Part 24: El Camino de Santiago
Blisters, big cities and dodging cars.
James was in contact with his dad by cell phone and it appeared it’d be awhile before he arrived. James and I got our gear squared away and went to the pool area to sit in the sauna and swim. Donal disappeared somewhere and wasn’t seen again for a few hours.
Later I went sight seeing. I tried to find the plaza where we’d come in on our way to having our books stamped and our certificates issued. I went looking for the plaza and when walking across an alley it was necessary to jump back out of the way of a van full of people. The driver rolled down the window, inches from my probably ashen face, and asked in Spanish if there was a place to park somewhere ahead. I was walking and had no idea but in return for raising my heart rate, I told him there was. He zoomed off down the alley. I looked both ways and then dashed across to the stone steps and relative safety. I hoped no one was standing between 2 white lines further down the alley, the van driver might have mistaken them for a parking spot.
I took a tour of the complete plaza area, part of the university dorm area, a couple of blocks in a business district and never did find where we came in. It wasn’t like we came in through a small passageway either. It was a large area with massive stone steps, lots of chairs, people sitting, people standing around, people milling about and people sight seeing. I thought it would be a good place to intercept Graham but I never did find it or him. Maybe when we came in and there were a thousand people within shouting distance, I was in a state of people shock.
When I got back to the hotel Graham still hadn’t shown up and James wasn’t in the room. I decided to go back to the pool area and swim or take another tour in the sauna. James had had the same idea. Donal showed up a little while later and the 3 of us lounged around with Donal and I going to sleep in the pool side chairs. When we went up to the rooms, James’ dad was there and so was a doctor.
James had called a doctor to come and look at his fathers feet. The doctor bandaged Grahams’ feet, wrote out a prescription for him and another for the pain pills that James had wanted in Portomarin. It was almost dark by the time the doctor left.
It seemed that I had faired better than most. My feet were tired and numb when we arrived at our chosen destination for the day but a good self-massage and a little time with them up in an elevated position and they were fine. Somewhere in the first couple of days my toenails began to turn black. On about the 4th day I figured out the problem. There’s a seam in the boots I was wearing that goes across the top of the toe cap. When going downhill my toenails were being jammed into the seam. I did surgery on the top of the boots with the knife I’d smuggled 1/2 way around the world and that solved the problem.
Too late to save the toenails though. Since the skin under where toenails are normally supposed to be was quite tender I taped the old nails on. Worked good, had to change the tape after showering. The toenails are on the dresser at home, Camino keepsakes.
At one point, back a week or so prior to Santiago, I did a show and tell for others on massaging the feet and calves to relieve aches and pains from not only that day but into the next day as well. One of the things I’d found to work well was to lie on my back on the bed and raise my legs and feet vertically while massaging toward the heart. One person told me that he had talked to a doctor that very same day and the doctor said that raising the legs did no good because the heart pumped the blood up anyway. I said it was my impression that blood had a tendency to pool in the feet and legs after standing or walking for long periods and that it was especially hard for the heart to pump pooled blood from the lower extremities. I also asked if the doctor had said anything about lymph drainage and he said no.
I knew who the doctor was, I had seen him and knew who the person was referring to, so later I asked the doctor, “Do you think there’s an advantage to raising the legs as far as lymph drainage.” His reply was, “I don’t know.”
The only way for lymph fluid and the toxins it contains, to be moved is through muscle contraction and gravity. There is no pump, like the heart is for blood, to move the lymph fluid. The lymph system is many times larger than the veins and arteries and it’s main function is waste removal. Something definitely makes the feet swell up, pooled blood and lymph are the first things that come to my mind.
One lady said that she had been told by another woman on the Camino that since we spend so much time in our heads we needed to massage one of our legs away from the head. One leg toward the heart and the other toward the foot? We do spend a lot of time, maybe too much, in our heads, but the logic connected with that theory completely eluded me.
