That is the question.
This is my third Camino and on both previous walks, I had comfortably managed the distance without the aid of walking sticks.
Clanking away on the path, creating a tedious cacophony, I had always thought they were just another thing that I might leave behind, or another thing to trip over.
But as I left Pontedeume on an extraordinarily steep section of the Way, I began to wonder if that was a Luddite position.
My day had begun in less ascetic style than yesterday with a wake-me-up coffee and a churro, while I looked up anxiously at low clouds that seemed ready to burst with rain.
The steep streets of Pontedeume soon had my full attention though, as I slowly wound my way up to a splendid viewpoint overlooking the town.
Then I noticed two other pilgrims, apparently more advanced in years, but certainly advancing up this hill more swiftly than me.
They both had sticks.
Set to the soundtrack of chainsaws from the wood mill across the valley, I began the process of finally accepting the logic of getting some sticks too.
I was continuously bargaining with myself.
When I was labouring on an uphill stretch, I was going to stop at Miño, a mere 12km into the stage.
When I was on a downhill stretch, I was definitely going to make it to Betanzos, a full 21km away from Pontedeume.
The Advanced Years Guys passed me again with ease on the next uphill stretch.
They had sticks and I still hadn’t got one. More fool me.
The die was cast, and I am now the temporary owner of a wooden stick, bought here along with a boiled egg, an orange juice and coffee for Felipe, one of the Advanced Guys. How he got that coffee con leche put on my bill is still a mystery to me.
Right Shoulder was not happy about my decision, as it was going to be doing a bit more work now, but Right and Left Hip seemed quite pleased that I’d finally caved in.
Currently, my walking gait is uneven at best, veering towards shambolic at worst, thanks to a temporarily misaligned peroneal nerve.
The Stick made a lot of difference. More than I might have hoped.
The uphill sections still saw me matching the pace of this snail at times.
But I made it to Betanzos in pretty good time, meeting Alexandra from Germany much later in the day than expected, along with Birgitta and Anne from Denmark, Natalie and Regina from Germany and Maeve from Scotland, and Keith from Canada too.
A refreshing following wind helped, but I think The Stick made my day.
Let’s see how long it takes for me to leave it behind somewhere…
Pontedeume to Betanzos:
Stage distance: 21km
Actual distance walked: 21km. With two guidebooks and three apps on the phone, it would be a bit sad if I had taken a wrong turn.
Slips, trips and falls: 0 (2) The Stick, you know.
Unexpected Horse Road Block: 1
Runny Omelettes consumed, as recommended by Jonay: 1, actually a tortilla, ordered by Raul and Alberto as they educated me on Galician food and 34% café liqueur at Casa Miranda this evening.
Number of times Buen Camino was said: More than 30, although I do encourage it with a lot of Buenas Dias greetings.
Unexpected Song Played In My Head All Day: Photosynthesis by Frank Turner and Torn by Natalie Imbruglia. Yeah, I don’t know why either.
Hotel Garelos, Betanzos
I didn’t even try to stay at an albergue tonight. Instead, I’ve got a double bed and four pillows. So there.
Still a shambling slow-moving wreck, but with no specific problems to report. Tomorrow will be a test – 26km, and the endpoint is called Hospital de Bruma.
One way or another, that’s where I’ll end up.