U-G-L-Y: When Orks Attack the Camino

Remember my last post? The mushy-gusy, this is a free-to-be-you-and-me, grand ol’ time post?

I don’t take back a single word- the Camino is truly an incredible experience.

But, folks, the Camino has an ugly side. And it’s real. Think any Ork you’ve ever seen in any LOTR or Hobbit movie. Or the half of the face covered by the mask in Phantom of the Opera. Or Lyle from George of the Jungle after he falls in elephant poop (this is not the first time poop will be referenced in this blog. Get ready). Or the Voldemort side of Quirrell’s head. Or Toby from the Office.

It’s ugly.

First of all, let’s start with the blisters. Maybe you’ve had blisters before. Maybe you’ve thought they were bad. Maybe you complained about them a little.

Well friends, the blisters I’ve experienced and seen on the Camino thus far have far and away outdone all blisters I’ve ever seen before combined. First of all, I have some sick-nasty-gross blisters on my heels. Like four per foot and they are essentially pockets of fluid from Satan. Idk how many of you walk on a daily basis, but most people start by planting their heels (that’s a true fact that I made up….I mean, that’s how I walk so I’m going to assume, for my own sanity’s sake, that all of you walk this way also). So as you can imagine, walking 15-18 miles a day is somewhat complicated by said pockets of fluid from Satan.

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But I shouldn’t even complain. This one guy from France, I’m pretty sure his entire foot is actually just one huge blister. No exaggeration, it stretches from his big toe and covers his entire arch. This lady from Italy, she made these reaaaaaal nice blisters on her Achilles tendons on both feet in the first days and they POPPED!!! Like she has 3in in diameter open wounds on the back of her feet. So she’s been doing the Camino in flip flops. Idk if you remember but we’re walking in the frickin’ Pyrenees. IN FLIP FLOPS.

So really, my little love bites from Lucifer are almost adorable as far as blisters go…

But then, lets talk about broken bones. Leave it to little Rach to break a bone on the Camino. It’s just the first metatarsal and it’s only a stress fracture. It hurts, but it’s not unbearable. After like mile 3, I just kind of zone it out. Pain, what pain? (What is pain? French bread! Will you ever quit? No! We want some mo’! -The greatest movie of all time)

But as it turns out, when you can’t plant your heel because Lucifer is crampin’ your style, you want to walk on the balls of your feet. But when one of those bones are broken, you really kind of just end up walking like an old, arthritic man crossed with a squid trying to move on land. It’s not cute. I am having zero luck attracting a European male suitor and I blame my squid shuffle.

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(Ft my squid shuffle- in birks bc swollen broken bones don’t fit in blister causing boots)

So this old-man-squid-squirm along the Camino puts pressure in weird places and so now both of my knees are swollen and agitated. But such is life. As a true pilgrim would say, “Can’t hurt steal, amiright?”

Now, let’s talk about the Camino itself.

This, as any peregrino who shared our path today would tell you, is quite literally the ugliest thing you could ever see.

(This is where I would show you a glorious picture of the sun-filled trail we walked today but the photo won’t load- SO to you wifi- just pretend you can see the beautiful countryside)

Now, sure it looks tauntingly beautiful and makes you drool as you dream about Sangria and Spanish men fanning you on a porch while church bells ring and a cute old lady bakes Spanish bread in a near by village.

But look at it. Notice the hills and the fields and the horizon and the path and the peregrinos. Know what you don’t see? SHADE (aside from the shade I’m throwing at the Pyrenees for breaking my foot).

Homeslices, it was 85 degrees today. And we walked in direct sunlight for 15 miles.

Don’t get me wrong, I love sunshine. Vitamin D does extraordinary things for you- certainly not the least of which is help regulate digestion and pooping (also not the last time poop will be referenced in this blog…).

But 15 miles of it is something else.

It leaves you with weird tan lines and painful sunburns.

Can we all take a minute and just picture little Rach, old-man-squid-squirming with these tan-lines, and a backpack almost as tall as me down these roads?

So the sunshine gets ya. The hills get ya. The blisters get ya. The broken bones get ya.

But probably the saddest, most frustrating thing is relying on a guidebook. Now, some wonderful soul took the time to write the book we’re using, and by and large he does an amazing job. But sometimes you bypass a cafe or a bench because “as de goooood booooook says” (to be read in Tevye’s voice from Fiddler on the Roof) there will be “an adorable cafe on the town’s edge where hot and spicy Jose makes coffee for you, shirtless, as he individually squeezes each hand-picked coffee bean directly into your mouth.” BUT THERE IS NO CAFE AND THERE IS NO JOSE AND YOU JUST KEEP SQUID SQUIRMING.

Ok, ok, the guide book doesn’t ever mention Jose or handpicked coffee beans. But sometimes it does lead you to believe that there is something great ahead when there is quite literally nothing ahead. And maybe at some point in time something great was ahead. And maybe as you sit and read this wherever you are, you think “Rach, its just one little cafe. You’re hiking through the Spanish countryside. Shut up and enjoy it. You shouldn’t need a cafe anyway.”

And maybe you’re right. But also maybe my blisters and my broken metatarsal and my sunburn and my swollen knees need a chair to sit in under an umbrella. And maybe my soul needs shirtless Jose and the hand picked coffee beans.

But truthfully, at mile 11 when you pass up a bench in the shade because the guidebook says there’s a cafe at the town’s edge, and there is no cafe, you are pretty disheartened.

But also truthfully, at mile 11 when you pass up a bench in the shade because the guidebook says there’s a cafe at the town’s edge, and there is no cafe, and you are pretty disheartened you take a minute and remember that you’re in freakin Spain and you shut up and you keep walking. As a true pilgrims would say “Ya get ova it!” (to be read in a Boston accent- shoutout to the couple and the college kid we met from Boston).

And also truthfully, at the end of everyday as you’re indulging in the ever-amazing Spanish food and the even better Spanish wine, and you’re laughing with the peregrinos and hearing stories about how you can’t buy shelled peanuts in New Zealand, the ugly side of the Camino fades away. Your love bites from Lucifer are scarcely detectable since you’re not standing, and the Sangria has numbed the foot and the cool night air of northern Spain soothes the sunburn and the guy who runs the hostel is named Jose, so that’s good enough. And soon enough the ugly side of the Camino is completely overshadowed by the beautiful, unforgettable, incredibly wonderful side- so overshadowed that you’re willing to wake up and do it all over again every. single. day.

(This was going to be a beautiful picture I took this morning that made Spain look like Neverland but WUTERR wifi)

Even amidst the pain, it’s still an unforgettable adventure. And as I lay here on the bathroom floor as my feet soak in ice cold water, aloe smeared across my body, I wouldn’t change a thing. No one ever said the journey is pretty, did they?

Here’s to the ugly side of life!

Now go pour yourself some Sangria and cheers the peregrinos! We’ll be cheersing you from Los Arcos!

Buen Camino, my friends!

P.S. The best part of the story of today is that, as I sat at the table at the end of the day’s trek today, a bird pooped on me. I have 18 blisters, an uneven sunburn, swollen knees, and a broken bone and I can say that on the Camino, I have quite literally been shat on. And the only appropriate response to all of that is to laugh….

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