Day 194 – 11 Sept, 2015
All we have to do is walk, right? How bad can that really be? Long distance walking is generally possible for most fitness levels, varying your pace based on your capabilities. Add in a weighted backpack and, in some cases, relatively new footwear and it takes no more than a day or so for blisters to begin. After 2 days, if left untreated, blisters can turn into open wounds. I was one of the lucky ones. My tendonitis was flaring up in a bad way, but I didn’t have any blisters. Maria, on the other hand, was not faring so well. I enjoyed her company and we somehow formed an unspoken partnership about walking The Way as a team. I was reluctant to leave her behind, yet there was nothing I could do to help. She mostly suffered in silence but she was falling further and further behind. By the time I hobbled into Pamplona on Day 3, I secured beds for both of us and Maria, having borrowed sandals from another pilgrim, joined me a couple of hours later.
After a few days on the Camino, everyone quickly develops a routine. We all had our morning rituals and our evening rituals, whether it included eating, drinking, stretching, or laundry. But the most important rituals of all involved tending to our wounds. Maria and I quickly took to sitting on the floor (she was often right in the doorway or otherwise in the middle of a walking path), peeling off dirty shoes and sweaty socks and examining our feet for the first 30 minutes or so after arriving at our albergue. Maria was more focused on blister care and I would aggressively massage my Achilles with Arnica cream and pain ointment to try to relieve my throbbing feet. The albergues were full of people with advice on how to treat such ailments, some of them actually skilled medical professionals and some of them only pretending to be skilled professionals, Dr. Blister falling somewhere in the gray area. Deciphering the difference was often a challenge, but whether we chose to follow prescribed remedies or not, the point is that the Camino network was already becoming quite a close-knit community. Everyone genuinely wanted to help and genuinely cared about whether or not someone could continue walking. Within only a few days, we were building lifelong friendships and unspoken connections with our fellow pilgrims.
In Pamplona, our priority was getting Maria fixed up so that we could continue on together. We took a rest day and she bought some Teva walking sandals and shipped her excess hair products back to Denmark so that we could enjoy another one of our favorite Camino rituals – wine and tapas. Already I could reflect back on my nerves from a few days earlier and I felt stronger. My feet were a mess and every step ached, but I was no longer alone. Every pilgrim physically arrives in Santiago with their own strength, calling on their own will and determination, but the camaraderie and support of a Camino “family” is another important element of The Way. Our journey had only just begun.