What a day, y'all. I'm exhausted, and a touch homesick, and when I took off my bandages tonight part of the protective skin on the (now large) blister on the bottom of my foot ripped off leaving it raw, painful, and susceptible to the "blister in blister" phenomenon.
In a word, I am cranky.
I do not want to write this post. I don't not want to, Sam I Am. (hey, just being honest)
Today I walked from Rabanal to Molinaseca. That's 31.6k (19.6 miles) including a lot of uphill and a lot of steep downhill. And it was on hell of a workout. Let me tell you how hard every muscle in your body (or at least the waist down) works to stabilize you. HARD. Know what that means, now? I am firmly in the camp of those unable to ever be comfortable. Everything aches, in every position, after mere seconds.
What makes me especially grumpy about all of this is that today started SO WELL. I should have known...
I slept so well at the charming little albergue and awoke to my feet feeling the best they have since I started. I didn't wind up leaving early since the weather was in the 50s and it was quite windy. I departed at 7:20am. For the first 6k of the morning (which was uphill by the way) I had zero foot pain.
I climbed on to Cruz de Ferro, the highest point on the Camino and was there for about 20m. The atmosphere was celebratory. Everyone was taking pictures for one another a top the massive pile of rocks and leaving their own behind. Me included.
And so I trekked on through a track narrowed by billowy brush which was butterfly haven. So many of them perched on flowers and I was able to get a few pictures to show you. The weather was perfect with the sun now out and a light breeze blowing. And now that my pack was less the bag of rocks I brought, I felt like I was flying. Life was oh so good. I made it a little further down the way and stopped briefly for a granola bar and a few sips of soda. At 10k- and agressive 10k at that- this was a little longer than I usually go before taking my first break to let my feet dry out. But when I stopped this time, I didn't let my feet dry out. (This is where the music changes to something ominous)
The next 7.5k were horrid. I don't know what else to tell you. Steeply downhill (and I mean steep!) my steps were shortened to 6inches since downhills are not only the biggest cause of injuries (think knees and ankles) but also because they are also one of the bigger causes of blisters. All of that downward sliding in your shoes can wreak havoc on your feet. I know from personal experience and I was determined not to repeat my mistakes. The trail was garbage. Rocky and almost never even, causing you to criss-cross aimlessly to find the best footing and adding God knows how many steps in the process. Totally inefficient. It could be worse I kept telling myself. It could be hotter, or worst of all-- it could be WET. Then you have a real potentially-dangerous disaster on your hands. So I took my time. But every muscle from my belly-button down worked overtime to stabilize my steps while my eyes darted in my head constantly searching out the best possible foot placement. It took me nearly three hours to cover 7.5k.
And at the end of now 17k I knew my feet had long been pruned. You know how your fingers get when you've been in a pool too long? That's how my feet were. Which is an especially bad combination since wet skin stretches and causes friction. When I finally arrived in the next town, I was genuinely scared to remove my socks and bandages, fearful that I had acquired new blisters. Thank God, I had not. Taking my time had paid off. Sort of.
Only 3.5k to the next town. It was relatively easy going though by now the ache and pain in my feet was setting in pretty good.
The next town is tiny and I stop and get some more water. I can't drink enough water. Can't ever seem to quench the thirst. CRAP. The guidebook says that the next 6.5k are steeply downhill (again). Oh hell no. I check the map in my guidebook. I pull up the maps app on my phone. No service. Welp...I'm making an educated guess that this town is connected to the next by one of those smooth black things...called a road. I took out my sandals and slid my bandaged feet into them to see how they would respond. Tinder to be sure but not unbearable. Better than the hiking sandals by a lot. Ok! Showtime!
The next 6.5k would take 7k by road but I was willing. Honestly it didn't even feel like a choice. I had to do it. But I wouldn't recommend it under normal circumstances. The switchbacks down the mountain created hairpin turns that were dangerous with no shoulder. I managed ok but I did get yelled at by one man. Listen buddy, I realize that this isn't recommended but I'm vigilant and frankly I don't have the ability to do this another way.
I made it in to town and beelined for the first church. No mass. Beelined it to the second church. No mass. Ugh. If you think mass can be hard to find on the Camino (when you actually need it) good luck finding confession, or someone who will hear it in English.
One of my other big concerns all day (besides missing mass on a Sunday) was that there wouldn't be a pharmacy in Molinaseca. But again, God provided. They didn't have exactly what I was looking for of some things but they had enough and I'll be able to make do, I think.
Turns out that Molinaseca is a charming town with a river that you're welcome to swim in and nice grassy banks for sunbathing. How do I know? I think the whole town was out. Really quite fun actually.
So after running around town to the churches and pharmacy it was time to find a bed. A room overlooking the river would be nice. "Completo" she told me. But she did recommend a hotel at the far end of town. I looked it up and found out it was a 4-star with room service and air conditioning and wifi. Sold. So I walked. Well, hobbled was more like it. I hobbled past restaurants, and grocery stores, and I hobbled past little stores, until I arrived at the edge of town. And there it sat: New, modern, and beautiful. I went inside and inquired about a room. He'd give me a single for 50 Euros (pretty good considering everything I saw for it online started at at least double). And then the kicker: it's Sunday evening so the restaurant is closed. No food. No room service.
I'm not starved so although this makes me grumpy, I'm glad to have the lesser price and I'll make do with a granola bar or two. Plus that will lighten my load tomorrow. So I make it up the stairs (the elevator is out) to my room, which is nice. I thank the guy and shut the door and do as I usually do: collapse. Unsnap the pack, drop it on to the floor and sit. It really doesn't matter what I sit on, but I usually hope for the ability to sit and then lay back all the way. So this means the bed or the floor but I'm usually so gross that I try to avoid the bed. So I laid there for 10m, not making a sound. Dreading looking at my feet. Dreading already the stinging I know the shower will cause on my blisters. And definitely not enjoying the way I smell. So I get up.
I undo my bandages and although I seem to have gone without any new additions (thanks be to God), the little incident I told you about causing my worst blister now to be raw and vulnerable occurred. I cry.
Not out of pain mind you, but out of sheer frustration. COME ON I yell, throwing the bandages. And then I feel them. The tears that slowly begin to drip down my face. I've been sitting here for about 60seconds now and my hips begin aching their slow, painful ache. I topple over sideways, shoulders falling to the floor like a hammer. "That's actually a little better" is what I actually thought...until that position too began hurting.
I put my body through a meat-grinder today. I know I should be grateful that I didn't sprain an ankle, turn out a knee, get hit by a car, get badly sunburned, or get any new blisters. But I'm still feeling slighted. Why couldn't I just get through today with my blisters healing? Why couldn't I just get the food at the hotel, as advertised? Why doesn't the wifi work? Why can't I just take something that will completely alleviate the aches? Why must I miss my husband so badly in this moment? Why the hell did I ever think it was smart to come down this again?
Today isn't the worst day I've ever had on the Camino, but it wasn't fun. Well those first 10k were. But the rest, those sucked. It was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kinda day y'all.
So it's 8pm, I've washed my clothes in the sink, taken ibuprofen and tylenolPM on an empty stomach and I just want this day to be over. I'll deal with my feet in the morning and although I have a strategy for how to bandage the bister situation from hell, I'm clueless as to how I'll actually walk on it.
But that can wait for tomorrow, too.
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