Camino del Norte

Day 11: Barely Arrived in Castro

Our Albergue ended up being in the basement of a holistic spa. I walked into the lobby and immediately noticed the amethyst tower positioned next to the reception desk. It was privately owned making it more expensive than the usual price of Albergues. My feet were in no condition to continue, so this would be home for the night.

The beds were positioned in the basement. Double beds, to be exact. About ten of them. With there only being three of us, we had free reign of the space. There were pillows and blankets, and yoga mats galore. I immediately felt at ease in the space.

That’s one thing I found to be interesting on the Camino. Some businesses will turn their unused spaces into accommodations for Pilgrims. Some were of higher quality than others, but it was an interesting way to capitalize on space not being used during business hours. This particular one had a pool and a sauna, but we weren’t allowed to access them. What my body would give to soak in a hot tub.

Basile was in the best shape out of all of us, so he tracked down a grocery store. He hauled back mushrooms, tomatoes, french cheese, bread, and a bottle of wine. After our showers, we rolled out a few yoga mats and enjoyed our meal on the floor. It was quite wonderful to have stillness after such an arduous second half of the journey. Without the noise of 30 people snoring simultaneously, I was able to get one of the best nights of sleep on the Camino.

The morning was still, but it was still difficult to pull our bodies out of bed. We had a much earlier start compared to previous days and I was happy to be waking with the sun. The rhythm is different waking up in a private Albergue. Usually, the zipping of bags or creaks of metal frames are the reason for being jolted awake. This was more of an ease than a sprint, and I was grateful for the slowed pace.

We walked out the front door, but my feet refused to move. I tried to put mind over physical matter, but this was excruciating. On the next block, I couldn’t help but collapse on the curb. I peeled off my socks not knowing what to expect. The skin around the blisters between my toes was inflamed and Basile commented on them possibly being infected. It was Sunday so none of the pharmacies would be open.

At that exact moment, a man in a busted car flipped a u-turn and parked near where I was sitting. He asked if everything was okay. I tried to explain what was wrong with my feet, but I showed him instead. He spoke rapid Spanish, but he was letting us know there was a medico open on Sunday and that he could drive us there if we wanted.

Basile was hesitant, but there was no way I could continue.

I hugged Nadine goodbye but was so sad to have to part ways. I felt myself pulling out of her arms, not wanting to let go. We were so rushed in the departure, I didn’t think to exchange contact information. By the time I remembered, we were already driving off to the emergency room.

The man dropped us on the corner in town and I hobbled into the building. A woman at a desk was speaking to a man and with Basile’s help in translated, we explained the issues with my feet. It’s common for Pilgrims to seek medical attention for blisters, but I was still overwhelmed by the process.

The medico who saw me pulled in someone who could speak English to help inspect my blisters. She explained they weren’t infected, but that they would be if I didn’t take care of them.

“I know you’re not going to listen, but the best thing is not to walk.”
“Do Pilgrims ever listen?”
“Hardly ever.”

She gave me a swatch of second skin and showed me how to apply it to the awkward position at the bottom of my feet. I was instructed to leave it on during the day and clean it at night. Reapply a clean skin the next morning until it is fully healed. She gave me some anti-inflammatory pills and sent me on my way.

I checked in with the nurse at the desk.

“How much?”
“Nothing.”
“Wait, nothing?”

I looked at Basile to make sure I heard her right. The man from earlier who was still standing there replied with a chuckle, “Welcome to Spain!”

I didn’t know if it was Spain or the kindness extended to Pilgrims, but I was grateful to be on the receiving end of an overwhelming gift.

Basile and I decided to stay in Castro Uridales for the night. We entered the city slowly, though it could have been my sour mood that slowed us down. I felt so much shame for not being strong enough to continue. Especially just having two days of rest in Bilbao. It was difficult to remind myself none of this is a race. Things happen as they are meant to and maybe this was where we needed to be in our journey.

We settled in at one of the only open cafes while I searched for a hotel for the night. Between the rumor about the bed bugs and my inability to walk, I didn’t think it was right to take a bed at the Albergue. 

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