So, here I am in Santhià, a town of about 10,000 people. Unfortunately for me, the trattoria that offers a €10 "menu pellegrino" is closed Mondays, but that's fine. I'll cook up the pasta I've been lugging around for the last two days later this evening.
Yesterday, I started walking from Ivrea at 3:00 pm. I arrived in Santhià, a 35 km journey following the Via Francigena, at 4:00 today. That's not bad time, all things considered. Having a good sleep in a comfy bed last night and a great breakfast this morning certainly helped!
So, what are these "things" which I'm considering? Well, when I left the B&B in Settimo Vittone on the morning of the 23rd, I was feeling great. The facility is fantastic, the breakfast was prepared by someone who obviously knows what a pilgrim needs to keep going, and I started nice and early with a spring in my step. The last of my blisters had cleared up a few days earlier, and everything felt loose and good. As I continued on my way, I became aware of a little heat on my heels, but I foolishly ignored it, thinking the callous built up there would protect me.
When I arrived in Ivrea and checked into the wonderful hostel there, I discovered a small blister had formed right where another had been. It didn't look serious, but I put a hydrocolloidal bandage on and in the morning made the call to stay in Ivrea so I could attend Liturgy for the feast of St Demetrios (and give my feet a chance to heal). I limited my walking around to the bare minimum - I doubt I even walked 2 km either day.
By the time I set out on Sunday, the puffy area under the bandage had grown, but that's what this type of dressing does as it absorbs the fluid from the blister while providing a sterile padded covering. The pain, however, was getting worse as I walked, so even though I was maintaining a good clip, I changed my gait so that my right foot came down flat, as if I were wearing a single snowshoe. That seemed to help, even if it was a little awkward. I was glad to arrive in Azeglio last night, but wan't overly concerned.
I should have been. This morning, the puffy area had grown significantly larger, and it was now painful to balance my weight evenly on both feet. That's when I realised what I should have done yesterday. My trail shoes are great, and I wouldn't hesitate to buy the brand again. No matter how good a piece of footwear is, if there's physical contact with an already irritated or tender part of the foot, it will only worsen things.
Today I folded a gauze pad over the blister and used a large bandage to anchor it in place. Then I put on a thin pair of wool toe-socks and two thicker wool hiking socks. Once I felt it was sufficiently swaddled, I put on my Crocs. The location of my blister is just below where the ankle band for the Crocs secures the foot in place, which meant I had a nice cushy footbed and then no direct contact!
With my altered stride and "new" shoes, I made great time initially, covering the first 12 km in three hours, including rest breaks and lunch. It was the last 9.5 km which were problematic. From an average of 4 km/h in the morning, my pace slowed to a painstaking 2.5 km/h in the afternoon.
Still, I made it, and early enough that I feel optimistic about tomorrow. And if I decide tomorrow that I really can't face another 21 km walk to Vercelli, at least the hostel here only charges €10 per night. The facilities are clean but rather Spartan, but I'm still getting more for my money than I did the night I camped out in Etroubles.