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Friday, March 30, 2012

All About Compeed

The biggest challenge for a brand new Pilgrim
isn't people who snore or where to find food.

The biggest challenge is not the kilometers you must walk,
or where you will sleep.

The biggest challenge is not finding a group to walk with
so you don't walk alone,
or finding coffee in the morning.

The biggest challenge is 

This next photo is the exception, not the norm.

This person had ill-fitting shoes and they did not STOP
 when they felt their feet becoming blistered.

There is absolutely no reason for your feet to look like this
you take precautions.

In normal life,
 we really are not on our feet, walking, for 6 to 8 hours each day.

The Camino, although not a difficult walk, is constant. 
The path goes from dirt track to paved road to rocky trail, 
up and down hills, through valleys, over fields. 
You walk and walk and walk,
not strenuously,
but constantly.
We aren't used to so much walking.
And the feet, if not properly cared for, can rebel!

If your feet will not carry you another step, your Camino is over.
I've seen a few pilgrims give up after a few days 
simply because they did not take precautions from the beginning.

So here is more advice gathered from seasoned pilgrims and passed along to you.
I hope you will use it to your benefit so you can have a Buen Camino!

I talk about shoes over and over and over because to me, these are a pilgrim's most important purchase. If you have a tight budget, and can't buy one other piece of equipment, spend your money on good fitting shoes.

My favorite shoes are New Balance trainers with a wide, deep toe box, and purchased 1.5 sizes larger than I would normally wear. Your feet MUST have room to swell and your toes MUST have room to wiggle. Otherwise, they'll rub against each other mercilessly and you'll end up with painful blisters.

I generally wear my shoes with one pair of cushioned wool socks over one pair of liners. (Liners can be technical or they can just be like the thin cotton socks we wore as girls in the 50's)  I change my liners daily. My wool socks can go 2 or 3 days between washings.

If my feet swell or if the weather gets really hot, I have the option to switch to only wearing either the Smartwools or the liners, instead of both.
This year (2012) I'm wearing New Balance Model 1012
I have literally worn New Balance trainers out of the store 
and onto the trail with no breaking in.  
I do not suggest you do this with any other brand. 
Your shoes MUST be well-broken in 
before you step onto the Camino or you are in for a world of hurt. 

I am not a boot fan.
I have seen more people with torn up feet who were wearing boots.
I have seen many pairs of boots abandoned along The Way.

Photos of boots by taibhsearachd
Boots, unless you have weak ankles, are overkill for the Camino
in my personal opinion.
I realize there are some people who do quite well in boots.
I'm just not one of them.

Here are some reasons why:

This is a fairly moderate walking trail, not a mountainous hike.
Once you are over the Pyrenees (the first day) there are very few days 
you will be climbing anything resembling a mountain. 
O Cebreiro is tough, as is el Perdón 
but those are each climbs of no more than 2-3 hours each.
All of these, including the section of the Pyrenees you will walk over
would only be considered "hills" in California.
They are quite steep and slow walking,
but not mountain climbing.

Nearly the entire stretch up between SJPP and Roncesvalles
is on paved road. Once you reach the summit, you do go down trail,
but the danger there is after rain, when the leaves are rotting,
and the trail is wet and slippery as snot.
In that section, in my opinion,
a good walking stick is more helpful than boots would be
for most pilgrims.

On the section up to O Cebreiro.
you will be walking on a road much of the time.
Yes, it's steep, but there are only a few short sections
that are a bit washed out and rough.
The section up to el Perdón is good trail,
again steep and slow, but the rough part here
is once you reach the top and begin the descent.
They've covered the trail with loose river rock,
so you REALLY have to use your walking stick,
pay attention to where you are placing your feet,
instead of watching the scenery.

Flexibility is another reason I prefer trail runners/trainers.
Boots have stiff soles.
Trainers have flexible soles.
Your feet will need to easily flex as they walk, walk, walk.
Unless they are very well broken in,
boots will cause blisters on the heel, the sole, the toes, and the ankles 
because they are stiff and do not flex with the foot.

