Camino Day 13: at the risk of being redundant, another LOVELY day

Part 1: I am currently mid-walk enjoying a nice break on a park bench, listening to the bells on the flock of sheep grazing nearby. Today’s walk so far:

A nice walk down through Cobreces and time to snap a few pictures of the beautiful historic buildings. Then, after about a mile, I came to a beach. I sat and enjoyed watching the waves and a few early risers playing with their dogs in the sand. After the beach, the trail led uphill, up to the top of the headland where a nice little bench overlooked the sea. I decided to sit and enjoy both the view and the peaches I bought at the market yesterday.

While I was on peach #2, a pilgrim came up the hill and I recognized him from the albergue last night. As he came near, I realized I had sprawled across the entire bench and called out to him. “I can move my things to make a space if you’d like to sit,” I said with a welcoming smile.

He looked up, with mild stress showing on his face, “No. No, I can’t stop. I have to walk 30 kilometers today.” And he hurried along his way.

And there it is. I respect his choice and offer no judgement, but I would much rather be me. With only 10k to walk today I have plenty of time to enjoy myself. My gait is relaxed and easy, I stop to enjoy the views, and I have not a worry or care in the world.

After my stop, I came to a small farming village and saw a little enclosure where a kitten was playing with some ducks. I took a few moments to stand there, laughing hysterically at the antics on display. I love kittens.

You see, I am fully cured. There is a Camino virus spreading around that often results in a syndrome called Pilgrim Fever. A terrible affliction.

Common symptoms include: multiple foot blisters with possible bleeding sores, toenails that fall off, aching stiff legs, foot pain, a characteristic hurried limping waddle, intense facial expressions reflecting pain and/or stress, a sense of rushing and urgency, aching back and shoulders, and a strong belief that anything less than 25 kilometers in a day is tragically unacceptable.

I caught said fever and became symptomatic, but then I managed to fight it off before fully succumbing to the illness. Now, I am actually enjoying myself. After all, I have no need to prove anything. Not to someone else and not to myself. I COULD walk 30k in a day, but WHY? Seriously, I have no desire to do it.

I can see that many people on the Camino are in a subtle competition. There is some bragging in the albergues about how far you walk. After that, some will brag about how hard it was, some will brag about how easy. Pretty much the first questions pilgrims ask each other is how far you walked today, where and when did you begin your Camino, do you go all the way to Santiago, and how many times have you done the Camino. But, never do they ask if you enjoy it.

Oh, and if you walked less than 20k….they get an odd look and ask if you are ok. Really. As if walking less than 20k must mean you are sick, injured or disabled. One pilgrim last night asked me pretty much that….and I proudly said, “No. Not sick or injured or disabled….just very happy.” He looked confused.

Well, my little break on this bench turned into a long one, and that’s not a problem because I have only a few kilometers left to walk until I reach Comillas. Part 2 coming later…

Part 2: I walked through a few more villages, including one with a Saturday street market that was fun to explore. Then I enjoyed more of the countryside before I arrived in Comillas. The hostel/albergue here is the nicest I have ever seen. Once showered, I walked around a tiny bit, had lunch, stopped at the market, got sleepy, and came back to the hostel for a siesta. It is a hard life on my Camino 😂

I’m glad I got provisions at the market already because I think I will just read and relax here tonight. I have another night here in Comillas before I begin my journey home, so there’s plenty of time to see the sights and enjoy the beach tomorrow. Oh, and I need to buy some things for my niece and nephews now that I’m done walking and I don’t have to worry about the extra weight in my bag.

Today’s pictures:

Camino Day 11: a perfectly lovely lazy day

So, I have a day of rest today but not because I needed it. Basically, I pre-planned some of the trip and it included a 2 night stay at a hotel here in Santillana. My recent changes meant that I arrived in town a day early, stayed last night in the convent, and now have 2 prepaid and non-refundable nights in a hotel. The frugal side of me just CAN’T pay for two nights and forfeit all of it. So, I decided on the middle ground between not staying at all and staying the whole time….I will stay one night in the hotel and leave a day early. It does mean wasting money on the second night, but I want to both continue my Camino and break the planned 1 long hike into 2 shorter ones. The plan is to use the “extra day” to break the walk to Comillas into 2 days (making two 7-mile, pleasant hikes instead of one 14-mile, unpleasant hike).

