It was just so out of the norm after all this time to be in a hotel dining room atmosphere with a smattering of tourist and here were the three of us – already aromatic, bed-head dreads trying to blend in. 🙂
The buffet was delicious – particular the watermelon slices which I devoured like a malnourished child. Eggs, pastries, strong coffee, juices and more. After eating, I took off one way to find an ATM machine and thought that Mark and Barbara headed directly out of the town towards the evening’s destination. Wound up they found an open internet cafe at that time of the morning and stayed several hours communicating with the outside world.
This was the magical day of the 100 kilometer marker – letting the pilgrim know that only 100 more kilometers to go before reaching Santiago. I loved how in this province of Galicia, they erected these measuring markers for it seemed to psychologically help when I walked – having the visual to count down my days progress.
Mid day I noticed that the occasional numbness that I was feeling in my left foot big toe area was starting to get increasingly painful. There was quite a bit of descending terrain to cover today and the pressure of the toe hitting the edge of the boot with each step almost felt as though the boot had shrunk a half size. It became increasingly more unavoidable to ignore and I did everything I could to adjust my walking stride – even attempting zig zag snow plow maneuvers as I walked downhill.
Within about 2 kilometers of reaching Portomarin, I came upon an elderly woman in her mid-seventies from South Africa named Dorothy. She was walking very gingerly over a patch of stone steps that were placed through a small running creek. With it being difficult to pass and she sensing someone behind her, I called out for her not to worry about me and to take her time. When we got over the creek area, she stopped and we chatted a bit.
This was her first day and she felt she had bitten off more than she could chew with her desire to walk the minimum requirement of 100 kilometers to receive her Compostella for the Camino. I told her what I had told myself day after day – it isn´t a race. I knew there were no other stopping areas before Portomarin but assured her that after today she could manage perhaps a few kilometers a day until she reached Santiago. She was in the mood to talk and wanted to know all the particulars about my life. I, too, wanted to know why she chose to do this at this stage of her life. Recently widowed, Dorothy felt she had never done anything that wasn´t for or about someone else. This, the Camino, seemed so radical and grand that she felt she needed something of this magnitude to help “wake up her soul”. I could not leave this moment without hugging her and saying I knew she could do this or she would not be here.
Within a half hour of saying good-bye to Dorothy, I crossed a long bridge over a large body of water to the town of Portomarin. The wind was so strong that I held my hat in my hand as I crossed the enormous water mass and reached the edge of town. By now my left big toe was throbbing and I navigated over to a sign for a privado alburgue rather than the municipal – usually a few euro more and less packed. Got a bed and sat down to remove my boot and see what was going on.
Wow – the entire nail on my left big toe had some how been damaged enough by the repeated squeezing pressure in my boot that it lost all blood flow and was now dead yet resting on top of the exposed nerves. There was also the beginnings of nail damage on my right big toe coupled with the continued tendinitis.
There was blood all over my left foot. I very carefully showered the area without removing the dead toenail. Experimenting with pain management, I learned that if I could keep the nail resting there, I could still manage a sock over it until I could figure out what to do. For awhile I sat dazed and confused. What would I do? I knew that I could not put the boots back on yet wondered if I’d be able to walk in my night shoes – a pair of slip on sandal-type shoes for the duration of these remaining days?
As much as I wanted to lay down and rest, my mind was spinning and calculating, tossing over scenarios. The room with 4 bunk beds was only separated from other rooms by curtains and the air felt stifling and musty. I decided to test drive my walking abilities and ventured into the town, found a cafe and nursed my psyche with an incredible bowl of Galecian soup – white navy beans, greens, and broth that tasted out of this world.
I knew the sight and shock of what was going on in the feet department would lose some of its potency by morning. I trusted that the remaining terrain and my alternative footwear would somehow work its self out in my favor.
I would certainly find out very soon.