San Bol to Itero de Casillas. 24 km
So, it is barely my 3rd day in Europe, and my second day on the Camino, but I have yet to stick to my budget of ~20 euros a day. I know this sounds like not very much, but Most Alburgues only cost 4-5 euros, and pilgrims menus usually cost 6-10 euros, depending on what and where I eat, and stopping for a breakfast of tea and Tortilla is usually about 3 euros. That gives me 2 euros for lunch...so far, I have spent a total of 9 euros on walking provisions, and I still have chocolate, gluten free cookies, and cheese from my first purchase, as well as have added 2 pears for tomorrow.
However, that doesn't include museums, laundry, or other incidentals such as internet access, so I probably should have given myself more. Of course both last night and tonight were places that had no internet access, and I keep forgetting to ask for WiFi at the different places where I stop for food. Laundry yesterday cost me 7 euros, since they had no hand-washing facilities. In the process, I lost my extra set of socks, so I have exactly enough for one set per day instead of having a set I can change into midday (one strategy I read about for preventing blisters--dry socks move better across the skin of the feet). And, sharing a bottle of wine with others at the Alburgue was another 2.5 euros. I also bought some Nivea cream today, hopefully, to keep from getting any more blisters (5 euros). I plan to slather my feet with it in order to lubricate them while I walk. Another pilgrim said she did so several times per day, and in her 11 days on the Camino, no blisters yet. Me, on the other hand, I currently have 3 blisters....one on the side of my left toe, one on the ball of my right foot, and one at the junction between my right big toe and my foot. I think I started the lubrication regimen a little too late!
Of course, if it hadn't felt like my feet were going to fall off from tenderness, I might not be staying where I am, either. I am at another tiny private Alburgue (only 12 beds and no electricity) and it is a Donativo--they take donations, rather than set a price. Being here has been like being cared for by an Italian grandmother (it is run by the Italian confraternity of St. James) or maybe like royalty. In fact, as I was walking in, I was praying something like, "Lord, I don't know what I am going to do if they don't have a bad. I don't think I can make 10 more steps, let alone another 2 km to the next town." So, when I asked if they had any space left, and Anna, one of the hospitaleros, said yes, I promptly burst into tears...not the pretty tears where they sort of leak out, but the contort your face, turn into a soggy, torrential mess kind of tears. Annette, one of the German Pilgrims from San Bol, got up from where she and her husband were checking in, and gave me a hug, asking me what was wrong. When I said why I was crying, one of the other Hospitaleros, Jean-Luc, came up to me and told me that he would look at my feet as soon as I had had a shower and had relaxed a little bit. Just taking a shower made me feel some better, but then Jean-Luc took my feet and then spent the next 1/2 hour massaging them back into human anatomy from the pulverized stumps they seemed to have become. At one point, I asked him if I could pack him in my backpack and take him with me, it felt so good! Afterward, he told me that I need to cut back on my mileage for the next few days, or my feet would get worse--that I needed to be better about listening to what my body was telling me. I will do so, even though it will mean losing one, maybe both, of my rest days (depending on whether I can ramp up my mileage again later).
Their hospitality didn't end there, either. Anna made me rice instead of the pasta that everyone else had, and in a welcoming ritual, they washed all of our feet. A young lady from Lithuania came in with a knee injury, and Jean-Luc will be wrapping it for her in the morning in order to give her the ability to make it to the next town with a hospital. And, there are 2 resident digdogs, Flamma and Balou, who vied for our attention all evening long. They will also be making us breakfast in the morning. I have yet to stay for breakfast anywhere because I usually can't eat anything anyway (standard pilgrims breakfast is coffee, toast, and jam). Even if there is nothing for me to eat, I plan to stay, because I love the spirit of giving and Christian Charity that is here. It is just such a blessing to be around people who give extravagantly expecting nothing in return. I want to be like that... Maybe someday I can come back here and be a Hosptalero, volunteering my time for another pilgrim like Anna and Jean-Luc, but if not, may the Lord teach me how to give extravagantly, expecting nothing in return, in my everyday life.
And, that is why I will be overshooting my budget yet again--I can't put a price on the blessing San Nicolas de Puente Fitero has been to me, but I can do my part to ensure that it continues to be here. And my prayer for all of you this coming day is that you, too, can learn to give as our Lord gave--extravagantly, lovingly, without constraint, and expecting nothing in return.