What’s funny is that taking an easier day yesterday left me ready to walk today. I felt a little sad this morning seeing all the other pilgrims with their backpacks heading out. I somehow felt left out and was wishing I could grab my pack and join in the day’s journey.

That said….I had LOVELY day!!

Slow lazy morning, a visit to a famous museum/prehistoric cave (Altamira), window shopping, a beautiful lunch with maybe a little too much wine, and now (most importantly) laundry. The next item on today’s itinerary is a nap!😴

I am extremely happy to report that, despite previous difficulties, I am really looking forward to my walk tomorrow😁.

Pictures from today:

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Camino Day 10 part 2: a great day!

I had a very nice day. I arrived in Santillana and I had only experienced mild discomfort for the day. The hike was a mix of scenic and not so scenic, but my body felt good.

I do think I might have figured out one of the main sources of pain. As I have always been told, I tightened my hip belt snugly and adjusted my pack to carry most of the weight on my hips. This is supposed to be the right way, mostly because it saves your upper back and shoulders.

Um, this is not the right way for me! I realized today (after spending yesterday evening talking to a German physical therapist) that the searing, burning pain I feel every day in my legs is not from walking. It is sciatic nerve pain caused by the pressure of my pack on my low back. Each day I was cinching up my waist belt and putting my hips in a vice. After an hour or so of walking, the pain each day was intense and unrelenting.

Today, it dawned on me about an hour in. The pain fired up in my back and I paid close attention this time very early to the kind of pain. It was not muscle pain at all! It was definitely nerve pain. So, before it had a chance to get any worse I completely unhooked the belt on my pack.

I spent the hike trying to hold and carry the pack in a way that totally took it off my low back. Whenever I let the pack rest….the pain was almost instant. I found the reason for the incredible pain I’ve been experiencing, and so the solution as well!

I arrived to Santillana relatively early, checked into the convent, had a quick shower and change of clothes, and then headed out to have lunch and explore the town. It was wonderful to have energy and to be free of lingering pain in the afternoon.

I gotta say, it was a damn good day.

I have spent the past hour hanging out with other pilgrims, having a good local beer, and sharing stories. Now, I am heading to a special pilgrim blessing given by the nuns before having a communal dinner with the other pilgrims.

Happy.

Camino Day 9: a day to rest and reflect

“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”

-James Allen

It is early morning still, the day has only just begun. Yet, a monumental shift is taking place. Maybe I needed rest, maybe I needed a break in the “get up early and get walking” routine, maybe the other blogs I read today helped me get my head on straight. It is probably a blend of all of these things. Whatever it is, I feel myself coming back from wherever I was yesterday.

I feel my Camino has been like swimming in the ocean. At first, I was bobbing along in the waves, rising up, falling down, rising up…but because I had the energy to navigate them well, I never found myself caught up in one. I could ride the highs and lows with ease and accept them as they came.

But, after awhile, it became more difficult. The physical and mental work of staying in sync with the waves got harder. I got slowly more and more out of rhythm and the waves became harder to navigate. The waves themselves were the same, but my strength waned and my ability to be okay declined.

I began deeply wishing for a break, just a moment of calm waters to let me me catch my breath. As each new wave came, I became more discouraged. I began to plead inside for smaller waves, something easier, a break in the action.

Then, yesterday, it was like I reached that moment of exhaustion where the wave came and I got pulled under it. No longer bobbing on the surface and navigating, I got tossed in and rolled. Once caught up in the waves, each new wave rolled me over again, and misery set in.

Today, I have washed upon the shore feeling a little beat up and bruised. At first just lying here stunned and exhausted, I am now beginning to get up and breathe. The trick now, is to rest well and then get back in as soon as it is reasonable. As we have all experienced, having a rough moment makes us a little hesitant to try again. I imagine a child who, once rolled around in the waves, never goes near the water again.

