And here ends my Camino… for now

  My stupid foot has gotten the better of me. Even after three days of rest, I can only walk for about an hour without pain. And then it’s limp, limp, grumble, grumble. Not sure if the toe is actually broken but it sure feels like it. The nail is steadily turning black.

Certainly the Camino gives your feet a beating, but I think the source of this problem may have pre-existed. Back in January, I had the nail of the right big toe removed because it was infected and ingrown (extremely painful). Despite being only partly protected by still-growing replacement nail it has given me no problem. At the time I did not ask the podiatrist to examine the left big toe. While it had shown some of the same problems as the right it looked and felt normal in January. That may have been a mistake and now I’m paying the price. It has affected the whole toe, and so the whole foot which has become prone to swelling, throbbing pain, and occasional sharp jabs of pain (even while I’m sleeping). Granted – there may be more to the story than just a bad toenail. Who knows. Maybe the day I nearly turned the ankle (only our second day on the trail) is also playing a part. The rock that was tripping me up moved just enough in the right direction that my foot and ankle popped upright just in time. I thought.

Attempts to see a doctor in Burgos ran afoul of the requirement to sign a promissory note to guarantee I would cover all expenses…without being told what those were. (Spain has socialized medical care. No one knows how much anything actually costs.)  And my emails back and forth to my insurance company couldn’t get a concrete answer as to whether I would be reimbursed. A toe isn’t exactly a life-threatening emergency. 

So here I am back in Barcelona. Wish me luck trying to reschedule a flight home to the U.S.  

Here’s a tip for your Camino: if you think something might be wrong with your feet get them checked out before you go. And if you have a history of ingrown or infected toenails, have them removed at least three or four months in advance. 

Euphemisms in Camino guidebooks 

  Scattered throughout Camino guidebooks you will see the authors extol the virtue of natural paths versus the hard cold cement and asphalt interspersed along the Camino wherever it crosses cities. 

You should know that all these various phrases: gently downhill, tranquil walk, wonderful, scenic, delightful, dirt, wide country tracks, and earthen (all usually combined with some form of nature) are all really euphemisms for the same thing:

Uneven dirt tracks filled with varying layers of rocks, gravel, and pebbles — all of which prevent you from placing your feet evenly on the ground, thus increasing the strain on your knees, ankles, and toes. 

But don’t get me started on the toes. More on that later. 

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

See you in Spain!

backpackThe backpack and sleep sheet have been treated with pesticide. The hat and backpack have been waterproofed. Duct tape has been applied to my heel blister. The proper socks and bras and pants and shoes (oh Lord have mercy, the shoes – I can write six more blog posts on just those!) have been procured. Reservations have been made. Electronics have been charged.

And the day has finally come. This evening I’m boarding a plane for the Camino de Santiago.

The shell is the symbol of pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela. My favorite story about them says that when pilgrims reached Finisterre (Latin for ‘the end of the world’), which lays just west of Santiago, they would pick up these shells from the beach to prove that they had been there. The ridges are said to symbolize the different directions that pilgrims come from, each to meet at one central…

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