It was a bad night for sleeping for both Iris and me. Since the room was in the front of the monastery, along the main road, the noise from the main street filtered through the windows all night long. It seemed that everyone in the village got up and did things up and down the street from about 10:00 until midnight. People calling out, dogs barking, lots of truck traffic. Monasteries along the Camino are turning out to be very noisy places.
There were only 7 or 8 pilgrims sleeping in a room that would accommodate 18. That’s not bad for sleeping quarters along the Camino. However, Iris said all of them (except the Asian guy) snored including the two Australian women, Wolfgang, and me.
A restless night for Iris makes for a bad day and that’s what we had.
We left about 7:30 and followed the trail along dirt roads and then major roads, once again not choosing the longer, scenic route but the shorter route. Iris normally would not go to the bathroom along the road, but she was desperate this morning and decided to chance it. Wouldn’t you know it – a crowd of pilgrims came along right then. Iris panicked and fell into some weeds with her pants down. She said the weeds poked her in places she didn’t want to discuss.
Iris was embarrassed, in pain from the weed thrashing, and beginning to be in great pain from her surgery last year. For the rest of the day she was depressed, and angry due to lack of sleep and pain and her need to use the bathroom.
The path followed the main highway up and up a very gradual incline until we got to the top of a mountain overlooking Astorga.
Iris was upset that the map didn’t indicate any incline. Then she was upset at the nice benches that they had along the path leading down into the town of Astorga. She wondered why they didn’t have any benches leading to the town of Leon. (Didn’t we take the bus into Leon?) At the top of the hill overlooking Astorga there was an RV parked with a British guy who said he set there just to help pilgrims. He asked if we needed any help. Iris was desperate for a bathroom, but she said, no, that we didn’t need any help.
She was also desperate for a place to do a self-examination because of her injury earlier in the morning. I could not understand, why, if she needed help, she would not take help when it was offered. The guy with the RV didn’t look like a pervert and he obviously had a bathroom in the RV. I could have stood guard. But we refused his help and plodded onward.
At the bottom of the steep hill the road entered San Justo del la Vega and we stopped at a café and got some coffee and coke and some potato tortilla (and used the bathroom). Sitting outside and resting we met a woman from Seattle – only the third American we met on the trail. She seemed more into the cultural aspects of the trail and had “people” to stay with in each town. The Frenchman from Spain also showed up and we were glad that he had recovered from his injury. When Iris complained about the guidebook not indicating the steep climb this morning he delivered one of the basic axioms of the trip, “on the map it’s always flat.”
A short note on entering towns and spiritual journeys
We are always very tired and irritable when we come to a town. We are exhausted from the long walk or badly in need of a bathroom; usually both. Then we make terrible and irritable choices about how to find a place to stay and end up wandering around and becoming more tired and irritable.
The only way to break this pattern is to stop early as we did at Valverde de la Virgen – get a good bunk and be well rested. But Iris is compulsive and constantly aware of our timetable and wants to put more kilometers behind us. She is upset at wasting “walking hours” and not happy sitting around resting all afternoon.
This pattern is not conducive to a spiritual journey. Every day our routine is the same. We wake up, eat, and walk. Then we find a place to stay. Then shop for food, shower, wash laundry, dry laundry, eat, set up our beds, and attempt to sleep.
It occurs to me that this repetitious routine could very well be conducive to a spiritual journey but perhaps the problem is us. Perhaps we are not conducive to a spiritual journey.
Arriving at Astorga we had to cross a complex railroad interchange and the powers that be had provided a crossover bridge that we had to climb. Iris was upset over this obstacle and ranted on about poor planning by the city officials. We were, however, safe from moving trains.
Just on the other side of the rail crossing we came to an albergue still on the outskirts of town. We passed this empty albergue for no good reason other than we didn’t know what else was in town. We didn’t even know how large a city Astorga was. It looked large from the outskirts and I was not sure how we would find a place to stay.
We stopped and asked at another hotel in the middle of the city and passed up that room as too expensive. We eventually found the main square of the city surrounded by a cathedral, Gaudi’s Bishops Palace, and a tourist bureau that was actually open. One of the tourist clerks gave me a good map and in partial English gave me instructions on how to find various hotels and pensions and gave me some indication of prices. He also stamped our pilgrims credentials. There were not albergue’s on his map and I was just as happy. I am not even sure if we should ever stay at another albergue. Iris gets no sleep and then is depressed, ill, upset, and angry for the next day. She needs sleep and a bathroom and is not ever happy sharing with other pilgrims.
We finally found a hotel for 45 Euros. Iris slept while I, Sancho Panza, found a grocery store. She did a exam to check out her injuries but this was inconclusive. I brought up the question of whether we should continue in this much pain and having this many problems. This would be her decision.
Sarria is the closest town to the 100 kilometer mark on the trail – the point at which you must walk from if you want to get the official, signed, pilgrims certificate written in Latin.
Despite my many years of Catholic education and my ability to read Latin I was not in this for the certificate. But, it seemed important to Iris, so, if we wanted one, we had to walk from Sarria, at least.
At the bus station I researched prices and schedules for both Sarria and Madrid. We could not actually get from Astorga to Sarria on the bus. The closest I could get was to Lugos which was 21 miles north of Sarria. There was no indication on the bus company’s web site about how to get to Sarria.
That evening we went for a walk through the town. Astorga is a big tourist town and the restaurants and cafes were overflowing with people dining at tables around the plaza. We found an Internet shop and Iris logged in and got some administrative work done as well as checking e-mail. We also found the gumdrops that Iris likes in a candy store. This was a highlight or our trip to Spain – gumdrops!
Iris decided that we would not go to Madrid. We would continue on the Camino. However, she thought we needed more information before deciding on a whether to take the bus to Lugos. So, early this morning we looked for an Internet connection – the Internet café was, of course, closed because it was Sunday. We found an Internet computer at a hotel and the desk clerk was nice enough to let us use it, free of charge.
We got backed to the hotel and packed and arrived at the bus station just as the 10:50 bus to Lugos was pulling out of the station. It had not even closed the doors, but would not let us on without a ticket and the ticket booth was closed so the clerk could get the bus boarded. During this process we met a young Sicilian, a graduate student in Psychology, who was doing the same thing and had just missed this bus, also.
Iris always needs more data. Today, we spent a lot of time looking for an Internet connection to get information about a bus schedule that we already had. We should have been acting on the information that I got yesterday and getting on the bus. We would have already been to Sarria and looking for a place to stay.
We took the bus to Lugos and connected to a bus to Sarria. At Sarria the three of us followed other pilgrims through town to the Camino and to find a place to stay. The town was hilly and the Camino trail led into town and then up the hills through narrow streets lined with many albergues – all full. Every pilgrim we met on the streets told us the same thing. All of the albergues and hotels in town were full. We split up – Iris and the Sicilian taking one side of the street and I on the other and I eventually found an albergue that had three empty bunks (one of which, amazingly, was a bottom bunk.) We had a place to stay. No grocery stores were open because it was Sunday and so we ate dinner at a restaurant. The service took way too long and the food cost way too much. We were just so tired and aggravated that nothing seemed to be right.
I still have a rash on my lower left leg and still treating it with cortisone cream.