Monday, November 12, 2012

Day 33: Lady Gaga is on the Trail!

Dscn2054bSeptember 13: During the night, a couple of spits of water fell out of the sky, giving me some worry that perhaps the weather forecasts were wrong and it really would rain during the night, but except for raising my anxiety, nothing came of it. Normally I wouldn’t have worried even about that, but I was camped with Karolina who I knew had no tent or tarp of her own. I could have thrown out my tarp over myself, but I also didn’t want to be responsible for explaining why Karolina died of hypothermia during the night. Had it started raining, I’d have been forced to actually get up during the night and actually SET UP my tarp (heaven forbid!). It’s large enough to fit two people underneath relatively comfortably, but I really didn’t want to mess around with setting up the tarp in the middle of the night either.

But since the rain never happened, it was all a moot point anyhow.

By the time we woke up and hit the trail, other pilgrims from Logrono had already been walking by. That wasn’t surprising since most people leave the alburgues long before sunrise, but it still amazes me that so many people wake up so friggin’ early in the morning. One nice thing about camping is that we can pretty much sleep in as late as we want. =)

Karolina enjoyed her first campout of the trail and said she wanted to camp for a second night. Awesome! A second night in a row with company!

We hadn’t walked for more than ten minutes when Karolina and I found our missing camper from the evening before. They had set up camp right off the side of the trail in plain view of everyone walking past. Absolutely no privacy at all at that location! It was also terribly loud with highway traffic not far away. Our campsite was a heck of a lot nicer than the one they selected, and Karolina and I were both curious why they had selected such a poor site.

Which is when the truth came out. They hadn’t left Logrono immediately upon leaving us the evening before. Nope, they had stopped for drinks along the way, then didn’t make it into camp until long after dark. Because it was so dark, they couldn’t really see very well, and that’s how they ended up at such a terrible place to camp. Which was even funnier since Karolina and I had actually kept our eyes out looking for them when we arrived the day before—and it turns out that we had actually gotten to the reservoir first. We had expected them to beat us there, but we didn’t know they had stopped for drinks.

Dscn2055bSome of them appeared to be suffering from hangovers as well, and I could see a couple of mostly empty bottles of wine laying around in their camp.

Just outside of the town of Ventosa, Karolina was limping a bit and said that Lady Gaga was giving her trouble. Lady Gaga, in case you were wondering, was what she decided to name the blister on one of her feet. I had explained earlier that blisters should get names and told her about names I’ve given to my own blisters over the years, and since she said that there were no other pop singers bigger than Lady Gaga, she’d name the biggest blister on her foot after her.

So I already knew about Lady Gaga, although I hadn’t seen Lady Gaga and never had any real desire to. I know what ugly-looking blisters look like, and I knew nothing on her feet would shock me.

But I was wrong. And it was just outside the town of Ventosa when Karolina said that she hadn’t popped Lady Gaga yet because she didn’t have anything to pop her with and didn’t want it to get infected. She pulled off her shoes and socks during a break and showed me the blister, and it was absolutely massive—a giant, golf-ball sized lump on the back of her heel.

“You need to pop that now,” I told her. “It’s just going to get bigger and bigger until you pop it.”

Karolina seemed hesitant at the idea of popping the blister, but I tried to persuade her it was something that should not be put off anymore. Not only would the blister continue to get bigger and bigger, but eventually it would pop on its own anyhow as her daily walking chafed along the blister. The bigger those blisters get, the more likely they’ll pop on their own just while walking. And the bigger and ugly they get, the more likely that they will become infected once they pop.

“I think you should pop it now,” I concluded. “Don’t wait until the next town. You really need to do something about Lady Gaga now.”

