Walking El Camino de Santiago

Former nzherald.co.nz news editor Simon Winter takes on the 775-kilometre Spanish Pilgrim Trail

Spain: A dubious solution for tackling blisters

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A lunch stop on the trail. Photo / Simon Winter
A lunch stop on the trail. Photo / Simon Winter

After 10 days on the pilgrim trail we're 240 kilometres in. So we're averaging 24km a day, which doesn't sound bad - except at this pace we've still got 23 days to go. It's a pace we can't sustain and it's daunting, because the daily grind is wearing us down.

Our feet are sore, mine especially. I've got tramping shoes and Lisa has cross-trainers, which should be better, because we're on hardish paths much of the time instead of the bush.

But she's got nasty blisters coming on her heels and mine don't have quite enough padding, certainly not for a 34km marathon like today.

Our answer may lie with a Scottish taxi driver from Aberdeen.

We met Bobby at a private pension in Navarette the day after he fell asleep in the sun for a few hours. Poor fella now has the worst facial sunburn blisters you've ever seen.

But his feet are in great nick because of a little secret which isn't so obvious. He's strapped sanitary pads to his inner-soles. Which really, is a bit off. But it's the best option I've got.

Especially since we're thinking now about walking to Finisterre. The Spanish used to think it was the end of the world - where Spain's western coastline meets the sea. Now it's the ultimate conclusion to our pilgrimage. From the Pyrenees to the ocean, 890km, a complete trek across Spain.

Which of course at the moment seems an impossible dream. It's just so far away. But we've got time, so what the hell.

The last 90km are all along the coast, which is home to some of the most scenic vistas in Spain (apparently). That'll make a great change from the fields of yellow canola, wheat and barley and the odd snow-capped mountain.

I'd like to thank the Herald Online readers for their comments on earlier blogs, such as 'Urban Wayfarer' who suggested I 'harden up, old chap' after my account of day one.

Well Urban, I've taken your advice, and the marathon runner (Lisa) reckons I'm now nearly as fit as her. That's probably an exaggeration, but I've certainly got fit and, after a few years going the other way, the waistline has also started to shrink.

Nevertheless, it's tough. We've barely seen the sun and when the rain came in sideways yesterday (for the umpteenth day), we thought about packing it in and taking public transport to Santiago.

Others clearly had the same idea. The pilgrims were queuing up for the bus to the bustling big city of Burgos last night, some 57km from our village in Villafranca Montes de Oca.

Which is where we're headed for a well-earned break - on foot.

It's still three days away but a small carrot to get us past the 300km mark, and onto the Spanish plains - where it should, finally, get hot.

And, after lugging it around for nearly two weeks, perhaps we'll finally have a chance to use the tent.

Route marker: 240km down, 535km to go... or perhaps 650km to go!

* Simon Winter is a former nzherald.co.nz news editor. He and partner Lisa are following the sun through Europe. They're finding the weather somewhat colder than expected.

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