Tales from the Camino: Gateful Dread

When our Camino group arrived in Estelle, we were beat. The walk from Puente la Reina was hot and enervating, as we paralleled Spanish Route N-111 the whole day. We walked past the bull ring, past the Rio Ega, and past several town plazas. As we entered the center of town our steps were getting more and more plodding. Our legs were weary and our gate was sluggish. It had been a long day. We arrived at our hotel door about 20 minutes later.

Settling into the lobby, the concierge mentioned that there are some massage boutiques back in town. We washed our clothes, took showers and met back in the lobby for some healing body rubs. The owner of one massage parlor agreed to pick us up and drive us back into town. That sounded like a winning combination to us.

The owners of the massage parlor had some special treats for those brave enough to take the plunge: kissing fish! My sister, Mary, was the first to stick her feet into the aquamarine water and it did not take long to feel the rush. The hoots and hollering she gasped were from shock and joy, as the tiny fish nibbled on the soft skin, calluses, and dead skin on Mary’s tired and weary feet and ankles.


The husband of the parlor owner was supposed to give me a lower back and legs deep-tissue massage. It soon became apparent that despite his confidence, he was zero training in the art of massage or deep tissue anything. Instead, after a cursory back pat, he rubbed the surface of my skin violently in circles for many minutes.

He kept up the rubbing as he worked on my calves, thighs, and lower legs. His rubs were so constant and circular that the hair on my legs started rolling up into knots. The hair balls were tight and clumped but not particularly painful at first. Only the massage oil, which lubricated the knots, kept me from yowling in pain.

AKA hair spiders

When I got back to the hotel, though, the massage oil was wearing off. My wife, Tracy, said, “Hey, you got dreadlocks in Estelle!” Not amused by the gateful dreads, I asked her to cut out the hair balls so that I could be dread-free and walk without grimacing again.

Yikes, that was the first and only massage I had on our Camino. Next time I will go for the kissing fish instead.