We hit a major milestone on day eight of walking the Camino del Norte. Just as we reached our destination of a beachside campsite in Islares, we finished our 100th mile walked.
But mile 99 might have been the hardest mile yet.
We decided to take a shortcut on The Way on this day. It shaved off eight miles from the daily stage and allowed us to make up for a bit of lost time during the first week when we covered less ground than we would in each of the upcoming four weeks.
In fact, our pace had already seen a vast improvement, exemplified by the fact that we arrived at the port town of Castro Urdiales ahead of our estimated lunchtime arrival. But a sweet little café with a name that called to Lizz served us a late breakfast rather than the lunch we had planned.
While we left that morning from a hotel that held signs for me (the Gustav Klimpt paintings of Day 7 that brought me back to Vienna), our arrival in Castro Urdiales at the Kraken Restaurante held signs for Lizz.
Lizz, a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Navy explained to me about the sea beast called Kraken that terrorizes sailors in Navy lore. The sailors, she told me, follow King Neptune, the god of the sea, for safety.
Before getting on the road again, I stopped at the pharmacy and went on a straight-up Compeed SPREE to aid my blister-riddled feet.
What we hadn’t yet learned on Day 8 is that the Camino del Norte – the northern route of the Camino de Santiago – involves a lot of paved roads. And our shortcut took us on an extra bit of pavement, which happened to be the bit of pavement that finally set Lizz’s feet into a tailspin.
Lizz opted for trail runners, which largely protected her feet from the blisters that my water-proof hiking boots cursed me with once my feet began to sweat. But her made-for-trail shoes didn’t protect her when we walked for miles on pavement and the arches of her feet screamed at her with every paved step.
While I was covered in blisters, the pavement didn’t phase me. Tradeoffs.
On the 99th mile, Lizz struggled. She acknowledged, though, that it was only because it was the last mile. Somehow, the last mile before reaching the destination is always the hardest. (Except on the last day.)
That milestone came at the moment we reached our destination. Before celebrating, we secured the last two beds in a tent at Camping Playa Arenillas (a great place to spend the night for 12 euros but takes no advanced reservations).
Then we headed to the beach where we found actual stones to mark the milestone.
On this day, I wrote down that I was so proud of us and that the real world felt 100 miles behind us while we face only the mile before us.
Stage Miles: 20
Actual Miles Walked: 12 (19 kilometers)
Bus forward Miles: 0
Total Miles Walked So Far: 100 (161 kilometers)