"You know ... walking is just really not an efficient way to get anywhere." This is so true. Our purpose of course is not just to get to the end, but lies in the process ... but every time bikes zoom by or cars pass and leave us in a cloud of dust, we become more aware of how SLOW a process walking is!
Today we woke up at 4 AM to beat the heat, climbing out of the eight upper bunks scattered throughout the form of 80 beds that had been assigned to us. It was easy to identify where people were by the creaking of beds, thumping, rustling, and the attempts to be quiet that seem to magnify every sound. We left Estrella with stars overhead, walking by the light of streetlights in the city, and headlamps beyond it. About half an hour later we passed a monastery with a "Fuente de Vino" -- a wine fountain! It wasn't running yet, and we also didn't think wine for breakfast at 5:45 AM would be the best idea, but we did get a couple drops out of the spigot -- enough to taste that yes, it was fantastic.
One unanimous vote among this group is that, whether together or when we eventually begin walking separately again, we are getting up at 4 every day. It is so, so hot and this rewards us about 5 blissful hours of walking before the blistering heat. (In the morning it takes us less than 15 minutes to walk one kilometer; in the afternoon heat it takes us nearly 45.)
This morning we lost Mike/DC, somewhere in the woods early on in the morning. He has massive blisters and has been really struggling with muscle cramps in his feet, but so far has been keeping pace. Today, though, he fell behind and never caught up throughout our breaks. (We knew this would happen eventually so we're not worried - but we will miss him!)
About five hours later we also lost Marie/Norway to the fate of horrible foot blisters. She mentioned that she was hurting and it would be a hard day, but no one really knew how bad it was -- until we broke from a 5 kilometer trail walk at a small pilgrim cafe and Marie stumbled in with a look on her face that only said, "HELP!" She's very fair, and has also gotten really sunburned, and everyone jumped to the rescue. A bench was cleared, someone bought Coke (thinking her sugar levels are low); someone bought chocolate milk (thinking lack of sugar and protein); people offered water, and propped her feet up, and applied wet compresses to her head. This whole time she kept saying, "FEET!!" but we were all so positive she had sunstroke and was in some sort of denial that no one paid attention, until she began to remove her shoes and socks and we saw how much pain she was in. Her Compedes (like "second skin" bandages that form to your foot and provide a padding as well) had become stuck to her socks in some places, and had melted into them in others -- so removing her socks caused immense pain. It's so hard to watch friends, fellow Camino walkers, in such immense pain, but this happens fairly frequently. Different things get different people, and often the mind is stronger than the body. An Aussie girl we met on our second day, and who got far ahead of us, had her feet completely break down yesterday, but she had been walking 20 mile days with a 40 pound pack (she's around 5'4" and weighs maybe 120 lbs). One of our Belgian friends injured his knee in Pamplona and is taking a bus ahead. Another got heat exhaustion. As we come upon this, it just drills into us the need to take care of ourselves -- but again, Mike and Marie had been fantastic at self care. This is a rough road. So far we're thanking God for our health and safety, and the general non-threatening areas we have blisters. Marie decided to take a bus ahead two days, and meet us once we arrive, hoping to have rested enough by then to resume walking.
Now six, we plodded on, through rolling fields for most of the day. We passed through one city, with a cathedral that took our breath away, though I can't remember either the name of the city nor the church. (My guide book is upstairs, and I move rather slowly these days.) (Church of Santa María in Los Arcos)
When we entered the Cathedral, Rachel and I both gasped, as we had been expecting a smaller, local parish church, and instead walked into an immense church filled with gold and art and fully Spanish decor. We got some time in quiet prayer in this beautiful place. As we stood up, passing the altar in front, we genuflected ... down. I thought, "Oh no." Rachel tried to get up, and completely fell over. She literally just tipped over sideways and collapsed on the ground! Stifling giggles we walked to pick our packs back up and, as we were exiting, a Spanish lady started speaking rapid Spanish and gesturing -- Rachel had forgotten her bandana. That sorted, we turned again, and once again this lady started speaking rapidly and pointing to Rachel's pack. Her headlamp was on in her side pocket. We are a mess, folks.
This afternoon we walked and walked, until we took a break by a stream bed (of kind of murky, dank water) ... and an hour later we woke up. We hobbled up a hill (let me tell you, when you walk this way you become acutely aware of how each and every city is built on a hill) and arrived at a beautiful village with another empty, peaceful albergue -- such an oasis after the chaos of yesterday's packed hostel. The owner showed us that they have a soaking pool for feet in the yard, and Mary/Canada shouted, "We're staying here!!" And here we stay! Thank you, sweet Lord, for getting us here!