Albergues and not Quite Arguments on the Camino de Santiago

Finally got a sunny day on the rock yesterday (Sunday).  Should have been Wasdale and the joys of Scafell Crag, but never mind, it was sunny and the rock was dry.   Not quite as dry and sunny as northern Spain as Heather prepares to slip over the top of some hilly bits into Galicia.  It would seem her patience is being tested again!  Albergues and “not quite arguments” aren’t really what you’d  expect on the trek for spiritual peace that presumably motivated St James.

Impatience – have I learned ANYTHING??

´Why are you sleeping on the floor with the Italian scout troup, Heather´

Well, it´s like this……

Cherryll would understand – these things happen to her as well!

Long story, let´s start at my arrival in Ponferrada and the Albergue.  Long walk, tired after the undisciplined previous night, hot….  To be in a queue to register.  Drinks handed out.  I learn to beware when drinks are handed out to the queue – it means long wait.  I try, I really try not to be impatient.  But there´s no need for this.  Being a good hospitalero surely means understanding when people need friendly chatter and when they don´t.  Wouldn´t you think that awareness of a twenty people standing exhausted in the heat would make you cut down on the friendly chatter and up the efficiency?  All they have to do is copy your details from your credential into their register, stamp it and tell you about any quirks of the albergue.

In my dreams is the following interchange.  In reality, I just nod wearily.


No, the credential´s lying.

Here on the card, it tells you about the times.  9.30 the albergue closes.  10.45 lights are off…..

Yes, I know, I´ve already read it while you´re faffing asking me things you already know. (Sarah will identify with that, when you´re on a course and they stick a powerpoint on and then read it out to you. Patience, H, patience…)

I´m shown into probably the worst dorm I´ve seen yet. Basement, about 50 bunks and no windows.

Skip to night time.  I am next to a wide-open door to the outside.  I go upstairs and say to the hospitaleros in Spanish that the door won´t close.

´No, it has to stay open for ´seguridad´.

Oh really?  We have a door wide-open to all, sundry and the animal world all night for security?

Cue for Heather to accept and remember the lessons in serenity she´s learnt?

You´re joking.

´Í have been walking since 20th July and I have not had to experience a wide open door in any albergue yet.´

´But we have to keep it open as many people will want to go to the toilet in the night´.

Óh yeah?  So how come I haven´t heard all these people going to the toilet in any other albergue when they actually have to open a door to go?´

Would you like to sleep outside?

No, I xxxxxx well wouldn´t like to sleep outside.

Also,  I might be cold.

We bring you blanket.

I wait.  Other hospitalero tries to tell me about aspects of The Camino that I know.  Indeed.  I look at him.

1st hospitalero comes back and asks me to follow him.  He shows me to a mattress on the Internet Room floor.  ´Fantastico´I say.  Along with the other 40 mattresses on the floor.

Which is where this email came in and why Mara (my Italian friend) and Chris (Australian) had to come in and listen to the whole story.  They thought it was priceless.

Actually – I had the sleep of my life.  I can categorically say that lads and youth and lasses of Italian scout troops do NOT snore.  It must be a kind of middle-age thing for los hombres…..

Plus, they do NOT get up at 5.00.

You must also remember, Yoana, that all the above discussion took place in Spanish!  I´m improving.

Now I´m going to get serious for a minute.  The man who wrote the guide book that I read before coming would say that the hospitaleros were my teachers.  That this was a lesson for me.  Because there´s no doubt that if you don´t get impatient, you´ll feel serene.  And that´s a good state.  Gill´s book that I read about anger said that you´re only angry because you think you have a right to be right (and I add) and to have rights. If you assume that everyone has the right to think as they think, ie no-one is ´wrong´or ´right´, then you won´t be angry.

Now, my good friends and family, um, that means not speaking up when you think you´ve got something to grouse about?

I need your thoughts on this as I can´t work this out on my own!

Quick update – am in Villafranca de Berzio.  I didn´t realise there were some beautiful mountains here, calling me, calling me, calling me! Tomorrow I go upwards, hard day I think, and into Galicia.  Where, eventually, I must try pulpo (octopus).  But that´s days off.  This is a wonderful quirky town and I´m in a wonderful quirky albergue and I must go and eat something before I expire!

Oh, I must tell you about this wonderful man I met who has walked from Lichtenstein. He had a heart attack three years ago and is doing this for his health.  He started in April and has lost 35 kilos so far.  But what was even better was that he said what has made it for him are all the stars he has met – people who are overcoming illness or are just very brave.  Stars.

No memory card reader on this pc so no new photos.  I´ve taken about 700 so far, of which about five feature me.

Lots of love

Abrazos fuertes

Heather xxxx

I can imagine meeting a host of inspirational characters on a trek like Heather’s.  Like for instance, the 86 year old (allegedly) at the top of Froswick as I wandered past with a group of callow youths on their expedition from Brathay Hall.  Chatting away to him the inspiration lasted a good 5 minutes… until he launched into a well practised lecture about vegetarianism.  I’ve nowt against veggies, but it doesn’t ring my omnivorous bells!  Sounds like Heather’s star was a bit more; genuine, shall we say?