Blisters and COVID in Spain (Blog #10)

Blisters and COVID in Spain

I have now walked 222 kilometers and have 99 kilometers to go. Tomorrow, I set out to walk 34 kilometers, the longest hike of the 13 days that I am walking. It’s just under 25 miles. I have walked 22 miles on two days, including the time that I walked after arriving at my destination.

Today was a day of rest in Lugo. Even while resting, I managed to walk 8 miles and over 21,517 steps as I walked around the city and explored museums, churches and medieval monasteries. This was my first and only day off since starting the Camino. It was much needed.

I have a large blister on the back of my left heal. It can be painful to walk. Many of the pilgrims who first walked the Camino and countless pilgrims since have walked to Santiago de Compostela with blisters, illnesses, injuries, sicknesses, diseases, etc. Hospices were set up along the way to tend to their needs. In time, these early Christian hospices were transformed into hospitals such as you and I know today.

The sick came from all over Europe and beyond to visit the relics of St. James the Apostle – the first of Jesus’ disciples to be martyred. They came to Santiago praying for a miracle and a cure. They didn’t have hotel rooms, sleeping bags, cell phones, medical equipment, changes of clothing, light weight equipment, etc. One can only imagine how challenging the journey was a thousand years ago.

Most people get at least one blister if not many while walking, especially in July and August when it’s so hot. Our feet expand when they get hot, and there’s nothing like walking for miles under the blazing Spanish sun to make that happen. Then it’s easy to get a blister.

The other day I took a “Camino variant” or loop trail that went off the normal path and took me by several old churches. The first two weren’t really worth the extra half mile of walking. But the third church was very remote and had a very old fountain of water that fed into a small pool. No one was in sight or came. So, I took off my hiking boots and socks and stepped into the cold, refreshing, mountain water. My feet quickly cooled off. I took out a light-weight towel that hikers carry and slowly dried my feet. There was something almost sacramental about being barefoot, beside this church, in the midst of nowhere and letting the cool waters of this outdoor fountain soothe my feet on an extremely hot day.

I hike without a mask, but everywhere else I wear one, because everyone in Spain is wearing a mask to protect against COVID. As you enter a museum, they have you wash your hands with disinfectant and sometimes do a temperature check. All of the places where I am staying have signed a waiver showing that they are COVID compliant. I feel very safe here. Spain is handling COVID as well as they possibly can.

The hike itself is a grind. The photos are beautiful, but walking over 20 miles demands some resiliency. The first ten miles are fine, but the last ten are a challenge. There are times when you feel exhausted. Danielle, who is walking the Camino with her husband, Patrick, who was just ordained a Roman Catholic deacon, said that she made the decision to accompany him. But it has been exhausting, she notes, and much harder than she imagined. “No one wants to hear me complain,” says Danielle. “So, every time I think about complaining, I think about my mother, whose toes are completely curled in. She struggles just to walk. I think about people who cannot walk. I realize that I am fortunate to be able to walk, even when it hurts or I am exhausted.” We take so much for granted in life. The Camino makes you very aware of that.

We set out early as the temperature can climb from 62 degrees at 8 a.m. to 85 degrees by 2 p.m. That extra 23 degrees transforms the walk from something delightful to a feeling of walking in a sauna, leaving pilgrims feeling sluggish and worn down by the sun and heat. It’s all good. It’s all manageable. Life is a gift. Pilgrims find a way to make it work.

 

With love and prayers from Spain,

Marek

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