Well, I’m still walking. And walking. And walking.
I left Viana late on Monday morning. I was occupied with working online. It’s funny doing work while I’m on the Camino. It all feels so unreal – people who aren’t walking for 8 hours a day seem like aliens to me now, and their receptive skills task design that I’m supposed to be assessing feels like the work of Martians.
I wasn’t walking for very long when I realised something was wrong. Every single step was hurting me. My ankles were screeching with pain. I’ve lived with joint pain for a long time. I imagine all overweight people have. I first remember asking a doctor about my sore ankles when I was seventeen. Nearly two decades later, I’ve learnt to ignore the pain. But on Monday I couldn’t. I walked the 12 km to Logroño, which was the next town, and I could barely think because I was in such pain.
I found a hostel quickly, got a bottom bunk, and even though it was only 4:00, I went to get dinner. I was determined that I was going to get as much time off my feet as I could. In the bar next to the hostel I got a tortilla with chorizo. I like the flavour of chorizo, especially of the orange-coloured oily liquid that oozes out of it, but I don’t like when you bite on it and it’s clearly gristle and you begin to think about the pig you’re eating. There is a vegetarian trapped inside me. I hate thinking about where meat comes from.
Straight after my super-early dinner, I went to a chemist and bought support sleeves for my ankles. I went back to the hostel and was in bed by 5:00. I managed to stay off my feet for 14 hours, which was exactly what I had wanted to do.
The hostel in Logroño wasn’t particularly pleasant. All the mattresses and pillows were coated with rubber, and when something is designed to make urine easy to clean off it, all I can think about is how many people have pissed on it. At 3:17 am, I was woken by someone going to the toilet, which was right next to my bunk. The next three hours were crazy. There were about 30 people in my room and from 4:00 am they were showering and packing and leaving. I’ve got used to the 5:30/6:00 am risers, but this was crazy. It was like sleeping in a train station.
I got up at 7:00 and strapped my ankles into their new strait jackets. After staying off my feet for so long and using the support sleeves, my ankle pain was a billion times better. There was a spring in my step as I left the hostel. The hostel didn’t provide breakfast, but it had a huge vending machine, so for breakfast I had a vending machine salad sandwich, which tasted exactly as good as you’re imagining.
Logroño is the biggest city I’ve been in since Pamplona and it took a long time to get out of it. It’s also the most poorly way-marked portion of the Camino so far. I’ve got used to seeing the shells and the yellow arrows telling me what way to go and I got lost more than once on my way out of Logroño. The city turned into a forest park, which also took a long time to get through. It was a morning when it was difficult to feel you were making progress.
I kept on and stopped for a late lunch in a town called Navarrete. It was coming up on 3:00 and everyone else was stopping for the day. But I had new ankles and new legs. I decided to keep on going. The next town was seven kilometres away. And there were only a few hills. I went for it.
Of course, with my legs now behaving, my cardio-vascular fitness improving and my ankle problems abating, something had to go wrong. And it did. I suddenly got the most horrible friction burns between my thighs and between my butt cheeks. I could barely move. It’s not the kind of thing you can fix on the side of the road either, with all the grape farmers looking on as you clean and powder your nethers. It was a slow and painful walk.
I got to Ventosa late, too late for a hostel, and had to take an individual room again. Much as I love this, I can’t afford to keep on staying in individual rooms. I have to start arriving at places earlier. Will I have to start walking at 5:00 am too?
I tended to my friction burns. But I didn’t feel sad. I felt elated. The ankle straps had worked. On the first day when I walked over 20 km, the walk had made me physically ill and standing up to have a shower was so sore that it made me cry. This time, the ankle sleeves had done their magic and I could have a (relatively) painless shower. I felt like He-Man.
I had developed a few new blisters on my feet. I forgot to bring a needle with me to pop blisters when I left Ireland. However, I found a Yes Equality badge that’s been sitting at the bottom of my bag since the marriage referendum this time last year. I use a lighter to “sterilise” the pin of the badge and use that for blister-popping purposes. I really am a very amateur pilgrim.
I’m so amateur that I miscalculated my distances. Early yesterday morning, I passed the 100 km mark from where I’d started. I didn’t realise until a good 10 km later, at which stage a celebration seemed silly.
This morning, I had another late start. And the clouds are all gone again. It was a hot walk, but I amazed myself because this morning, I passed benches and kept on walking, choosing not to stop for a break. I’m turning into a new Connor. I’m still one of the slowest walkers on the Camino, but I’m doing so much better than I was.
I’m staying in Nájera tonight, planning another long day tomorrow. The hostel here is €20, rather than about €10, which most of the others are. I think we’re paying extra because they give us towels and the beds are not bunks. It’s a nice place but three middle-aged Italian women seem to have washed every item of clothing they’ve ever owned and hung it up around the room so you can barely move without a wet pair of panties sticking to your back.
That’s enough for now. I’m going to sleep. Good night everyone!