Helping A Fellow Hiker On The Camino
For some reason I don't remember exactly where it was but it was before the Meseta because I did not yet have Sue with me however it was heavily treed so I'm thinking just outside of Pamplona maybe.
What I do remember was that it was one of the few days that I walked completely on my own and actually had my music in. I thought before I started that I would have trouble with my phone going flat on a daily basis because I would be walking to music pretty much non stop. That wasn't the case however and I can really only remember one day that I spent with my ear buds in for most of the day. Weirdly I even remember the song – it was Back Where We Started From which is by a mostly forgotten 80's band called Box Of Frogs.
Anyway – again, I digress…
So, I'm walking along trying to pace my steps to Box of Frogs and I saw this young girl who to be honest was walking like she had a giant shit in her pants!
Now, I am familiar with the shit pant waddle. I have a bad back and when it decides that I've had way too much fun for that month and slows me down, I too do the shit pant waddle.
In case you aren't familiar, imagine you are wearing one of those horrific plastic nappies. You know the ones that babies wear that have this HUGE amount of padding in between the legs to catch all the nastiness within. Now imagine trying to walk with that nappy on. You immediately look like you have a big giant poop in you pants that you are trying to avoid. When my back gets bad, I have to spread my legs and lean weirdly forward so that is exactly what I look like.
So my initial thought was that she had hurt her back. I immediately felt horrible for her however I have to admit I did start to calculate how far the next village was and for how long I may have to carry her pack. Not that I wouldn't have, but I was having a really nice day on my own and was really eating through the miles. It was more a line of thought that I would have to drastically slow down and my 35k day would get blown to shit.
She didn't have a bad back!
Knowing what my thought process was you can understand that my asking her if she was OK was really me saying “Hi, can you make it to the next alburgue OK?”. She looked quite teary but insisted she was fine so I smiled nodded and popped my ear buds back in and turned and started walking again.
I don't think I'd gone 50 steps when I realised that she had answered me with the same tone I use when I'm in heaps of pain but you talking to me is making it FAR FAR worse. So I stopped and waited for her and again asked if she was really OK.
Looking back, it was at this point that I should have realised her nervousness wasn't pain based, but rather shame based. However – this wasn't totally apparent just yet.
So shit pant waddle girl tells me her name is Amanda (changed to protect her identity obviously). She also tells me that her back is fine. She has a more “personal” challenge going on. OK – I'm intrigued but trying not to show it. I assure her that it's probably nothing I haven't seen or done before so if she wants some help I'm happy to offer it but she will have to tell me the exact challenge she is having first.
This is when I realise that the shit pant waddle is the result of some kind of “nether regions” issue. She declines to discuss it any further and tries to waddle off and it's at this point that I stop her in her tracks (which isn't that hard she's making maybe 2km an hour) and insist that there is no way she is going to make the next town let alone all the way to Santiago so she better just tell me what's wrong so we can work out how to fix it.
Very sheepishly she tells me that she has bum crack chafe! Not in those words exactly and skinny little thing she is I'm not sure she knew the word chafe before that fateful day, however that is in fact what is going on. So being me and knowing just how bad this can end up (not saying I've had it before but I have heard some horrific hiking stories and I'm sure this exact situation had been discussed on a previous occasion), I take charge of the situation very much to Amanda's horror.
Weirdly there was almost no people around on that stretch of trail and being very forested I coerce her into following me into the bushes where we will “fix this”. To her credit she followed the crazy tattoo'd Australian woman around the back of some dense shrubs and actually didn't look too horrified about the prospect.
I spent 3 minutes extolling the virtues of Vaseline, explained the application process and after digging some out of my pack, did the polite thing and turned around so she could take the appropriate action. She seemed to have completed her mission of mercy so I turned back just in time to see her fishing in her bum crack for her undies.
I was mortified she had kept them on and told her that they must come off.
I wouldn't budge, and eventually I again faced the forest and she removed the offending item. She seemed very perturbed that she was sans jocks so her attention span maybe wasn't quite what it should have been and in her efforts to stuff said underwear into her pack dropped them, revealing to me that she had been hiking in a cotton G String!
A G String! Actually worse – a cotton G String!
Honestly what on earth makes you think you can walk 20-30kms a day (when you don't usually walk more than 10km per week) with a chunk of cotton cloth jammed up your bum crack and NOT have anything go horribly pear shaped.
The look of horror on my face must have scared her more that I would have expected. We walked together for most of that day and apart from some idle lunch chatter there wasn't a lot of communication to be honest. She looked wildly relieved when she stopped and I said I was continuing to the next village but was in fact very grateful and promised that at the next big town she would purchase more appropriate underwear and also promised to go commando until that day.
I saw Amanda again (the Camino provides!)
Strangely I did see her again but it wasn't until the last few days before Santiago. She spotted me across the room in a very busy Albergue and dropped trou to show me her “more appropriate” undies. I smiled and gave her a thumbs up and her new younger, much trendier supporters howled with excitement. The Camino changes you, and that couldn't have been more apparent.
My work was done. Amanda was bum crack chafe free and could no longer be called shit pant waddle girl.
I realised that this is how Florence Nightingale must have felt…silly-stories