I spent dinner last night chatting to a guy from Buffallo who was doing his second Camino. “This one’s so much better,” he confided, “I’m not crying in pain half as much.” No, that won’t make me come back and do it again! He, like everyone else in the very crowded albergue, felt that the proprietess should jack it in and go on Camino herself, she was soooo miserable! I was quite glad he wasn’t in my dormitory as he was carrying an extra five pound anti-snoring device because without it he caused the buildings to shake. Apparently many people don’t mind it because it puts out “white noise” which masks other people’s snoring, but I usually find white noise just as annoying as any other kind of noise, so I was happy to jam my earplugs in as usual and try for oblivion.
The lights snapped on at 6am, breakfast ended at 7.30am and the last straglers would have had the doors firmly locked behind them by 8am. Given the way the albergues work, the notion of having a lazy day is rather difficult because if you are out on the street with all your belongings at 8 there’s not much to do except walk, seeing as none of the albergues will open their doors again until about 2-3pm.
Apart from meeting a rather nice cat, it was a boring walk to Lograno. Like yesterday I was shuffling along and had soon been passed by everybody else, so I stopped head-singing and decided to give into a proper bellow instead seeing as there was nobody to scare except the local wildlife. I have to say it seemed to make things a lot less painful! Proper singing gave me a much more upright frame and less time to think about saying “ouch”. I’ve always wondered what it must feel like to be caught up in belting out a song to the extent that you are oblivious to everything else. In my area of El Terreno we have a totally-round gentleman who walks about every day singing the most beautiful operatic arias, whilst his Heinz 57 dog, whose lead is made out of a piece of string, dutifully stops at curbs where it is not yet safe to cross. The circular gentleman never looks to left or right, nor greets anyone but he seems happy as the day is long. I certainly cannot claim beautiful operatic arias, but the experience of unfettered bellowing was thoroughly liberating!
As I arrived at the outskirts of Logrono there was an elderly lady with a ricketty table outside her house from which she was selling handmade Camino bracelets and other bits and pieces. She had five dogs whom she clearly adored, she was also keen to chat. Apparently I was an OK pilgrim to chat to because I was on my own. She said the Camino was on the brink of being ruined for those who “were doing it from their heart”, as she put it. I could see what she meant. Yesterday I kept bumping into a group of about 15 pilgrims who had a guide with a handcart pulling some of the luggage. Even though I was going so slowly they kept stopping for photos and drinks so I kept over taking them and then being over taken by them again. They were extremely loud.
“Those people don’t even have to find the route,” my elderly lady said with a toss of her head, “they just follow the leader like a group of sheep. They’re not thinking about anything except when to have the next glass of wine! It’s just a cheap holiday for them.” She was perhaps a little harsh, but I could see where she was coming from and I imagine the Camino has far more of these groups as the summer wears on.
By the time I got into Logrono my ankle wasn’t a happy bunny, but I wasn’t worried as I was early and quite certain I would find a bed without problem. Luckily I stopped at the pilgrim’s office before crossing the bridge into the city and picked up one of their information sheets. I aimed to stay in an albergue on the far side of the city so that I would have less walking tomorrow so I went to the furthest point and began to ask. No beds, the first one said. I back tracked towards town a bit. No beds, no beds, no beds.
“Why?” I asked at the third one.
“It’s a holiday weekend and we’ve had many group bookings.”
I was beginning to have even more sympathy with the elderly lady’s prediction that groups were going to be the downfall of the Camino. Eventually I stopped walking and sat down on a bench. I rang every single one of the albergues and hostals listed on the sheet I had picked up. No beds. Then I tried the hotels. No beds. This time it was because it was a bank holiday weekend and apparently there were loads of weddings taking place. To say I was getting panicked was a bit of an understatement even though it was only midday.
I started to call albergues and hostals in Navarette, 12km walk further along the Camino and the next place with any accomodation. “No problem, we have beds.”
“Please, please, please keep it for me! I’ll be there, but it may take a while!”
I completely lost any sense of humour. Head down, sticks going, no frigging singing (although it would probably have helped!), one foot in front of the other, cursing the fact that my one pair of 1000 mile socks were pinned to the outside of my pack, drying. Yes I made it, but my feet are wrecked and it worries me what would have happened if I had left later or taken more time before looking for a place to stay. Peace, love and the universe taking care of things didn’t seem to do too well today. I’ve already booked a place in Najera for tomorrow. Control freak? Who cares!
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