  I´ll give you a couple of examples.  A couple of nights ago, when I was in Cizur Minor, I had to pick a bunk out of about 25.  There was a handful of people already occupying beds and I was instinctively drawn towards a bed next to a woman called Layla (yes, this is the Layla from Denmark who was part of our dinner party later that night).  I felt a peacefulness about her and a soothing energy from her.  I immediately took the bed next to her and we have become good Camino companions ever since.

Here´s another example.  Last night after dinner, I returned to my room and when I entered the room I immediately felt a negativity in the room.  I was shocked because the room had felt so peaceful earlier.  And then I saw three new women had arrived and were creating a bit of commotion as they were settling in.  They spoke a language I did not understand, and they were talking loudly and harshly.  Their presence had altered the energy in the room. And I felt it strongly!  I have no idea what to make of all of this and I hope I find someone to talk about it because this is so foreign to me.

Ok, let me get back to the day at hand.  I arrive in Villamayor de Menjardin at 1:00 pm feeling in very good spirits (maybe that wine and the sports drink helped a little).  My feet are feeling bearable but maybe I´m just used to the pain by now.  Regardless, my body feels strong and I am not tired in the least.  I must decide: do I stay or do I continue on to the next town 12.3 km away?  I estimated it would take me just over 3 hours and I figured I could do it so off I went.

I am surprised to see Elizabeth is ahead of me
just outside Villameyor.

I could have stopped here and saved myself a lot of grief.

When I reach a sign that said 9 km to go, my confidence waivers.  My feet are starting to hurt in new places and the sun and heat are relentless.  There is no shade on this stretch of the Camino and it feels unbearable (later I find out it is 38C not including humidity).  One kilometre later, I must sit down and find the courage to take off my socks and assess my feet.  I don´t want to do this.  I am afraid of what I might find.  Sure enough, my baby toe is a bloody mess and new blisters have formed on both feet.  I look around at my beautiful, serene surroundings and can see up and down the Camino for miles – not a soul in sight for many kilomtres.  I am alone, alone with my messy feet, and 8 km to go.

It’s a long, lonely road with no shade, no pilgrims, just me and my blisters.

After feeling sorry for myself for a few minutes, I snap out of it and get to work with my medical kit, bandaging things up as best I can.  At this point two pilgrims show up, seemingly out of nowhere, two French ladies, a little older than me.  They stop and show real concern.  They only speak French. One is a nurse, how lucky I am.  She looks at my feet and what I am doing and says I will be ok, just go slowly.  There is nothing really she can do to help me.   But they do tell me where they are staying, they say it is really nice, and offer to phone ahead to make a reservation for me.  They are concerned that I will arrive so late that there will be no bed for me in town.  I actually decline their offer, maybe a little too rigid for my own good, as I am quite adamant that I want this Camino of mine to just happen, without any planning.

At this point, I decide to put my hiking shoes on, don´t ask me why because I don´t know what I was thinking.  Maybe I just wasn´t thinking straight at this point.  Anyways, I have to empty out my entire pack to get my hiking shoes from the bottom and I put my sandals in the bottom and refill my pack.  Within a few steps I know I have made yet another mistake but I just don´t have the energy to empty my pack again…I just want to keep walking and be done with all of this.

It is now about 4:00 in the afternoon and I am suffering under the blistering sun (haha but it really wasn´t funny).  As I hobble along in pain I wonder why I pushed myself, why couldn´t I just be content and stop at the last town.  Why do I always need to do more?

By now it has been several kilometres since the last water tap and I am starting to run low on water. Why, oh why did I get rid of that extra water bottle in the morning?  Now I need to ration my water so I devise a system to figure out how far I am going before I take a drink: 100 steps equals 10 meters.  I am trying to do math to figure out how much water to drink ever half kilometre.  Why do I resort to doing math when things get really tough, aren´t I suffering enough already?

I am relieved when I finally see Los Arcos in the distance.  I am out of water
and food.  My last snack was an hour earlier when I remembered I still had
the chocolate bar from Italy (remember, Chris gave it to me in St. Jean Pied
de Port).  It was completely melted and I ate it with my spoon – chocolate soup. 

Finally I reached the town at about 5:45 pm.  I had been on the road for 11 hours.  I must have been delirious at this point because I don´t stop at the first Albergue.  No, I decide to search out the ¨nice¨ Albergue the French ladies are staying at which happens to be at the other end of town.  When I get there, they have one bed left.  Normally, I accept the bed sight unseen, but something didn´t feel right in this place and I asked to see the room first.  Maybe it was the lady who grabbed my walking sticks covetously and kept saying how nice they were.  She showed me the room (without relinquishing my walking sticks) and it was awful – small, stuffy, full of people and their stuff.  I say no thanks.  She hangs onto my sticks as we walk back to the office and then she shows the sticks to her husband and then her elderly mother who proceeds to get up and walk around the room with them, admiring them tremendously.  I am convinced if I stay herethat would be the end of my walking sticks.

Next I go to the Municipal Albergue where I find they have plenty of beds in the dormitory which holds 30 bunk beds spaced six inches apart.  No thanks.  What is wrong with me?  Can beggars really be choosers at this point in time?  So I walk back into town (haven´t I walked enough today) and check on of the last two hostels.  The first is completely full, not even a corner on the floor to spare for me.  I then drag myself back to the first Albergue at the entrance to the town (I´ve probaly walked an extra 2 km at this point) and now I´m certain they will be full too.  I am encouraged when I walk in and find two girls in front of me getting beds.  Sure enough they had beds.

When I walk into my bedroom, there are six bunk beds and all the bottom bunks are spoken for.  As I check out my options, a young lad in front of me asks me in Spanish if I prefer the lower bunk.  Of course, I reply.  Before I know it, he has moved his stuff to the top bunk and I have the lower bunk.  I am moved by his kindness.  Turns out the two ladies who came in before me and are also in my room, are from Ireland, AND they are both nurses. After showers and laundry, they help me patch up my feet and give me strict orders: no more than 20 km tomorrow.  And then they invite me to join them for dinner.

Dinner was a hoot.  The Irish girls (Eleanor and Sinead) are so much fun! We are also joined by Alex from the States who I immediately like.  We wolf down our Pilgrim´s dinner and even eat extra ice cream.  We are so hungry.

Back at the hostel, we hang around the common area for a while, enjoying good conversation.  We finally hit the sack close to 11:00.  Another good day on the Camino!


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