I've been disgracefully negligent about writing in my blog lately. Partly it has been spotty internet access, and when there was access there was a line waiting to use it, which sort of inhibits blogging.
Part was that I have been walking with what I call my El Camino family--two Canadian sisters--Pam and Donna, Donna´s husband Fabio, another Canadia Maureen, Lola from South Africa and Rita from Italy. Instead of having all this time on my hands from walking alone, suddenly someone was always saying, "Let´s get some sangria" or "We're going to the supermercado, do you want to come?" Community cuts into your blogging time.
El Camino friendships are like church camp--limited but intense. Sadly, I said good-bye this morning. Their schedule meant they needed to hurry on, and mine meant that I needed to slow down.
I´m drawing near the end of my walk, and will soon post some serious reflections on what I´ve learned, but in the meantime, after nearly 5 weeks on El Camino, I've become a conneisseur (spelling??) of albergues and some of their oddities.
Albergues are the hostel-like lodgings especially for peregrinos. Some are private, and are usually smaller and often a little bit nicer, also slightly more expensive. Others are large municipal albergues. Albergues cost between 5 & 10 euros a night, so one doesn´t expect plush, but sometimes you have to scratch your head and ask, ¨What were they thinking?" This is especially true of the shower and toilet facilities. Apparently the Spanish don´t go to the toilet often, because it is not unusual to find only 1 toilet per 20 or 30 or more. The brand new beautiful albergue in Burgos had 8 showers on our floor, but only 2 toilets! (I´m guessing there were at least 80 people for those two toilets)
The scarcity of hooks, which means you have to throw your clothes over the shower door and end up putting on wet clothes. Since you also need to have your money, passport, etc. with you at all times, it is always challenging figuring out how to keep these valuables dry. Plus, the hooks are often WAY up high, which means shorties like me have trouble reaching them.
The unisex showers with GLASS doors in Navarette. Nothing like exposing yourself to 20 strangers. Almost as bad as finding out way too much about your new roommates. These were also the showers raised about 4 inches above the bathroom floor so the water ran down all over the floor, meaning that once you had exposed yourself to the world, you risked breaking a leg.
In Ponferrada, the unisex showers were across from the men´s urinals. Really--who thought that was a good idea?
In O´Cebreiro, the women´s showers had no shower curtains. Even worse, there was a window in the changing area with a SIDEWALK outside.
Several perfectly nice albergues had showers with lots of hooks outside the shower door. Unfortunately, the shower door opened inward so you had to expose yourself to grab your clean clothes.
Then there was the albergue that proudly boasted showers "heated" by solar power--we were among the first to shower and there was a trickle of ice cold water at best.
On the whole, the albergues have been nicer and cleaner than I expected. Joyce Rupp, in her book Walk in a Relaxed Manner, was quite graphic about the state of some showers, but I have found most of them to be at least acceptably clean. Many of the hospiteleros (the people who run the albergues) are volunteers who put in long hours and care very much about what they do. Some of the private albergues are clearly only a business, but for others it is a genuine calling. I have been greeted graciously and kindly in almost every place.
But there are times I can´t help but shake my head and ask, "What were they thinking?"