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  • Writer's pictureWill

too much tenderness

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

Following on from understand, day 13, Saturday, 20th April 2013

Villanúa to Jaca, 14 km – 3 hours

Photo: Treatment for dealing with a foot blister.

The four other pilgrims were pushing on today but I wanted a short easy three-hour stroll to Jaca. I would be there before lunch, and a looked forward to a long day of rest.

I started off in a cold heavy rain but the sky soon brightened up and the sunshine made all things bright and beautiful. Life was good, for an hour, at least.

I had got used to the low-level aches and pains. Sore muscles, creaking cartilage or tight tendons can all be ignored if you keep things steady. I renamed my knees the Rice Crispies because every time I bent down, they snapped crackled and popped (old joke). A blister however, is the devil’s solution to fun, one of Dantes overlooked punishments in hell. It started off as a little heat on the outside of both feet, it ended up feeling like someone had put a blow torch to my little toes. I was twisting my limbs into pretzels trying to limp on both legs to ease the nuclear fusion going on in my socks. I was still upbeat and positive, after all, I had upgraded feelings of calm and centredness, and nothing was going to dampen my om.

Photo: the spooky hundreds of wayside monuments to murdered pilgrims.

The route wound through a nice little shaded wood by the side of a river. I had about half an hour to go, and it got a bit spooky. I passed by dozens and dozens of little piles of stones, like miniature cairns, or monuments to murdered hikers. I limped quicker.

I tell you what cheers you up when you are trying not to weep with pinky pain, misjudging your step and smashing your foot against a tree root. Tell you what cheers you up even more, doing it again with the other foot. I was nearly weeping when I was forced to stop, remove my boots and gently peeled back my stinky socks. They were stuck with blood to my little toes, I really should have stopped earlier. I changed into flip flops and promptly fell over, I scratched my foot on tree root, banged my elbow on a rock and smacked my knee into the ground. I was happy through gritted teeth.

The first thing I did when getting into Jaca city centre, find a chemist.

The chemist lady was the stereotypical Spanish beauty, white teeth, red lips, dark hair, dark eyes, latte skin, absolutely stunning. She listened attentively to my tale, looked down at my feet, and motioned for me to sit and wait. She returned with a bowl of water, and a towel. I started to get uncomfortable. When hiking day after day, washing and drying clothes can be problematic. It wasn't just my feet that smelled bad, all of me smelled bad, I was odorous, I was the pungent pilgrim.

It’s a humbling experience, a stranger voluntarily washing your feet.

I, the unworthy sinner sitting in comfort while the spotless healer kneels at my feet. She took each of my stinky bloodied feet, and with a gesture as gentle as cotton wool, she washed away the blood and dirty. I closed my eyes but I couldn't stop the tears, this was too much tenderness. When I opened my eyes, there was a silent audience watching the biblical tableau played out in real life.

With a touch as soft as silk, she took the towel and dabbed my feet dry.

My Spanish angel looked me in the eye and said “lo siento, this might hurt”, and then she poured surgical spirits straight into the open wounds. I said, “oh sweet holy mother of all watery pustules”. I wasn't expecting that, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

Photo: My Medical supplies, Bandages, Micropore Tape, and a bottle of Iodine.

I purchased my medical supples and flipped and flopped to the nearest hotel.


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