As I hobbled in to El Burgo Ranero, my right knee had mostly healed, but four new blisters had formed on my feet after several days of walking in the rain. And what had started as a slight tickle in my throat in Hontanas had now turned into vicious fevers, aches and chills. So in need of a good night’s sleep and to be sure I didn’t spread my germs to the other pilgrims, Tom and I decided to take a break from the albergue and get a private room.
After unloading our bags, Tom took off his shirt to take a shower. I squirmed when I saw his entire back and arms still covered by itchy, small, red bumps. Bed bugs attacked him a few nights prior in Fromista. The bites were itchy, but that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part about bed bugs was fearing them.
Climbing into bed at night after a 25km+ hike should feel like a warm hug for a tired pilgrim, but because of these little pests, going to bed was now a fear-ridden ritual of checking seams and praying that we make it through the night bug-free. We were completely defenseless against these microscopic nocturnal monsters and we knew it.
We sat down for dinner with 25 strangers; we enjoyed dessert with 25 friends. On our second night on the Camino, Tom and I stayed in a small village named Larrasoaña. The town had a crummy albergue with no heat and squeaky beds, and only one restaurant. As such, almost every pilgrim in town ate there for dinner. We took our seat at the end of the table across from unfamiliar faces. But by the end of our meal we had sparked several new friendships that would last beyond Santiago.
Later that night, when Tom and I cuddled together on the lower bunk (the only way for us to stay warm without a sleeping bag), we looked up to read inscriptions from previous pilgrims. One in particular resonated with us, “Why am I here?” I believe that the night’s communal dinner was the Camino’s response to our doubt.
The rustle of bags and the sound of zippers beat our alarm to its job. I reluctantly rolled over to check the time…4:45am, ugh. It must be someone getting up to go to the toilet, I thought to myself. But the sound of snoring that I had grown accustomed to throughout the night had ceased and I began to suspect these people were actually waking up to start their walk.
I looked to my left and in the dim moonlight filtering through the window, the shadows of pilgrims zipping their bags, lacing their boots, and fastening their headlamps confirmed my suspicions. What did we get ourselves into?
With sore feet, new friends, lessons learned, and lots of wet socks, we made it to Santiago!
Tom and I just completed a month-long hike through Northern Spain on the Camino De Santiago. As you can imagine, I can’t possibly summarize the last thirty unique, wonderful, and challenging days in one blog post, so the next 4 posts (including this one) will be about our journey.
But before I jump into telling you about our experience of the Camino (and it was quite an experience), let me begin with a high-level, birds-eye perspective of this age-old journey in case it is unfamiliar to you.
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!