And we are back:
After 2 rest days in Logrono I was ready to join the Camino again. Kind of, at least.
I was actually sitting in the communal kitchen in a hostel in Logrono (talking with some other injured pilgrims) not sure what to do when all of the sudden I got a feeling that I really wanted to leave and start walking again. So I took my bag and off I went.
The only familiar face I saw, was – surprise, surprise – the annoying German man. Hey, was life trying to tell me something??
I only walked for 12 km that day to the small town of Navarette. Walking into the bigger cities and walking out of them usually did not belong to my favourite Camino days. The thing about most cities is that even though they do have quite often these amazing old towns with all their beautiful buildings, the suburbs are usually a rather horrible sight.
The Camino that day was packed again (it was Easter) – and that evening I experienced for the very first time that pretty much all hostels were booked out. Along the Camino you have different kinds of hostels. There are the private albergues, which allow people to make bookings in advance and there are the public ones – which do not take any bookings. Therefore it makes sense to show up early. Actually, isn’t it interesting how humans organise themselves – booking a hotel room or a table in a restaurant. Imagine a migratory bird on its way to Africa would book its resting place ahead of time… uhmmm… Anyway, just to give you an idea: in Navarette there are around 7 albergues – which can accommodate up to around 200 people. And that night they were all full. In the public albergue I was staying in they even put some mattresses on the kitchen floor so that those people who could not find a bed had a place to sleep. The next morning after returning from the bathroom to pick up my bag someone was already sleeping in the bed I had just slept in…I guess, the kitchen had not been too comfortable after all.
Otherwise I was not the only injured person in that hostel. Pretty much everyone was limping and moaning and it seemed I was rather staying in a hospital than a hostel.
And: I did find some new Camino friends. See, letting go is sometimes not as dramatic as you think it is. Our mind comes up with these crazy ideas, like: maybe you will never find friends again if you leave now and so on and so on… if you think about it, it quite often is just utter nonsense.
And after having had one relaxed walking day I, for some crazy reason, thought it would be a good idea to do another 25km day the next day…Because ankle injuries are just known to heal over night…
One of the nice things about walking the Camino is that you pass so many different regions and so many different landscapes. I was now in a region called La Rioja and for all of you wine lovers out there this might ring a bell.
It was the first cloudy day on my Camino and it was actually really pleasant. As much as I love the sun and warm weather, walking in colder weather is just so much easier.
After a short breakfast break in one of the small villages on the way I started to feel the pain. After the second stop in the next village the pain had reached level 6 out of 10 and just before arriving at my destination for the day – the small town of Azofra – the pain level had gone up to AHHHHHHHHH… And no, it was not my swollen ankle that gave me so much pain. Due to the fact that I had forced my swollen foot into a compression sock the sole of my foot was now covered with blisters… yeah, another one of those ideas which, in hindsight, was maybe not the smartest…
So all there was to do in the evening was to drown my sorrows and numb my pain. One of the ladies I had walked with that day (and one of the few supporters of my idea to continue the Camino – she became my friend immediately, of course) had the fabulous idea to organise a wine tasting. And that is what we did. Each of us bought a bottle of wine and cheese and we had a fabulous evening.
And this is another thing I love about the Camino. You meet people from all around the world (here you see a nice cultural mix consistent of Italian, American, Hong Kong and German), from all different backgrounds and who are all in different phases of their life (to a certain extent I am referring to age here – but I don’t necessarily purely refer to the body’s age – so I think the word ‘phase’ might describe it a bit better). I wonder if this is also a problem of our society. I mean, it is great that nowadays we get to meet people who grew up in a very different cultural context. And there is so much to learn from that. However, I feel, we quite often only spend time with people who are in a similar phase that we are in – which is understandable, after all, they just seem to understand us the most. But: I think, there is so much to learn from people who are in different phases as well. After all, in their past they were potentially -at some point – in a similar phase to the one we are currently in and in the future we might be in a phase they are in now – or vice versa.
The next day I can pretty much sum up in one word: PAIN!!!!!!!!!!!
Immediately after getting up I realised that it would become a challenging day. I even struggled to go to the bathroom – but hey, I am an optimist (or just stubborn): 16km should still be doable, right?
The evening before, and encouraged by a fellow pilgrim, I had overcome my fear to ‘perform surgery’ on my foot. Even though I followed her expert advice on how to professionally pop a blister (I had borrowed a sewing kit from one pilgrim and a lighter to disinfect the needle with from another) I realised now that there was room for improvement in my surgical methods: the blister was REALLY painful, full of liquid again and inflamed… great…But hey, that was the first time I ever performed ‘surgery’ on myself – so I was still quite proud. 🙂
Walking that day felt like walking on broken glass – when you are a novice… I was in so much pain that there were times when I thought I would faint. This picture expresses probably rather well how I felt:
The last few kilometres before I reached my destination for the day, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, were incredibly difficult. I had to take a break approximately every five to ten minutes and I moved so slow that a turtle would have probably overtaken me.