Dscn2056bSo I finally convinced her to pop Lady Gaga. Karolina didn’t have a miniature first aid kit, so I pulled out mine. So I had Karolina clean up her foot a bit, then had her disinfected a safety pin by putting it in the flame of my lighter from my cookset, then Karolina started popping Lady Gaga. She poked several holes into it and the fluid squirted out and she squeezed it in places to clear out the rest of it. Normally, when I pop a blister, I just pop it and I’m done, but the sheer size of this one was far beyond anything I had handled before and I worried it might be especially painful or problematic even though it had been popped, so I gave her a bandage from my first aid kit to put over the blister. None of them were large enough to fit completely over the blister, but I figured it was still better than nothing and hopefully it would help protect it from getting worse.

I took a look at Karolina’s other foot and noticed a small but obvious blister at the tip of her long toe. “You should go ahead and pop that now as well,” I told her. May as well take care of all the blisters at once while all my first aid stuff was already out.

She looked at her other foot in surprise. She hadn’t known that there was a blister there!

“So what are you going to call it?” I asked.

Karolina studied the blister closely, thought a moment, then said, “I will name him Frankenstein! Because it kind of looks like Frankenstein.”

Yes, I thought, it does kind of look like a Frankenstein, sewn onto the tip of her toe.

She popped Frankenstein too, but that one was uneventful. She also popped a couple of other small blisters that never got a name. They weren’t worthy of names.

So we discussed names for awhile, and Karolina decided that all blisters on the one foot would be named after pop stars (after all, they do have to be “popped”) and all blisters on the other foot would be named after monsters.

Dscn2063b“The next blister on the pop star foot,” she told me joyfully, “is going to be Brittany Spears.”

With all the blisters popped and our break at an end, Karolina put her shoes and socks back on and limped onward. She’s a trooper—I’ve seen hikers get off the trail for blisters less bad than the ones she had. I really hoped that Lady Gaga wouldn’t get infected—I really didn’t want Karolina blaming me if it actually came to that! But at the same time, I had no experience with handling such massive blisters, so I wasn’t really sure how well it would work out. It looked like a clean pop, though.

Late in the afternoon, we stopped in the town of Najera. Our maps showed a small nature preserve just outside of town where we figured we could find a decent place to camp, but it was too early in the afternoon to be setting up camp just yet, so we killed a few hours in and around town.

First we stopped at the grocery store, following a billboard to Simply (the name of the grocery store) that promised a free bottle of water to any pilgrim who showed them their credential. I love free stuff, but I was a little disappointed that they would give out a free bottle of water. I can fill my own water bottles for free from drinking fountains along the route. Give us something we might actually want like a free apple or something! But they say it’s the thought that counts, and I have to admit, I liked the thought that they’d give pilgrims a free bottle of water. Even if I never took them up on the offer. =)

Grocery shopping with Karolina turned out to be rather convenient. They had a small table in the front where customers could sit down and rest, so I sat down and watched our packs while Karolina did her grocery shopping. Then when she got back, she watched our packs as I wandered up and down the aisles unencumbered with my pack and did my own grocery shopping.

Dscn2066bThen we headed out to a pharmacy so Karolina could create her own “blister kit.” The pharmacy was rather small and crowded, so I waited outside as she went in to take care of business. I’m not sure what all happened in there, but it seemed like it took a long time before Karolina finally came out again with a small, plastic bag with all sorts of stuff in it. The one thing she did not get, however, was a safety pin to actually pop her blisters with. They didn’t have them there. Karolina didn’t know what the word for safety pin was in Spanish, and the girl who was helping her didn’t know what a safety pin in English was, so Karolina said she ended up drawing a picture of it and got directions for another store that would have them. Karolina, if I didn’t mention it before, likes to draw, so when she said she drew a picture of a safety pin, I had no doubt that anyone would have recognized it for what it was supposed to be.

We wandered around a couple of blocks before we found what looked like some sort of store selling bras and hats and who knows what else, and Karolina went in to find out if they sold safety pins. I decided to wait outside once again, and once again, it seemed like a very, very long wait. Eventually, though, Karolina came back out with a small handful of safety pins and explained that there were half a dozen people in line ahead of her so it took eons for her to finally get help.

