From my journal: “I’m not really sure I can do the whole Camino. I seriously entertained giving up today.”
But, let me tell you, there was nothing entertaining about it. From the comfort of my living room I can type these words with the confidence of one who knows how it all turned out. But as I scratched them with pen into my spiral-bound notebook on a cold, damp day, I had no such certainty.
The night before, we’d all shared a small, unheated attic room that was drafty and damp. I slept poorly. The next morning, we lost Marisela.
The morning was lovely to start off with. I stepped up my speed to keep up with a lovely woman from Canada as we talked about all sorts of fun and interesting topics. This new speed and the day’s mileage proved to be my downfall. As the day wore on, I developed shin splints, painful new toe blisters, and sharp stabbing pains in both my heels.
Then, as the arches of both my feet began to ache deeply, I thought of the person who’d suggested I get tested for plantar fasciitis before I left the US (whose advice I unfortunately ignored).
By mid-day, the pain had hobbled me. It felt excruciating from my knees down. Defeat was becoming a real and possible, though terrible, option.
Feeling truly distressed, I sat down with Katrin in Los Arcos for some cocoa to warm up and rest my feet — and I didn’t want to leave the chair. I was hormonal, so everything took on a tragic cast. I was worried that I hadn’t seen Marisela all morning. I was certain we’d lost her and my heart felt weary. I started looking in my guidebook for albergues to stay in Los Arcos, knowing that this would separate me from my friends and leave me an entire 8km from the day’s original goal.
As we sat in the town’s square in the meager sunshine, I saw Marisela from afar. I was so relieved! She came over to us and, when I told her I might have to stay put due to the pain, she gave me a hug, said she loved me, and told me I was an angel on her Camino.
As she left to walk on her own, I tried to hide my crocodile tears under the brim of my sun hat. I felt so sad for breaking up our little Camino family.
After a long rest, I knew I couldn’t quit.
I screwed up my courage and decided to try again, despite the pain.
I took off my running shoes, switched to my Crocs, and cautiously put one foot in front of the other for five miles. Katrin kept me company, saying “Take your time” (and meaning it), walking slowly with me, and entertaining me with stories. We worked ourselves up into a salivating lather dreaming about a bowl of French onion soup.
Despite my physical pain, all was beauty around me. (Isn’t that always the way?) We were surrounded by swaths of blue sky and dramatic cloud formations which crowned the sandstone hillsides, groves of olive trees and vineyards. Farmers in the fields along the path happily distracted us for a half hour as we watched them plant white asparagus, sharing a wave, and speculating which techniques made it white.
Step by painful step, I made it. A whole 18 kilometers (11 miles).
We wandered into Torres del Rio and ended up in a little albergue with a kitchen, and outdoor bathroom, and sharing a room with two of the sweetest French ladies you ever met.
Once settled, Katrin and I raided a little tienda, scrounging up a loaf of bread, a package of instant chicken soup mix, and an onion. It wasn’t gourmet, but we made the best mock French onion soup on the whole Camino. After the long and trying day, that simple, hot meal was profoundly nourishing to body and soul.
If it weren’t for Katrin, I might have given up. And, trying not to worry, I waited until morning before deciding my next step.