Tag Archives: Camino Frances

Blisters, colds and rest days … 

As you walk the Camino there are two topics of conversations that crop up continuously… one is BLISTERS… the other REST DAYS… everyone has a story … this is ours…

35 Years!… It has been over 3 decades since I had a blister… Hell I thought I was immune. We hiked and hiked and hiked our butt’s off in preparation for the Camino… I had nary a hot spot. BUT Day 9 – I’ve got a painful blister on the ball of my foot… caused by sheer arrogance. I noticed the hotspot when we stopped in a little village 3 km from our ‘destination’… a quick fix and off we went. Could have stayed in that village but, no… had to press on. So, my reward for being pig-headed was a dime sized blister. The fix was to pierce the blister with needle & thread… leaving the thread in to facilitate draining as it healed…. build up the area around the site with moleskin – taking the pressure off the blister. 
Even with the ‘fix’ we had to cut the next day (day 10) short. By noon I was in enough pain to know I needed to rest my foot. The tiny village we stopped at had no Farmacia. When the hostess of the Albergue learned of my problem she left with a “momentito” and came back quickly with 3 feminine pads… in broken English she explained that other peregrinos had used them on the insoles of their shoes to cushion the blistered area. I was skeptical but foregoing my ‘macho’ instincts I took them with a quick “gracias”. Although skeptical, the more I thought about it the more it seemed like a good idea. I could modify the pad by cutting a ‘my blister’ sized hole, further relieving pressure. After several attempts at proper placement – i.e.- the hole was centered under the blister… it worked, brilliantly and would remain in my shoe until the blister was completely healed. I was back on track… a few km warm up and then I could work through the discomfort & into a regular rhythm.
All seemed on track as my blister healed. Day 12… Tilly walked while complaining of a ‘minor cold’. That morning 3 fellow peregrinos had taken the bus to Burgos ( the next large city) in order to get one of them to a doctor because her ‘minor’ cold gone major. Now it was Tilly’s turn…over the night she went into full blown suffering (as bad as any ‘man-flu’ I’ve ever had). It made no sense for her to walk 18 km into Burgos. Without objection (yes I win a few on occasion), I decided to reserve a hotel and then take the bus to Burgos. Only thing as we soon discovered, there was no bus service. Thanks to the charming & lovely owner of the local panderia [bakery] who offered to call a taxi from Burgos – a 20 minute wait, we arranged transport. Although I knew we would pay for both directions of travel it did not matter. Hell, we had paid through the nose to for a taxi in Paris to catch a bloody train … this was about Tilly … her health first, budget later. The driver arrived promptly. His skill and deftness at navigation had us to our hotel within 20 minutes. 
Arriving at 0920. I spoke to the receptionist… explaining that we were early, that Tilly was sick and I asked to leave our backpacks until we could check in. The receptionist looked at our reservation, said there was a bigger room available immediately for 20 euro more AND it faced the cathedral. 20 euros seemed a small extra to get Tilly into rest mode. Tilly was quickly ensconced in the huge master bed and asleep by 10:00. The outer room had a second smaller bed where I could sleep without concern of waking/disturbing her. She slept all that day and night only waking to have dinner. I took the time to wander the plazas around the cathedral… 
Next morning I was expecting a good recovery. Only a few minutes passed and I knew another day of rest was needed. The hotel was fully booked – a holiday weekend it seemed. I hoped on the iNet quickly booked another room in a highly rated hotel 1/2 a km away. Although it was not as big a room, it had two beds, comfortable and had the added benefit of being 1/3 less. Another day of rest.
Today was day 16 and with Tilly feeling better, we set out. The pace started slow, picked up and within 3 hours we had cranked out 10+ km. We stopped for a brief snack and refreshment. I could tell Tilly was not yet up to snuff. Even tho’ it was 70+ F she moved into the sun and complained of being cold. I knew it it was time to stop… we will walk again tomorrow…. increasing our distance in small amounts daily.  