But try again I must, because the best way to avoid a permanent fear of the water is to dive back in as soon as you are recovered well enough to again successfully navigate the waves. Otherwise, you might spend your life standing on the shore, watching others enjoy the sea of life and wishing you had the courage to get in.

So, today I will rest. I will get out and explore Santander, I might go see the art museum, I will go get my pilgrim passport stamped in the cathedral, I will walk along the sea promenade, and I will see where else the day takes me.

Tomorrow, I will dive back into the sea and remember how to navigate the waves. The Camino awaits.

Note: and today I will work on the “comparing and finding myself deficient” problem. What I mean is, there’s an unhealthy thought in the back of my head even today saying: I walk less miles than others, it shouldn’t be this hard; I must somehow be weaker because I need a break so soon and after walking so few miles compared to other people; if I walk less miles and take more breaks it means I am not so strong and maybe even unworthy of calling myself a true pilgrim.

I must remember that we all walk our own paths, each person on the Camino walks their own road. One is not better or worse than another. We should not look down at our own path and ask if it is as good as someone else’s, we should simply walk it and see where it leads.

Camino Day 7: Noja to Guemes

I am in shangri-la, the Albergue in Guemes (actually called Albergue La Cabana del Abuelo Peuto ). This one is special and my guidebook said “not to be missed”. I see why. It’s like, for one day, I live in a special commune. There are many pilgrims here, we had lunch together and now we are all resting. It is a beautiful day and the shared rooms are all facing a nice little outdoor space. This is where I sit now, watching the laundry on the lines flapping the the breeze, listening to many different languages being quietly spoken in small groups spread around. People are lounging in the grass, gathering on the shady porch, and one lady is playing a guitar and singing softly in Spanish.

Paradise.

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There’s a meeting later and then a shared dinner. Breakfast in the morning. The cost? By donation, what you feel you should give. I understand they run this primarily with volunteers and any extra funds go to support various service projects. I plan to donate generously.Today’s walk was pretty and scenic, lots of farmland and vistas, sheep, goats, cows and donkeys. It was nice, and I was in the regular levels of pain (second half of walk developing the characteristic limp of hurting feet and burning legs). One girl called it “the dance of the pilgrim”. I thought it was a nice way to say we all waddle like toddlers at the end of each day.

So….from hunchback, to pimp, to toddler. Progress? I wonder how long it takes to get through a whole day and walk like a normal person at the end of it.

Camino Day 6: Laredo to Noja

I still can’t believe how much my little toe recovered overnight. It was a little sensitive for about 5 minutes walking today, then it was TOTALLY fine.😁

Today’s walk was pretty good. Yes, aches and pains here and there, but nothing too intense and all pretty “normal” for the Camino. But, as I come to realize, EVERY day of the Camino presents you with a challenge of some kind. I think that’s kind of the point of the Camino.

Today’s challenge was that I (and many others) ignored the longer, new-and-improved Camino and took the older and shorter “primitive” Camino to Noja. Oops. In the rain….major woops.

See, this one goes up and over “El Brusco”, a small mountain headland over the sea between Berria and Helgueras. The path is narrow, steep, rocky and (when raining) muddy and slippery. Slipping and sliding in mud with steep dropoffs uncomfortably close is not a fun way to spend the day. Then it was time to go back down, sliding, slipping, trying not to fall. I did not see a single person who wasn’t obviously terrified and regretting the decision. But, there’s a point fairly quickly where retreating is no better of an option than pushing forward.

All that said, I made it without falling and without major injury (minor scratches and pokes from very unfriendly thorn bushes). But….boy was I flithy! Mud everywhere on my legs, on my clothes (yes…the ones I washed yesterday😒), hands, arms….you get the idea. I had used every kind of strategy to get down the mountain in one piece, and it showed.

But, I met a few nice people as we worked our way down and offered each other moral support and encouragement.

After that, it was just a few more miles and I was done for today. Now, I am clean and warm and dry, resting comfortably and trying to motivate myself to get dressed and go explore this nice little beach town. Or, maybe I will just read and take a nap.

Views from today:

Sorry, no pictures of the scary parts…was too busy not falling!!

