Wednesday, 22 July 2009

No-one Writes About The Hospitaleros...

Wednesday July 15th: In most parts of the Camino the hospitaleros are either local volunteers or international former pilgrims, many of them extensively trained for the position. In Galicia the Xunta has the monopoly: "In Galicia there are no hospitaleros but workers of the Xunta de Galicia" is an exact translation of a poster I was to see later on in Mos.

Now maybe you will not agree with me, but somehow just the wording on this poster somehow changes the parameters between pilgrim and "hospitalero", um, "worker", and anyway, I was to find that although the cleaners are paid, the person who stamps your credential with the sello is in fact a volunteer too. To save time, I am going to copy in full a post I made a few days ago on my favourite pilgrim forum:

“No-one writes about the I was told by Maria Teresa, hospitalera of the beautiful refugio in Tui. I was on my way out, the last, as always. We got talking, "Pilgrims should realise that we have families and another life" she said. She went on to tell me of a couple who had arrived by bus from Oviedo the day before who were outraged when she told them that they would have to wait for others to arrive before she would admit them. "We'll write to the Xunta de Galicia," they told her very rudely. "I hope they do," Marie Teresa said: "They will get the same answer as I gave them: "Peregrinos a pie, first, then con caballos, then con bici, then finally those with coches de apoyo. That is fair. I am not going to turn away someone who has walked 30 kms that day because two yet-to-be pilgrims think they have a right to beds before they have even walked a kilometer."

And she is right, of course. Perhaps the greatest lesson any of us can learn on the Camino is the humility to accept what we are given and not to expect anything and to put others before ourselves when there is a clear need. Certainly this has transpired to be my lesson on this Camino from Portugal. It is one I am still working on...but I still have 100 kms to go!

And now someone has written about the hospitaleros.....”

Initially the walk was absolutely delightful: passing past wayside crosses, old bridges, flowers and eucalyptus and pines, but later I began to have some trouble with The Very Nasty Toe.

It was not such to begin with but after the Sublime came the Ridiculous: a walk along the main highway which traverses a "poligono" O Poriño's industrial estate.

Whether this has a name in the Annals of the Camino Portuguese or not I do not know… but I shall poetically call it The Very Long Road. It is straight and flat and goes on for three kms to the point where you really do want to give up the will to live.

I diverted myself by making "honk, honk" gestures to the truck drivers as they passed and all rewarded me with some pretty impressive noises and I them with the "thumbs up", but even that can't take away from the sheer tedium of this stretch.

At "the end" and finally winding around to the right it appears that the poligono has come to an end, but don't expect a gentle forested entrance into O Poriño; you are not there yet. You cross over a pedestrian crossing made of iron this goes over the railway track, then at the traffic junction you take a left. About half a kilometer down this, again major, highway there is a restaurant on the left. You enter this in a daze and a slight voice from a distance asks for a Cerveza. You are led to a table. A menu is put before you. After the first half of the cerveza is consumed you realise that the voice is yours. You order (if you are sensible) a portion of Pimientos de Padron and another of chiperones and little by little you come back to life.

I wish I could remember the name of this restaurant - sorry.

Somewhat further on, having misunderstood the marker tiles several times you stagger towards what looks like the Albergue and it is. There is no hospitalero (in fact the Pilgrim book has many mentions of the lack of a hospitalero and the next day I add my voice to theirs). A woman has the unhappy job of doing what I had to do in Valenca and announces to me that I have to go BACK 400 metres or so and find the Police Office to register. I mutter something like "screw that" before I realise I am being unkind to a follow peregrina. I say that I will do it "later" (in fact I do so the next day to find that although 25 pilgrims had passed the night, only nine had registered and got their sello/paid their three euros, Ten once you included the rather late me).

What a daft idea. As if the last four kms hadn't been enough. I have since been told that a Tourist Office is planned for the Albergue (as well) and that there will be someone there "in August". I reserve comment for later.

And by the way, Señor Iribarne, President of the Xunta: Your way-markings Suck! Bring back the yellow arrow painters!!! Ah yes: "Righteous Indignation": I clearly haven't learned my Lesson of the Camino just yet….

The Very Nasty Toe now is most deserving of the name having developed a Very Large Blood Blister which is Very Painful to the Touch. I decide to put it up in the lounge area later that evening and meet Rosa and Marina all from Murcia and all teachers of English to primary children. We talk about Priscillian and I give them bookmarks of Peregrinos de la Herejia.

Antonio, who had previously been speaking with members of another group, came to listen and talk and was clearly interested in learning about Pilgrimage to Heresy. Marina gave a foot massage to Rosa who had foot trouble even after only one day's walk. I am thankful that what I am experiencing is really very little.

And so the evening ends well and I am not alone tonight.

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