MAGIC on the Camino

For us, the MAGIC started as soon as we began to dream of walking the Camino….making the final decision to do it, planning, preparing physically, mentally, and spiritually, and finally, setting off. From the very beginning, things just fell into place so naturally….so easily….a reaffirmation that we were on our “life path.” 

Now, starting week 4 of our long walk, the MAGIC keeps happening in all kinds of ways. MAGIC on the Camino is when:

– the sun rises behind you and gilds the window frames of the most mundane of buildings, making them sparkle with gold highlights, bringing them to life.

– you meet someone on the trail who is a reflection of something you don’t like about yourself, thus providing valuable insights into yourself and the time to ponder them.

– the “hospitalero” in one of our albergues who gave us “feminine pads” for our blisters which actually worked to our great surprise!

– a hawk soars overhead in the wind currents over the meseta.

– we reach our albergue just before the clouds part and the rain begins to fall in buckets

– having passed by most churches with “oohs” and “ahhhhs”, you pass Santa Maria del Camino in Carrion de los Condes, notice the open door and know without a doubt you have to go in. Once inside, the energy of this 12th century church with the music of Ave Maria playing and the many candles burning….was simply overwhelming for me. Why? I have no idea but it elicited much emotion. We sat there a good 30 minutes. The feelings stay with me, even now. Truly MAGICAL!

– the concept of “time” falls away. Time no longer drives your decisions. It literally falls away. It is truly MAGIC. We walk all day, sometimes plodding, sometimes marching, loitering, strolling, singing, laughing, intellectualizing, emoting…… time passes. We are fully in each and every moment. 

– decision-making also falls away. There are no decisions to make because when the need for a decision arises, the decision makes itself. For example, reaching Calzada de Coto today, there was an alternate scenic route to take which was along a dirt track. We wanted to take it but considered that the rain yesterday would have made it a very muddy track. We decided on the senda. When we set off this morning, I was feeling heavy in my mind….I was plodding along the senda, the path for pilgrims that follows the highway and the highway was busy – lots of diesel fumes and noise. We turned off to take the scenic route instead of staying on the senda as planned. Immediately, I was happier, lighter….my legs no longer plodding, a spring in my step. That was magic!!! There is no point in making plans or decisions – they are being made by a higher power!!

– your feet no longer hurt.

– you find coffee at just the right moment.

– you find out that they do make scrambled eggs in Spain and FINALLY learn how to order them in Spanish.

– you hear the sound of bells and see a shepherd, his dog, and a huge flock of sheep getting ready to cross the road in front of you…a magical photo opportunity.

– you finally discover that “Smell of Spain” you’ve been noticing along the way and asking everyone about is the anise seed growing wild along the roadways!

– you walk by a mercado and find pistachios and cheerfully crack, eat, and spit out shells as you walk, making the steps whiz by.

– you see this little silver tube on the ground. The you see it moving. It is a centipede, heading from my side of the road to Michael’s. You stop to watch as it meanders over and around objects blocking its path. You continue on and see 6 more in a short period of time. It leaves you asking, “Why are the centipedes crossing the road?” As yet, we have no answer for that!

– you walk the whole day threatened by rain but don’t have to break out the rain gear.

Magic on the Camino is the gift of being fully in each moment….appreciating and taking note of every new smell, taste, image, thought, and sound. The cares of your world fall away. You learn important things about yourself. Magic on the Camino is meeting fellow walkers from all over the world, sharing smiles, sharing meals, trying to communicate and laughing over the efforts. Magic on the Camino is being with the one you love, walking together in all conditions, learning the lessons that are there for you.

FASHION ON THE CAMINO

In good weather, layers are the best. Sleeveless first, then short-sleeved, followed by long sleeves. Strip as needed.

For cool windy days or for light rain, this wind jacket we bought last minute in Laramie WY has been a godsend!

When it rains steadily a poncho which covers everything, works the best. Shorts are best because bare legs dry much faster than leggings.

