Via Podiensis Day 29: Arthez-de-Bearn (rest/injured)

Even last night I realised I’d need another rest day before setting off again. I’ve really done some mischief to this leg of mine. I decided to do a bit of pilgrimage-specific research in my downtime, plus eat and drink loads. Wasted the day was not!

Today’s Costs

€4.50 – postcards and stamps
€7.00 – groceries
€19.00 – gel insoles and ibuprofen
€4.00 – coffee and beer
€10.00 – further night in gite


It’s slowly dawned on me what’s happened with my shins. Before setting out on this walk, I tossed away the padded insoles of my boot – I found the fit slightly too tight. This gave my feet a lot more room in the boot, but afforded no protection at all from the impact of walking. Perhaps this isn’t the only reason for my injury, but I’m sure it’s contributed.

Luck was on my side again…in this very small town, the pharmacy was well-stocked with sports insoles – what are the chances?! This morning I gladly shelled out €16.80 for some quality gel-cushioned inserts. I’ve loosened the boots as much as I can and will be wearing thin, but strong socks…I really hope it helps.

I’ve learned a lot about walking injuries today. It turns out they’re very common, especially for long distance hikers like muggins. All kinds of things can result in pain and injury like mine, including the following:

* Not having proper cushioning in your walking shoes
* Increasing your speed or distance at too fast a rate
* Taking huge strides with harder-landing steps
* Carrying a backpack more than 10-15% of your bodyweight
* Walking excessively on hard surfaces
* Not allowing adequate time to rest and recuperate

All this time I’d been internally sniggering at older walkers I’ve come across. They all do days roughly the same length, never walk especially fast and really look after their feet. What a load of old farts, I thought. The joke’s on me though – a consistent pace, consistent distance and careful care of the feet are the best way to keep yourself on the trail. In fact, looking at the list above I think I’ve committed all those sins to date. Whoops.

Anyway, enough of that. A lot of pilgrims on the Via Podiensis in France find they’re carrying too much weight and decide to send things back home. For domestic pilgrims this is relatively inexpensive exercise, and means you don’t have to discard valuable gear. When I, a British pilgrim, dumped my tent, cooking gear and other bits three days into my walk, I assumed postage costs to the UK would be prohibitive. Today I went to the post office and found out some prices:

€16.50 – up to 2kg
€21.20 – 2kg up to 5kg

These prices are to send multi-kilo items back to the UK from France. I’ve no reason to believe the prices would differ that much for other destinations within Europe. If you have heavy – but valuable – gear, give it a thought – I don’t think it’s bad value at all.

Pilgrim’s Reflections

This evening I prep my gear – and myself – for departure again tomorrow. It’ll be painkillers, anti-inflammatories, a good bandage, small steps and a short stage to ease me back in. Yes – I’m worried the pain will return, but yes, also, I must keep going. It’s around 90km to St-Jean, as of right now my final destination. Will I make it? I don’t know, but I’ll try…


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