Trajectory: Melide à Pedrouzo
Distance: 21 miles, or 33.5 kilometers
Bubonic Plague: Yes, I have it
Dampness and Grossness
Today was the last full day, and I have two words for it: Wet and Itchy. My two new traveling companions and I made a tacit agreement to finish the walk together, and set out for the town of O Pedrouzo. Staying here would allow us to have a shorter day into Santiago the following day, which was the only true motivation during a somewhat difficult last full day. The weather was balls-deep tripping. We were soaked within an hour from head to toe, but were placated when the sun came out in full force. Thirty minutes later, the wind picked up, menacing clouds flew in, and we were once again walking in rain. But wait! Is that blue on the horizon? It’s so hot! Jackets were unzipped, hoods removed. THUNDER! And it’s pouring. But rain isn’t supposed to hurt, I thought, as hail pelted my tender cheeks and crackled off my backpack. Eight hours of the most mercurial weather I’ve ever seen, with walking made all the more challenging by the fact that we knew we had almost finished, and were more excited for to arrive at the cathedral have a glorious dinner than we were to savor the last few kilometers. There was a rainbow after the rain, thus proving decades of pop songs to be good predictors of post-storm atmospheric events. Who knew?
The walking portion was beautiful, which made traipsing through ankle-deep mud seem like an adventure rather than a job. Everyone had told me that Galicia would be the best part of the Camino Francés, and I believe they were right. It’s the most woodsy, the most moss-covered, green-covered, ethereal section. Streams flow under bridges that have grass growing out of the cracks, and a walker passes from one stone built farm village to another under the half-interested vigil of cows, sheep, goats, and chickens. Everything is humid and it smells like earth and manure.
Medieval Path, Medieval Ailments
On a super cool note, the day was made unpleasant by the fact that I was attacked during the night by either a mad insect or my own body reacting to something in an allergic manner. I had weird, parallel red lumps on my hips and hands, as well as a sexy rash on my rib cage. The first thought is obviously bedbugs, but the foulness didn’t seem to fit the pattern of little bites in a row. The second thought is that, like the true pilgrims of yore,I had gotten leprosy, and I would be cured when I hugged the apostle in the catedral of Santiago de Compostela.
By the end of breakfast, my hands had swollen to look like something terrible. Pocket pussy is the description that comes to mind for some reason. Fleshy and engorged and awful. Also, itchy as fuck, which was exacerbated by the constant dampness. The skin on my wrists, now inflated, was folding over itself and it looked like a fat little baby was holding my trekking poles. I’ve googled “anaphylaxis” enough times to know that it usually happens quickly, so I was 95% sure I wasn’t going to die. Additionally, my Italian friend had just finished her initial studies in medicine, and she also seemed confident about my prognosis.
We arrived in Arzua around 12, where I found a pharmacy. The pharmacist sold me a tube of arnica and an insect bite cream, although I really don’t think they were bites as there was no real entry point. My super official diagnosis is that I had a reaction to the disposable bedsheets they give you in some of the municipal albergues. There’s nothing like waxy, fibrous, barely-big-enough industrial bedding to make you sleep soundly.
The Final Night
In any case, I survived the gamut of weather and a mysterious infection to finally arrive in O Pedrouzo in the evening. We found a pizza place, and sat for a long time eating and talking. The atmosphere was like that of the end of school: The particularities of people have become unimportant, and the mere fact to have arrived at the end is enough to give you common ground and a certain bond.
Like tweens at a sleepover party, we were super crazy and stayed up until almost midnight eating profiterole-esque pastries, cracking up about the fact that the hostel owner had given us a portable heater but removed it while we were at dinner. The last night, like the majority of the nights, would be cold indeed.