After checking in I immediately went to my favourite Camino place: the chemist. Even though I tried to walk around town a little it proved to be almost impossible. So all I could do was to lie in my bed – and thats how I met another Camino friend. She was on the upper bunk and I was on the lower bunk. She had seven blisters on her feet – and half of my foot had turned into one big blister. However, she had done it more professionally. The Spanish (or Camino?) way of treating blisters is to thread the blister – in order to drain it. Just writing this makes me almost faint… it might have been the better way – but seriously: no! In the evening we both dragged ourselves to a bar right next to the albergue where we numbed our pain – AGAIN. But hey, we had to. It is not that we enjoyed it – it is after all a successful and scientifically proven method – at least up until the next morning 😉
That night, apart from the alcohol in my blood, something else happened. It was in the middle of the night and for one reason or another I was kind of awake. While lying in my bed I was looking at the bunk bed opposite me. And exactly that moment the Japanese man who was lying on the upper bunk fell out of his bed. I mean, wow, he must have gotten a proper shock. He kept lying on the floor for quite a while – I guess he must have really asked himself what the hell had happened. I wonder whether he had a dream about falling (the ones I quite often have just before falling asleep) before he hit the ground – just to find out that it had not been a dream…
Besides a mild hangover (where did I get that from?) I felt much better the next day. However, the blister which I had punctured with a needle (in an apparently not so professional way) had gotten badly infected. And this was so painful that I could not even wear any socks… the perfect condition for a long hike. So I was back in worrying mode, which in turn made me hang out in various cafes for several hours so that I could postpone my decision for as long as possible.
In order to keep myself busy I visited the cathedral – and thank God (almost literally) I did. The cathedral’s most eccentric feature: a hen and a rooster. Here is the legend behind it:
Legend tells of a German Pilgrim called Hugonell (Hugonell, really??) who was walking to Santiago with his parents, when they decided to rest at an inn in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. The owner of the inn´s daughter immediately fell in love with him; however her feelings were not reciprocated, so the girl, angered, placed a silver cup into his luggage and accused the boy of theft. Thieves at that time were punished by hanging, and this was the fate of Hugonell. His parents, saddened by his death continued the pilgrimage, and upon arriving in Santiago de Compostela, began their return journey to visit the grave of their dead son. When they arrived in Santo Domingo however, they found their son still hanging in the gallows but, miraculously alive. Hugonell, excited, said to them: “Santo Domingo brought back me to life, please go to the Mayor´s house and ask him to take me down”. Quickly, the parents arrived at the Mayor´s house and told him of the miracle. The incredulous Mayor, who was preparing to have dinner with friends, responded: “That boy is as alive as these two roast chickens we are about to eat,” and suddenly, the chickens came to life, sprouted feathers and beaks and began to crow, and so, to this day there is a saying about the town which goes: “Santo Domingo of the Way, where the roosters crow after being roasted”.
And I don’t know whether it was the church’s peaceful atmosphere or the rooster’s crow that brought me clarity, but as soon as I stepped out of the church it was clear: I had to go back to the medical centre. And here is the result:
And now even I could accept that it was time for another bus trip. So I was on my way to Belorado (approx. 22km away).
This time I found myself a REALLY nice hostel – with a pool. I mean, I could not use it – but hey, it had a pool to look at. 😉
After hanging around in the garden for quite a while, enjoying the view, I decided to go for a little walk around town. I also tried to find out whether my ankle was already back to normal or whether it wasn’t by doing some jumping (the internet says your ankle is OK when you can jump again). And well, at least I did find out that my ankle was not OK just yet.
On my way back to the hostel I passed by a church. Although I am usually not the kind of person who visits every single church, I stepped inside and sat down for a while. And for some reason whenever I wanted to leave something happened that made me stay. So, first some singing started, then the lights came on and finally mass started- so I stayed and stayed and stayed. A group of other pilgrims arrived just before mass – including some familiar faces. Mass itself did not take long – but it soon turned out that this priest’s biggest passion was (drum roll): singing. Yes, I would describe him as the singing priest. As soon as church was over he collected all of the pilgrims – ushered us to a separate room and sang with us. He had printed out the lyrics of several popular songs in all different languages and he was so passionate about it that no-one dared to leave – so we were kind of trapped in there for an hour. He surely had found his passion – I am not sure whether it is in religion but it definitely is in singing.
After a very cold night (temperatures at night were back down to around 0C) I had to get up very early because check-out was at 7am. This time I just saved myself the long decision making and worrying process and went straight to the bus stop – where loads of other people already waited. Weird that for some reason it makes us feel so much better about ourselves when we see that others struggle too (or maybe that’s just me). But imagine everyone would always just be superbly happy – and you would be the only one occasionally struggling with feelings of desperation, frustration, meaninglessness, depression, fear, confusion – or just being confronted with a life that has very different plans for you than the ones you had – yeah, that would suck. But knowing that pretty much everyone else is in the same boat does somehow help ;). I skipped around 45km and went straight to Burgos – a city of around 200.000 people and the historic capital of Castile.
In Burgos it was time again for: a single room!!! yay! My initial plan was to find a specialist to have a look at my ankle and tell me what to do (although I would have probably not listened anyway). But this proved rather difficult. With the help of the reception staff I managed to locate some foot specialist – but no one was really sure what that meant. Was it a doctor? Was it pedicurist? When I had finally located the foot specialist’s address and rang the bell and asked via the intercom whether they spoke English the only answer I received was a firm: No – before they hung up. And that was that.
In Burgos I saw a few familiar faces again (due to the fact that I had skipped a bit of walking by taking the bus I met some people from the initial Camino family again – which was super nice). We spent a rather beery afternoon on the square opposite the beautiful cathedral of Burgos. One of the pilgrims told me about his plan to cycle from Burgos to Leon – a distance of approx. 200km – and that sounded just wonderful! I could give my ankle some rest, still move and do all of that with a great bunch of people. This time there was no time for worrying, because I had to decide pretty much on the spot whether I wanted to join them because they were leaving the next morning. So while the others continued with their beery evening I limped as quickly as I could and organised myself a bicycle for the next day – before re-joining the group for another few more beers.
And that is the end of this blog post. Next time I will tell you about the little cycling adventure and a different sort of pain ;).
And obviously, I also have a little video for you. Enjoy.
So far I walked approx 200km, took a bus for around 100 km and I had been walking/driving along the Camino for 15 days.
To be continued… .