Wet Shoes.
It rains on the Camino
even in summer.
Your shoes WILL get wet.
Boots will not be dry in the morning.
They will be wet and stiff.
Trainers will be dry and flexible. 
Goretex is ok,
but my experience is that it makes my feet sweat more
and is unnecessary.

Boots are heavy.
Trainers are much more lightweight.
Your feet will not get as tired lifting them.

To take up some of the extra space,
I take out the insoles that come with the shoes,
and replace them with gel insoles.
You can purchase gel insoles for around $30.
I like Motion Control as they help support my instep and ankles,
but there are many available varieties depending on your feet.

Having said this, if you have weak ankles,
or if you have been wearing hiking boots all your life
and you are used to them,
then go for it.
Some people have been hiking in boots for a long time
and their feet are used to them.
These suggestions are not for those people.
I'm talking to you people who have never worn hiking boots
for long distance hiking.
Now, when you are 1000 miles from home,
and thousands of dollars into a trip,
is not the time to experiment with something new.

Ok.. so that's enough about your shoes.
(for now :::grin::: )


The best way to care for blisters is to prevent them from occurring to begin with.

Here is how.

The minute you feel your shoes rubbing against your foot
or a hot spot beginning to nag you,


Find a place to sit down, even if it's on the ground.
(You'll learn to get used to sitting on the ground)

Take off your shoes.

Take off your socks.

Rub your feet.

Put Compeed on the hot spot.

Put your shoes and socks back on and
continue to walk, but pay attention to your feet.

Do not allow the hot spot to ever develop into a blister.

Applying Compeed

I've heard several pilgrims complain about COMPEED
not working or tearing their skin.
In my experience, they have had problems with it
because they did not understand how to use it properly.
So here is a little tutorial.


The following information has been borrowed from Chris Woodford's excellent post.

Compeed is a hydro-coilloidal band-aid. 
When you take it out of the packet,
 it looks similar, but it feels thicker and much less flexible. 
It's only when you apply it to your skin 
that you find out how differently it works. 

Hydro-coilloidal plasters are easy to find 
in drug stores (chemist's shops),
 but you'll also find them 
in sports and outdoor stores 
among the walking and hiking supplies. 

 In hospitals, hydro-colloidal wound dressings have been used 
for treating many types of wounds 
(including burns, ulcers, and sores) 
for over 20 years.

The plaster (British) or band-aid (USA) has a sort of rubbery texture, 
a bit like a tootsie-roll that's been run over by a steamroller.

The material contains a substance
called a hydro-colloid that likes to absorb moisture. 
This is safer and more sterile than the old method of needle and thread 
to puncture and drain the fluid from the blister.

Photo by Rev Sandy
A colloid is an evenly spread-out mixture. 
A hydro-colloid is simply a type of colloid
where a substance is mixed with water.
Hydro-colloidal substances (such as gelatin)
love to absorb water to form a gel. 

In a hydro-colloidal plaster, 
the rubbery stuff contains a gel-forming material such as
sodium carboxymethylcellulose
 (a water-soluble polymer made from cellulose) mixed with gelatin.

There's a top layer of elastomer (elastic material)
to hold the plaster together, 
while your body flexes beneath it, 
and there's some harmless adhesive mixed in 
so the whole thing sticks to your skin 
and stays there for at least a few days.

It's brilliant, really!

How does a hydro-colloidal wound dressing work?

Hopefully, you will put the Compeed on
BEFORE your hotspot has become a blister.
This way, it protects the spot
and keeps your shoes from continuing to rub the place raw.

If you have not been quick enough,
 it's ok to put the dressing directly on your blister.

As soon as you stick a hydro-colloidal dressing onto your blister
It begins to absorb moisture from the wound  to form a gel. 
(There is absolutely no reason to puncture the blister)
That's why a hydro-colloidal blister dressing rapidly turns 
into a soft and spongy mass that cushions your wound, 
allowing you to keep on walking. 

The gel is cohesive, 
which means whatever leaks from your wound
stays in place under the dressing.

 Initially, the dressing doesn't let water vapor escape. 
But, over time, it becomes more permeable
 and the wound gradually dries out and heals beneath it.

