Camino de Santiago 18

Jul 18th, 2012 | By | Category: Travel Adventures
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There is a lottery associated with the Camino. You don’t realize it when you begin but everyone is entered into the lottery. There will be a few winners and lots of losers.

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Of course the goal of any lottery is to be a winner. The Camino lottery is completely random. When you check into an alburgue they will generally tell you which bed to take.

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You are usually so tired by the time you reach the Alburgue that you don’t care if you have a top bunk or the more easily accessible bottom.

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All you want to do is shower, eat, check out the town, and hope nobody snores so you can get a good nights sleep.

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What you don’t anticipate or fully realize is that dinner is being served every night in the alburgue and its an all-you-can-eat buffet.

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The lottery winners are unaware of how lucky they are. The lottery losers are the nightly buffet. Only realizing they’ve lost the contest days, even weeks, after the munching mania has begun.

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Yes, we are talking about bed bugs. The most feared creature on the Camino. They are elusive, night stalking, blood sucking, demons.

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It is sad for me to report that on this day, after 17 happy days, I am a Camino lottery loser. A bed bug lepor.

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It starts with an itch. Maybe around the neck, or on the leg. A few bumps appear. You think its a rash from the detergent you used to wash your clothes or maybe something you ate.

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The reality is that your mind isn’t ready to accept the horror that has been unleashed upon you. Then the next day more bites appear, and the itching intensifies.

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Reality begins to set in and a horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach emerges. Your mind say HOLLY SHIT! What the hell do I do now??

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You are immediately thrust into panick mode and every inch of your skin feels like something is crawling on it. And it should. You’ve just become breakfast, lunch, and dinner to an enemy you’ve never even seen…or felt!!

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You wash everything and scrub yourself clean. You go onto the internet and begin to read. You become an insomniac afraid to sleep. But most of all, you wonder who you should tell.

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I have encountered other pilgrims who told me they had lost the lottery. I physically, immediately, began backing away from them. It wasn’t to be mean. In fact, you just do it automatically. I was fearful of the infected. Worried that their presence was going to bring me down…and it did!

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You will never understand how horrible battling bed bugs is until you’ve gone through the war. So a few bumps began to appear. I thought okay, I can handle this. That is until more, and more, and more began to appear.

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What you don’t realize at first is that it takes time for symptoms to appear. Sometimes up to two weeks. And in that whole time, you’ve been the nightly meal.

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So it doesn’t matter if you are bed bug free, the bites keep appearing, the itching doesn’t stop, and the psychological damage is forever.

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You will now do whatever it takes to not be bitten again. I have already upgraded from alburgue to hotel (that means my own room and bathroom). I now pay anywhere from 20-35€ a night. Does it guarantee I won’t encounter these horrible creatures? NO, but the hotels do tend to be nicer and cleaner and I haven’t been bitten since I’ve upgraded.

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I also decided that when I get on the plane in Lisbon, I will have nothing but my wallet, passports, iPhone, and the new clothes I purchased in the airport.

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You may think this extreme. But I have estimated that I have about $500 worth of gear on me (shoes, backpack, clothes, etc). I can assure you that the $500 I throw away at the airport is far less then the money, and psychological damage, bringing bed bugs into my house would cost.

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HELL NO!

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I was eating lunch the other day. A girl at the table next to me says:

Girl, “what are these bumps on my arm?”
Friend, “bed bug bites.”
Girl, “really, what do I do?”
Me (dead faced), “Burn everything!”
Her eyes widen
Me, “nothing you currently have on you is worth bringing that infestation into your home.”
She slowly shakes her head understanding the true significance of what I am saying.

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On the Camino there are bed bug winners and losers. It is random. I’ve met winners and I’ve met plenty of losers. Losing isn’t fun. It’s down right damaging. I’ve seen people begin to break because of it. The only things that keep me sane and able to go on are 1. My visa card. I can afford to get out of the main trail of infestation. 2. The thought that it was far worst in the past. I don’t know how the pilgrims a 1000 years ago dealt with it all (bugs, fleas, plague, etc.). And 3. Shopping spree. When I get on that plane, I will have nothing but new clothes.

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If you’ve had a bed bug encounter I hope you’ll share it with me below. ;-)

Day 19: Another day on the way

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10 comments
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  1. You tell a wickedly sad tall! BUT… you tell it well.

  2. BrIngs a whole new meaning to the phrase nighty night, don’t let the bed bugs bite… Sorry darlin. You deserve new stuff. It’s just stuff. You are so much more important. Love and hugs. A

  3. Sian this issue is likely due to your beautiful skin. People give you compliments and bed bugs give you bites.

  4. dear sian,
    keep those bed bugs away n follow ur WAY till the end
    COME ON, YES U CAN
    bon camino

  5. Came back with a few bedbug bites upon my return from Jamaica and I FREAKED out– resulted in all of our luggage cooking in the AZ sun for several days and using the hair dryer on my mattress. Fortunately, that appeared to do it. So I know how crazy just a few can make a person, I can’t even imagine how incredibly paranoid I would get if I”m staying night after night knowing I’m not only getting repeatedly exposed, but also possibly passing on the “joy.”

    Goodness gracious, stay strong my friend, stay strong.

  6. Your day 18 was a mistake to read in the bed. I am all itchy just reading about it. Is there no spray for this bug? I feel for you. The things we cannot see what nightmares are made of. Hardest part must be not to be able to share your pain. I am itching as i write this. Btw dont shop from airport, too expensive. (still itching)

  7. SIAN!!!!!! Whoah!!! Ugh. I feel for you. I never had a direct personal experience with bed bugs. Just after we moved into our Idaho cabin my folks and two grandmoms stayed with us. The grandmothers slept in our spare bed. The cabin had been empty for many years and the beds not slept in. My sister-in-law had cleaned all the mattresses before we arrived so I was pretty sure we were safe. However, a couple weeks after the visit, I got a call from my stepmom asking if we had bed bugs because my grandmother had them! Ewwwwww!!! I told her that no we didn’t then she found out a cheap hotel on their way home was the culprit. Whew!!!!

    I am so glad I am reading your post in the morning. Maybe I will forget by the time I go to bed. :-0)

  8. Oh no! I remember bed bugs all too well from my hostel experience in London… So itchy and uncomfortable. You are doing the right thing leaving those nasty buggers behind. I read that many of the planes have bed bugs too and that they have to spray them regularly… Yikes.

    Be safe, and have fun and get away from those bugs…

  9. I agree with not buying your clothes at the airport…find a good department type store in Lisboa (that’s where you’re leaving from, right?), change clothes & shoes, pack up all your throwaways in the shopping bag and toss it on your way to the airport. You might end up with both a fun shopping expedition & not having spent a fortune. What an awful experience en route to have happen. I hope the rest of your Camino is filled with more good friends, good thoughts, good photos, good memories!

  10. I am so jealous of u sis! U rock I wish I could be as daring as u! So sorry bout the bedbug situation

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