I’m sitting in the common area of a 100 bunk albregue in Najera, Spain at 9:00 p.m. on a Saturday night.
To my right are young Spaniards. To my left appear young Italians, one of whom has nursed a sore knee for several days and now he offers me potato chips, which I gladly accept since I crave the salt. Being around these young folk, in their 20s and 30s is energizing even though I don’t understand a word they’re saying. It’s just downright fun.
Although the young Italian (I don’t know his name) has labored for at least three days, he’s in good spirits. On his right knee is a Coke bottle containing frozen agua. Even though we are dense on each other’s language, he points to the sore spot and continues his ice regiment.
His is the tip of the injury iceberg – and we’re not one-third of the way through the Camino. There are many, many, many people with knee wraps, braces and compression bandages to manage various aches and pains.
But it’s hiker feet that are in crisis. A guesstimate is at least one-in-four peregrinos sport bandages or mole skin or or braces or other remedies on toes, heels and other pain zones on their feet and legs.
Yet they persevere. They push on. It’s these people I admire. They are, by and large, overwhelmingly positive about the 549 daunting kilograms they have left. An Aussie laughs out loud when I photograph his horribly blistered heel. A Canadian couple doesn’t blink when I want to shoot their feet covered in duct tape. “It works wonders,” the husband says. Another woman balks at revealing her blood blister although the enlarged redness through her sandle is for all too see. Some seek, I think, a liquid remedy – and the comfort of other you folk.
The term for pharmacy in Spanish is farmacia – duh – and they do a land office business as they prey on the medicinal needs of passing peregrinos.
But my needs aren’t medicinal, per say. I merely ache. That viewable with Advil and Motrin. Even as I speak their triage efforts are in full swing. They hope for the miracle of medical engineering. Me, I hope a few glasses of vinto tinto are enough lubricant/pain allever to do the job.