Tag Archives: Snoring

Every Story has a Middle

Negreira to Olveiroa
Saturday 6 December  

A Dark and Misty Morning. Near Negreira

It was a long walk today. Over thirty three kilometres. Perhaps more, although I wasn’t sure if there were alburgues open further along the route. I started early, and stupidly forgot to have a coffee form the vending machine in the alburgue. Fogginess begets stupidity. It was twelve kilometers until coffee or breakfast. Dark and misty in the valleys below as I climbed the hills with interment downpours. The rain began to abate, and I was presented with a double rainbow. Two pots of gold! The path was not as well marked in this section, and I had to rely on landmarks from my guidebook.  I turned a corner and saw a tree that had grown and formed a complete circle as the two branches had joined at the top. It’s leaves were yellowing, and I thought it rather lovely.

Circular Tree. Near Negreira

Finally stopping for coffee and breakfast I caught up with several others who had stayed at the alburgue the previous evening. They were all complaining of how noisy it had been in the dorm, I was glad of my ‘disabled room’, the snoring was also disabled. I walked for a while with an Irish man who had flown over for a long weekend just to walk this Camino. He had a similar job to me, and led walking tours in Ireland. He said he was a bit of a joke with his friends, as he spends his time off doing walks, mostly pilgrimages, and he’s an Irish Protestant! We walked together until the next town with a bar, where he very generously bought me a beer. After that I sped up, I was in afternoon fast walking mode. I was now keen to get to Finisterre, today my walking was about the destination, and I wasn’t so much enjoying the actual path.

©Sally Arnold
A Lone Tree with a Cloudy Sky.

Arriving in Olveriroa, I caught up with a girl I had met that morning. We were both keen to walk further, but unsure that any alburgues would be open, decided to stay. The municipal alburgue here was like a small village – a collection of delightful little stone houses, one with the reception, one with the kitchen, and several with sleeping facilities. There was a sign to find a bed, and the hospitaliro would be back later to pay. The first door we opened was a large two story dorm with lots of beds. As I had read there were several houses, I thought I would try some of the other doors. I opened the door of the smallest house, and it had one bunk bed on the ground floor, and the bathroom, and upstairs, another bunk and a single bed. We nabbed the upstairs, as it was probably going to be warmer. We were soon joined by a young Canadian man who lived in Santiago de Compostela. He chose the downstairs. No one else joined us, as they probably hadn’t checked the other houses, however the larger building filled up later.

It was freezing inside the room. The temperature on the camino had plummeted in the last couple of days. Winter was setting in. I would be zipping up my sleeping bag tonight. I was hungry, so went in search of food and warmth. I’d only had breakfast today. The only  bar in town was delightfully warm. I was joined by the Canadian, so we had dinner together. He worked teaching English in Spain. It was interesting talking to him about the cost of living in Spain, and life in general. We were later joined by the girl I had met earlier, and the Irish man, who had given up on the alburgue due to the noise the previous night – he had checked into a room at the bar. The camaraderie of new friends again made for another delightful Camino evening.


The Destination, Not the Journey

Reliegos to Leon
Wednesday 19 November

There was nothing open when I left the albergue today. I didn’t feel like emergency cheese for breakfast, and it was only six kilometers to the next town. I would find a bar for breakfast soon. The way markers weren’t as clear today as they had been, and I had to keep an eye out for the usually obliquitous yellow arrows. I could see the town ahead, and was following the path, but it seemed to veer left and go alongside the town, instead of through it. I continued, but soon realised I was going the wrong way. I backtracked and found an arrow on the road, I was supposed to go over the bridge. That coffee was getting nearer. I entered the town, found a bar, and sat down for a long breakfast.

It was drizzling. I was wearing my slippers, but they are not really weatherproof, but then it wasn’t really raining either. The walk was mostly alongside a major road, passing car yards, and outer suburbia. Not interesting at all. I was keen to arrive in Leon, and looking forward to seeing my friends, and the town. I plodded on. I had developed yet another blister, this time under one that had already healed on the sole of my foot. I tried to walk on the asphalt of the road edge, it’s softer than the hard cement footpath. I was becoming very aware of every surface I trod on. My poor sore feet can now distinguish between all sorts of paths. Mud is my favourite. Buying some soft comfortable waterproof shoes is high on my list of priorities when I arrive in Leon.