Camino Day 5: Rio Seco to Laredo

So, yesterday was a pretty good day, best one on the Camino so far. Until it wasn’t. I am writing the post for yesterday this morning because I was too disheartened to write last night.

But first, the good.

I got out at 7:30am to a walk in light rain. I had heard it raining in the night, so I knew it would be a wet day. I did not bring anything for rain (no jacket, no umbrella), so I was really hoping it wouldn’t rain too hard. And it didn’t. Steady light drizzle to mild rain all day, but never deluge. It was actually nice…wet and cool.

I hiked along a stream and saw hundreds of little moving things scattering on the ground in front of me. They were tiny frogs! They were the smallest frogs I have ever seen! Maybe the size of the tip of my pinkie finger, and black. Maybe baby frogs?

Then, it was up…and up….and up. I hiked up and over a mountain pass, through a forest. The rain and lack of other people around made it quiet, serene, beautiful. The rain and the many Eucalyptus trees made the air smell wonderful.

I was very happy and calm until I came by a lonely house with a hidden (but chained) angry dog. He ran out, aggressively barking, and I thought he was going to get me for a moment. The spike of fear and adrenalin meant that my happy peace was no more.

The next hour or two was more of the same forest walk with more lonely houses with aggressive dogs. I was very nervous, afraid there would maybe be a free dog to attack me. So, I found a stick to carry, and tried to tell myself I would be ok. (I have a fear of dog attack after some problems with dogs in Thailand)

After 2 hours of walking, I saw a nice picnic spot and stopped for a rest and snack.

The rest of the day went well, my feet were feeling better and my toe had shrunk back to normal size so it fits in the boot again. Lots of beautiful scenery, and feeling good enough to actually enjoy it.

I came into Laredo and found my place for the night. It is in a convent and they have special things for pilgrims. I was very excited about being there and experiencing it. I felt pretty good, so I decided to shower and then go do my laundry (need clean socks and underwear!). That’s when my day turned…

The shower is one of those European space pod things with narrow opening. On the way out of the shower I kicked and banged my toe on the rail. Yes, the already damaged and just got better toe. That one.

The old blister poofed back up instantly, but now filled with blood. The toe turned purple and hurt so bad I could barely place it on the ground. I drained the blood….Lots of blood. I felt devastated.

I finally had a pretty good day and my foot was finally feeling better. I had turned a corner. I imagined the next few days walking to be pretty good….now this. I might not be able to walk at all, and even if I can, it will be terribly painful again.

I did do my laundry, but every step (in my flip flops) was excruciating and confirming that just putting my boots on would be a challenge much less walk 10 miles in them.

My heart sank. It might be over for now, maybe my Camino must take a pause.

It hurt so bad on my return that I laid down. I did not go to the special mass and pilgrim blessing, I did not go to the special music and sharing time for pilgrims. My toe hurt too bad and I needed to keep it elevated.

I did go to the shared meal. It was ok, but mostly just socially uncomfortable for me. Strangers speaking in different languages, trying to talk to each other and communicate over a meal. The only thing we have in common is the Camino. So, awkward.

I was also very hurt when I could barely come down 2 steps and a man behind me clearly laughed at my trouble. Maybe it was a laugh of understanding the Camino, but it felt awful to me. This injury that maybe ends my journey, and this man thinks it is funny? It wasn’t even a Camino injury, it was stubbing my toe in the damn shower!😢😠

So, when I went to bed, I did something many of you would think is a little….woo-woo. I first sent all my body gratitude. I thanked my body for its hard work and for allowing me this Camino journey. Then I thanked my toe for trying so hard for me. I apologized to my toe for not taking better care of it. Then I sent my toe special love and gratitude. I sent it healing energy. I said I would do my best to take good care, even if it means pausing my walk. I sent it love and healing again. Then I went to sleep.

In the middle of the night I woke up, wiggle my toe. No pain.

I got up this morning, stepped down, no pain. Almost like nothing ever happened.

Now, I’m not saying I did special body healing magic. The body naturally heals itself during sleep anyway, maybe my little mental thing the night before didn’t change anything. But, I figure it didn’t hurt anything either!