With her blister kit now completed, we headed further into town and sat out by a pretty river running through the town. Neither of us had gotten our credentials stamped for the day, so I left my pack with Karolina and wandered off to look for a tourist office and find out once and for all if Spanish tourist offices had stamps for pilgrims. Karolina hung back, resting her blisters and keeping an eye out for any of the other pilgrims who had expressed an interest in camping for the night.

It took several loops through the old part of town before I finally found the tourist office, and yes, they had a stamp for pilgrims. Awesome! At least now I knew that only the office in Roncesvalles was the only one without a stamp. I also mailed off some postcards—some of my own and some that Karolina had written to friends back home—and found a water facet for us to refill our water.

Dscn2072bMy chores done, I reunited with Karolina and I walked her to the tourist office to get her own credential stamped and fill her water bottles. By then, it was late enough to find a place to camp, so we went back to the river where we got off the trail and started following the trail through town… right, left, right again…. and I noticed that the trail seemed to be looping around back into the direction of the tourist office.

“If this trail takes us passed the tourist office,” I told Karolina, “I’m not going to be happy about backtracking just to wind up where we already were!”

And, indeed, the trail took us right back to the tourist office from which we had just left, albeit from a different direction than the first time we had arrived. We followed the trail through the square and left it—again, in a different direction than the first time we left it.

Immediately upon leaving the town, the trail climbed up a steep, tree-covered hill, and not even a half kilometer out of town, we started looking for a good place to camp. We settled on a small depression on a ridge, protected by the trees. A dirt road snaked through the trees just below us and anyone driving or walking towards town along it would see us clear as day, but it didn’t appear to be well traveled and we were well hidden from the busier roads in town.

My main concern about the location wasn’t the dirt road below us, but rather a stadium that I could see through the trees at the bottom of the hill. It was empty now, but what if there was a game later that night? Nobody would be able to see us where we were, but the noise from a game could be quite disturbing for much of the night. However, the stadium appeared to be disserted and none of the lights were on. That was a good sign!

We set up camp and I started cooking dinner when, about ten minutes later, I looked down at the stadium and saw a few people walking around. People who appeared to be wearing uniforms. As if they were going to play a game right there. I turned to Karolina and said, “We might be in for a long night….”

As the minutes passed, the number of people continued to increase. First just a few. Then dozens. Within the hour, the field was crawling with tons of people. The stadium lights flicked on and the soccer game started. Yells of “Vamos! Vamos!” filled the air, but I think it might have been a practice game or something because almost nobody was actually sitting in the stadium seats. It was just the players running around and yelling back and forth at each other and no audience cheering the on.

This went on until about 11:00 at night. Karolina wrote in her journal and drew pictures, and I read my book. Once the game finally ended, we could turn off our headlamps and finally go to sleep.

Entering the village of Navarette.



Pilgrims crossing under an overpass.

Karolina takes some photos of grapes in a vineyard.


Lady Gaga was HUGE!




Karolina copies the look of the pilgrim silhouette.

I had no idea that bull fighters were such gymnasts, but
the funniest part about this poster (to me, at least!)
is that tiny little part on the right near the top of the
silhouette of the bull goring someone!

A fountain in a roundabout in Najera.

I took this photo in Simply while Karolina was doing her
grocery shopping.

A photo from Karolina’s journal about her blister problems. =)

The river through Najera was quite scenic!

Another campsite in the woods. You can’t
tell from this photo, but there’s a large
soccer stadium at the bottom of this hill behind me.


Anonymous said...

Your blog needs an "EEEEW" button, too. Blech. I should have guessed that going on about Lady Gaga for several paragraphs was warning enough, but...sheesh!

Anonymous said...

Eye Bleach

Anonymous said...

I loved her journal entry.

Michael Merino said...

The view count for the Lady Gaga popping video hasn't broken 10 when I saw it. All of Ryan's other videos were at least 50 or 60.


Ryan said...

Shhh..... I haven't actually posted the link to the video of Lady Gaga being popped yet. ;o) I hadn't uploaded it when I made this particular blog post, so it's coming a bit later....

-- Ryan