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"We Are All Broken, Thats How the Light Gets In", Camino de Santiago, Spain

November 4, 2018

 

Even though we had walked over 1100 kilometers it seemed that my upcoming rest day on the Camino de Santiago, was a moving target. We had originally planned to stay in Burgos for a zero day, since our last zero day in Pamplona (where we walked fifteen miles just being tourists).

Ol was worried that we had several days of rain and snow in the forecast, so we needed to walk when it was nice. 

It’s as if Ol thinks that we will melt by hiking in the rain (I guess almost getting hypothermia in the Andes last year had it’s impact). So we left Burgos and decided to hike our first forty kilometer day to the town of Castrojeriz. 

We both felt great and enjoyed the perfect fall day. It was nearing the end of the hike that Ol started to complain about pain in his leg. His limp was noticeable. But we both knew that by being off of our feet overnight, our little aches and pains usually work themselves out.

The next morning we had our usual late start after breakfast. We could see our breath in the air and the cold front that moved through. It made for stunning photos and it appeared that we made the right decision to hike ahead. We missed the freezing rain behind us and enjoyed a nice twenty-three kilometer walk into the town of Fromista. 

 

 

However, after a few hours into our hike Ol started complaining about his leg, the pain was getting worse.

We checked into a nice hotel and awoke to a winter wonderland. Ol was feeling better after a night of rest.  As we lounged around the room, we watched the snow fall and worked on our blog post. At breakfast we learned that check-out was at noon. So we decided to wait and give it a chance to warm up. The snow slowly melted as did my dream for a day of rest.

With sunny skies, we set off for Carrion de los Condes, a short nineteen kilometer hike. As I complained about leaving the 4 star hotel, Ol went back to talking about the weather. It seems that it is always about the weather when hiking long distances! After only walking for a few hours, once again Ol was in pain and walking became difficult. 

I couldn’t help but to lecture Ol about long distance hiking. Everyone needs a complete day of rest after about 10 days of hiking, especially when walking about twenty miles a day and carrying a backpack. Injuries are much more frequent without rest.

Ol assured me that if he wasn’t better in the morning that he would go to the doctor. When we arrived into Carrion de los Condes, Ol could barely walk. The town was filled with beautiful convents, monasteries, and churches and Ol wasn’t his usual picture taking self. 

He only wanted to get to the hotel. The hotel was set in a 900 year old monastery and we had a beautiful room. The hotel had a spa, restaurant, and a great bar. A perfect place for our zero day! 

Ol hopped into bed and I went in search of a bottle of wine and something to eat. As is usual in Spain, the restaurant opened at 8:30 p.m. and we had a wonderful, long dinner. I was completely relaxed until Ol whiped out our Michelin guide book and his phone to check the weather.

I think the 600 milligram ibuprofen and the bottle of wine was working. Ol was definitely feeling better. He plotted out our next day’s walk of twenty-six kilometers. It was the last nice day in the forecast and the next day, was rain all day.  He promised we would do nothing but rest and binge watch Netflix. I would finally get my zero day! (We were already ahead of the guidebook and because of a few long days, we erased the day we took off in Pamplona fourteen days ago).

So the next morning while I am getting ready, Ol decided to go to the hiking store in town. He wanted to purchase a pair of hiking sandals because his leg pain is located just at the top of his boot. Sandals wouldn’t hit his shin where the pain was located.

We started the hike with cold and wind in our faces. The walk was long and boring, with nothing but barren landscape. At fifteen kilometers, Ol could barely walk. He was really limping and sweating profusely despite the cold. We decided to rest. Ol insisted that the hiking sandals were working and that he could make it to the next town. I could tell that he was in great pain. 

We walked for about two more kilometers and Ol shouted out in pain. He couldn’t put any weight on his leg. He was only able to hop around on his good leg. I took off his backpack for him and gave him one of my hiking poles. We were still a few kilometers from the closest town.

Ol worried that if he sat alongside the road he wouldn’t be able to get back up. I insisted that he prop his leg up and sit with our packs while I walk to the town for a taxi. Ol said that his leg was already better without the backpack.