Maybe, and I should have all along, I will send my body some love and gratitude each and every night. After all, it is working very hard for me, it deserves some love.

Camino Day 4: Castro Urdiales to Rio Seco

It went pretty well today. The normal stage is all the way to Laredo, but I think that’s insane (especially for me). That would be a 21+ mile walk, which is not something I want to even consider at this time. So, I split the stage into 2 days. Today was just over 9 miles, tomorrow is just over 11 miles. That seems like more reasonable distances.

So, I found I was dreading it a bit today even though it would be a shorter walk. Maybe because I had such a nice rest day yesterday and I wasn’t feeling like resuming the walk? But, despite the dread, the day went pretty well and I was even almost comfortable for much of the walk. Well, I was comfortable-ish once I changed to flip flops. My hiking boots will find the trashcan as soon as I buy new shoes (hopefully in Laredo). I started the day in my hot box torture chambers (aka my hiking boots) and that poor little pinkie toe on my right foot! The blister is threaded now, but on that other day I realize it had gotten so big it pushed the toenail up out of the nailbed. That’s what hurt so bad!!

Well, the blister is gone now but the entire toe is swollen and angry. The toenail hurts to touch it. So, jamming the foot in those hiking boots means instant and constant discomfort. About a mile into the walk today I decided to switch to my flip flops. It was the best decision ever. I walked in my flip flops until the last 3 miles or so when my feet were hurting and my left Achilles flared up again (from walking with no foot support). I put the boots back on and the toe hurt still, but not as bad as it had this morning. So, good decisions all around today.

Oh, let me share my funny thought I had today that had me giggling for awhile! I observed my limping gait today was present but not nearly as bad. I said, “today I graduated from hunchback to pimp!”

😂🤣

Nice scenery today, I enjoyed the little curly haired baby sheep very much! And the blackberries were delicious!

Reflections on yesterday’s walk.

I got so caught up in telling you the story of my journey yesterday, I forgot the best part!! I had a personal breakthrough, or dare I say several personal breakthroughs.

I told you all about the physical challenge in yesterday’s post.Day 2 of the Camino:Portugalete to Castro Urdiales

What I want to share today is my mental journey.

Breakthrough #1: It began early, when I first got up to a sore achy body. I knew the walk was going to be an extreme challenge anyway and, if not for last year, I might have had some doubts about my soreness.

But last year I woke up every single day tired, sore, and achy. Every day I would think I couldn’t possibly walk the miles planned. Every day I would say, “just get up and get ready and see how it goes.”. And every day the soreness faded quickly, the miles happened, and I would drag in at the end of the day with the next stage complete thinking there was no way I could do it again tomorrow.

So, the breakthrough is that yesterday, there was no self doubt! I got up sore and knew it would be fine, that the cure was to get up and move around. By the time I was done getting ready, the soreness was gone. I never doubted myself for a second. Anyone who knows me knows that I am often crippled by self doubt in almost every area (except being organized-i am the organization MASTER!) and I struggle to move forward at times. Developing some ability to trust myself to be ok…a major achievement indeed.

Breakthrough #2: taking in the good, knowing bad is coming and being prepared instead of afraid.

As I started the walk, it was shady and breezy and cool-ish. My body felt pretty good and the pack didn’t seem as heavy. I put some tunes in my iPod and… pretty soon I was grooving out and singing along my way. My clear sense of joy was bringing joy to others as I passed by, you could tell by their faces. Most people love to see other people being happy and the happiness rubs off on them. Like I walk by and some of my happy gets transmitted to each person I pass by. And that made me even happier!

Even in my super happy state, I knew some serious hurt was coming my way, that there was some misery coming later that day. And, instead of letting that bring me down, I decided to relish in the current pleasant happy moments because they would be fleeting. Not clinging to them either though, just being sure to take in the good and fully appreciate the happiness experience while it was there while fully accepting that it wouldn’t last.

But, I also explored the expected misery from the happy place. From last year, I had an idea of what to expect. Last year was pain, self doubt, wanting to stop, hating every step, and wondering why the hell I was even doing it. Yesterday, I knew the predicted over 100 degree heat would add an extra layer of hurt.

