Soon after leaving the albergue I fell into step with Branu, a young Slovakian man I had met over breakfast. But we had not gone far when I stopped. My feet were sore, plus I was walking with a slight limp as the blisters made walking difficult. Unable to put my full weight on my feet, other parts of my body compensated and my natural rhythm altered. My hope was that extra padding and a rearrangement of plasters might give me some relief, but even getting my feet in and out of my shoes was painful. As I sat by the side of the road, Branu waited with me, offering plasters and anything else I needed. Then we were joined by Kirsten from Norway who waited with us until I was ready to move again.
The guidebook advised that there would be no facilities for seventeen kilometres. In other words, most of the day would be without any comfort whatsoever. When I mentioned my feelings about this anticipated situation to Branu I was met with optimism. He thought that some enterprising individual would have set up a mobile unit somewhere along the route, and about two hours into our walk his prophecy was realised. A mobile unit selling coffee appeared at the side of the road, and while the taste might not have been up to much, the break was very welcome. We relaxed for half an hour or so and I enjoyed being with my new friends. But as time passed it became apparent that Branu and I were not going to be compatible walking companions. He didn’t mind being out in the sun all day, whereas I did. So I left Kirsten and Branu at the impromptu café to set off again on my own.
The albergue in Ledigos was an interesting collection of somewhat random buildings built onto the rear of a bar that had a large garden and paddling pool. Once settled inside, I discovered that two pilgrims I knew, Anna and Kelly, had a room upstairs in the main building, which I suspected was a bit nicer than the packed outhouse that was my home for the night. In the garden, Christine was paddling her feet in the pool while her friend Sylvia lay in the sun. By contrast I couldn’t take any more of the heat; I was only in the garden to hang out my clothes. After a while, Christine came over and I sought her advice on treating my blisters before enquiring how she was coping. Each day was a struggle for her to remain on the Camino; she wanted to go home. Although I struggled, I never wanted to go home. Maybe that’s because I just wouldn’t give up! But I also had faith in the process, and even though there were times when I really didn’t like what I was experiencing, I knew it would pass.
That evening, while I joined Anna and Kelly for dinner, Christine and Sylvia were short of cash. Instead of the usual pilgrim meal, Christine told me they had two eggs, some bread, yogurt and enough cash for a beer. She wouldn’t take any money from me and later when I saw them in the garden again, I understood why. They were tucking into an appetising omelette sandwich in the evening sun and I could see nothing more was needed. Simple, wholesome and nourishing.