Is It Over Now? (Days 2 and 3)
I feel two blisters pop before we hit the 5 km mark of the day. By 15 km, two toenails come loose, and I’m questioning everything by 20 km.
We have gorgeous weather for a 30-kilometer trek along the beach. The irony hovers over our heads, to have paradise stretching as far as the eye can see and to be in such agony as we behold it. Some feel it in their knees, others in the shoulders and spines that adjust to heavy packs. But regardless of experience or fitness, we’re all feeling it in our feet.
The beach is as brutal as I heard it would be, but I find myself charmed by the people I endure it with. My bubbly Swiss and American friends keep spirits high with good conversation and refreshing honesty. We communicate like people who have known each other for years, and it’s amazing how quickly a bond can form. Everyone shares snacks and trades supplies. I am gifted the most glorious Ibuprofen I’ve ever had in my life, and let one of the girls take my cat hole trowel on its maiden voyage. We support each other and laugh through the pain. I’m relieved by their company and our shared experience.
Still, as the sun beats down and my muscles and bones all take turns singing their aches to me, I ask myself again and again: Why am I doing this? Just before lunch, with my legs only tolerating baby steps, I’m ready to call it.
Lunch breaks save the day
But there’s nothing a peanut butter wrap and some chocolate can’t fix, and we push through to our next camp. It’s a surprisingly equipped site for being so isolated, and we’re greeted by wild horses, wifi, and cold bottles of ginger beer.
The next day is a duplicate of the one before, though our group splits as some pick up a faster pace and decide to hike another 30 km to the next town instead of the 17 that leads to a quiet holiday park just off the beach. I don’t feel strong enough for another 30 km, and bid goodbye to my Swiss friend as she rockets off into the distance with two Canadians and the kind Swede. We are five of us now, two Americans, a Kiwi, and two lovely German girls who caught up to us last night. It’s sad to see the others go, but it’s nice to be free of any pressure to keep up.
Blisters take no mercy
A third toenail comes out of place, hanging on by a thread as a blister has grown up right underneath it. I have a persistent pain in my right shin and worry about shin splints with every step. The American girl and I stick together for most of the day until the ache in my leg slows my pace to a crawl. I’m so happy to reach camp that I barely care that the ice cream place we read about in the trail notes is closed.
Laugh the pain away
The women at the campsite welcome us with a kindness that would make me cry if I had the energy to spare. The five of us show off our injuries as we ice muscles and make use of the free laundry. Tomorrow will be an easy day, just 14 km to the next town and the final steps on Ninety Mile Beach.
I’m looking forward to it until I wake the next morning in intense pain.
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