As I neared I thought I would pop into a small convenience store. I was hungry, but wanted to wait until I arrived in Leon for lunch. I bought a gooey chocolate bar, something I haven’t had for years. Two million calories. It was great, and perked me up to continue the journey. I followed the Camino until the Cathedral, then sent a message to my friends to see where they were staying. My Dutch friend, and my Irish friend we staying in two different albergues one run by the Benedictines, the other by the San Franciscans. I considered booking into a hotel, so I could have a sleep in, but wanted to see the others. I went to find the hostels, and on the way saw a few of them sitting in a bar – my Dutch friend, one of my Italian friends, and my Camino Angel. How did she get here so fast? I joined them for a late lunch, and they convinced me to say in the Benedictine alburgue they were in, as it was nearby, and they said they were the only guests.

I checked into the alburgue, then went in search of shoes. Hopefully they are an improvement. I met my Irish and other Italian friend in the city, and we went for wine and tapas, later joined by our other friends. We had to rush back for our ten o’clock curfew, our friends staying with San Franciscans didn’t have to be back until midnight, and could sleep in too. I had made the wrong choice. When we returned the place was packed. There would be a snoring symphony.

I hadn’t seen any of the city, so decided I would stay another day to explore. I was considering a hotel, but had heard good things about the San Franciscan alburgue. I would decide in the morning.

Hotel Pilgrims

Friday 7 November

Another sleepless night with sore feet and snorers. I had decided in the middle if the night that I would spend another day in Logrono, and check into a hotel for a hot bath, and a night off. A few other pilgrims were also considering staying another day. I offered to share my hotel (hopefully not with a snorer). My Dutch friend agreed, as he too was having problems with his feet, and was impressed by pictures of the hotel buffet breakfast.

I rested in the hotel room for a while, then went for a wander around this interesting town. I visited the small museum, which had a fascinating display of ancient Roman engineering, then later met my Dutch friend and the Swiss woman for lunch. We choose a small Resturant in the square, and weren’t expecting much, but the
food and service were great. The host was very funny, trying to explain all the dishes, often running into the kitchen to show us the ingredients. I had mushroom risotto, fish in a tomato sauce, and ‘fried milk’, an interesting local dish of a fried curd for dessert. It was very good, but my friends’ dessert was even better, an apple caramel pudding. The Swiss woman entertained us with stories from her life that could raise an eyebrow or two.

I returned to the hotel for a nap, and a long hot bath. Luxury. My Dutch friend and I had arranged to meet to enjoy the local Tapas bars the town is famous for. On the way we ran into our older Canadian friend who joined us, and led us to his favorite – a bar that served divine garlicky mushrooms. The street was full, at night the town seemed to come alive. People promenaded and partied in the alleyways, we barhopped for a while tying some of the local reds the area is famous for, and munched our way down the street. Our Canadian friend returned to his friends, and we walked briskly to the other end of town to a bar that had a classical guitar player. The bar was full, and the music was lovely. We enjoyed the local ambience, the wine, the tapas before returning, rather late and curfew free to our HOTEL!

Oysters are Hermaphrodites

Roncesvalles to Zubiri
Saturday 1 November

Snoring. That’s the problem with hostels… Perhaps I’ll get a better sleep tonight. Perhaps. Yes, even I though I was in a pod of only four the hostel was still rather open, and all the snoring from every pod could still be heard. I need better earplugs.

Again we had to be out by eight. I rose showered and at 7.30, my new Camino family and I headed out for breakfast at a local bar. All that was on offer was coffee and toast. The Spanish do coffee better than the French. Thank God. I had been hoping for eggs for breakfast, but that was not to be. We had planned to be on the road by eight, but didn’t end up leaving until 8.30. The others all said that they would provide lunch for today and that a cheese, bread and wine picnic, was a delightful idea, so we stopped at a local shop for supplies.

