We woke at 4.30 am – to get an early start and avoid the heat that was yesterday. In a small squishy stuffy room, we pulled our things together as quietly as possible. I grabbed everything and went downstairs to finish packing. This morning, I take some time to prep my feet. My big toe is tender to the touch. It is also swollen. I feel the tightness of the boot as I slip my foot in. “And I haven’t even started walking,” I think to myself. “What’s going to happen when the heat of the day sets in?” I park these underlying worries. As I walk, maybe my circulation will improve. I decide to hike in my hiking sandals to give my feet some room to swell.
We are alone walking the streets. There are street lamps but no one else. There’s no other pilgrims in sight. We reach the outskirts of the town and I have some confusion as to the way forward. In the darkness, it is hard to find the arrows. But the alternative is walking on the highway. Surely the road safety experts do not mean for pilgrims to take the highway.
My gut proves right and eventually we cross a very long bridge across the freeway and make our way across the hill. I take a moment to look back. I always do this to absorb how far I’ve come. Everyday, I’m looking forward towards the next hill, next town. When I look back, I appreciate how far I’ve come. I may yet have a long way to go, but I’ve also come a long way. (I often forget this. I often minimise the effort it took to get there, thinking if I can do anyone can. Whilst that’s true, I realise it discounts the effort that I put in to get me there. And that’s a disservice.)
We stop at Cacabelos just past 7. I know this because I see a lovely cafe open. Cacabelos is a cute town. I wish we’d had the strength to walk that far yesterday. This morning, I have churros, cafe con leche and Orange juice. I am happy. My favourite morning foods this morning, tomorrow will be different, no doubt.
We have a long way to go so the plan is not to linger in Villafranca del Bierzo too long. I love Villafranca. It’s so higgledy piggledy the way the buildings are hugging the mountains. We wind our way through medieval streets when suddenly we happen upon the town square with caja automatico and tons of restaurants. It’s time for a cooked meal!
It was there that I met the cutest Peregrino of all – a 6 year old boy walking with his parents. I am amazed at his energy and the fact that his little feet have carried him so far. He is not shy in waving to us and shouting Buen Camino! His patents smile. They look more tired. Dad certainly seems to be carrying the bulk of the load with camping gear as well.
I turned around and saw the back of a person I had been thinking about – Maggie! You may recall that I left Maggie and Nerida in a town after Mazarife. I had wanted to stay in Hospital de Orbigo but Nerida wanted to walk on further. Maggie was walking alone. So I caught up with her, and basically she felt she needed to find her own path and pace to Santiago. She had felt ill at ease after she felt so rushed to get ready that she left her knickers and both socks behind. Easily replaced, yet so precious on a camino when you are down to bare essentials.
I give Maggie a big hug. Separation is difficult, but she is finding herself.
Soon we reach a fork in the road. Do we take the low road, the high road or the super challenging road? Preferring to avoid steep descents, we take the highway road. It’s hard on the feet and very hot work. The sun is relentless, but the sound of the fast flowing river nearby helps to break the noise of traffic. Occasionally, the shade provided from bridges far above provide much needed relief.
Today, I have walked in my hiking sandals to give my sore big toe some relief from being squashed in a boot. Late in the day, I feel the beginnings of a pebble being stuck under sole. I do not like this. I remove my socks and check my sole. All my strapping is still in place. I feel my foot. My discomfort is that a blister is forming, and this affects my mood. It’s been blisters that’s been holding me back, forcing rest breaks, going slow.
When I get into the albergue, sure enough. I have a shower, scrub my feet, and then I bring the needle and thread out. I am unsettled for how my walk will be tomorrow.