Hi everyone. Welcome to the latest installment of “Camino Jen vs the sun.”
I woke up yesterday morning in Fromista very early with the tell-tale signs of photodermatitis: itchy blistering on my right arm, chest, and chin (probably where my hat doesn’t cover). It’s clear that the multiple layers of my Badger Zinc sunscreen were no match for that intense sun on Monday.
I was out the door by 6:30 am to race the sun. I knew the leg was only 20 km and almost a straight shot, so I pulled my hat down over my face, put on my long sleeve shirt, and just walked as fast as I could. I drank very little water because I didn’t want to make any stops (sorry, Dr Bobbie). I just needed to reach Carrion as fast as I could.
And I did! I was safely ensconced in my hostel room by 12:30. They also washed all of my sweat-soaked and sunscreen-streaked clothes from Monday in about 20 minutes to hang dry, showered, and I was off to explore the town. It became pretty hot quickly again, so I found myself darting from shade spot to shade spot all day long… like a scurrying rat.
Man, this is no way to live!
It was still a great day once I settled in. I reconnected with a bunch of people: Denis from Toulouse, Chuck from California, and Jan, Anthony, and beloved Chantal from Australia. I also had the chance to meet a delightful brother/sister team from Milan: Andreas and Francesca (who looks exactly like my friend Ellen V back in Seattle. Ellen, I met your doppelgänger!)
I think as I talked about my sun struggles, my Australian friends were tilting their heads a bit in wonderment. What is this crazy PNW American talking about? This sun is nothing compared to their home weather. I get that.
There was a wonderful 13th s church that was OPEN. And they had real candles in the chapels instead of those weird coin-operated-battery candles I’ve seen up until now. And they were playing Gregorian music.
I popped into another 12th s church building that is now a museum. I paid the woman 1€, then she followed me around the museum silently. It was as if she thought I was going to steal or destroy something. Weird. Here are some pics from this second refuge from the sun.
According to the last picture, my Camino attire is all wrong.
There was a bathtub in my room so I could soak my feet again (twice!)
And I had the most incredible dinner with Chantal, Denis, Francesca, Andreas, and Chuck — perhaps the best meal I’ve had in Spain. It was a tapas restaurant with family size plates, so there’s no way I could have had this experience eating on my own. We each ordered one plate, then shared as it all hit the table. Calamari, a larger squid of some sort, a delicious bonito dish, langoustines, octopus, mussels with a salsa on top, and a charcuterie platter. It was divine! All of that plus three bottles of wine was only 88€! We literally ate like royalty for about 15€ each (plus extra tip).
Chantal is staying an extra day in Carrion, so we may not cross paths again — but I’ve learned to never say goodbye for good on the Camino. Buen Camino, dear Chantal!
So now let’s talk about this sun problem. When I was in the pharmacy buying yet more bandages for the blisters (new ones from Monday), the pharmacist took one look at my arms and face and started lecturing me in English that I must wear sunscreen. I explained to her that I did and exactly what the problem was. She took pity on me but couldn’t sell me any hydrocortisone without a prescription, but she did sell me a little bottle of aloe.
After the experience with her, the darting to avoid the sun all day, and talking with Chuck (a California grape farmer), it’s become clear that I MUST take a break from sun exposure. I need at least 24 hours for my body to heal my skin without doing more damage — otherwise my skin is going to start falling off! So the left foot blisters didn’t stop me from finishing, but ending up in the ER seeking cortisone shots for a photodermatitis emergency WILL bring this whole thing to an end.
How to avoid the sun without losing any more time?
Today I am taking a bus to the next town to stay out of the sun completely. I have to do it. Otherwise soon I may look like one of Foucault’s medieval criminals flayed in the town square (oh! — second Foucault reference this week! My old life is creeping back into my head).
I feel guilty about this, but am trying to make peace with the fact that if I don’t take a bus today I may not finish at all! This is the best choice out of three bad choices — walk in the sun, stay put, or bus today’s leg.
I hope you all understand!
God, the guilt.