Back in Santiago real time, we needed to get both the prescriptions and our bellies filled. I’d seen a farmacia and a restaurant with a full menu, while wandering around, dodging taxi cabs in alleys, getting lost and sightseeing earlier in the day.
We went to the farmacia after being engaged in dodge car at a couple of intersections. There are lots of farmacias, probably due to a large demand for medical supplies after encounters with cars or walking the Camino. The prescriptions were filled and some of us walked, while others hobbled, a few blocks to the restaurant I’d passed earlier. With much griping and complaining those who had no better suggestions followed me up the hill. We looked at the menu posted outside and went in. I’d wanted to look at a few different places before we decided but I was outvoted by 2 no’s and 1 abstention.
For some reason we always seemed to have something on our minds that wasn’t on the menu. After settling for what they had that we could tweak enough to fit into a close facsimile of what we wanted, we ordered. While we were waiting for our order a man came in wearing a backpack and appearing to be on the Camino, the waitress turned him away. Everyone except Donal, who had his back to the door, was looking in that direction. I thought they had seen her turn him away. When we were leaving I mentioned the incident. James said we should have gotten up and walked out. I had though they had noticed but they must have been in a too tired to look stupor. I knew we should have looked at others before we decided. Besides, it was overpriced.
The next day we, separately and together at times, went on sightseeing trips. James spent more time in one of the cathedrals than I wanted to. I wandered around looking in shops for something to take home, Donal and I met on steps of the main cathedral after a couple of hours and every time I saw Graham he was standing in the middle of the plaza.
In the late afternoon we went to the open air cafe where Donal and I’d had a salad the day before, which in retrospect had been pretty simple compared to the dinner we were about to order. We wanted to order dinner without waiting until 20:30, which was OK except that nothing we wanted was served before 18:30. It was 18:00 and James was getting up to leave when the man came back and said we’d be able to get what we wanted in 10 minutes. A lady came up who we’d seen once with Wendy on the Camino, and sat down. A little later Wendy came by, sat for a few minutes and then left to go to dinner with some friends elsewhere. We had another beer and in about 30 minutes, or at about 18:30, our order showed up.
We didn’t get exactly what we’d ordered but it was fairly close and we didn’t want to wait another 2 hours for the normal meal time in Spain to begin. Graham had ordered the same thing I had which was supposed to be roast beef. Roast beef, or steak in Spanish is spelled “rostbif” or “bifstek” both pronounced the same as in English, mas o menos, more or less. One could safely say that the cow had died of old age. I’ve had better and if I give it some serious thought, I’ve probably had worse. Graham did nothing but complain from the time we sat down until we left. After all the complaining maybe it was a matter of principle not to eat all the meal.
After dinner we wandered back in the direction we’d come from earlier, dodged traffic at the same intersections we’d dodged at before; we were getting the hang of it. 4 roads came together with 1 downhill and around a blind corner not more than 30 yards away. If you looked into the eyes of the drivers waiting at the lights and none of them had their teeth clenched and a big smile on their face, and, you couldn’t see any headlights coming down the hill and around the corner, you had a pretty good chance of making it across the street on the green walk signal. Tricky but possible, if you didn’t slip and had the reaction time of Top Gun or a Formula 1 driver.
A few blocks later with our adrenaline and heart rate back close to normal we checked into the hotel for the night. Donal and I were going on to Fisterra the next morning, James and Graham were flying back to England in the afternoon. James wanted to talk and it was late before I got to sleep. Sometime later James told me to put the pillow over my head because he couldn’t sleep and wanted to turn on the TV. James is a news junky.
I can sleep with a pillow over my head, as long as it’s not over my face and being held down, but I can’t sleep if someone is snoring. James didn’t like it when I told him to roll over at 5:00. Later, we had the same discussion we’d had before; whether I should get a set of earplugs or James’ should train himself to wake up enough to roll over when he snores.
Tags: Pilgrimage , Trekking , Hiking , Camino
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License.