Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Caminando Otra Vez...
Monday July 13th: Not a lot to report on today. Just an ordinary day on the Camino Portuguese; except perhaps for my very rude ejection for the Posada do Peregrino. I was woken at 7:25 by a loud knock on the door. I was already awake but didn't really expect this from a private establishment especially one which was clearly a commercial enterprise judging from the variety of stuff on its sign outside.Oh well…
Breakfast, I noted in my diary was "a bit sparse". It consisted of two rolls of what I wrote was "translucent bread": the light inside it fascinated me as it sat there in the rays of sunlight. "Coffee" was some other substance containing "10% coffee" as noted with a certain amount of pride on the label. Oh, and jam, no butter. I was the only one.
I went back to my room and was just doing the feet thing when there was again a knock on the door. It was exactly 8:00. Sylvia stood there pointing to her watch: "Time you go!" she said. I was severely taken aback. I gestured to the packed pack and my half wrapped feet. "Cuando puedo, Sylvia!" I said (when I can). "Ten minutes" was the answer and she swept away indignantly.
Now I am sure you know by now what my reaction was. I slowed down...considerably. This was not an Albergue. I had eaten at the restaurant belonging to some relative because I was told to. I had paid 15 euros. And I was not going to be bullied. Sylvia returned to the top of the stairs with a vacuum cleaner. I left at about 8:30. Sylvia was scowling and just closing the doors after me when I turned and said: "No sé como es aqui en Portugal, pero en Canada una sonrisa no cuesta nada." It's true, you know: "A smile costs nothing".
I stopped by the Romanesque church in Rubiaes, still a bit pissed off. The church was (as they always are) closed and I was disappointed, but working in the gardens were two women. A van parked nearby said: "Jardineras". Now, a bit of explanation here: Jardinero is the Spanish and Portuguese word for gardener. But change the ending from o to a, and you change the meaning. This now means women gardeners. I asked one of the women: "us two," she said. I gave her the thumbs up and she laughed. When they left in the van they waved and honked the horn. A bit of "Feminist" bonding had just taken place!
The walk is lovely, but a bit slow: I am taking photos of everything in sight - plants, animals, stony roads, Roman markers on the road XIX from Braga to Iria Flavia; to Lugo, and then to Astorga. I am walking in the steps of the Legions. I meet a man with a pure Arab horse. White and very beautiful. The man explains that he has ridden her to Santiago five times. I tell him it is my dream to do this.
I stop in the next village for a coffee and watch a bit of the Toronto Indy on the television, which is a really strange experience for me as I lived in Toronto in the 1970's.Paul Tracy is out....obviously time to go.
I arrive at the Albergue in Valenca at 5:20. The sign on the door says open at 6:00. I spread my sleeping bag out on the grass and wait. 6:00 comes and goes. So does 6:30. At 7:00 a German lady arrives. She is travelling to Fatima. We decide to enquire at the Bombeiros next door. "They open between 6 and 7," we are told. Well they ain't open yet. It appears that the Albergue is run by the Boy Scout troup, "but they work". By 7:15 the man at the Bombeiros is persuaded to call.
It is close to 7:45 when we are let in. We receive our sellos but are told NOT to allow anyone else in. "They must call first".
Now this is patently ridiculous and when the next two arrive obviously very tired (both are Portuguese), we explain what we have been told but let them in anyway.
Shortly afterwards a very blond woman with an accent I can't place also arrives and insists that there must be a hospitalero and when I explain the "phone first" makes a disgusted noise and then sets about monopolising all the pots in the kitchen one of which I had just set out to make spaghetti for Maja the German lady and myself. After she has finished she leaves the dirty pots in the sink while eating. I suggest that she might like to wash them up first. "There are others," she says. I point to a very small frying pan. She is not impressed but eventually does return to wash her pots since I clearly have no intention of doing it for her.
And so let's talk about pilgrim spirit for a minute. How could this altercation have been avoided? When I walked in 1999 I began solo but quickly met Andrea and we attracted a group. By the time we got to Santiago we were 13 people speaking 9 languages. We made many communal suppers not just for us but for everyone and most often with whatever had been left over from previous pilgrims. The "correct" thing, I suppose, would have been to suggest that the 5 of us share what we had brought and what remained (pasta of course!).
This I have noticed on this Camino is rarely the case. Kitchens, when they are there, are not much used, and then generally by individuals such as this woman. It is a real shame as so much is lost: not just the opportunity to save money and share but also the chance to learn from each others' experiences, grapple with other languages and laugh when you fail. I have enjoyed walking alone but have very much missed the camaraderie in the Albergues and Posadas. In fact, the only time I have experienced it was right at the very beginning in Porto with Marie Eve and the others...and they were not even pilgrims. Fernanda's of course, is another point altogether.
Maja and I enjoy a culinary concoction with things you would not expect to put together. She is walking in the opposite direction to me and I am sorry.
I enjoy her company and will miss her.