“The Camino brings what you need.” That’s what they say. So I’m trying to work out for what reason I needed to be turned into a double ended human water pump/hosepipe system for 9 hours.
I thought it was the clams. It stands to reason. It’ll be another 15 days walk before I see the sea and they were cooked in a rush by microwave. There were so many closed clams in the soup that I abandoned it as potentially unsafe 4 spoonfuls in. Too late. 40 minutes later, just as I get back to the convent, very familiar symptoms start. I know where this is going. Last time it was moules mariniéres in Jersey. The time before, God help me, spicy green curry mussels at Belgo. Nothing can ever be that bad. I get parenting myself immediately before symptoms get too pressing.
I try to look for the nuns. I need to move or I’ll keep everyone else awake all night. Also my room is a long way from the bathroom. That won’t do. They think I’m complaining about the bed at first. Eventually mid conversation I have to excuse myself to give them an auditory demonstration. Then she immediately moves me to a room opposite a little bathroom with a sink inside. Perfect. A fever is starting, and the convent is unheated. It’s cold. My temperature is all over the place.
At one point there’s a solid hour or two of constant horrorshow exorcism style madness. Where does all the water come from? My feet and legs are tired anyway after the longest walk I’ve had for a while. At one point I keel over slowly like a toppled Ent on the way from my room and pass out just for a moment. I wake thankfully still clean and relatively undamaged, but with no idea who I am or where. It comes back quickly because it has to. My fever is higher than I thought, I comment to myself, probably out loud. I don’t really remember fever the other times I’ve had shellfish poisoning. “Screw you, clams,” I mumble a few times through mounting delirium.
I’m in a waking fever dream where I just have to get over the hill to Roncesvalles to get away from the clams. They’re in the fog. Every time I try to drink my body rejects the water, but logically I know I need water badly so I keep trying. I wash my face and hands and arms in the sink. Maybe some water will get in through the skin I think, but it makes me cold. I was just hot. Now I’m shivering. The clams are waiting.
The hours tick by, uncomfortable and repetitive and endless. Piggypillow comes into play as I feverishly clutch his stupid friendly pink trotters. “We’ll show those stupid clams,” he whispers.
Piggypillow providing companionship in adversity brings the unnecessary object count down to just 1. Good old piggy pillow.
I’m tired so I’m hugging him to help me stay lying on my side rather than my back. Things are happening too quickly for safe sleep. “Oh Al, yeah he drowned in spew in a Filipino convent in Spain.” Nope. Not thanks to piggypillow.
At 4.30am I successfully drink 3 mouthfuls of water and keep it down. That feels like a huge victory. At 5.30 I manage half a flask of water with no repercussions. “That showed those clams, piggypillow.” I pass out on my side for an hour and a half. Then I get up for breakfast and because we have to leave at 8. Bread. Banana. A slow cup of camomile tea that one of the nuns gets specially. It all stays down.
Donal, another pilgrim, is grabbing breakfast too. “You were puking last night weren’t you?” he asks. “Yes I was. And more. All night. Bad clams.” “No mate it’s a disease. Happened to me two days ago. Something about this area and the change of seasons. Take a day of rest, and you’ll be right as rain.” I’m resistant. I’ve already decided it’s the clams. “Seriously,” he continues. “I even phoned the restaurant I’d eaten at so they didn’t do it to anyone else. Then I met an old guy – he’d had to go to hospital. I mean I know how these rumours spread on the Camino, but apparently the doctor said to the old guy that it happens every year at this time in this area. Take some rest.”
So now I’m not sure. I’m maybe contagious, maybe not. I still want to blame the clams. Too much of a coincidence surely. Those damn bivalves…
I throw on my pack and walk to the monastery nearby. All the pilgrims are checking out as I’m checking in. I’ve booked a room of my own for a day down. I’m just waiting for them to sort the room when one of the pilgrims says to another “I’m not walking today. I had terrible food poisoning all night last night.” “Where did you eat?” I ask her immediately. “I didn’t eat last night. I was already too sick. It must’ve been something at lunch.” I tell her about Donal. Everybody goes and washes their hands.
So logically it’s norivirus. Seems the clams might have been innocent parties here all along. Stupid Clams. I’ll have to work hard to forgive their little clammy faces. If you’ve invested a lot of blame on something it’s hard to unpick that blame. But I get the sense the clams might have been innocent here. Piggypillow still hates them.
Now I’m in a private room in a monastery. It’s heated. Glory. I’ve mostly slept. I ate some bread and three raw garlic cloves – kept them down. Normal service is resuming. I’m still parenting myself. I keep stopping myself from getting up and exploring the town. But I’m here to get better. So that’s what I’ll do. The cloister is beautiful though. Ten second timer plus idiot.