Friday, June 26, 2009

Day 29 - Foncebadon - Monday, 18 May 2009

Astorga -> Foncebadon = 25K (231K to Santiago!)

“There are no beds,” said the hospitalero without raising his eyes.

“What?” I responded in disbelief and my voice quavering.

Here I am exhilarated from the climb up to the highest populated village in Spain and suddenly hearing that there are no beds available in this tiny, isolated village.

It is only 1500 – how can the albergue be full?

His words are especially devastating because I had already heard the same message in the other albergue in town. The next village is over another peak, about 5K away. It is a primitive place with no water and no electricity (kind of a hippie compound). And what if it is full?

I try not to let my panic show.

Behind me, another woman, speaks up. “Can we just sleep on the floor?” she says.

The German hospitalero stares at us, as if assessing us and then disappears for a few minutes. He returns with good news. He has found an open bunk for me and my friend can sleep on a mattress on the floor.

I say a prayer of gratitude and smile. I have someplace to sleep tonight!

I shower and sit on the porch, drying my long locks in the dying afternoon sun. A dog (looking dead) sleeps in the middle of the road. Kittens dart in and out of the tumbled down slate buildings that used to be homes in another era. I hear the cattle lowing, their bells ringing as they graze on the steep hillsides. The village is above tree level. The peaks surrounding the community are snow-capped.

This albergue is church run. There is a modest communal meal in the small dining room. The air is cold. I will be glad for my sleeping bag tonight. I’ve lost my fleece so I hope it will not be too cold in the morning.

In my opinion, people who stay in public albergues when they “do” the Camino have a vastly different experience than those individuals who stay in private accommodations (where you can make reservations). The logistics of finding an albergue can interfere with the delights (or challenges) of the daily walk.

And once a bed is confirmed, there are still the demands of sharing space and services. Diverse languages, nationalities, customs and courtesies add to the soup. Not only is there a concern about finding a bed after a day of walking, there is the communal experience that extends beyond simply dining together. I am seldom alone in the albergues. There is nominal, if any privacy.

Tomorrow I will see the Cruz de Ferro, visit Majarin where Sir Thomas rings a bell whenever a pilgrim enters his village (population 1). But now, I shall sleep.

I have a bed and I am very grateful for that. And for so much more. Life is good.

[Batteries dead in camera for two days - no photos...will get batteries in next real town I'm in.]


Rita said...

OK Ginn you have mentioned the camera batteries several times. I was going to buy one with batteries, same need to carry charger, converter etc.
What is your opinion now? Battery camera or charger/converter camera??? Carrying extra batteries means extra weight, but I heard there is a lack of plugs in the albergues for charging things.

Virginia ("Ginn") said...


I think using a battery camera is a good idea. I simply did not know my camera well enough and seemed to accidentally put it in the wrong mode when I stowed it. I sometimes accidentally made video when I thought I was taking photos - video uses batteries faster. I suspect the camera was on sometimes when I was walking and had it stowed.

AA batteries are available most places on the pilgrimage. Sometimes my walking schedule did not allow me to be in towns during the hours when shops were open.

I also failed to take an extra memory card so when mine got full I was done. (Yes, you can find places where you can download them onto a disk, but once again, the logistics sometimes seemed too much of a challenge after juggling a day of walking, washing clothes, finding a bed and meals...

So in the end, I am at fault, not my innocent camera. 8-)

Happy planning Rita!

Under Overcast Skies in Santa Fe