Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Banged Up and Bruised, But She Ain't Timid

Wow. Where to even begin?

I wondered as I made my way half way around the globe if there would be a day on the Camino that broke me. I would quickly find that Day 5 was just such a day. My absence from the blog has been a function of cell service and mindset, but in truth it has mostly been mindset. 

I struggled with the idea of sharing my most raw experience on the Camino so far and have ultimately decided that I would not be providing a truly authentic version of my experience without including it. 

Day 5 started out after a rough finish to Day 4, when I climbed the Hill of Forgiveness without much trouble but picked up a serious pair of blisters on my pinky toes on the way down. 

I waited in the town (I can't even recall which one now-- but I'll post to the "where I am now and where I've been" link on the right hand side) for the Farmacia to open which wasn't until 9am, which in reality was 9:20am. After some minor foot surgery I was repackaged and back on The Way by 10am. This was entirely too late. Temperatures quickly reached near 90 and every hill seemed designed to be as torturous under foot as possible. Each step on rocky stones felt like it created a bruise somewhere deep in the tissue of my foot. There were no pilgrims before or after me for what seemed like miles. So after about 7km, which took me nearly 3hrs to climb with my mangled feet, I broke down. I begged God to knock it off with the hills. Every hill simply lead to another turn in the road with yet another hill to climb. I was, in a word: defeated. 

So I plopped my exhausted, aching body and throbbingly painful feet down in the only shade I had seen in hours and wept. Between a blackberry bush (my favorite) and an olive tree (the tree of life, and this day being the first one I had ever seen in-person) I sat in their combined shade and cried; a wholly and completely defeated pilgrim. 

Crying out to God, feeling like an absolute failure, I had only one place to turn in this digital age: my iPhone. I looked at the time to realize it was nearly 6:30am at home and I dialed up my father. And over the next 2hrs my father, a saint himself, coached me through the next 5km to an albergue where I stopped for the day. He rightfully pointed out that I had started from St. Jean 5 days before with approximately 12hrs of sleep over the previous 4 days. I was-- 7.5days after leaving Boston- still severely lacking basic recooperation from travel and had since slammed my body with 60+ miles on foot. 

So I climbed into a lovely albergue, grabbed a hot shower, washed and hung my clothes, popped a tylenolPM and slept.  I slept for several hours until dinner, practically slept through the meal and went back to bed. (Think Carrie in Sex and the City, after the non-wedding). Those few sentences simply do not do justice to the torturous hours that strung together to create this day.  

But I woke up feeling mentally, spiritually and nearly physically restored. If only my feet had the miraculous healing the rest of me received from the badly- needed sleep. The least ideal way to heal a blister of course is to wrap them up, shove them back into hiking boots, sweat and stomp on them for 20k day after day. 

So this type-A, rule-follower has (reluctantly) fallen off the wagon. But a beautiful thing has also happened. I have been freed from "THE schedule". Having fallen about 10k behind the pack I find myself staying in places with a smaller herd and a slower speed. I dont know how to describe it exactly but it's more comfortable and more relaxed; less about a race and "keeping up" with where I'm "supposed" to be, and more about putting in a hard days walk and being able to say "I'm done" after a respectable distance. I find the Way more peaceful now with less people passing me all the time, more time for reflection and meeting more people with a similar approach to the Camino as my own. 

And in truth, it's probably freedom I badly needed. Now, if only my poor little feet would heal faster. They're making good progress each day but I know I slow the process by shoving them back into my boots, but that's ok. 

My body aches and pains are...persistent. It's hard to tell if they're getting better or just changing. The pain has crept from my feet to my calfs, knees, hips, and now that I'm using my trekking poles I wonder if my arms will soon hurt! None of it is unbareable, it just hurts. I feel like I've been sent to serious boot camp. 

The days have thoroughly begun to blur together, and hopefully I'll be better about blogging now that I've put the minor meltdown behind me. But I won't lie-- every day is a struggle. It is HOT, the climbs are not fun, and the feet hurt like holy hell. The first 10km seem like a mornings project, and the second 10km feels like it takes forever. And so it goes on, day after day (so far). 

The People: I've met some great people! I spent all day today walking with a German girl I met briefly a few days ago, and a fellow law school classmate of hers. They are a riot. Oh! And all the Germans speak perfect English, it's awesome. They might as well be English, or Aussie or Canadians. You can nearly universally lump them in with
the English- speaking countries. 

Sarah and Max are 26 and 23 respectively, making them some of the closest to my own age I've met. And we constantly compare notes about "home" and where we are and we suffer common foot ailments but survived today because of each other. A highlight was when Max announced that when "I go to America, I will go first to a Wendy's and eat Baconators until I vomit, and then I will do it again!" he proclaimed with remarkable enthusiasm. "Have you ever been to America" I asked. "Not yet" he replied. "And have you ever had Wendy's" I inquired. "No, but it sounds so amazing and I WILL have it!"  So funny what we all find exciting in foreign places. 

The stories go on and on and now that I am equipped with Spanish Neosporin and some muscle anti inflammatory called Radio Salil, I hope that my body heals, my feet repair and that soon all of this tearing down will begin to rebuild. 

After all "great accomplishments are not the result of timid attempts" and even if
this little girl has been banged and bruised, the one thing she ain't, is timid. 



  1. Oh my gosh! Wow! Just as I imagined the journey. I too wondered if or when the day would come when I'm on my Way that I would be broken. I'm a stubborn adventurous girl and by gollie I just would die rather than quit. But you know as I get older there is a serenity to slowing down. Being purposeful. Wow. I knew you could push through. And especially the struggle is worth a million to hear.lm

  2. Slower is good. It's your Camino and you don't have to "keep up" with someones else's idea of what the recommended pace should be to be successful in it's completion. Perhaps your break down was a message for you to slow down so you could experience a more meaningful journey. Still reading your blog with great intrest.

  3. Sorry to hear about your ailments, but it sounds like you may have had a revelation which will make your journey all the more meaningful. Hang in there. You are giving me much to think about before I take the journey myself.

  4. Drink more wine and all will be put right :). Hold on, hang tough .