So what is a typical day of a Pilgrim like? Let me paint you a picture…..
First thing you want to do is wake up at 3:30am to someone snoring. Some people sleep right through this and miss all the variations, textures, and sonic complexities. I for one never seem to miss this opportunity.
Try to go back to sleep, but end up mostly dropping in and out of consciousness for the next 2 1/2 hours. This is when the hardcore try to get up, and out of the Albergue.
There are typically 3 waves of pilgrims exiting.
Phase One: Hardcore…..let me outa here…I’ve got places to go. Out by 6:00 am.
Phase Two: Normal , well balanced pilgrims. As long as we are out before the sun is up. Out by 7:00am.
Phase Three: Party crowd. OMG what time is it? Out as late as possible…usually 8:00am.
This does not account for the injured or ill. These cases are completely different.
So after getting out of bed you will typically use the washrooms, and brush your teeth. Now packing as quietly as possible…which is at all not possible. Typically someone will become frustrated trying to pack with a flashlight in their mouth and switch on the overhead lights. (Phase Three will groan and try to hide their heads)
if you have decided to have a breakfast offered by the Albergue (normally 3 Euros) have at it. Expect dry baguette, butter, coffee, some type of juice, and maybe some jams. Higher class places offer yogurt.
Back to your bunk to pick up your bag….and out the door into the black. The sun rises around 8:00am or so. Take and inventory of serious aches and pains. The less significant pains should fade away over the first hour or so as your morning Ibuprophen hit takes effect. (BTW, more research on Ibuprophen leads me to believe you should only take it every other day, interspersed with Tylenol on the other days )
In the dark you can almost always expect to become lost, even if only for a minute, here and there. Physics lesson here: Yellow arrows become invisible under yellow/orange sodium vapor street lights. As you walk to the edge of town and onto the countryside paths, watch people ahead be swallowed by the jaws of darkness as they pass the last streetlight. There is a slight feeling of being quite vulnerable, if only for a moment.
The night air is very cool, and surprisingly damp. If there is any wind or breeze expect to be immediately chilled. Your only hope for survival is walking to generate some internal heat, and the coming sunrise. Without the warming of the sun this cold, damp morning claw will penetrate you to the bone.
After walking for 2 hours find a small bar, completely jammed with pilgrims ordering Cafe con Leche. After a quick stop it’s back on the road again.
You may stop once again in the morning, or not, depending on the availability of bars. BTW, a Spanish bar is really a coffee shop with small foods available. Think sandwiches, and egg/potato tortillas.
By noon you are probably hurting in a couple extra locations and some of these need to be taken seriously. In my case it is time to change socks…avoid blisters at all cost. Once again my magic feet have not develop a single hot spot…..so far so good.
Back on the road for the final push of the day. At this point if it is sunny, and hot……you are most probably feeling somewhat spent.
Time to find a place to stay. I have experienced a rush for beds after 2pm. If you arrive before this time you should be OK except for Albergues in high demand. Yesterday’s Albergue is an example of this.
Get a bed, decide if you are going to eat in the Albergue, and pay the appropriate fee. Usually 10 Euros for a bed, and 10 Eros for the dinner. Head straight to your bed (bunk) and get your boots off. Relief!!
Jump in the shower. In the case of a quality Albergue you will have lots of hot water. I’ve had a couple of tepid, verging on cold showers. Not nice.
Once you are clean, get your laundry done. You have a choice of machine washing for 3 Euros…although some are starting to charge 3.50 Euro. Hang it up to dry in 30 minutes…or put it in a machine for another 3 Euros.
Now it’s time to relax, write, catch up on emails, or write your blog.
When it is time for dinner head down for a communal meal. Lots of cheap wine…I completely avoid this stuff now, and typically head for bed right after dinner.
Brush your teeth, and pre-pack your backpack for tomorrow.
Today was a wonderful day. Despite freezing in the morning. I decided to try and wear my running shoes as the paths are not too rocky. I also discover a knee compression brace I threw into my pack at the last minute before leaving Toronto. This helped quite a bit on my right knee. I wore my spare socks as gloves to keep my hands from freezing. I am such a fashion leader at times.
Full disclosure; I went to a Famacia yesterday and got 600mg Ibuprofen, and Ibuprofen gel. Both of these appeared to have helped. My left ankle is still swollen around the bottom of the ankle bone, but wasn’t agrivated by my decision to begin walking in my running shoes.
The path today was about 25% shaded. The temperature was around 25c and humidity was low. A perfect day for walking. I have tagged my backpack to be delivered to San Juan de Ortega, but I have no intention of staying there. This “Albergue” is an old monastery, and was seriously in need of maintenance 4 years ago…..no money……no repairs. I will walk onto Ages, an extra 4km on top of a 24km + day. In total the distance is almost 29km.
One very somber moment about an hour or so out of San Juan de Ortega is a mass grave site from the Spanish Civil war. (1936-1939) At the outbreak of the war people caught on the wrong side were rounded up, taken into the hills, and massacred. The bodies were dumped into shallow graves and mostly forgotten. This is where Generalisimo Francisco Franco got his start….nice. The Franco rule was a very dark period of Spanish history to say the least.
Passing through the hamlet of San Juan de Ortega (population 17…..I’m not exaggerating) you will notice a Church. This church doesn’t appear to be significant in any way, but for one interesting twist. This church was unused from some time in the 1800’s and farmers in the area stored straw and hay inside. Some time in the 1980’s when the Camino route was starting to see more pilgrims pass by it was decided to empty the church and modify the attached monastary for use as an Albergue. The straw and hay had preserved the inside of the church and the lack of moisture prevented molds from attacking the art and carvings inside.
The Internet is miserably slow…. I will have to finish this page tomorrow and inset the pictures then. Technology is such a bummer when it doesn’t work…..