We’re walking the Camino de Santiago in June 2022. Come along with us!

Day 10: Derailing

I promised myself that I would be honest on this blog. I wouldn’t sugarcoat it when I was weak or tired, or when I did something dumb. And so far, I’ve done that. I wrote about my dehydration on Day 1, and that I was pretty sure the popping sound in my knee was (another) dislocation on Day 3… but that wasn’t too hard to share. I was confident I could eat and sleep well and move right along the next day. But… I wasn’t completely honest with you about yesterday.

Most of the walk to Portomarín was fine, if hilly and increasingly warm, but when I hit the city and realized I would have to cross a bridge and walk up a giant set of (lawsuit waiting to happen) steps, and then another .5km through town, all uphill…I really thought I couldn’t do it. When we finally arrived at our albergue, I laid on the bed, feeling half-dead. While Will went out with seemingly endless energy to walk around, I crouched on the floor of the shower and cried. What the hell was wrong with me? I felt dizzy standing up; wrapped in a towel, I shivered on the bed. I took a giant ibuprofen, dozed, and felt more human again two hours later.

Except, I didn’t. There was a buzzing in my ears, and a general fogginess. I couldn’t keep up with the conversation at dinner, and I slept restlessly.

Reader, if you’ve been alive in the world since 2020, you know what’s coming. I woke up feeling too sick to stand, and I sent Will on ahead, telling him I would meet up at our next stop, Palas de Rei. It didn’t occur to me until after another hour of shivering to take a Covid test, one from the five-pack I brought from home.

It was immediately positive. There was no hesitation, no faint could-be pink line. Reader, having spent two years seeing almost no one, teaching online for 18 months and in a mask for nine, getting vaxxed and boosted and begging my doctor for the second booster before this trip (I was denied, because I don’t fit any of the categories), I have Covid.

This journey just became something different for me.


The thing to do, of course, is rest, isolate, drink fluids, take vitamins and paracetamol. If it gets worse, I’ll go to a doctor. But for now (and probably for the rest of our trip, since we’re three days from Santiago), my Camino has been derailed.

So instead of today’s walk, let me tell you about my taxi adventure.

I saw a taxi stand in Portomarín and called the number. After some mangled Spanish (Estoy en Portomarín cerca de la cathedral. Necesito ir a Palas de Reí), I was told “diez minutos”. But alas, diez minutos came and went, so I called again, and this time was told veinticinco minutos, which also came and went. Then a navy sedan pulled up, depositing two pilgrims complete with backpacks and walking sticks. I approached the driver with my mangled Spanish, and although he seemed incredibly hesitant, he eventually hoisted my backpack into his trunk. It didn’t occur to me until we were out of the city that this didn’t look like a taxi, and that the driver had to plug the city name into Google maps.

Reader, at this point (and also later, when the driver abruptly turned off the freeway into a wooded one-lane path), I was pretty sure I was going to die. I have a mind that always maps out the worst-case scenarios, so it wasn’t a huge leap. But eventually we saw signs for Palas de Rei, and then we were in the city. He couldn’t seem to find the address and eventually just stopped the car, pointing vaguely down the street. A random person passing by got involved and there was a spirited conversation that didn’t include me, before the taxi (?) driver got into the car and drove away, 33 euros richer. I walked down the street, but there were no hotels, and eventually I realized it wasn’t even the right street. I stepped into a little tienda and the owner pointed me in the right direction, and I ended up walking down a dark alley (I mean, it was daytime, but still a little sketchy), trailing an elderly woman and her daughter, a small striped cat trailing me. Just when I was about to give up—my phone was literally at 1%, so not sure what I would have done)—I peeked around the corner, and there was the Pension As Hortas.

This is just what the doctor would order, I’m sure.

Now I’ve showered, slept, ate (Will arrived with cheese, salami, bread and yogurt), and I’m watching Spanish TV. (No one is more surprised than me that the TV is on.) 90% of the channels show a Real Madrid game, so I settled for a Property Brothers episode.

I have long believed that HGTV would be more interesting with MST3K style narration.

So what’s next? I have a hotel room in Santiago waiting for me; I’ll hole up there and meet Will when he gets to the city in three days. And yes—Will has my blessing to continue. He’s tested negative, and he might as well keep going. If I need him, he’ll come vía taxi. (Lord, the taxi bills on this trip!) Hopefully we’ll both be feeling good in a week, when we end our trip in Madrid.

(Where did I get Covid? Could be anywhere. We aren’t masked on the trail, although for the most part I’ve masked inside. But we did stay in some dormitory-style albergues, and that’s a likely culprit. I learned today that my bunk make in León had Covid, but that was 10 days ago already. So who knows.)

Don’t worry, I’ll keep blogging. I’m sure you’ll be interested in the adventures of a Covid-positive American abroad 🙃. And I’ll be following Will’s blog with more interest, and rooting him on. Finish strong for both of us, Will! —Paula


One response to “Day 10: Derailing”

  1. Oh, no! What an awful feeling and a general bummer to not be able to continue walking. And you had some real uncertain moments! I’m so sorry to read about your distress! But you stayed calm and it all turned out well. Good for you to keep your head. I hope you feel better and Will can stay healthy, too!


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