Remember that little step that B almost tripped on but managed to keep her balance? Well I didn’t. So when I went up to the room after a long, lovely breakfast to put my lunch in my box and finish getting ready while she had another coffee, I didn’t see it at all … and went flying. My first thought was that I must have damaged my hip, because I landed pretty badly on it, but then my hands shot out and cradled my ankle and I heard myself scream!
I wasn’t the only one who heard it either; a couple in checked shirts and zipoffs came running into the narrow hallway from their room to see what was going on. I felt so stupid sitting there on the stupid floor of the stupid little hall after falling off that stupid little step, that I assured them I was fine, I just tripped and I could get back up again. So I did – ouch! – and managed to hobble back to our room. But then all I could do was sit on the bed, take my socks off and see what was going on. The foot was already starting to swell. This was *not* a good sign. Then poor B knocked on the door, morning fresh and camino happy, and saw my little upset face. I told her what had happened and she inspected the stupid foot, and we decided immediately and unanimously that what I needed was RICE – rest, ice, compression and elevation – and not a 23 km walk in the countryside. Boo!
I kept the ankle under icy water in the shower for a while before I hobbled down to the restaurant again, where I told them what had happened, suggested they put some danger tape on that step, and asked nicely for a bag of ice. Then I sat in the same seat as the night before, with my leg on a chair and a bag of ice on my foot, and suddenly everything felt completely different. I knew I hadn’t broken anything but I also knew this was not OK. I remember thinking I should never have giggled at the word Walberberg – and wished we had stayed in Brühl!
When B came back down, she checked with the staff if I could stay there for a while, and they said they would call a taxi for me whenever I was ready. We made a plan to meet in the next village at 12-ish, to have lunch and see how things were. I would stay put where the hotel staff were looking after me (as they should!) and hop in a taxi when she messaged that she was getting close and where to meet. Then, reluctantly, she went.
I sat there with my ice, swearing silently in four languages (as you do) and just knew this was not going to end well. In fact I already knew it was the end of the walk. Even if I could manage to walk a bit, no way could I carry a backpack and no way could I go for 20+ kms in the countryside where there was nowhere to stop, get help or meet a taxi if I needed it. I would have to rest it for at least a few days, and what would I do in those days? Get local buses to wherever we were staying and then wait for B all day, making her feel she had to hurry to get there and then entertain me when she did? How early could I check in? What if there was no food there? Or no lift up to the room? And when – if – I got better, would the ankle handle a full day’s walk before I had to turn around and go back to Cologne to fly home? It made no sense. What made this trip special was to spend the day together, walking, talking, sitting down for lunchbox lunches in a sunny spot somewhere, stopping for coffee or apfelschorle when we had the opportunity … If we couldn’t do that, there was no point.
So by the time she messaged me that she was approaching the next village, and the man behind the bar called a taxi for me, I had already checked out earlier flights. There was one in three days. it would cost a little to change it, but so would getting taxis and buses and staying in pensions and hotels and sitting on squares drinking coffees and radlers and eating salads etc. B waited for me in a beergarden in the sun, and both being practical women we basically assessed the situation, agreed I shouldn’t walk any further, but that I didn’t need her to stop walking to take me anywhere. The lovely waitress told us there was a bus to Euskirchen in 7 minutes from across the street, so I went to catch it. B sent me a google map with directions to the hotel and called them to say I was coming early. I can’t tell you how pleased I was to have my Pacerpoles as crutches on my way up the main street! At the top was the Altermarkt, a very cosy little square I thought I might come back and sit in after I had checked in and got ready. And in a pretty side street was our hotel.
But I didn’t go to the square. I stayed in the room, had a shower – because it was a normal cubicle and who knows, the next place might have a shower head over a bathtub – and then I rested with my feet up. I could see the bruising already but it seemed it was the top and side of the foot that was injured, not the ankle; tendons, not bones. I cursed my luck and counted my blessings and booked the earlier flight home.
So when B arrived, I told her that I couldn’t see the foot getting trail worthy in time to join her in any meaningful way. She took a look at – and a photo of – the bruising and agreed. Next we had to figure out what to do about accommodation, as we had booked some twin rooms, and how I would get to where we were going. The next two nights we were booked into a hotel two walks away, with the hosts picking us up the first day and dropping us back again the next. So I could stay there without having to unpack and repack and move around too much, but … I would also be stuck for two whole days in a place where nothing much happened. B rang them to see if she could downgrade to a single room, and they said she would get at least a single price if she came on her own. As much as I would have liked to enjoy her company and be part of her Epic Adventure for a bit longer, we would really only meet for an hour or two after she had arrived, showered, done laundry etc, and have dinner together before she went to sleep. Also there would be direct trains from Euskirchen to Cologne, but that would get more complicated further down the trail. So we went on booking.com and found a hotel we had walked past only two days earlier, called XII Apostel, right on the busy square Heumarkt, at reduced non-refundable price and with lift to the rooms and a restaurant downstairs. I mean, Apostel – surely it was a sign. I booked it.
Then we went out to eat for the third and also suddenly last time, both a bit miserable, but maybe I could try to catch her up later, maybe in France. Then we hobbled back, checked the train times, asked the host where the nearest doctor and pharmacy were, and got ready for the next day.