I told you I was ready for a taxi yesterday when the oasis of Fiobal appeared. I had gone to sleep with great hopes that the rest would cure the problem and in the morning I would be fine. That’s how it usually happens isn’t it?
Desafortunatemente not today! I was unable to walk without my poles – even down the few stairs to get out. I felt a nerve pinch and excruciating pain with every step. I sent a daypack with non essentials on to Barbadelo. The other side of Sarria. Easy to say go home. Have a rest. Not so easy when you are a few days out from completion. When you have planned and trained and you have walked over 650kms and you are almost there.
Only 3 k’s into Triacastela, they have a Physio there. I could try and walk, call a taxi if all else failed. So I tried. My beloved carried my near empty bag. I walked sideways, backwards and forwards. It all hurt. It took about 2 hours to go 3 kilometres. It was impossible.
We reached Triacastela about 9ish and the sign on the Fisioterapy office said it would open at 10. I was dubious because so many Spaniards in the Camino were taking time off during September. The lady from the bar across the road assured me they would open at diez (ten), But ten came and went. No fisioterapist! I tried calling for the 10th time and finally an answer. 10 means 2 – maybe. We couldn’t wait. I couldn’t wait. I had rested long enough to try and walk again. I was hopeful that the rhythm would kick in as it did with sore feet and we would be on our way to the 100km mark just past Sarria where the bus loads kick in.
It is known that if you don’t walk from Sarria then no compostela! No certificate of completion. Even if you’ve walked over 650km! If someone starts in Sarria and walks only 100km they are given the compostela – but you will not receive one if you stop there. All of the pain and all of the effort will amount to nothing. Sure you can come back and complete it another time – many do it in sections. But when you’ve planned the entire way, you are almost there, and your darn feet and knees are actually okay for a change – what a tragedy! What a let down after coming so far.
So I tried again. My beloved was suggesting a taxi for me to Sarria and he would meet me there. I was reluctant to accept the defeat of my body and dragged myself on step after step. Out of Triacastela down the hill one painful step after another and up a small incline past the last Puebla enroute to Sarria. I will take another ibuprofen and rub voltaren in my back. The rhythm will kick in.
I was past the Vegetarian Albergue and spotted a small stone chapel where I could rest. I could walk no more. My left leg refused to move. Each time I put weight on it the nerve pinched in my hip and back and tears ran down my cheek. I wasn’t running for my life. I didnt need to cripple myself. I had to stop. I had to call a taxi.
My beloved carried my bag back. We made it the 50 metres to the Albergue and the lady called a taxi. I needed a pole to get downstairs to the bathroom. I called Sarria and made an appointment with a fisioterapist. I drank Kombucha. The taxi arrived and my beloved reluctantly came with me. I may need medical help after the fisio in Sarria. It was almost 12 and we had covered only about 4.5kms. My camino was over.
The descent from O’Cebreiro to Triacastela was over 990m. No wonder I was in pain again. Molinaseca had ruined me. I shed a few tears in the taxi I was done. All the while my mind was already planning my return to finish the way! We talked about me catching the bus to each town onward as my beloved continued the walk. My sister wanted to walk it. It wasn’t the end of the world. I needed to walk my own pace. Rest more. The pain was continuing but my mind was ticking.
The taxi driver drove through the big medical centre in Sarria and I explained “tengo reserva con un fisioterapist” I have an appointment with a fisioterapist. I called them for the address. She spoke to them, turned a corner and there they were. It was painful to walk to the door. We were early for the appointment. I sat at the first table in the cafe next door and waited for 1.30 to arrive.
My therapist was Roberto. He spoke no English. I told him I could not walk. No puedo andar. Necisito andar. I need to walk. I started in France I need to walk the last few days to Santiago. He massaged, he stretched, he put the tens machine on. I think he might have told me to rest.
I paid E25 and I walked slowly out and down the path following the yellow arrows to see if I could walk the last few kilometres to Barbadelo. My beloved was hot and sat at the foot of the hill through the old city. I wanted to see how it felt. Roberto had performed a miracle! Well he knew his stuff. I reached the top of the hill and saw the sign pointing to Barbadelo saying 2.5 kilometres. I could manage that – very slowly.
My beloved continued on and I walked very very carefully. A young man from Brazil came up beside me and we spoke in Spanish for a few minutes. Then his Aunt and cousin from Paraguay caught up and they also spoke only Spanish. We struggled up the hill slowly and laughed at the struggle. We spoke only Spanish. They had started in Sarria just a kilometre or two behind us.
We spotted Barbadelo in the distance and stopped for a photo together. My hat blew off and the Aunty followed an old man through his gate and ran to retrieve it for me. She said I was very shy and laughed loudly! We will meet in Santiago and drink cerveza and bailar she said in Spanish. Maybe she was a prophet. Maybe she was just hopeful.
I went up the path to the albergue we had stayed in last time where we had met Shirley and her husband. I stood waist deep in the pool for ages. I wanted to numb my back and be able to finish this camino.
The man with the biggest hiking pole on the camino was there. The Englishman who was anywhere anytime was there. More importantly, the choirmaster was there with the English Medicine Woman and Doctor Lovelace. They were both carriers of pain relief. One offered me codeine. The other tramadol. Neither agreed with my stomach but I swallowed a codeine and took one of each in case of emergency. I did some stretches and went to bed hopeful of reprieve. Our dear camino friend and superhiker was going to meet us tomorrow in Portomarin. I’d been looking forward to this catchup for months and didnt want to be in agony.
This incident made me so aware of the privilege of being able to do this walk. Perhaps it had all been a bit too easy so far! It’s like life really. You can plan and prepare all you like. Sometimes things just don’t go the way you want. As John Lennon said – Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.
Our plan had been to plod along without incident and to hit Santiago before 12 on Saturday so we could celebrate our achievement and catch up with many of our new camino friends. We wanted to go live to our friends and family back home and share the joy. We had experienced a minor hiccup and probably couldn’t be as close to Santiago as we wanted to on Friday but we were back on track.