Camino de Santiago days 1-4; Sweat, blisters and red wine

Hola!
It seems ages since I last wrote and a LOT has happened.  Wow, what a lot to update!  I have walked from Sarria to Melide, around 60km and my feet can definitely feel it!  I have another 50 to go till Santiago de Compostela and while I might not be moving as fast as many of the other peregrinos I am still moving. 

So far I have learned a lot about peregrinos, blisters, hiking, communication and my body.  Here are some of the things I have learned:

Pilgrim life:  The life of the modern day peregrino seems to consist mainly of sweat, blisters and redwine – and none of them in moderation.  The majority of Peregrinos are European, with Spanish, Italian and French making up the most of that group and Germans, Danish, Dutch, Belgian in that mix as well.  Apparently there are a few Australians around but I have yet to meet any.  I have also encountered Canadians, English, Scottish, Irish and Americans.  There is no typical Peregrino.  The pilgrim´s dinner at a private hostel or bar nearby is the best place to meet people. 

Pilgrim food:  The pilgrims menu is found at most bars along the camino and consists of 3 courses including desert and wine or water (most choose wine) for 9 euro.  The servings are huge and most options are very tasty.  Dinner usually starts at 6:30-7:30 depending on where you are.  Breakfast usually consists on tea or coffee and toast for 3 euro. Lunch can be harder to find as siesta is at the most inconvenient time (from 2pm-5pm) and often consists of bocadillo (like a small baguette) with different kinds of stuffing.  They eat a lot of bread here!

The way:  There are 2 ways to do the camino – on foot or on bike.  Most peregrinos greet people along the way by calling out ´hola!´or wishing the person a ´buen camino´.  That is fine if you are on foot.  They cyclists tend to yell ´buen camino´ as they zoom past and cheerfully knock you into a ditch on the side of the way.  Hiking poles or walking sticks are quitepopular and I am very glad I brought mine, they help take the pressure off the knees and double as rythm sticks and/or dancing accessories if you are so inclined.  Blisters are taken very seriously and everyone has an opinion. 

Meeting people and making friends:  So far I have met 2 very english retirees, on separate days.  One was the typical english fuddy duddy who smoked a pipe, couldn´t figure out how to send an email to his daughter and complained bitterly when the germans got guiness and he didn´t.  The other was slightly more technologically inclined but also rather english.  I met a couple of Americans and a Dutch girl the other day, we had a great night at the bar drinking vino, teaching the bar tender English and generally being ridiculous – they were walking 45km per day! crazy!  The next morning I walked a while with the Dutch girl who was lovely but I was a little slow moving for her and she headed off after a while.  It is very easy to meet people, sometimes they just join you walking.  Some make it a little difficult, for the first two nights there was a woman staying at the sameplace as me and she was having a snooze at 3pm both times I arrived – it is impossible to unpack your pack and find things quietly!  She alsoleft at 5am.  it made me wonder why on earth she was leaving so early if she was only going relatively short distances like me.  Another serial encounter was ´zie Germans´, a family group of 5 previously mentioned in connection with Guiness I encountered them a few times the first day then they stayed at the same place as me the first night.  Then I saw them a few times again the next day but lost them when I ended up at the hostel.  A few hours later I walked into the bar for dinner and there they were!  The last I saw them was yesterday afternoon, I think they must have gone a little further than me that day so I think I´ve lost them, it´s sad, they were very nice and it was entertaining how they kept popping up everywhere!

Language barriers:  A few of the Peregrinos speak English reasonably well and love to learn more.  For those who don´t it is easy to get on with a few words, had gestures and a smile as everyone is happy to chat and I have not encountered any grumpy people along the way.  I also seem to get by ok making myself understood by shop and bar staff – I have a few words of Spanish but not many and my ear is getting tuned more to it.  I find it is easier to understand than speak and I keep trying to speak French!

Pain and resilience:  I think that if I had not been unwell for so long and forced to struggle and be strong I would be having a harder time of it.  That being said, if I hadn´t been unwell I would be fitter, my feet would be more used to walking and standing (nursing is good for that!) and my muscles would be stronger.  So far my energy levels have been the least of my worries so they have kindly stayed ok so I can focus on the more loudly complaining parts.  My feet are killing me; each day I find new blisters, my shin muscles hurt from picking up my feet, my knees hurt as per usual, my quads hurt, my hips are tight and sore and my lower back muscles hurt from compensating for my hips and carrying the pack.  So it looks like a lot of the same muscles and tendons are used for hiking as with roller derby!  but it´s ok, I keep going, I go as far as I can by 2pm and see how I feel then or by the timeI decide I can´t do more.  So far I have had 3 days of just over 15km and one of over 10.  Distance is hard to measure here, there are carved stone wayside markers that are the most accurate but I forget what they say when I stop!  My guidebook is useless and around 5km out. 

Santiago will always be there:  No matter how fast or slow you go Santiago will alywas be there at the end waiting for you, it´s been there for hundreds of years and will be there for hundreds more.  It doesn´t matter if it takes me longer, it´s not a race so as long as I get there it is all good!  Sometimes it is tough to keep my feet moving but then I put in the headphones and walk to the beat – it works wonders

One more thing I have learned is that baths are fantastic!  I checked into a hoteltoday when I heard they had internet, a bar/restaurant and baths in the rooms.  So my feet thoroughly appreciated the soak even if myknees ended up around my chin as the bath was only a half size!

Tomorrow I am off again, maybe I will get to the next main town, maybe I will find a smaller one somewhere, who knows, it´s an adventure!

Next time I find internet I hope to post about this area of Spain (Galicia), the people who live in it and the scenery!  But for now, Hasta Luego!

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