One thing was clear from my first day – something was wrong, and if I didn’t fix it, my knee would keep hurting. Another thing I knew about myself was that my legs aren’t quite the same length, and that this, in the millimeter-sensitive world of bicycle fit, could be the key to make the pain go away. My plan was to make a shim out of a flattened Fanta can (free aluminium!) so that both my legs would have to make the same effort to reach the pedals, hopefully reducing the stress on the knee joint that had to move more with every stroke.
I woke up in Castilblanco far too early, far too cold but ready to give this another go. In an unprecedented bout of level-headedness, I decided I would take it easy for the day and only get to Almaden de la Plata (my destination on the first day) and rest there. In Castilblanco, I nearly overstayed my welcome and I was last to leave the albergue – Dani had her backpack packed and was facing south.
I got to Almadén de la Plata at 15:00. On the way there, my right knee hurt much less, which meant that the shim had worked! But as is often the case with my body, it was time for something else to go wrong, so then it was time for the left knee to start flaring up. So that was encouraging and discouraging at the same time.
The town of Almadén itself was postcard-pretty – very much what you’d expect in an Andalusian town. When I got to the albergue – a much nicer proposition than my previous one – there was a young family from the Basque Country whom I had already encountered in Castilblanco. I sat in the sun in my sandals I talked with the mother, who was engaging with the local infantry. Since they were travelling with children, they weren’t planning to spend long days in the saddle.
In the dormitory there were some familiar faces, including an old man who was doing very long days on foot, and who had done the camino a few times already.
Despite my service station stop the previous day, my bike was still dirty – the mud in the mudguards (perhaps that’s what mudguard really means: they’re just vessels to guard the mud you collect while riding from the outside world) had solidified to the point that there was now a layer of concrete in there. I took most of it out, but it was no small wonder that the bike had felt so slow the previous day.
I had dinner with the young Basque family, where we discussed a little bit of everything, including my knee problems on this trip. Sergio, the father, had some pretty stern advice – “you can do the camino whenever you want, but you only have a pair of knees”. Ha! We’ll see about that! We’re in the 21st century, baby!