And when the rain stops, all you do is flip the front of the poncho back over your head where it can dry somewhat and allow you to cool off. That poncho kept me cozy and warm today for the first half of the day. The cap is a MUST as it keeps the raindrops off my glasses. The “mussar ” (scarf), my favourite from Oman, is also a MUST as it keeps your neck warm, soaks up sweat, dries quickly, and works as a blanket in the plane too. The little orange “baby wash-cloth” (thank-you Leah) is my “snot rag”. There’s already way too much tissue deposited all along The Way!

Today is Day 21. We are at the halfway point in Sahagun, just a few days before we get to Leon. We have had only one rainy day before today, earlier on in the walk. The MAGIC abounds on the Camino but that’s a whole other blog!!

6 DAYS OF WALKING

6 Days of walking, 115 km plus or minus a few, approximately 20 km/day. Here is a photo gallery of the best these 6 days had to offer.

Roncesvalles to Zubiri:

Elevation map

Breakfast at the pub.

Leaving Roncesvalles after breakfast just as the sun was rising.

Cows in the mists of early morning.


Day 3 Zubiri to Trinidad de Arre

Day 3 was a rainy day. We experienced a lot of “slippery slopes” and heard later that some poor soul had broken an ankle on said slippery slope. 

Always pretending but actually this time Michael was suffering from a sore knee.


 

I love cats. Michael doesn’t. When we stopped for coffee and to get out of the rain for a while, this cat popped up onto Michael’s lap looking for a handout.

These people were taking pictures of two young Korean men, one in a wheelchair, the other carrying a fully loaded pack, pushing the wheelchair. Our first lesson on the Camino…DON’T JUDGE! Imagine our surprise when later, the trail narrowed and became muddy, the young man in the wheelchair popped out of the chair and helped carry it quite a distance, walking quite nimbly. Apparently they are making a documentary about the accessibility of the Camino (or something like that.)

The bridge into Trinidad de Arre. We saw a 12th or 13th century convent/church and decided to stay there. Asked if they had a private room – they did. It was a beautiful building and we made some new friends who informed us that there was to be a fiesta that evening and bulls running in the street the next day.

Sure enough, there was a fiest that night with fireworks, music, food, and carnival rides. Before that though, we encountered this young man chasing an excited, screaming group of kids with his bull on wheels.

Day 4 Trinidad de Arre to Zaraquigui

Nearing Pamplona we walked around the walls of the old city.

….and through the gate into the city to search for a coffee.

Lunch break.

Day 5 Zaraquigui to Cerauqui

Our first taste of grapes – the harvest all around us.

At the top of the pass at Alto del Perdon. Spectacular!

Cerauqui where we stayed the night at the top of the hill!


Day 6 Cerauqui to Estella

The sun rising and illuminating the hills in the direction we were walking.

Such beautiful countryside. Constantly new vistas.

UP… UP … UP… AND FINALLY – OVER! Day 1 Camino de Santiago

05:45 the alarm chirps … SERIOUSLY?  I chose a bloody cricket sound for the alarm?… no matter… This is THE DAY …. the first day of our “camino” experience. THE DAY we have spent so much time preparing for. We know from reading and discussions with camino veterans that THIS – the SJPP (Saint Jean Pied de Port), France to Roncevalles, Spain – segment will be the hardest.

Yesterday we organized out packs, went shopping for b-fast (bananas & yogurt) and lunch (ham sandwiches, apples and mandarin oranges). All is ready … First light is an hour away and sunrise is at 07:50. We want to get an early start since on the route de Napoleon, we have 15 miles to walk with a vertical change of more than a mile (5742’)…. most is UP (4200’) and at the end 1542’ down. 

