Tuesday, 20 October 2009


Once in a while, this blog is about the Camino. This one is, so be warned.
While Reb was away, two German pilgrims showed up. One was called Christian, and was healthy, one was called Christopher and was unwell. Very unwell, in fact. Both aged twenty, long-haired, bearded, like the European visual versions of Jesus.
Christopher was diagnosed with probable multiple sclerosis seven years ago, which may - or may not - have something to do with what happened.
These two kids, along with four others originally, who had quit one by one, set out from Cologne to walk the Camino with no money apart from a small sum set aside for emergencies. They started out August 1st and had clearly used some wheeled transport to get themselves as far as Moratinos by October 17th.
Their original plan was to be self-sufficient - that is to live off wild fruits, weeds, vegetables, nuts and berries and any wild animals they might happen to get, I suppose. The latter was not likely, as they were not armed or carrying traps and road kill is frugal round here. So, fruits, berries and nuts it was. As they had so little money they slept out most of the time so as not to pay for albergues - usually about 5 euros a night.
'Self sufficiency' became to mean - as far as one could follow - scrounging, begging stale bread from bakeries, dumpster diving behind supermarkets and a bit of light stealing from orchards and vegetable gardens.
The nights grew colder. Christopher developed such a swelling in his throat and tongue that he could not eat anything solid at all and had trouble even swallowing water.
And he was running a feverish temperature 38c, 104f.
Finally, at our house, Christopher went to bed and stayed there for 24 hours or so until Reb got home. We tried to feed him in the meantime, but it was no use.
So, Rebekah's first task on getting home was to drive him to the medical center in Sahagun, some six miles away. He was given a shot of something and we were told he should go immediately to the big hospital in Leon, 45 miles away. This we duly did, on Sunday afternoon. Reb had already driven some 100 miles from the other side of Burgos in the morning. My driving days are done. Minces muy malo.
The hospital services are so good around here (this is not irony) that the emergency staff there admitted him, examined him, took several blood samples for analysis, and came up with instructions for further treatment all in the space of two hours.
Christopher was told to report the following morning (today, Sunday 20th) to have an abscess in his mouth drained. (As of now, Sunday evening, we have heard nothing, and I will be mildly surtprized if we ever do. We took him to the albergue in Leon, explained the circumstances, said Hasta luego, Buen Camino, breathed a sigh of relief and went for a bite at our favorite pizza joint, La Competen├žia. Thin crust. Tip top.
At first, when it was all over, I felt that I ought to be all bent out of shape by the amazing presumption of these kids. Their 'self sufficiency' probably cost us about 50 euros in hard cash.
But, then, I think that - if I had heard of the Camino at age 20 - maybe 17 in my case - I might have done exactly the same dopey thing. Too old to be dopey in that fashion now, at 68. Dopey in different ways.
A pilgrim from Cuba has just shown up, so I will continue mana├▒a.

1 comment:

Laura said...

This was a good story. If one of my kids heads out on a youthful, optimistic, dream journey (as my 21 year-old daughter plans to do in New Zealand next year) I hope there are folks like you and Rebekah along the way, if the need arises. (However she has put away money for luxuries, like food!)

What you did for Christopher is really how life should work.