When I first arrived at Biarritz airport – a month ago now – and I was walking gingerly down the stairs because even before I started, my knee was giving me problems, I was greeted exuberantly by this bloke I’d never met before.
He was a Hungarian fellow called Balazs.
As it turned out, we shared a taxi to Saint Jean Pied de Port, along with another Hungarian chap, Lazlo, and a beautiful young Dutch lass named Rosa.
That taxi ride cemented a strong friendship amongst us all. We were excited, nervous, scared.
We then stayed in the same albergue in St. Jean (Espirit de Chemin), and whilst we all went our separate ways up the Pyrenees to Roncesvalles, we crossed paths several times later that first day.
My knee went ballistic on the second day coming into Zubiri. It was a steep and rocky descent, and I was in a lot of pain.
The third day I hobbled into Pamplona, wondering how i could possibly go on, and who should appear behind me but Balazs and Lazlo.
Balazs knew which was the best albergue to stay in and we all checked in. He looked at my knee, then the size of a football, and he gave me a tube of Voltaren which he’d brought with him. Voltaren is a very effective anti-inflammatory and I’ve used that cream every day since.
Then he insisted I ice my knee.
He produced a towel – one of these expensive hi-tech trekking towels – got some ice and wrapped the ice in the towel, then wrapped it around my knee.
Later, after the pain and swelling had subsided somewhat, he took me to the department store in Pamplona and insisted that I buy a pair of walking sticks. He helped me choose the best pair.
Anyone who’s followed this blog knows how resistant I was to using sticks. But that pair of Lekis, without a doubt, will enable me to finish the Camino.
The next day, Balazs and Lazlo left early to continue on – I stayed back to rest my knee.
I went to give the towel back to Balazs but he insisted I keep it, on the proviso that I keep icing my knee.
We said goodbye, I took some photos, and they left. And I haven’t seen them since. Balazs is fit, and a strong walker, and after he left Pamplona, he powered ahead.
We’ve swapped a couple of text messages since, and so I’ve been aware of his progress.
He flies out of Santiago on the evening of April 12th.
The reason I’ve been pushing hard this last week or so is because before he leaves, I want to give him the towel back.
He was so kind to me, and so generous, it would mean a lot to me to personally hand him back his towel in front of the Cathedral in Santiago.
Balazs and Lazlo —