5th October, 2019
- Day 28: Baamonde to Sobrado dos Monxes
- Distance: ~34km
- Weather: Overcast
- Accommodation: Albergue de Monasterio de Sobrado dos Monxes, €6
What’s small and black and makes you itch all over?
Bed bugs (chinches). That’s right, the dreaded bed bug. I wake up scratching in the middle of the night. I know this feeling well. I’ve been bitten on every single Camino. I notice Daniele two beds down from me, also awake and itching. I turn my headlamp on and search the bed and my sleeping bag for any bug activity. I can’t see anything. I turn my headlamp to the bed frame and then the floor. There are two moving across the floor under the bunk so I use my flip flops to kill them. I pick up my sleeping bag and carry it across the squeaking floorboards to the bathroom (trying my hardest not to wake the others) and shake it vigorously. Under the bathroom light I search every inch of it and it looks clear. I go back to the bunk and again search it with my headlamp. Nothing.
I try to go back to sleep but I’m itching all over and the bites have come up like hives. The last time I got bitten a couple of years ago in Padrón, I went to the pharmacy and they sent me to the hospital. It appears I have an allergic reaction which gets worse each time. The doctor told me to make sure I didn’t get bitten again… easier said than done. I’ve tried everything: I’ve used a bed bug sheet and a bed bug liner, I’ve treated my sleeping bag and clothes with permethrin and I’ve sprayed the bed with deet.
I lay awake until 5.30am, then gather my belongings and take everything to the washing machine outside in the yard. Luckily I have just enough coins to put everything in the dryer on the hottest setting and I sit here for two rounds. By the time it finishes, most of the pilgrims have left and I’m struggling to keep my eyes open. Coffee. Need.
It’s a Sunday and the pharmacy in town isn’t open (to buy bug spray for my pack and anti-itch cream). The hospitalero isn’t here either. I decide I have no choice but continue to my destination and hope they’ll let me in…
5km after Baamonde, in San Breixo de Parga, I take the ‘new’ option which skips Miraz. It’s quite scenic as the Camino passes through small stone hamlets and over old cobbled paths.
There’s limited services on this alternative but thankfully the cafe in A Pobra de Parga is open. I meet Barbara, Sigrid and James and we order the house specialty, a full size tortilla each. It’s delicious. I try not to itch but the swelling hurts and the bites are driving me crazy. We walk together and sing songs all the way to the monastery in Sobrado dos Monxes.
Sigrid, James and I wait to check into the albergue (they take groups of six at a time) and while waiting, we’re joined by Stefan from Switzerland. The Stefan who was my bunkmate in Irun 28 days ago, and who I haven’t seen since breakfast that morning. It’s crazy how you do and don’t meet people on the Camino! The four of us are ushered into an office and take turns registering. I want to be last as I need to tell the receptionist of my bed bug situation which Sigrid and James are well aware of, but Stefan isn’t.
It’s now my turn and I sit sheepishly in front of the man and hand over my passport and credential. While he’s writing down my details, I ask if he speaks English. “No,” he replies. “A little?” I enquire. “No,” he repeats… “Oh dear, this just got harder,” I think to myself. I get out my phone and type into google translate, ‘I’ve been bitten by bedbugs and I need to treat my pack and clothes. Can you please help?’ He inhales deeply, puts down the pen and reads the message again. I nod and pull up my sleeve, then also point to my neck and shoulder. Rather than type a reply in google translate, he begins to mime and gesture, as if acting was a long lost passion of his. It’s almost impossible to keep a straight face. I think he’s miming holding a big garbage bag, and then with the rotations of his arm and the noises he’s making, one could guess he’s pretending to spray the contents of this imaginary bag. Then it looks like he’s wringing a chicken’s neck, so this must mean, tie the bag tightly. If anyone in the room was unsure after the first performance, we all got it by the fourth! Stefan looks at me and I feel embarrassed and almost ashamed.
A lovely young German volunteer is called over to help deal with my situation and the others are shown to their room. First I’m handed old clothes to change into, then given a bag and a bottle of bug spray and my own room in a corner of the monastery. I’m instructed to machine wash everything in my pack on the highest temperature and then dry everything, again at the highest temperature. My pack and shoes go into the garbage bag with a mighty dose of bug spray and this is tied tight and not allowed to be opened until morning. She calls last nights albergue to inform them they may have a problem. At least one positive of the situation is that I’m well versed in what to do; it’s really kind of them to lend me clothes, even if they do smell like mothballs.
Sigrid and James try to cheer me up over dinner at a nearby restaurant (me in my borrowed, oversized clothing) and just as the meal is served my alarm goes off. I have to run back to the albergue and transfer my clothes from the washing machine to the dryer. I’m not allowed to sleep in my sleeping bag and it’s the coldest night yet. I hate albergue blankets (for fear of bugs!), but it’s use this or freeze. I’m very grateful to the monastery for helping and for the German volunteer for being so understanding.