I just got back from dinner in a town called Noja where I demolished a blue cheese and nut burger with about two pounds of french fries. I had a nice chat with the bartender, who explained that he's studying English and French because he wants to go to either the US or Canada.
"Do you like languages?" I asked.
"No. But I need them for my job. And Spain...."
Noja is ghost town in the winter. All the apartment buildings are shuttered. The only lodging I could find was a "four star" hotel that cost 40 euros a night with breakfast, and so I thus faced a dilemma. You see, about halfway through the walk today (which was gorgeous, through craggy countryside outside Liendo, goat pastures outside Laredo, a boat ride to Santoña, and a picturesque red clay path that inched its way over a hill and descended into the long, sandy beach that is Noja) I started feeling pain in my right shin just above the ankle. I didn't think too much of it, and pressed on. The pain got gradually worse until by the time I was in Noja it was getting fairly difficult to walk. So the dilemma I faced was this: cough up 40 euros for luxury and comfort even though I can't really afford it, or press on in the hopes of finding something cheaper while possibly wrecking my shin in the process. Lately, I've been very good at making decisions, but this one was tough. I was completely torn. So I did something else: I went to the grocery store and bought yogurt. I figured it might take my mind off the problem for a second and then maybe the answer would come naturally (sort of a "Three Cups of Tea" thing). When it still didn't I started to walk out of town, convinced I was going for it, and then finally I stopped again and sat down. And ate more yogurt. In the end, I decided to stay.
I'm glad I decided to stay because I met possibly the love of my life. In the cafe I went in to to ask about lodging options there was a beautiful Algerian woman working who explained that basically my options were to stay in the hotel or sleep in a dumpster alongside the town's myriad street cats. I tried to go through the motions of normal human conversation and etiquette but I mostly just found myself wondering, "Is she married does she have a boyfriend why on earth is she here in this tiny little town she must at the very least have a child probably a daughter who she loves more than anything in the world there is no way she's not married should I be smiling right now?" After my chat with her I went and got settled into the hotel, where I am now (after going out to dinner) typing these very words and feeling nostalgic about the trip so far.
As far as my shin goes, I'm terrified it's shin splints but there's a very good chance it's nothing. I'll probably wake up tomorrow and be totally fine, and I'll walk the 40k into Santander and be merry. But if it is shin splints, and it's serious (I've heard they're horrible), I'm not worried. Since I made a promise to myself at the beginning to finish this walk, it means I have to do it whatever the cost. It might mean a few less k's per day. It might even mean a month in Santander, healing up, eating pinchos and surfing and growling "Joder, tio" at passers-by. But whatever it is, I take comfort in that whatever it is it's not the end. Because only Santiago's the end, and it's still a long way off.
|Santoña looms in the distance. Many goat pastures must be crossed and many kilometers of beach walked to get there.|
|"Stand on the shore and wave your arms, otherwise they won't come get you".|
|Lower body strength.|
|Still life with finger.|
|El Mar Cantábrico.|