Walking 4 hours for my morning coffee…

Distance walked: 24.5km

When I arrived in Calzadilla de los Hermanillos on a sweaty, dusty, Sunday afternoon, I was hugely relieved to get a bed in the hostel. There wasn’t anywhere else to stay for another 17km and I was tired enough from walking 24km already. The ground seared from the heat and it was a relief to get in to the shade. I have to thank my fellow pilgrims for pointing out that the local shop was open for only an hour that afternoon. If I needed food or drink, I’d need to be quick. Just as well because not only was there nowhere to stay for another 17km, there was also nowhere to get food, either. Without that pilgrim’s advice, I would have missed out on the shop’s opening hours and I would have had nothing to eat for breakfast the next day.

The next morning, I ate my breakfast baguette sitting on the side of a corn field, with the morning sun in my face. I did some stretches. I drank some water. I gazed out on the flatness of the landscape and enjoyed that there were almost no trees, no shady spots from the rising sun. It’s one of my favourite memories of all camino, probably just because it is so simple.

That morning, I salivated in anticipation of a coffee. I would have to walk for hours to get one and I realised just how privileged I was, and am, in my everyday life. In my day job before camino, I often got a morning coffee to drink while I worked. The walk from my desk took all of 30 seconds and I did it without really thinking. Here I was, in the hot meseta, walking 4 hours to get my morning coffee. It felt incredible. And I thought of all my former colleagues who were surely at work that morning, perhaps walking 30 seconds to their morning coffee, and perhaps not quite realising how comfortable their lives were. They had no idea the efforts I was going to that morning but you know, my life was comfortable too. I didn’t, and don’t, have to walk hours every day to secure fresh drinking water. Compared to millions of others, I have a dream life. I’d do well to remember that more often.

I did do something rather stupid that day, though. I carried 4 litres of water in my backpack, which added a staggering 4kg of weight to my load.

Why?

Well, the previous evening I chatted with a pilgrim who allegedly cured her tendonitis and plantar fasciitis by drinking lots of water. I mean, 7-8 litres a day. On the surface this sounds plain ridiculous because it puts pressure on the kidneys and one spends the day looking for toilet stops. She insisted it worked though, and I was so sore and so reluctant to take painkillers that I thought I’d try it out. There were no water stops for at least 17km that morning so I filled my water bottles at the hostel before I started out.

Big mistake.

The extra weight hurt my shoulders and back. I drank all morning and even filled up along the way in an effort to hit the 7-8 litre target. Sure, the more I drank, the lighter my pack became. Great. But by the time I arrived in Mansilla de las Mulas that afternoon, I was sore in a whole new way. A word of advice? Don’t carry 4 litres of water at any one time, it’s really not a smart move.

As for drinking 7-8 litres of water each day to cure tendonitis? Well, I tried it for a few days with no notable results only that my feet were even more sore from carrying the extra weight on my pack and I needed to pee every 20 minutes. Medics have since explained to me that consuming that much water throws the body’s salt/water balance out of whack. Drinking that much water, even when walking 30km a day in 30-something degree heat, isn’t necessary. It also isn’t helpful. And carrying that much extra weight? Well, that was was definitely one of my dumb-ass days on camino!

Still, that morning coffee was AM-A-ZING. So good, in fact, that I had two…and you would too if you’d walked 4 hours to get it! 🙂