Surprisingly I was I the mood for fast walking. The Italian from the previous day, a pharmacist had now joined us, along with the younger Irishman, a 28 year old primary school teacher. They were faster than the rest of the group, so I walked ahead with them. We stopped at a spring to refill our water bottles, and I left my walking poles to rest on a nearby building. We continued on, and about one kilometer on, I realised that I’d forgotten my poles. I returned to get them, and caught up with the others, then went ahead to meet my friends. The younger Irishman, had walked back and was waiting for me. He said it was lucky I had returned for my sticks, as because we were talking too much, we had missed the turnoff. We were really not paying attention, as the road here was covered in yellow arrows, the Camino markers. Our Italian friend had raced ahead, and we all soon spread out and were walking at our own pace.

I again caught up with the younger Irish guy and we walked together enjoying the conversation and the company. We then decide we were hungry so began to look for a suitable place to wait for the others, as they had the lunch supplies. We soon arrived at a small river, and found a shady spot. About half an hour later the others joined us for our picnic. We were having a very enjoyable leisurely time, and two hours passed easily, so we thought we had better get on the road.

Fifteen minuets later we saw a bar, and it was suggested we stop for a drink. It was a long weekend in Spain, and many families and friends were out enjoying the sunshine, so we decided to join them. Our young Irish friend picked up a guitar from the bar and entertained the crowd with a few songs. A group with twin babies bought the twins over to say hello and have a chat. We waved to a Spanish group from Barcelona we had met earlier. Soon we thought it was best we continue on our way. We walked along together or a while, and again spread out to walk at our own pace. I was walking by myself for some time, but soon caught up with the Spanish group from Barcelona. One of the group had very good English so we chatted for a while, he had been a tour guide in Sydney for Spanish speaking groups. After a while he said I was waking too fast for him, and for me to go ahead.

I again caught up with the young Irish man who was now sitting with two French woman and a large St. Bernard like dog. I stopped for a while, then we continued on together into Zubiri. The first hostel we came to was full. The next one looked very nice. Beds were 15€ per night including breakfast and only four beds to a room. We said there would be five of us, as our friends were joining later. They had room, so we checked in. When met up with the French women and their dog – they had occupied a private twin room. I said the guys could share the room for four and I would stay in the other four bed dorm and chance it with whoever arrived. Not long later the Spanish group from Barcelona also arrived. They wanted to share a room for four all together. The hostel manager then offered the young Irish man and I a private twin for the same price if we would move, we happily accepted, hoping we would both have a snore free night. The rest of our group arrived and after showers we headed out to dinner with the French woman sans dog.

We ended up at a nearby bar and met up with our Italian and Dutch friends. I was chatting with the French women, one who was an oyster farmer… I exclaimed that they were my favorite food, and she was explaining to me all about the oyster industry in France, and the fact that oysters are hermaphrodites – you learn something new every day! The wine and conversation flowed. We ordered the pilgrims menu – I had a salad, and tomatoes stuffed with cod, and really delicious chocolate icecream. I returned to the hostel, hopefully for a snore free night.

The Walking Witch

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles
Friday 31 October

Snoring. That’s the problem with hostels… Perhaps I’ll get a better sleep tonight. Perhaps.

I was up early, as we had to be out of the hostel by 8am. It was going to be a long day. Eight hours walking, I was told and mostly uphill. 27.4km. I had met a charming Dutch man the previous evening when I returned to the hotel, and we had had a very interesting conversation – he was waiting for me to finish packing, to walk together, but I was too long trying to stuff my too many things into my pack, so he said he would see me on the road. There were only two of us left in the hostel, a young Brazilian guy, who was in a similar situation to me, he too tying to stuff too many things into his pack. I asked if he minded if we walked together.

