Day 19: Brand new shoes
Many people on the Camino face challenges with their feet and legs. The most common problems are blisters, from small to huge ones. But also knee problems seem to show up often. Earlier in the Camino the was a nice Spaniard that I saw quite often in Albergues or on the route. He walked a bit faster than I and we always had a friendly encounter when we met. Till one morning I passed him in a city while most often he passed me. This time his steps were uncommon slow and careful. It turned out that he had severely hurt his knee and was on his way to get the bus to León to consult a doctor. He told me it was likely that his Camino was over for this year.
So far I have not been plagued by any of these discomforts. My legs are good, my feet are good and I feel good. Whether thats the result of a proper preparation, who knows. What I do know is that the shoes and socks are among the most important equipment of a Pilgrim. My shoes were broken in properly, I did about 250 km training on them and I tried several socks, until I found out that my oldest walking socks are the best. Many people try the two sock approach as they feel that wearing two socks will prevent the rubbing of the socks that will normally create the blisters. Somehow all the people I have met that followed this approach had problems with blisters.
This morning I met a young Italian guy who clearly was wearing brand new shoes: shiny white Nikes. When we had a little conversation I asked if it was his first day, which he confirmed. I thought so, the shoes were too white to have walked any kilometers. He ensured me that he trained on these shoes for about three months and I hope for him he did, otherwise he will likely face severe problems with his feet going forward on the Camino.
Today I walked from my hotel in Foncebadon to an Albergue in Vega de Valcarce, altogether 37 km. The route brought me from a wine landscape to high mountains. At Villafranca del Bierzo there was choice of two routes, one following the national route connecting the cities and the other called the “Camino duro”. Duro in Spanish basically means hard or tough and so it was, over 10 km the ascend was 460 meter and the descend 380 meter. However the ascend was very steep at the beginning, followed by a relatively flat mid piece of around 8 km and again a relatively short distance for the descend. But the Duro was worth the effort, great sights and beautiful blossoming flowers on top made it a great experience and again completely different from all the kilometers before on this Camino.