Bits that hurt and some that don’t

Steve: well, we’re around 2/3 of the way, with 260km to go. If we haven’t got the hang of it now then we never will…

I’m quite pleased with how this 56 year old bag of bones of mine is hanging together. Apart from the perpetual blister-fest, which I consider to be a peely-wally Scotsman-in-the-sun thing as opposed to a Steve-specific thing, my body is holding up fine. My legs are like tree trunks and I haven’t had any muscle pain since the first few days. I’ve had no backpack problems. All is surprisingly well.

Some observations.

  • Make sure you read your Fitbit correctly. On day 2 or 3 I looked down to check my heart rate and it said 263. Hmm, I thought, and considered if my Will was up to date and wondered if the British Embassy would sort out returning my body. I stood still and waited for the resurrection morn. Then I realised I was actually looking at the step count. We’d only just left the albergue and I hadn’t done much that day. I tapped through to my heart rate which was a quite reasonable 85. I wonder if there have been any Fitbit related coronaries resulting from such misreading?
  • I don’t think it’s possible for Brits to actually buy appropriate shoes for this sort of heat. All my local outfitters are geared up for the swamp that is Scotland. Goretex in everything. What you need for this walk is a glorified sandal with lots of support in the right places and ventilation everywhere else. Water resistance is the least of your worries.
  • High tech underpants are unquestionably A Good Thing. The one drawback is that when not walking it would be nice to have something a bit less, how shall we put it?, structural. Pack a pair of knackered old y-fronts if you can. Your gentleman parts will be grateful.


I write this in Bercianos where, based on the performance in the afternoon nap stakes, I predict a night of low to mid Richter scale snoring.

Before I forget, let me tell you a tale of how appearances can be deceptive and how even the most apparently unlikely candidate can raise their game to supersnore levels.

In Los Argos we’d managed to get into a small room with only five beds. There’s three of us and we can all confirm to you and each other than we don’t snore. A fourth shows up, a 20ish Swiss German girl. Should be fine, youngish girls don’t snore (stereotypes abound here, Jen will step in any second now…). Our final resident is a very fit looking 30-something Frenchman. Excellent we think.

Oh but dear reader, we were so very wrong.

Mr Fit Frenchman turned out to be none other than Snorty Jean de Snorty, winner of last years Mr Snorty championship. I’ve never heard such a loud noise coming out of anything alive apart from a cow I once saw in labour.

We were stunned. At one point Hamish jumped down from his top bunk and sat on the floor with his head in his hands (remember, at this point in the trip none of us had managed a good night’s sleep). I feared that Snorty Jean de Snorty would fall victim to some egregious punishment that H had learned in his boarding school days.

But it seemed that H’s loud landing had interrupted Jean de Snort and he was quiet! Quick, get back to bed, shut your eyes, think happy thoughts and get to sleep before the racket starts again. Well, as we all know from the Christmas Eve’s of our childhood, lying still and hoping for sleep never works.

I can’t actually recall if any sleep was had by anyone until, finally, at 4:30 or so Snorty Jean got up, incredibly quietly (I’m sure he didn’t want to disturb us – oh, the irony!) and he was out by 5am. We finally got to sleep. For an hour. At 6am we, the hardened four, the undead, staggered into the daylight and went on our way.

I was there, I saw it, I was in the presence of greatness….

The Calculus of Snoring

Most peregrinos opt to stay in albergues. These communal unisex dormitories, packed tight with bunk beds, are part of the experience. Yes, you can do the Camino and stay in hotels but it’ll cost a fortune and the purists would argue that you’re missing out on something important.

That said, if you’re sharing a room with 20 people you’ll be extremely lucky if you don’t have at least one snorer (and, before you ask – no, it’s not us). Which, sadly, does not aid a spirit of benevolence towards your fellow pilgrims. By 3am you’d cheerfully kill them all in their sleep. (Which hints at a related question – how come the snorers always fall asleep first?)

Brierley lists the albergues in each town, giving addresses and prices. Also against each albergue are two numbers written like this: 45÷5, which means 45 beds divided into 5 rooms. So, for this example, 9 in a room on average. We’ve taken to assessing albergues on two criteria, firstly cost and secondly, beds-in-room average.

Our theory is there must be some optimum.

So, on average, what percentage of people snore loudly enough to keep others awake? The magnificently named says that 25% of adults are habitual snorers. Which means that in a room of 9 you will have, on average, two.

Basically the maths say that you can’t have community sleeping arrangements without snorers.

Best buy some quality earplugs…

2 days and counting…

Steve: The doc called at 9:30 this morning to tell me that my left foot x-ray is completely normal. So I’ve got inflamed metatarsals but no fractures.  Phew…

I got the call whilst sitting in the dentist waiting room having a broken tooth looked at.  As Woody Allen once said “As you get older it’s not so much about avoiding disease, it’s more about finding one that you like.”

The contraptions attached to my insoles seem to be working.

I’m cautiously optimistic…

3 days and counting…

Steve: I was ready for this about a month ago.  Not so sure now…

Last week whilst walking around London I did ‘something’ to my left foot. To my 2nd metatarsal to be precise.  I came back home to Perthshire and limped from doctor’s appointments to x-rays at Perthshire Royal Infirmary and visits to various podiatrists.  As of the last podiatrist appointment, yesterday afternoon, I have bits and pieces glued to the insoles of my Merrell Chameleon and Salewa walking shoes.  These additions appeared to work and I danced a very bad jig.

In my, ahem, training for the Camino I’ve been trying to walk at least 10km on 6 days in a week.  That’s been easy – I have two large dogs that need the exercise and nag me incessantly to get out of the house, and Perthshire is a splendid place to go for a walk.

But last night I took my beleaguered left foot out for another 10km walk and managed only 6 before deciding it wasn’t a good idea.  Is 790km (that’s 500 miles for you who prefer old money) do-able?


Sunday morning at 7:05am we are due on a plane from Edinburgh to Biarritz.  As of the time of writing I’m going.