To beat yourself up on long, rocky, dusty trails day after long day without reprieve isn’t a good recipe for Camino success. If peregrinos listen closely to their bodies they are likely to hear an audible cry for help – or a veiled warning: ‘Go ahead and push me but I can push back, too.’ My body made good on its veiled warning a few days ago when the interior of my right ankle went kapoof. I limped like Festus on Gunsmoke and if the slightest misstep on a small rock caused the ankle to wobble there was hell to pay.
I took that learning to heart. And as it happened, the timing was fortuitous. If you divide the length of the Camino into thirds, there are two logical stopping points. The first third features Burgos and the second is Leon. Both are big cities with major catedrals, other attractions and good food – elements desirable to most pilgrims.
If ever there would be chance to relish a restful down day it would be Leon which lay directly in my path. Right town at the right time. Some friends and I bunked in a C+ albergue (not all albergues are created equal) so, fed up with snorers and crinkly plastic bags that denied me precious ZZZZZs, I donned my Osprey pack and set off to tour the massive catedral. I’d be content to play pilgrim tourist for at least half a day before moving onward.
That’s when my ‘must rest’ senses came to me. Or, more correctly, where forced upon me. Within seconds of entering the church gates I ran into three familiar hikers – Rachel, Mary and Franky – who took turns lambasting me for not resting, not getting off my bum feet and just plain being dumb enough to not take a full rest day. Franky all but ordered me to another albergue as the women nodded in agreement. Perhaps it was divine intervention in the shadow of the iglesias but I miraculously came to agree with them. So I did as I was told, checked in to a B+ albergue, ditched the pack, cleaned up and enjoyed the sights, friends, food and drink of Leon into the morning hours.
The latter portion of the prior night’s enjoyment made the next morning come earlier than I cared for but I at least did as I was told and was the better for it. Too bad the rest point of the last third won’t be of much help – because it occurs at our end point, Santiago de Compostela. At least I’ll be able to take these damned boots off for good.