My géo-bio friends were finishing up that night, as planned. Three of them would have had difficulty continuing, though they were a game lot. The injury list: a back problem, a knee problem, and blisters. The worst was the blistering. A tiny and temporary blister can be harder to live with than many major injuries. The sufferer was close to tears.
This was a point in the Camino where many people were pulling out, and this may be a good point in the blog to raise the issue of footwear. Here are my boots after more than a thousand kilometres of wear.
The BOA no-tie system is intact and I loved it. The soles have another thousand kilometres left in them. The leather uppers are fine.
The first problem is that I should have selected a larger size to accommodate heavy socks, and the pressure and swelling that come from walking big miles with weight. I should also have used good insoles.
However, there may also have been a problem with the over-design of most modern boots, which often have such features as waterproof membranes and heavy rubber reinforcing around toe and heel. Many people find membranes effective. My experience is that they work well till they stop working. Boots also may have stiff reinforcing which prevents the upper from adapting to the shape of the foot under the heaviest wear. In the case of my boots, the rubber may have saved the tips, but the stress was transferred to where the rubber joins the leather. That’s after the stress was transferred to my toes.
While taking every precaution to avoid foot problems, I still could not avoid very minor blisters and corns. Not enough adaptation, even after a thousand kilometres. Rigid synthetic rubber may be okay for certain heels and toes, but for many people it’s not okay. The theory is that a correct fit (if that exists) avoids pressure. The theory doesn’t hold up when one is making a long descent on tar at the end of the day with humidity in socks and boots.
If I elect to take leather boots again they’ll have less reinforcing, and possibly no membrane. I will saturate and use and abuse them till they look like an Agen prune. And if they feel like old friends before departure for Spain, I’ll give them the job. Or I may take a lighter synthetic shoe, membrane optional, but with adequate height and heel clasp so knees and back aren’t wrenched about. Oh, and great socks, great sock liners, and special insoles.
Everyone has different feet and tastes. Some people wear jogging shoes and get by nicely. Just don’t leave for the Camino in untried footwear. A shoe that seems worn-in may prove to be stiff and problematic under the weight of a pack. The most strenuous weekend hike is not a test for a two month hike.
If you’re going to have to pull out, let it be for something glorious: a broken leg, salmonella infested praires farcies, chucking a brown-eye at the Guardia Civil.
Don’t miss out over a blister.
The municipal gîte at Arzacq is a cheery centre d’acceuil, with dorms up the front and individual rooms further back. Those economical but excellent rooms have views to the Pyrenees – in fine weather, which was lacking for me.
Okay, you get dried out confit de canard (again) for dinner, and maybe that terrifying substance, French pasta. But the atmosphere is so good you may not notice the food. The front of the centre d’acceuil is a tourist feature on its own. I don’t know what to call the style of buildings in Arzacq but many were both distinctive and lovely.
So, next morning it was farewell to the géo-bio crowd, with a blurry hope of a future reunion at Chartres. That should get the pendulums swinging.
With a supply of sheep cheese and cornbread, I headed off alone, but confident that old friends would be replaced by new friends. But a funny laziness was creeping over me. I resented the effort of making new friends so constantly, of having to race each day through all the necessary levels of acquaintance till a friendship was formed. Odd, but that’s how I felt. It’s a Camino thing.
Misty lake, sappy fields, dripping forests, lowering cloud, light rain drifting in…
…and sappy, dripping, misty prose drifting in. Sorry, but the atmosphere really was heavy that morning.
Reminders of what we are…
…and where we’re going.
Much of the day is spent in lush hill country, and you become aware of France as an agricultural power house, yet still with its special douceur.
Here are members of the renowned breed, the Blonde d’Aquitaine – actually in Aquitaine! They go back to the sixth century at least, and their hardiness and good adaptation come from their original use as draught animals. The breed is now world-wide, but here the quality and name are protected just like wine and cheese and those tiny lentils. It’s France, after all.
Lunch was in a handy covered annex attached to this very old church, about which I should have learned more.
It’s an agricultural day, ending at a farm back down on the flat country. If you’re wondering why they eat cornbread in this region…
And it was around here I spent the night, in a gîte attached to a working farm at Uzan. And when Mme Perarnaud Bernard serves cheese, it’s pure sheep cheese of the region. Can I give any higher praise?