A Podiatrist's Dream

Trip Start Sep 05, 2012
Trip End May 16, 2013

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Where I stayed
Puerta la Najera

Flag of Spain  , La Rioja,
Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Are we there yet?

Well, the short answer to that question is, of course, no. Since the Camino de Santiago, as it is known among religious pilgrims, long dead saints (such as St. James himself) and masochistic hikers from all over the world, is somewhere around 780 kilometres in total, give or take a few more backbreaking, blister inducing kilometres here and there. Since internet access is mostly limited to iPodding it (we wisely decided at the last minute to leave our netbook behind) I dont plan to keep up with this blog in my usual overly wordy way, but will try to post occasional updates for those of you worried sick about what we may be up to without your knowledge, or maybe just bored, or involved in a lucrative office pool as to when, not if, we will eventually collapse in a pair of sweaty, surrendering heaps. Hence:

The Quick Version

Day One from St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles is famously the big ass-kicker, 27 kilometres up over a pass with around 1200 or 1400 metres of elevation gain (once you hit triple digits the details begin to lose importance). A bad thing, considering were just jumping right in without giving our bodies (or feet, more importantly) a chance to work up to that level. A good thing, once youre finished and from now on even the worst of it "at least isnt as bad as the first day". And because most of the Spanish hikers only start in Roncesvalles (since St. Jean in actually across the border in France and, well, why bother?) which means weve always got that to hold over their heads. Of course, there are trails that actually start near Paris, which means those people can point and laugh at us for something other than our blisters and dirty gotch. Bottom line, it was tough, but we did it, and spent some pretty cool time in the looming fog at the top, before having it clear up just in time for a great panoramic and a satisfying open air pee.

From what we have seen so far this whole ridiculous hike comes down to 3 things:

1) Feet. It is a serious medical ward around here, even now, at the end of Day 9. Good shoes, bad shoes, old boots, new boots, vaseline, bandaids, Compeed, needles, gauze - youd think we were back teaching seniors line dancing again. Laynni and I have been relatively lucky, fighting off a couple small blisters here and there which have been more annoying than anything but for a few of our travel companions it has become an epic battle on par with the fight against illiteracy in South Dakota.

2) Communal Living. A big part of the traditional Camino is staying in Pilgrim Hostels (Albergues de Peregrinos) which have been developed over the past 2,000 years or so to accomodate walkers on their road to visit the bones of jolly old St. James. Of course, they all have wifi now, and really shitty sheets you can rent for a euro a piece, so I suppose a few things have changed since smelly dudes in tattered robes were doing it in the Middle Ages (now its mostly smelly dudes in $1,000 of North Face gear). Anyway, you dont have to stay in dorms to be a pilgrim (there are more ways to tackle this thing than there are jagged callouses on my big toes) but so far weve been embracing it as an essential part of the whole experience. Plus, its cheap (5-10 euro per person per night, plus 1 euro for a sheet thinner than my knowledge of properly preparing a good slice of goat liver).  Sleeping in rooms of anywhere from 6 to 60, packing and unpacking almost endlessly like a herd of mall gift wrappers in training, sharing bathrooms with 6 to 60 to more, waiting patiently for the guy in front of you to finish scrubbing his underwear with a bar of soap and a small rock. Up at 6;30, lights out at 10, 8 1/2 hours of snoring, fidgeting and rancid night farts in between. Hmmm, a hotel room for 40 euro you say...

3) Food. We eat a lot, which is understandable considering we are averaging over 20 kilometres of hiking per day, roughly 90% of which is heavy white bread. Filling, and excellent for cutting the shit out of my gums. The other 10% is generally comprised of salami, Snickers bars, Sugus, cheese, bananas and ice cream. Im hoping if I look close enough Ill find some vegetables on the list of Snickers ingredients. There must be a carrot in there somewhere.

Anyway, for a quick factual update;

  • We have hiked approximately 200 kilometres in 9 days. Around 580 kilometres to go over the next 3-4 weeks.

  • The weather has been incredible, if a bit hot in the afternoons, but word has it we may have some rain on the way this weekend.

  • Watched El Clasico (Real Madrid vs Barcelona) on Sunday at a bar in La Viana and I feel comfortable saying that all soccer fans in that picturesque little town are between 50 and 60, balding and struggling to hide it, prefer short sleeved checked button up shirts and have 10 pm curfews.

Well, gotta go get some rest. Got a big day tomorrow. I think. Or I assume, since everyday seems pretty damn big by the end of it. And even though I dont really remember where were hiking to tomorrow I also cant really remember what town Im in right now so, you know, it all kind of works out.

And for those in need of a much more thorough and time consuming plod through my inappropriate thoughts and far ranging travels please check out my book Random Acts of Travel : Featuring Trepidation, Hammocks and Spitting.

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John and Cathi on

Wish we were there! maybe not staying with 60 others for the night however.... I hate brushing my teeth over undie residue. We love Spain and would love to spend that much time in the northern part which we haven't seen
We are staying back in SD to battle iliteracy! someone has to do it!

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