Camino de Santiago: Day 18 (Christina)

From Calzadilla de los Hermanillos to Mansilla de las Mulas (24 km)

By bus from Mansilla de la Mulas to La Virgen del Camino

Off to an early start today at 6:45 am.  I have an 18 km stretch ahead of me before the next town.  I hate these long, uninterrupted stretches as they seem to go on forever.  I have new blisters on my feet even though I only walked 20 km yesterday.  I am very frustrated with my feet….every step of every kilometre of every day has been painful so far.  Is this my curse for the rest of the way?

I am intrigued by my shadow this morning.  It is on my left side, very elongated over the farmers´ fields as the sun is beginning to rise.  I am sure my shadow has always been on my right hand side in the morning, and I am puzzled why it is now on my left.  I am still heading West as the sun is rising behind me.  I watch my shadow walk and I am amused. Hop, hop, hop it goes…is that what I look like when I walk?  I don´t think I am losing my mind, I just think it is entertaining.  As the morning progresses, my shadow shrinks with the rising sun, and slowly moves in front of me.  I think there must be some deep metaphor I can derive from my shadow, but it eludes me.  It is just my shadow, keeping me company on this very long, lonely stretch.

The scenery is beautiful this morning as I am walking along a road that passes through farmer´s fields.  The farmers are on their tractors cutting the hay, moving it into rows and then converting the cut hay into neat rectangular blocks.  I am fascinated by the different pieces of machinery that handles these different tasks.  I have never seen this in progress and it makes me think of my father-in-law, Denis who has lived on a farm most of his life and to whom bringing in the hay is second nature.  He would probably laugh at me, such a city girl I am.  And he would probably have a funny joke to say as well.

Within about an hour, I catch up to Emily and then to Laila both of whom left before me.  I´m moving at my usual pace, again, finding I can handle the pain in my feet when I walk faster.  I´m probably doing more damage at this pace, but it´s a catch 22 as far as I´m concerned.  Damned if I do and damned if don´t walk faster.

Laila looking rather exotic as she protects herself from the sun.

I walk alone for about three hours and then I catch up to Laila again and we walk together for the last hour into Religiosa.  This is where Chris spent last night and I can´t believe he walked so far in one day.  My feet just won´t let me go that far.  Laila and I walk together to the next town 6 km away.  We are dying for our morning coffee and somehow missed all the coffee shops in Religiosa.

Easy and Cheap – I like the sound of that!

In Manzilla, we stop at the first open restaurant for coffee and we run into Patrick and Thomas, the very same guys who Pauline told me about in her story about the shenanigans in Pamplona which seems like an eternity ago.  I have never met them, but Laila knows them and apparently they have met Chris too.  Paul is with them too; he is from Holland and began his walk from his home town.  He has been walking for two months already.

These guys are really funny and as we settle in for coffee, followed by beer (for me) we have a discussion about nudist beaches and parks which are very popular in Germany which is where Thomas is from.  Patrick, from Belgium, tells us that he will only take his vacation with his family (wife and son) to naturalist places, whether it is camping or whatever.  His wife would not even consider going to a beach unless it is a nudist beach.

I tell them about how conservative we are in Canada and give an example of the girl who challenge the law that prohibits female toplessness in public places in Ottawa.  Even though she won her case, and this happened a number of years ago, it is still very rare to see a woman go topless on a beach in Ottawa.

Patrick then tells us a very funny story.  He is suntanning in his yard in Belgium, in the nude of course, when he hears is doorbell ring.  He puts on a pair of shorts quickly, answers the door and finds two men who are butt naked except for thong bikinis.  When they see him, they turn and run away, down the street to a news crew.  Patrick thinks this is some kind of game, so he pulls off his shorts and chases after them down the street.  Once he reaches them, they are all laughing at him and then they interview him.  Apparently the two guys are a couple of crazy Aussies who have a TV show where they do outrageous things.  All of this is captured on film.  Patrick proudly tells us of the day he gathered his entire family together to watch the episode in which he is featured, his only disappointment is that they blurred out his private parts, the best part of the show in his opinion. :)

A little church in Mansilla.  Again, the streets are deserted.