It is possible to remove a hydro-colloidal dressing 
without damaging the wound beneath,
but I do not suggest it.

Best to leave it alone and let it fall off. 
The  last thing you want to do is tear newly formed skin.


Let it fall off on it's own.
It should stay on the area for many days,
even in the shower.

How to use Compeed 


This is what Compeed looks like when it's first applied.
Make sure it's centered on the wound
and big enough to cover it completely
without the wound being anywhere near an edge.
Firm down the plaster all around the edges
to make a good, clean seal all around.

Within hours, you'll see a little white blob
forming in the middle
where the plaster is removing moisture from your wound
and helping it to heal.

Be patient and wait

Once your plaster is in place, leave it alone for a few days.
You may have to wait a week or even longer
until you can safely remove it.

Just watch, wait, and be patient.
I don't take the plaster off until it falls off in the shower,
then I do it VERY slowly and am careful
not to tear the newly formed skin.
 Eventually, your skin will be as good as new.

It's important to choose a COMPEED that's big enough to cover the wound completely and make a perfect seal all around it. 

If you use one that's too small, 
you'll find the hydro-colloidal gel starts to leak out under the edges. 
The wound won't heal, dirt can get in underneath it, 
and you can easily damage the wound again when you remove the dressing. 
The best thing is to buy (and carry) a little box of dressings 
of various different sizes: 
bigger ones for heels, smaller ones for toes.

DO NOT try to peel COMPEED away from the wound 

until it feels ready to come away all by itself. 
Remember that the wound and the dressing merge together 
as the new skin forms. 
Take the dressing off too soon 
and you'll take the new skin with it
and you'll have to start all over again.

So be patient!
There is an assortment of shapes and sizes of Compeed
 available in almost every farmacia along the Camino. 
There are shapes for your toes, your heels, your foot pads and others. 
Each package has 6 to 10 pieces inside.  
They come in these cool, reusable plastic containers:

My suggestion to you is to go in with a group of Pilgrims. 
If each of you purchase one or two different shapes,
 then you can split them up amongst yourself 
and you'll each have 2 or 3 of each shape in case you need them.

Here are some Compeed packages  I've seen along the Camino.
Toe joint

Toe strips

Small toe strips

Foot Pad

Large toe strips

Covers entire heel area

So that's it.
Be sure and take care of your tootsies!

Then, at the end of the Camino,
instead of this:

You will have happy feet, like these:

A warning:  COMPEED will most likely get sticky goo
on your socks/liners.
It's just a fact of using it.
I don't worry much about it.
I just wash the socks as usual,
pick off what I can of the sticky stuff,
and keep going.
If it gets too bad, you can always pick up inexpensive liners
at the next China shop.

So.. take care of those tootsies
and have a 

Buen Camino!


If you'd like to walk the Camino
but aren't quite ready to do it alone,
see my website:
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe

Sunday, March 25, 2012


In the year 70, León was founded by the Romans to protect the Galician gold mines against the indigenous populations of Astures and Cantabros. Even though the Romans founded the city, no major Roman buildings have been found, except for the fortified city wall and some old baths underneath what is now the Cathedral.

Visigoths conquered León in 585.

Islamic invaders took the city from them in 712 and kept it until 846,
when it was taken by Ordoño of Asturias.

Muslims again occupied the city in 938,
leveling the city and kept it until Almanzor´s death.

Alfonso V rebuilt the fortifications.

The city flourished, much of the wealth coming from sheep.
The surrounding pasture lands supported great herds,
and soon León was hosting international wool fairs.

 According to Linda Kay Davidson´s The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago,
"shopkeepers, artisans, money changers, manufacturers, 
and traders of all sorts were drawn to León.
 Money rolled into the city.

By the mid-14th century, almost all of Andalucía was in Christian hands.
León was a bustling center of trade and commerce.