We soon set off along the cobbled streets of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, I was a little sad to leave, as it was such a delightful town, but excited to be starting the walking part of my Camino… even if my bag was way too heavy. We weren’t on the road long when we met a group of three Irishmen and an 83 year old Canadian who was beginning his tenth Camino. He could have passed for a man in his sixties. We soon joined up, and along the way met a few others. Soon our walking speeds spread us out a little, and the youngest Irish guy was far in front, while one lagged behind, so there were four of us walking together. An Irish farmer in his 50’s, the 83 year old retired school inspector from Canada, the 34 year old Brazilian graphic designer, and me. We talked, and walked, and talked some more. The landscape was beautiful, the morning was crisp – green pastures, cows, sheep, mountains. The company was interesting and the conversation was stimulating as we moved from subject to subject. We were all happily taking it rather slowly, as the path was a little steep, and the incline was constant, and we were enjoying both the walk and the company. Eventually we caught up with the younger Irish guy who had met an Italian and another man whom we all refereed to as ‘Jesus’, as he had a strange mystical arura about him. He had walked from Lourdes, and slept in churches – he handed a postcard of the Virgin to the Brazilian, and then they all sped on ahead.

As it was quite season and I had been told there was nothing open along the way, I had bought supplies for lunch, but the others hadn’t been informed, but not to worry, I had plenty for all. Our map indicated a Virgin Mary statue on the side of the hill – she had a magnificent view, a perfect place for a picnic. I had bread and three cheeses, a bottle of red which I had decanted into a plastic container, and a bunch of radishes. We enjoyed our leisurely lunch, then began walking again. We were a little concerned that the slower Irish man hadn’t passed us.

It took us several hours to reach the summit before we started descending, and was getting rather late, but we were not concerned, as we were all enjoying ourselves. We met a Swedish couple who passed us, and who had news of the slower Irish man. He had found the walk too difficult, and was having trouble breathing, and had asked them for help. They had called someone in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and arranged for him to return. If he was feeling better he said he may get a bus to Pamplona, and try again from there.

By this time we were all feeling very tired, we still hadn’t crossed the border into Spain. The light was turning to twilight. We trudged on, and eventually we saw the border… A strange wooden framed doorway, with ropes hanging down, not unlike the streamer fly protector in old fashioned fish and chip shops in Australia… all connected to an electric fence. Odd and not that impressive, as my idea of a border should be. There was no changing of the guards, no pomp and ceremony, no stamps in my passport. I did however take the obligatory photo of one foot in each country. We continued downhill, as the light descended into darkness and the path became steeper and steeper. I sped ahead, as I like to walk downhill fast, but soon felt my toes becoming hotter and hotter. Time to stop for some preventative blister measurements. I got out my moleskin, and my new friends soon joined me, and we all descended on Roncesvalles together. I was dressed in my all black merino ninja outfit, and had added a black brimmed hat for my walk. I commented that it was 31 October…. all hallowed’s eve. Our Canadian friend commented that I was dressed quite appropriately, and looked like a witch… So I entered the villages yelling “‘trick or treat?’. It was rather late… 7pm, but we had had an enjoyable day and walk. We went to the local restaurant with a pilgrims menu and asked what time it was served. 7pm was the reply… But we all needed a shower and to put our packs down, and decided to return at 8.30 for the slightly more expensive, regular menu.

We found our way to the municipal hostel in Roncesvalles, a beautiful old stone building. On the way I met the Dutch man, who said he had been worried about us, but I said we were fine and had an enjoyable day. Inside the old stone hostel had been renovated into a modern hostel with sleeping pods divided into four, two up, two down bunk beds. We were all allocated one pod, and I was given a top bunk. I returned to the check in counter and asked for a bottom bunk in the next pod… They begrudgingly complied, and I was sharing with three Spanish women, and hopefully I had a better chance of a snore free night.

We unpacked, showered, and myself and two others went to the laundry to do some washing. I had wanted to go to the Pilgrims mass at 8pm, but by the time we got there, they had already closed the doors… I was not going to be blessed yet again (although I knew I already was). We headed back to the Resturant, and they offered us the pilgrims menu, even though it was officially finished. I chose a salad, and trout. Both were excellent, accompanied by Spanish wine and bread. We were then given fruit salad for dessert. All for 9€. Excellent value. I like Spain. The hostel closed it’s doors at 10 pm, and the Resturant staff asked us were we staying there, as it was now ten minutes to… Two of us rushed back, and they were just closing the doors… We said to please keep them open, as our friends were following…and we had an old man with us! They obliged, but reluctantly. We then wished each other goodnight and retired to our bunks.