May 26th Los Arcos – Logrono
May 27th Logorno- Najera
May 28th Najera- Santo Domingo
May 29th Santo Domingo- Villafranca de Oca
May 30th Villafranca de Oca- Burgos 35 km
May 31st Rest day in Burgos 37 km
By the second week my group including myself, got used to our schedule and daily routine, which we would continue to follow for the remaining four weeks. My last blog most likely gave the impression that Spain is terrible and that the rest of my trip would most likely be just as miserable. Luckily the rest of our journey consisted of perfect hiking weather, although it did get colder around the time we had class and dinner time.
Almost every day and night, except for our rest days we would be in a different town or city. As I mentioned before it was an abnormal feeling of not really getting to know each town very well because of the time constraint. Also, not sleeping in the same bed for more than two days was something I adapted to while studying abroad. Even though we only spent a day at the small towns and two or three at most in the big cities, I still feel that overall I got the opportunity to witness the cultural changes as we hiked through each region.
Other than the first day, everyone in the group hit a low point during the Camino. Of course each day had its own challenges because we were always hiking in unfamiliar trails, meeting new people, trying new foods, and sometimes welcoming new injuries that would come unexpectedly. Occasionally the terrain would be a challenge on its own but we all managed to encourage others and push each other to go beyond our own physical and mental limits. Personally, this week was the week I hit my lowest point on the entire trip excluding the first day.
To begin with, I will give some details leading up to the two days where I felt that I would truly not be able to complete the entire hike for that day. Prior to the days leading up to Burgos, which was the city we would be having our rest day in, our professor gave us two options. The first option was completing the hike in three days while the second option was hiking to Burgos in two days, with the benefit of getting an extra rest day. As for myself, I had already easily made the decision in my head. I made the decision based off of my physical performance within the past few days and whether I had any injury that would prevent me from hiking more than what we usually average in a day. Luckily, I was doing great and easily one of the fastest walkers in the group.
The day before our group split into the two-day and three-day groups we had an “easy” day, it was about 13 miles. I decided I would wear my walking shoes because it would be a short distance and the terrain would be mostly flat and we would be walking through a ghost town. This was the first time I wore them on the trail and I felt a little bit of discomfort in my shins as we approached the ghost town, which was about 2 miles away from our destination. Walking through the ghost town was very disturbing and mystifying, the feeling and scenery resembled a horror film. It was not necessarily a sinister town but it was just so strange to me that everything in that town seemed incredibly perfect, yet not a single person was spotted in the afternoon. We walked through a neighborhood where all the houses appeared new but all had “for sale” signs. The neighborhood also had an underground gated pool with a playground, and basketball court. Again, not a single child was out and we did not see anyone until we reached the next town. This was the first time I ever experienced something like that, to me it was strange but it made me realize not to be so closed minded because one day the neighborhood could easily be filled with life.
Overall, the hike to Santo Domingo would be the start of many miles of excruciating pain. I did not think much of my shin pain because my mentally was that I came on this trip to physically challenge my limits and that was what I wanted to do. Little did I know it was a terrible mistake especially because I would be hiking a total of 45 miles in just two days. The first day of our hike to Burgos would be the longest distance we have traveled thus far on our journey. The first 19 miles were painful, but at this point I was used to the agonizing pain in my feet but the last three miles I started falling behind. I constantly had to keep reminding myself that I was doing the right thing in taking on something bigger than myself and being able to complete it with six other students equally looking for a similar challenge. Though during the last mile I continued to fall behind, it was disheartening but I knew that if I made the pain in my shin worse there would be no chance I would be able to hike 23 miles the next morning.
As you can imagine the next morning my shin was not any better and it felt like I was walking on a broken ankle. The shin splints did not extend past my ankle area which was really strange because normally when I had shin splints in the past it would only be in my shins. Every step I took felt as if I was slowly tearing every muscle, tendon, or ligament in my ankle. During one of our breaks I skipped breakfast and rubbed ibuprofen lotion all over my ankle and wrapped it. I was in so much pain that I did not say a single word during the entire hike. That day felt like the trail would never end and as I slowly started falling more and more behind I realized that sometimes I need to be able to accept failure in my life. I could barely see my group in the distance but I knew our professor specifically mentioned that he would not let anyone out of his sight because we were a smaller group and the city was confusing to navigate. Eventually, the moment I dreaded the most came upon me when Pablo (professor) walked back to me and said, “I think I know exactly what your answer will be but we are coming up to a small town if you want me to call a taxi”. The thought of not being able to complete a full day made me sick and I was distraught on the inside.
For a second the idea of not having to be in the scorching sun for two more hours and being able to relieve my pain temporarily seemed like a perfect escape to my misery. Of course my stubborn self quickly turned that idea away and said “well you’re right because I’m not taking a taxi, I’m finishing it”. The last two hours were easily the worst because I was changing my gait due to the pain and after twenty miles it caught up to me. Now I was dealing with two ankles that were in pain and I realized that my decision was affecting my group. Witnessing them stop and wait for me to catch up made me appreciate them but I felt so guilty because now I was holding them back on a day that was already long enough. I wished and wished that there was a way that they could just leave me so I could arrive by myself. I did not want my group to see me during my most vulnerable times and I did not want to bring them down with me because I was holding them back.
When we finally arrived to Burgos I broke down, I had mixed emotions of happiness, pain, and just being overwhelmed. That night Pablo bought me a bottle of wine and ice. I did not know how to feel because I truly appreciated the gesture but I felt like I owed my group something after holding them back for almost two additional hours. The next day we were reunited with the rest of our group which were the ones that hiked to Burgos in three-days. By then my emotions were more controlled and I felt fortunate to have completed the hike and to have created such a strong bond with people who were strangers to me before the trip.