And then... the plague decimated the city and brought it to its knees.
Lasting from 1346 until 1350, in less than four years, Black Death carved a path of ruin through Asia, Italy, France, North Africa, Spain,
Normandy, Switzerland, and Hungary.
After a brief respite, the plague crossed the channel into England, Scotland, and Ireland, making its way into the northern countries of Norway, Sweden,
Denmark, Iceland and Greenland.
Although the death toll from region to region varied,
modern demographers agree with the casual remarks
of the medieval chronicler Froissart, who stated that "a third of the world died."

The Black Death changed the world,
religiously, economically, socially, scientifically, and politically.
The good to come from it was that it served as a catalyst for the Renaissance.


Las Medulas.
About the time of Christ, the largest gold mine in the Roman Empire existed near Ponferrada in Leon Province,Spain.The gold was mined using a technique based on hydraulic power. This type of mining used huge amounts of water to wash away the dirt.  Like Mr. Peabody's coal train in the John Denver song "Paradise," much of the landscape was washed away.

Pliny describes this process vividly

"What happens is far beyond the work of giants. The mountains are bored with corridors and galleries made by lamplight with a duration that is used to measure the shifts. For months, the miners cannot see the sunlight and many of them die inside the tunnels. This type of mine has been given the name of ruin montium. The cracks made in the entrails of the stone are so dangerous that it would be easier to find purpurine or pearls at the bottom of the sea than make scars in the rock. How dangerous we have made the Earth!"

After two centuries of working the deposits, the Romans withdrew, 
leaving a devastated, yet oddly beautiful landscape 
and if a person didn't know the history, 
it might appear to be one of nature's bizarre creations. 
It´s a sight to see!

Historians believe this area has been worked for its gold 
since the late Iron Age, long before the Romans occupied the area. 
They base their evidence on the wealth found in surround excavations 
of castros and cemeteries and their wealth of golden objects.

In the 2nd century AD, gold was devalued, with catastrophic results, 
especially for the Spanish mines. 
Gold production decreased,
 then finally came to an end in the opening decades of the 3rd century.

Hire a taxi to take you to see Las Medulas. 
Have him stop at one of the viewing points,
 then hike one of the shorter Medulas trails to see the enormous caves 
excavated by the Romans

Leon Cathedral
 Said to be one of the finest Gothic buildings in Spain, Santa María de León Cathedral was closely modeled on the Flamboyant Gothic royal cathedrals of France. 125 medieval stained glass windows illuminate a harmonious, fully French Gothic interior with three aisles, a short transept, a five-bay choir, and an ambulatory with radiating chapels. The effect of the pale stone combined with dazzling rays of sunlight filtering through the windows have given the cathedral the nickname "House of Light."

San Isidoro Basilica
San Isidoro Basilica, built in 966, is one of the most important Romanesque churches in Spain. It was demolished demolished by the Moorish King Almanzor in 988, then rebuilt by King Alfonso VI . There are three naves and a sanctuary with three apses.The church holds the Royal Pantheon, where the Kingdom of Leon's royal family was buried. Among those buried here are Alfonso I, Ramiro II, Alfonso V, Sancho I, Fernando II, Doña Sancha and Doña Urraca. There are a total of 23 kings and queens, 12 princes, and 9 counts. It has many beautiful Romanesque paintings on its ceiling, and is called the Sistine Chapel of Romanesque art. Experts have said these paintings are the best Romanesque paintings in all of Europe.The church museum has many interesting and beautiful treasures.

Hostal San Marcos - Parador de León
This magnificent building was originally a hostal built to shelter the pilgrims on the Santiago Way. In the 15th century it was converted into a monastery, in the 17th century it was used as a prison and during the Spanish Civil War served as an army barracks. Today it is one of Spain's most impressive hotels. Part of the building is the Archeological Museum of Leon, well worth a visit. Why not splurge for a beautiful dinner here?

Casa de Botines
Designed in the 19th Century by the famous Gaudí, the corner towers make this building look like a fairy story castle.

 MUSAC: Impressive modern art gallery with exhibitions of well-known Spanish and international artists. Worth a visit just to see the colorful building!