The vertical profile…


Our research reading and discussion with a Camino ‘veteran’ informed us that it would not be “EASY- 6 – 7 hours’’ as one local told us. Still we were confident in our preparations even tho’ the last ‘veteran’ we spoke with said, “IT is the HARDEST THING I/WE’VE ever done… you should hire a luggage transport to haul your packs…”. 
Truth is I expected something in between… I was right… Thankfully, our experiences in Switzerland on the Jacobsweg (the Swiss Camino) and two months ‘conditioning’ in Wyoming mountains would serve us quite well.
It is 06:30 and we are out the door & wandering our way along the Rue de Citadelle to the Porte D’Espagne… 


…we see someone ahead of us (a young Japanese girl who periodically stops – waits and then confirms the direction markers with us and rushes ahead again… UNTIL it is light… she no longer needs us and off she goes. Behind we see a ghostly figure following …

Immediately out of SJPP we start to climb from 557’ heading up to 4757’ before we descend. In the first 8km (5 miles) we climb 930m (3051’). It is UP & UP & UP … BUT we manage to crank it out by 9:30 … 3 hours! Not bad… 


NOW we have only 10 miles… and 1100’ to climb… We stop for a coffee at Orisson, visit with a couple from Winnipeg and had a great chat. We leave before them but later they overtake us and don’t see them again. From Orisson, the road continues constantly up and up providing unbelievable vistas and phenomenal views of the Pyrenees. The leaves are starting change and the colors are much richer than we are used to in BC and WY….a lot of vibrant rusty reds and burnt oranges. 


We didn’t expect so many pilgrims. We are never without their company, some friendly and wanting to connect, others loud and obnoxious and others wanting quiet and contemplation. We pass 2 fountains along the way and discover that’s where people congregate. It is hard hard work today but we both are feeling so very proud of ourselves. Along the way I (Mikal) turn and thank Tilly for insisting that we “TRAIN” … carry our packs, fully loaded up and down the hills and mountains of Wyoming… 
All the hard work/conditioning over the past 2 months is paying dividends. Over and over again we say to each other, “I’m so glad we worked so hard this summer and did all the hiking we did.” 


We are not among the fastest but , not all of those folks were carrying their full packs. Many had opted for the “send your pack over to the other side of the mountains” option. Those who were carrying full loads were of the younger crowd and they were moving much quicker. We met a young woman at one of our stops, from Norway who had just completed her PhD in veterinary medicine and had gotten a job as a scientist researching the brains of humans and animals. What a great young woman… then she left us in the dust…
It takes us another 5 hours to reach the high point, the Col Lepoeder. We take off our shoes to air out and relax our feet after all the exertion. We witness a couple in the midst of an argument – she is very tired and angry with her partner…. the very same couple will share the 4 bed cubicle with us at the monastery. They are from Oregon and turn out to be very likable… but at the moment she is not liking much. 
We rest for 15-20 minutes and head down the hill. We choose the most direct route which is straight downhill (the other route is ‘longer’… by about 1.5 km… we are not interested). The first kilometer is very steep with lots of loose rocks but, then levels out. We walk through beautiful beech forests … the path covered with the fallen leaves of autumn. It is a quiet walk as most of the others chose the easier, much longer path. 


We suddenly break out of the woods and finally arrive at the monastery of Roncesvalles. It is now 10 hours since we left SJPP. What an experience! We are weary… have sore muscles – calves and quads mostly but, NO blisters. We check in… 8 Euros each for a bed… Yes we want dinner (10 Euros each) … YES and breakfast too (5 Euros each). 36 Euros for the two of us well under our $95/ day budget. Our ‘credencials’ are stamped (proof that we actually walked over the Pyrenees as though our pictures and descriptions and weary demeanors aren’t proof enough). Once paid we are told to take our shoes off (thankfully we have our crocs to change into) before heading upstairs to find our beds. We shower and then decide to wash dirty clothes in the laundry room. We are pleased to find the monastery crew will wash, dry and fold our laundry for 3.50 Euro ( about $5). The siren call of a beer and wine makes the choice to have them do our laundry easy…. Besides which we are well under budget for the day.
Our dinner (replete with wine) relaxes us… which means we are ready to crash, literally. Once we make it to the bunks I am out within 2 minutes; Tilly about 10, even though a group of obnoxiously loud Italians are arguing (or maybe they just talk load all the time). 
This has been a day I will remember… and don’t think I will ever want to repeat.