For days after the 33km march in the broiling sun out of Leon I had been nursing a big blister on the bottom pad of my left foot. It was painful to walk, and wasn’t getting any better. After each night, it was a little better, but by the end of a day trekking it was just as bad as it had been the previous day. After a long day on the trail, in Rabanal del Camino in the Cantabrian Mountains, I finally said that enough was enough.
Instead of walking, the next morning I took a taxi into Ponferrada, a reasonably-sized place and my next destination. Luis, the taxi driver, assessed the situation, and suggested I visit the nearby Queen’s hospital, where they have a free clinic for credentialed pilgrims.
This seemed like great advice, and I hobbled over to the emergency room. The pilgrim’s clinic didn’t open for a few hours, so I sat down to wait. Some ‘life experience credits” were earned for observing an emergency room in rural Spain. Mostly, I saw kindness, and babies being helped.
Eventually, I was called in, and the doctor interviewed me. His English was non-existent, and surely my Spanish is worse, but once I took off my boot, he got the picture, had me lie down, and called the nurse.
The nurse yanked the moleskin, told me it wasn’t infected, and gave my blister a proper dressing. There was some pain involved in this process. Then she told me to stay off it until it stopped hurting, probably two or three days. Easier said than done in the circumstances. Once it stopped hurting when I walked, I was good to go.
There’s obviously a disconnect between walking in immense pain and some of the scenes of tranquil beauty along the Camino. I’m not sure what to say about this, except that part of the point of the pilgrimage is to endure privation. In olden times, in one example, notables humbled themselves and climbed to the sanctuary at Rocamdour on their bloody knees.
How this applies to me I cannot really say, and it is frustrating to be here in Ponferrada a few blocks from a mammoth Templar castle, and not really to be able to explore it (as the nurse told me, if I want this to heal, I must stay off it).
Life is sometimes very strange—with ironies that are unanticipated!