In my mind, I imagined myself later that day…sweating and hot and hurting. Instead of dreading, accepting. I planned my response to those moments: accepting the hurt and discomfort and knowing that I could get through it, knowing I would be able to endure and that it would be ok. I planned to deal with the heat by imagining and looking forward to the place I was staying that night. I had a private room in a home, and they had a pool. I imagined lying naked on the bed with the AC on full blast until I shivered with goosebumps. I imagined the indulgence of swimming in their pool. I could suffer the heat knowing what bliss awaits.

Knowing it would be a hard day, I also planned that the next day (today) would be a rest day. I also knew it was in a nice old touristy Beach town. I had a comfortable and private place to stay and I could rest all I wanted. I wouldn’t have to get up and walk the next day.

So, when the hurt and tired hit, I planned to tell myself that I could get through it and that rest was coming.

When the pain arrived, and oh boy it arrived with a vengeance, I didn’t really need to work at being ok or remind myself of anything. It was all already there pre-loaded. It was like, “no worries, I got this, that private room will be soooo nice and I can rest all I need to tomorrow.”.

I did catch myself trying to get comfortable at times and begining to feel the edges of misery as a result.  And then, a miracle happened! I accepted.  I accepted that pain was there and unavoidable.  Trying to not be in pain was futile and would make me miserable because I knew it would be unsuccessful.  So, I accepted the pain and I still adjusted my pack, but without the expectation or desire for total relief.   I just tried to lessen the pain and move it around…low back and hip flexors hurting more when waist belt tighter, loosen waist belt and let the shoulders take it, shoulders ache too much then tighten waist belt to let low back take it….and on it went.  But, since I accepted the pain as part of the experience, I never felt miserable…just in pain.

The best part was that there was no self doubt, I was fine in my mind.

I realize today that I was in pain and sweating buckets….but I never was “miserable”. True misery comes from the mind, not the body. I was in pain, but I wasn’t miserable.  Misery comes from rejecting what you are experiencing and wishing for something else.  I was able to accept the current state, and in my acceptance there was peace and freedom from misery.  I also knew it was temporary and that I had something good to anticipate.  That helped a lot.

The sweet rewards…a cool shower and no AC, but windows opened to the sea with a delicious fresh breeze (even better than ac). A private room where I could lay my achy body in any state of undress I wanted and let the cool sea breeze wash over me.

After some rest and draining of the gargantuan blister on my toe, I decided I wanted food. I didn’t want to sit in a restaurant and there was a very basic kitchen area here. Then the thought came: tomatoes, olive oil, mozzarella…and a roasted chicken. Hell yeah, I’m going to the store!

I got up to a thunderstorm, so I borrowed an umbrella. Ain’t nothing going to get in my way today!

I walked to the store nearby (thank you Google), and thank goodness it was only 0.3 miles. I got my tomatoes, balls of mozzarella the size of my fist for 0.87 euro, I saw a 6pack of endive for 1 Euro and snapped it up (I love endive and forgot how cheap it is in Europe!), I grabbed a small bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, some nice bread, some fruit, 2 cans of Radler….but no roasted chicken there. Meh, you can’t always have everything. I had food for 2 days for 20 euro!

It turned out to be a delicious and lovely dinner…

I didn’t sleep too well…my body hurt too much. But it is now morning and I’m enjoying a nice cup of coffee in my room, enjoying the morning sea breezes and the sounds of ocean waves and seagulls wafting through the window.

Life is good.😁

Day 2 of the Camino:Portugalete to Castro Urdiales

I knew today would be hard. But I also knew I could get through it. It was harder than expected in some ways, and not as hard in others.
I knew it would be hard because:

*it is only my second day carrying a 20 pound pack, not enough time to be used to it yet.

*but, being the second day, I began with muscles that were already sore and stiff, and a blister from the day before.

*it was the longest planned hike of this round….15 miles.

