I feel like I am running to keep up with Gail, who I’ve been with almost all morning. It is, once again, raining and/or cloudy, but my knee feels great. I have been told that I can take lots more Ibuprofen than I had been doing, and it seems to work.
Gail tells me her story. She’s doing the Camino to “prove that she can do something by herself”, which to me sounds like something that only a woman would say. She has raised 3 children and helped her husband build a business from scratch in northern California and she has now spent the last 5 weeks away from home proving something to herself.
Yet I have found that when you ask people directly why they are on the Way very few give you an overtly religious answer. I think that most are Christians who enjoy the company of other Christians, but I don’t know that they have the idea of some spiritual goal as a result of the trip. For some, it’s just a physical challenge as much as anything. For others, it’s alone time. Almost everyone has heard of the movie The Way, and that has inspired quite a few.
I myself didn’t really have an expressly Christian reason for going on the Way, but, like so many others here, I have found a spiritual journey where I thought there was only a hole to fill in my vacation. I think, though, that people are looking for something real in the world because they aren’t finding the answers to the meaning of life in their schools, businesses, or even circle of friends, and are looking for something deeper, at the core of their existence.
So it is perhaps with Gail. I don’t know.
What I DO know is she leaves me in the dust after about 3 hours. My knee, though, is still doing great, and I chug along just fine, thank you very much!
In fact, I do so well that I am at my destination by 1:15! I have gone 12 miles in less than 4.5 hours. Not bad at all.
My hotel is actually more like an apartment. It is the Acivro, and my room has a fireplace in the living room, a nice porch, a separate bedroom, kitchen, and bath. But the management is a little…weird.
I walk into the reception area and they tell me no, don’t check in here, but over at the house with the fence around it with a sign that says, literally, “Stay Away”, or something similar. I walk into the home and wander around looking for signs of life. No one seems to be there. I go from one open door to the next, trying to announce my presence. “Hola! Hola!” Nothing. Then I walk into a room with a desk, and on that desk there are stacks of Euros. I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to be there. At this point, the manager walks in the front door.
I explain to him who I am, and he says he does not have a reservation for me. Do I have a voucher, he asks? The voucher he wants was provided to me as proof of reservation by my tour company. Some hotels have wanted it, some not.
I tell him brightly yes! I have a voucher, it is in the luggage that was transferred to your hotel. Where is it?
He darkens and tells me that, unfortunately, it has not arrived, and would I like to sleep in the woods tonight?
Actually, he starts to do some other paperwork, ignoring me while I sit in a chair directly in front of him.
So luckily for me, my luggage does arrive, proving I am a legitimate guest, which is good since there is no WiFi in the forest. SO he checks me into my great room.
So far, so good.
I am sitting on the patio with David and his wife from California and he’s telling me all about growing up in southern CA during his surfer boy glory days. He’s a nice guy, and we’re sharing the patio with some guys from Gibraltar as well. BTW, the Gibraltar guys make armored vehicles for our government, and it makes me so glad that my tax dollars are at work employing people in a British colony on the rump of Spain, but anyway, I ask them if there is a laundry in town, and they say, in twon? There’s one right here! And they point to the house, the one that is not supposed to be the reception area but really is.
I approach the house with my large bag of dirty clothes and a kid inside kind of nods at me, so I think, OK, I’m on the right track.
I walk into the laundry room but the washer’s full, and I can see that the dryer is to, so I begin folding up the hotel’s linens from the dryer to make room in the washer for me. At no extra charge for this service, I also cleaned out the lint trap, and was able to scrape together a lump about the size of a small basketball in the process. It was a miracle that anything ever dried in that machine. I guess they check it out annually whether it needed it or not. So I do my thing and throw my clothes in and, lucky for me, the washer is an Admiral with English dial instructions and I turn it on.
I walk back out when I see Dave with an armful of laundry in the front yard. He’s handing it to the guy. I’m thinking, OK, now I better tell the guy I did my own because it looks like he’s taking Dave’s load straight to the machine.
So I tell the guy about the time he gets to the door, and when he reaches the machine, he’s pissed. He turns on me, and begins saying stuff in Spanish I don’t understand, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t, “Thank you for folding our towels, you very excellent man!” That’s because he is shaking his finger at me like I’m a kid in grade school who just shot a rubber band across the room instead of an adult who is paying him for staying there.
But after a short time he cools down and I apologize profusely, swearing never again to enter the Sacred Laundry Kingdom again, and would he please forgive my ignorance? He acquiesces, and explains to me that he does the laundry for customers himself for 5 euro a load, which is an absolute slam dunk bargain, especially compared to the usurious rates charged by NCL.
In fact, he delivers the load, folded and dry, right to my room later that night. So all’s well that ends well.
Oh, and I had dinner with some Canadian women I’d met before, David and his wife, and Anna, a journalist from Scotland, doing a travel article for a newspaper she practically called a crappy rag herself.
Now, I’m just stupid to be awake, because tomorrow is the last day of the Camino, and I want to make sure I make it. Adios!