…is food poisoning. Wait… misery is food poisoning catching up with you 16.5 kilometers into a 17 kilometer walk (I am shuddering at the memory right now).
So the thing about the camino de santiago is that you’re walking the whole way (or at least I’m walking… people do it on bikes and donkeys)… and even if you don’t really feel like walking you’re probably walking at least a little bit. And sometimes there’s just no place to stop…if you need something you’ll just need to carry onto the next village.
A few days ago I woke up in Carrion de los Condes. The next stop on the camino was Calzadilla de la Cueza, which is a flat 17 kilometer walk away… the only thing is that there is nothing else other than farmland between the two places. Now, 17 kilometers isn’t that far… normally it would take about 3.5 to 4 hours… and considering I’ve been averaging about 25 kilometers a day, 17 is a long morning, but definitely doable. Plus,my lovely camino companion and I had reached Carrion de los Condes early in the afternoon the day before, so we had gotten some good rest a good night’s sleep. Easy-peasy right?
Well… not exactly. I woke up in the morning and something was just off, nothing I could put my finger on really, but I just felt a little strange. No big deal though, I’d just channel my inner manliness to overcome any strange feelings and just get the sucker done. So we packed our bags and headed off to breakfast (which ended up being cheese on toast plus coffee and orange juice… not the biggest breakfast for the walk, but it was what was available at the time. As an aside, a lot of the breakfasts in this part of Spain consist of toast with either butter, jam or a tomato spread to put on top of the toast. If you really want to make a Spaniard’s head spin, try asking for cheese on your toast… they will look at you like you just grew an extra head… the request – 90% of the time – is just unfathomable to them… Cheese? On toast? They will ask you at least a half dozen times as you nod your head in agreement that yes, you would actually like cheese on top of your toast… it’s quite hilarious actually). Breakfast complete, we headed out to start the walk. Here’s what it looked like pretty much the whole way:
Right away my stomach starts not feeling good… I just assumed it was the acidity from the coffee and orange juice combination, so I start drinking water to dilute everything down there. Doesn’t really help… whatever, I walk on. As every minute passes I feel worse… about two hours into the walk I start to feel like I’m a walking zombie… just focusing on breathing and taking one step at a time. This is not good… especially because I’m likely only about halfway there (one thing about the camino is you generally know how far between stops via a guidebook, but once you’re walking you really have no way to judge how far you’ve gone because there are no distance markers… you just have to estimate based on time walked and pace). I’m getting major rumbles both down below and in my stomach… I keep drinking water (because it’s hot), but that’s not really helping anything. I just focus on each upcoming object (tree, rock, small ridge, whatever…) and tell myself just to make it to there. This is misery (I know it could be worse and I could be a refugee somewhere literally starving to death and blah blah blah, but if you’ve ever had food poisoning you know how bad it can be).
Somewhere not in sight of the next village, something feels like it breaks loose down below… and I have to go… now… like right now. I drop my bag on trail and sprint to the only bush in sight and let loose something that can only be described as horrible (thank you visit to China for teaching me the proper squatting method for just such an occasion). Phfew… disgusting, but done and done right… except that I still don’t feel any better. I walk back to my bag on the trail and have a sip of water and a bite of a granola bar when… well… you know the feeling you get when you’re about to puke… I get that, and proceed to evacuate the contents of my stomach into a farmer’s field. F-me… this is really not fun. It’s hot and there’s no shade, and I’m now just sitting in the dirt next a wheat field trying to get myself together….uggh.
Luckily, after blowing chunks, I felt a little better and could get my crap and walk on. However, now I’m starting to get a bit of heat exhaustion because it’s hot, and (now) I basically haven’t eaten of drank anything that got absorbed since last night… so I’m dizzy and very badly want to just lie down and take a nap. The other lucky (I guess you could call it that) thing was that, even though we couldn’t see it, the end point was just 0.5 kilometers away (these little villages have a habit of being hidden so you literally can’t see them until you’re about 200 meters away…must date from times where they could have been invaded), so I got to the next village rather quickly where I proceeded to pass out in the first available shade I could find:
After not really being able to move from the above position for about two hours (except to continue evacuating my insides), my lovely companion made the executive decision to get a cab to take us about 15 kilometers onto Sahagun (because where I’m laying above was in a tiny village with pretty much nothing except a bar and Sahagun was the next place with a decent amount of services). So I’ve spent the last couple days either not walking or taking it easy because I still haven’t quite shaken the bug (white rice or potatoes for basically every meal… yay… delicious and nutritious). I’m feeling better, but man oh man… that was a bad day.
Food poisoning is not fun… I can’t quite decide where I got it, it’s either from one rather unspectacular bar where I ate lunch the day before the above incident, or from drinking water from a fountain that wasn’t labeled as untreated (most of the fountains are labeled here so hikers know which ones they can drink from). I’ll definitely have to be a bit more careful from now on (and I can look at this as good training for visiting India right… right?).