June 23, 2014 - Distance Traveled: 21.3 km -
Today, we started walking in the dark. We only had 21 km to cover, but we have gotten in a habit of leaving early, and the ideas of having a long afternoon of rest in the next town sounded good. We were relieved to see the moon and stars when we stepped outside the albergue, rain had once been in the forecast. There was no indication it was going to materialize.
At first, we couldn't tell if we were heading in the right direction. The path which led us into a forest was narrow and not well marked. It would have been easy to have missed a turn in what little light was present. We were counting on the fact the other two pilgrims who passed us knew where they were going. It wasn't until we came to what I image was a fire road that we knew we were heading in the right direction. You have got to love those yellow arrows.
Soon the sun was rising and the pink and orange hues seemed to declare it was going to be a glorious day.
40 minutes into the day, we were approaching the first village (really more of a bend in the road with some buildings). It was at the bottom of a hill and there was a large group of people gathered there. It was as if they had been dropped off at this spot. They seemed to be Italian, and if the volume of their voices were any indication, they were excited for the day.
I was paying more attention to them then to where I as planting my feet. I stepped on a rock at the wrong angle, my right ankle buckled and I went down. Because of an old baseball injury, it does that from time to time. Luckily, all I did was bruise my pride and scrape my knee. I jumped up as quickly as you can with a 20 pound pack on your back, and assured Emilie and Allison I was just fine.
The Italians gave no indication they had noticed. I was thankful for that and was probably paying too much attention to their reaction when I went and did the very same thing. Again, I was fine. Most injuries on the Camino happen on the down slope. Grateful for the fact I was not hurt, and knowing the third time might be the charm, I decided to be more careful.
This piligrim stands at Alto San Roque, turned towards Santiago, and has been braving the strong winds which whip over the top of the mountains for years. Today, he bore witness to my struggle with the bus load of Italians. By the time we reached this spot, we were in and among them. They were loud and excited. It was such a contradiction to what we have been experiencing on the Camino. It definitely had more of the feel of a group of tourist than a a group of pilgrims. But then again, maybe we were this excited and talked this loud on our first day of walking.
I tried to set my pace so as to create space between the group and myself, but it seemed like every time I stopped to let them get ahead, they stopped. And every time I tried to speed up, they matched my pace. It shouldn't have, but it was getting under my skin and I walked faster.
By the time we reached the short, steep clime to Alto do Polo, at the 9 km mark, I had finally gotten a head of them. My victory came just in time to stop for cafe con leche, and let them all catch up. Even though Emilie and Allison were behind me, I ordered for them to beat the rush I knew was coming. By now, I had a pretty good idea of what they would like. We took a shorter break than normal and headed down the mountain, while some of the Italians were still waiting to be served. This seemed to do the trick and we were once again walking in relative quite.
We had 12 km until we reached Triacastel. My ankle was feeling a little stiff and so I wanted to walk it straight through to keep it loose. It was pretty much all down hill, but not so steep that it killed you knees. I felt good and was moving pretty quick.
About 1.5 km from our destination, while on a fairly steep section of the trail, I turned my right ankle again. This time when I fell, there was someone next to me on the trail. I tried to catch myself, instead of falling into them. In the process, I bent my walking stick, stepped with my left foot onto a fist sized rock, and turned it as well. I could tell immediately that something had been tweeked. The people near me helped me up and I began to hobble down the path. Sometimes, when you twist your ankle, you can walk it off. Not this time.
In a few minutes Emilie and Allison caught up to me. I was had gotten to a place where I could remove shoe. It was already swelling. While I started to put my shoe and sock back on, the ladies started to move weight out of my pack and in to theirs. By then, a crowd seemed to be gathering. A man from japan took off a wrap from his leg and braced my ankle. A women announced she was a marathon runner and would take my pack and hers to the albergue. Alison took my pilgrims passport and went ahead to reserve our spots at the Albergue. It was like a whirl wind. Everyone rushed off to take care of some detail, leaving only Emilie and I. We walked the reaminder of the 1.5 kilometers to the town. I did not know what this would mean for the rest of my Camino, but I was thinking, if this is the last bit I will be able to walk, I am glad it is Emilie who is walking with me. I was amazing how quickly people jump in to help. It made me feel loved and cared for.
Despite the injury, we still arrived 1 1/2 hours before the Albergue opened. The ladies went to the pharmacy to procure what every help they could and stopped by a store to pick up lunch. We ate while we waited for the albergue to open, and they stayed with me, making sure I had what I needed, for the rest of the day.
I spent much of the afternoon and evening in the laundary room, soaking my ankle, hoping that cold water would reduce the swelling and quicken the healing, enabling me to walk in the morning. When I message it, it makes a clicking noise. My gut tells me that cannot be good. Still I hope, with the aid of the braces the ladies brought back from the pharmacy, I will be able to walk tomorrow.