We exchanged backpacks as mine is about half the weight of his. We walked slowly and finally the town was in site. I walked ahead and the Albergue owner called a taxi for us. Before Ol could sit down the driver was there and loading our bags into the car. We drove back to Carrion de los Condes and to the doctor.

The front desk clerk at the hotel Monasterio San Zoilo was surprised to see us. He took our bags and the taxi driver and I went back out to the car where Ol was resting in the backseat. It was a short five minute drive to the urgent care clinic.

The doctor spoke limited English but with google translate I typed in Ol’s symptoms and what happened. He got Ol on the table and started his lecture. No more walking for 3 days. Complete bedrest.

Ol had either tendonitis or a stress fracture. It would be difficult to tell without a scan. He wrapped Ol’s leg and sent us to the hotel with orders to elevate, rest, ice, and Ibuprofen. No walking for three days.

We went back to the hotel where I requested a three night stay. The clerk took pity on us and upgraded us to a larger room with a nice sitting area. I got Ol some ice from the bar, ordered a pizza, and bottle of wine. 

I texted the kids and asked them what I should binge watch. Our son Ollie recommended the Haunting of Hill House. I wish that I would have thought this out. The show is terrifying. Especially so when staying in a 900 year old monastery and the hallways are the length of football fields. 

I was terrified every time that I would have to go out and get Ol anything. The lights are off in the hallway and only come on with motion sensors. Religious sculptures somehow seem scary creepy in the dark. The fact that it was Halloween did not help.

Anyway, I digress, I finally got my zero days! The following day, we watched the rain and sleet that we had been trying to outrun.

We decided to make a contingency plan. Ol could use a luggage service which would ship his backpack to our next location. He would walk in his hiking sandals. I just needed to go into town and get him some crutches, a compression leg sleeve, more ibuprofen, and Halloween candy. Ol was determined to walk the remaining two hundred and fifty miles on the Camino, even if he had to use crutches.

On our way to dinner, Ol tried out his crutches. If he walked to Santiago on these he would have some serious upper body muscles at the end. Worse case scenario, if it didn’t work out Ol could call the taxi and wait for me In the next town or he could go on the train a few days ahead and wait for me. 

On our third day, we checked out of the hotel and the taxi driver was the same one who picked us us a few days earlier. He looked at Ol and his crutches and thought that he was “loco” to continue. He brought us back to where he originally picked us up in Ledigos. He would drive Ol’s backpack to Sahagon, the town we hoped to walk to.

We settled on Sahagon because it had a train stop and we would plan accordingly. Our taxi driver didn’t want to say goodbye, because he thought that we would be calling him again. This was crazy!

So off we went. Ol was surprisingly fast. We had hoped on a 4 Km an hour pace (vs. our regular 5.5Km). Because Ol was holding his crutches, I was now the photographer. It was different because I stopped to notice every little thing. I was so thankful to be walking again! Though the trail wasn’t very scenic as it ran alongside the highway, I took joy in everything.

As an optimist, I realized that maybe Ol’s injury happened because we were meant to slow down. This is a long journey, both physically and spiritually.  And, as Ol hopped along in front of me, I enjoyed taking pictures of my favorite subjects; plants and flowers.

 

When we began this journey nearly two months ago in France, it was just the beginning of Autumn and we had many days of an Indian summer. Now, it was the end of Fall and we were just experiencing the beginning of Winter. The mountains surrounding us are all now covered in snow. 

The bright fall colors of orange and rust in the landscape were giving way to vibrant reds. The plants were turning a beautiful silver and white. Some late blooming flowers were still trying to hang on for one last show of color.

I was really enjoying our slower pace, drinking in the landscape. I was truly present. Just when I was thinking of how the Camino has a way of providing what you need, I came across a colorful sign that read; “We Are All Broken, That’s How the Light Gets In.”

When we reached Sahagun later that day, we reached the geographical half way point of the Camino in Spain. We were three quarters of the way through our journey and despite Ol’s blistered hands, and being a little broken, he is determined that we will make it to Santiago together and for the next two weeks let a little more of this “Camino Light” in. 

 

 

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