The boys head off into Leon, and Laila and I head to the bus station.  We have both decided to take the bus through Leon to the other side; my feet are throbbing, and her knee is bothering her.  The bus takes us downtown and then we somehow manage to figure out where the bus stop is to take us to the outskirts on the other side, to a place called La Virgen del Camino where we will stay the night.

We settle into the Municipal Albergue which is absolutely beautiful, located in an old convent.  Everything is new and sparkling clean.  We are both happy with our decision to pass through Leon.

We go about our separate routines and somehow we lose each other and end up eating separately.  I am quite miserable because I am in so much pain with my feet.  I even consider skipping dinner because it hurts so much to walk, but my hunger pains get the better of me.  Tonight I forego the pilgrim´s menu and opt for a hamburger, french fries and a beer – comfort food.

As I hobble slowly back to the Albergue, an old man passes me and wishes me a Buen Camino.  I don´t even have my back pack on and I look like a pilgrim.  Then an old lady passes me, but stops me in my tracks and asks me if I am a ¨peregrina¨.  I say yes.  She wants to know where I began and when I tell her St. Jean Pied de Port, she looks at me with wonder and respect.  I am a real pilgrim in her eyes.  Then she asks me how I am feeling and I tell her I am in a lot of pain, my feet are full of blisters, and I can barely walk.  She looks intently into my eyes, and then down at my feet, and then quite unexpectedly, she gives me the biggest bear hug imaginable, especially from such a tiny woman.  As she hugs me, she is talking fast in Spanish.  I have no idea what she is saying, but it is comforting nonetheless and I am so touched by her sponanteous gesture of caring and kindness, that I start to cry.  She hugs me harder and then releases me, pats my arm with some final reassuring words and then wishes me, with the deepest sincerity, Buen Camino.  You know, I really needed that hug!

I cry all the way back to the Albergue but when I enter the common area full of strangers, I wipe my tears away and push my pain down deep.  I talk to a few people, including a priest whose advice to me is to walk as many kilometres as I can each day, 35 if possible, and not to take a bus.  When I try to explain I simply can´t do it physically, he doesn´t seem to hear, or understand.  Then Laila comes in and I tell her what happened with the woman on the street.  As I tell her, I begin to cry again.  I am in such pain and I confess to her that I don´t think I can continue.  I am thinking it might be time to pack it in.

Laila is very comforting to me and she looks closely at my feet.  They are very, very swollen in addition to all the blisters.  She suggests I soak them in cold water for a while and even keeps me company as I sit in the bathroom with my feet in a laundry tub.  She gets my towel for me so I don’t have to walk extra steps.  She is so kind and caring towards me.

My feet feel much better after the soak and some of the swelling has gone down.  I decide I will wait until the morning to see what I do next.

Before I go to bed, I thank Laila for her kindness and encouragement and for being such a good friend to me today.  I tell her not to worry about me, that she should get up in the morning and continue on without me.  I assure her I will make the best decision for me in the morning, and hopefully our paths will cross again before Santiago.

Posted in the Albergue lobby…..305 km seems like a long way to go
especially with my blistered feet. 

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2 Responses
  1. Hi Christina, I’m the person who went on the Camino in April and May — we met through my blog. I’m just catching up on your and Chris’s Camino. Thank you so much for your observations both inside and out. It’s interesting to see how the Camino is working on each of you. I’m so sorry about your feet. I’m impressed by your perseverance and honesty and openness to new experiences and new friends. I’m especially grateful for your entries on Grañon since I will be an hospitalera there in October. Yesterday I was interviewed on my hometown radio station and was asked about my worst moments on the Camino. My low was in Burgos where the cold rain and loneliness and infernal headwind all piled on to make me think I could not continue. Now I look back and understand that for me it was an important part of being a pilgrim. Just discovered that the patron saint of open sores (among other diseases) is Saint Peregrine. I’ll start talking to him about your feet. May the road rise to meet you for the remainder of your Camino. Barbara

  2. Angus says:

    I love the story about the old woman. Too bad you don’t speak Spanish. She must have been praying for you.