*the weather forecast predicted 101 degrees

Most people at my albergue last night had planned to stop at a town just past the halfway mark and finish the trek to Castro Urdiales in 2 days instead of one…mostly due to length, rated difficulty, and the heat. But me, I decided to stick to my plan, knowing it would end in an exercise in misery and endurance.
The day started well, I left at 7:15 am and it was already warmish. I made sure to have my hat ready and lots of water. Then…it wasn’t so bad. The path was shady and there was a nice breeze. I sweated, but it worked exactly like it is designed, built in air conditioning ( thanks to low humidity).

The first major town on the hike (and where most planned to stop) was at 11k (7ish miles). I was still feeling pretty good at this point. I sat in the shade outside a cafe overlooking the beach and had a coffee and sparkling water while I chatted with other pilgrims. They were all stopping for the day….and amazed that I planned to continue. I felt proud of myself, which is a rare feeling for me. It felt good.
When I got up….things were hurting. I hobbled a bit, others looked on in shock. I could hear them thinking, “is she really going to keep going like that?!?” I replied (in my head of course), “hells yeah bitches! Bring it!”

The next town was in another 5.5k (onton), it is also the town where you have to go the right way for the shortcut (which cuts a would be 21 mile hike down to a mere 15). About halfway there, I could no longer ignore the developing problem…blisters on my left foot. That pinkie toe had grown again and I could feel the pressure in my boot growing along with increasing pain. I also felt the hot spot developing on the ball of my foot, probably from my limping causing more rubbing in my shoe. My back and legs were hurting too….But the foot was the killer.The limping got progressively worse. I decided to get to Onton and find a spot to rest a bit before continuing.

I went through Onton but no place to rest…I made sure to take the shortcut turn and headed on up the hill. The limping was getting bad, the pain was hard to ignore. It was also noon, getting very hot, and there was no more shade.Then I saw an old bus stop shade structure…old and covered in graffiti. Looked like heavenly paradise to me!! A shady place to sit and rest. I sat, I drank water, I had a snack, and I made a mistake. I took off my boots. My feet were so hot, they hurt, they were wet….I wanted to let them dry and cool off. It felt great! I saw the toe blister and almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was so bad.
Why was it a mistake to take off the shoes? Because I had to put them back on. It hurt, it hurt bad. When I stood up I actually screamed from the pain in my left foot. And I still had 9k left to walk! In the heat, with no shade, along the side of a road with little room.
I fell into a pain riddled limp-rhythm, and held onto that for the next 2 hours. Sweat dripped down my legs, dripped off my elbows and down my face. Hot asphalt radiated heat from below while the sun beat down. I hobbled along, looking like I really shouldn’t be there doing what I was doing. People drove by in air conditioned cars and sometimes I caught glimpses of their shock and horror at seeing me….hobble-limping down the road, dripping in sweat, carrying a big heavy pack in the midday sun.
At one point I found myself at a beach again, and glory hallelujah there was a beach bar. I got 2 bottles of cold sparkling water and dropped my pack. Then I got a beer-lemonade (radler)…maybe it would help with the pain.
I checked my guides and came to realize the turn I followed near the beach is an unofficial route, maybe not well marked, somewhat an unknown. Crap….in my condition I could not afford anything going wrong on this route but I also couldn’t bear the thought of backtracking. So, forward I went, praying it would work out ok. The one high point is that I was down to about 3k left!!! The torture was almost over.
The path I took was fine. After a hard trek back up to the bluffs, it went along for a bit and then the edges of the town appeared…new development. There were no markers but it was kind of obvious which way to go…towards town, towards the beach. Once in the town area, people tried not to stare. I felt like a circus freak sideshow….hobbling like the hunchback of Notre Dame, there was possibly even some occasional grunting and moaning. Every step was excruciating, every part of my body from the waist down was on fire.
I realized I was close enough it was time to switch from finding the Camino to locating where I was staying for the night. I put it in google….1.5k left, 20 minutes. Well, Google got the time wrong but there’s no setting in Google for “hobble like a hunchback”.

But I did get there, eventually.
Funny, at the end I hobbled past happy beachgoers carting chairs and towels and coolers. They gave me “what the hell is that?” side-eye.

And I had the thought….”This is them on vacation….this is me on vacation….what is wrong with this picture?”

Photos from today: (beware last photo is of toe blister and kinda gross, also pic doesn’t do it justice!)