If you get hungry, Leon has some great tapas bars around the Plaza de San Martín. A few of the best ones (all within walking distance from the Plaza) are El Tizón (Cisneros, 3) - excellent meat and sausage tapas; Celso II (Zapaterías, 17) which specialises in Spanish omelettes; La Taberna (La Rúa, 19) specialising in seafood and shellfish; El Llar in the Plaza itself, with a wide variety of typical Leonese tapas.

There's shopping, coffee shops, pastry shops and just about anything you need in Leon.
Take a siesta in the afternoon, then spend the evening walking and people watching.
There are fountains and sculpture scattered throughout the city.
Be adventurous!
You're sure to find entertainment!

Buen Camino!

If you'd like to walk the Camino
but aren't quite ready to do it alone,
see my website:
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe

Monday, March 19, 2012

ULTREYA! Peregrinos... ULTREYA!

The word "Ultreia!" (French) or Ultreya (Spanish)
 is a word derived from the original Latin, meaning Onward!   
It is commonly use by pilgrims 
to greet and to encourage one another along the way.

Here is a song, 
often heard sung along the Camino.
This is the French version, sung by Bernard Dyharts, 
and posted by
Dale Calder in 2003.

French Lyrics:
Tous les matins nous prenons le chemin
tous les matins nous allons plus loin.
Jour après jour la route nous appelle
c'est la voix de Compostelle
Ultreia, ultreia
Et suseia
Deus adjuva nos!
Chemin de terre et chemin de foi,
voie millénaire de l'Europe,
la voie lactée de Charlemagne, 
ces le chemin de tous les jacquets.
Et tout là-bas au bout du continent,
messire Jacques nous attend
depuis toujours son sourire fixe
le soleil qui meurt au Finistère.
(letra y música: Jean Claude Bénazet)

My Lyrics:
Every morning we set off,
We hold the scallop shell.
The voice that calls us in the wind,
Is the voice of Compostelle.
Ultreïa! Ultreïa!
 From the dusty pilgrim path, 
He calls us to Him!

 Way of Earth and Way of Faith,
We've walked the thousand years.
The Milky Way of Charlemagne;
the Way of toil and tears.
Ultreïa! Ultreïa!
 From the dusty worldly path, 
He calls us to Him.

And as we near the journey's end,
Saint James is waiting there,
All the day his smile reflects
The sun of Finistère.
Ultreïa! Ultreïa!
From the dusty worldly way, 
He calls us to Him.

We draw closer with each step,
walking hand in hand.
The Way of Faith, the Way of Light
Below the starry band.
Ultreïa! Ultreïa!
From the dusty worldly way, 
He calls us to Him.

Won't you hear our call, St. James
Our song is in the air.
Guide us to your altar's foot,
Lead us safely there.
Ultreïa! Ultreïa!
From the dusty pilgrim path,
He calls us to Him.

I'd love to hear from someone who has alternative English lyrics!
The tune is just a tad different in my version.
I'll post it perhaps tomorrow.

If you'd like to walk the Camino
but aren't quite ready to do it alone,
see my website:
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Three Spots Left !

Have you dreamed of walking the Camino Santiago?
Are you not quite ready to walk alone?

We have 3 spots left on AnnieWalkers' Fall Walk

See my AnnieWalkersCamino website at 
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Remembering Japan

One year ago today, the world watched in horror
as part of Japan was swept away by a tsunami. 

Over 19,000 people lost their lives.

I've never seen anything like it in my life, 
and I hope to never see anything like it again.

Today.. Please take a moment to remember the victims and their families. 

Whether you pray, 
or just take a moment of silence,
remember them and send them some Light.

 I am standing on the sea shore, 
A ship sails in the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. 
She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her  
Till at last she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says:  
"She is gone." 

 Gone! Where?  
Gone from my sight - that is all.  
She is just as large in the masts, 
hull and spars as she was when I saw her  
And just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.  
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me,  
not in her.  

And just at the moment when someone at my side says,  
"She is gone",  
There are others who are watching her coming, 
and other voices take up a glad shout:  
"There she comes"  
- and that is dying.  
An horizon and just the limit of our sight.

 Lift us up, Oh Lord, that we may see further.   

Bishop Brent 1862 - 1926