Home, Sweet Home

“Top or bottom?” asked a fellow in English with his smiling, German accent. I noticed an eyebrow arching up as he awaited my reply. It fell instantly as I trudged passed him and dropped my pack on a remote bunk in the corner. I was “home” for the night, or rather in an albergue. Those of you, dear readers, whom have indulged in previous tales of this Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, have heard me mention albergues. And, you know that they are the inexpensive lodging for the pilgrims following the Camino route that are spaced out roughly a walking days’ distance apart. The actual building can be an old school, a monastery, a government building or a hotel type structure. They can be beautiful and modern, or old and frumpy, or with a microwave and a wash machine, or with no hot water and far from a store to buy provisions. They are unstable data; yet, they were home.

Because these albergues were spaced out walking distance along the trail, I assumed I would be traveling with basically the same people on our pilgrimage, especially since this route is less populated and offers fewer points of nightly respite compared with the famous northern route. I was wrong; in fact, I found it fascinating how the people I met along the walk would disappear to reappear several days or even weeks later; and how, some nights, the albergue would be full, and the next night I would have the entire place to myself. There were also a few times when everything was full by the time we arrived. At those times, Rafael, my Camino pal, worked his magical good-old-boy techniques to find places not only for us but for others who had arrived late.

To explain these illogical inconsistencies, I imagined the Gods playing a huge game of chess; the playing pieces were the Camino people, experiences, places, and events maneuvered in such a way so that each person received the enlightenment, the break, the challenge, the peace, whatever it was they needed for their quest.

Of course, we humans can´t easily see the Gods orchestrating on our behalf, so we tend to focus only on our five senses. Some of us think we can run the show of making our “unstable-data” home more stable through clever techniques or competition. For example, some people would get up extra early and barrel through to the next town, thereby arriving first; thereby having first pick on a choice spot, or more importantly hot water. Some would try to reserve a place with their apps, but that didn´t guarantee hot water.


I was of the group that walked in faith; believing the Gods were working on my behalf, and that way, at least I could sleep in. Rafael followed the same philosophy; we got up when we woke up, we prepped our packs and left when we were ready, chatted with the towns people over café con leche (coffee with milk) and tortilla Española (omelet) for breakfast, we hiked, we stopped to read, we hiked, we got lost, stopped for midday comida (lunch), hiked, explored churches and ruins, chatted with passersby, got found, all the while drinking in the scenery, the long afternoon sunlight, our thoughts and conversation. The chess pieces always lined up so that we eventually ended up in an albergue, a sweet, welcomed, albergue.

Because of our noncompetitive ways, Rafael and I were usually the last to arrive. On one such occasion, we entered and were happy to find two top bunks left, the least desirable spots. Before falling asleep, I overheard Rafael asking the lady below what her name was. After their brief conversation, he saw me glance at him with a questioning look. He explained with a boyish smile that he likes to at least know the name of the lady he is sleeping with for the night. It is moments like these that I wished I could arch my eyebrow. Men!

Category: Viajar
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