I love my boots. Or, more properly, I should call them “trail running shoes.” (LaSportiva Wildcats to be exact.) They were comfortable from the moment I put them on. They are light, they breathe, and they look cool (although it is hard to tell that when they are covered with dust). You can see all kinds of shoes on the Camino. In fact you WILL see them stacked somewhere near the entrance of each place you stay because you are not allowed to wear them in your room. You will see big heavy boots that fit above the ankle. Light, low cut shoes. Outdoor sandals. Simple running shoes. Being the most important item of clothing on the Camino, it is a critical choice that each pilgrim makes. Some find they have made the wrong choice, and boots can at times be seen cast aside along the trail. The existence of outdoor stores in this region of the country is evidence that pilgrims often need to make a new choice. Some of us put little identifying objects on the shoes so as to avoid another pilgrim taking our shoes. There is more than one story about a “shoe switch” and about the affect it had on a pilgrim’s walk. What is interesting though is that when all the dusty, smelly, worn boots are all piled up at the end of the day,—they all look about the same
Boots, of course, can lead to blisters. I have heard tales of some who walked the Camino and never had a blister. I don’t believe them. Both Lena and I have experienced various kids of foot issues. Blisters are a big part of that. And everybody has their remedies. Special European bandages called Compeed. Duct tape. Vaseline. Clean socks every few hours. Toe tubes. Wearing two pairs of socks at a time. Cooling off one’s feet in the stream. I’m sure each remedy works for someone. Before we left, a few of you even offered some suggestions and gave me little gifts for my feet. Thank you. I promise a full report on our return.
I’ve already talked some about albergues, the pilgrim hostels we stay at every night. While there is much to say in describing these, I just want to highlight how much they vary. Last night in the town of Longronõ, we stayed in an albergue with 18 people in one room. There was no breakfast provided, and though the place was clean, and the hospitalera was kind – I felt like I wanted to spend as little time there as possible. Tonight’s albergue is a bit of an old house or hotel, along the river park in the town of Nájera. We were able to get a private room (even though we had shared toilets and showers as is typical) and facilities were available for washing and drying clothes. Frankly here there is a homier feel compared with the institutional setting of last night (bunk beds are not my favorite thing). Though there is no breakfast here either, a few riverside cafés are just a few steps away and open early. To be sure, each albergue has its own feel and culture. Mostly, I guess, we’re just glad to have a bed at night.