Yesterday was one of our wilder days. We had:
1 rain all day
2 a Hungarian woman who was sure we had bedbugs. When I visited her later in the bar where she was waiting to get the bus to Leon, she started to cry, thanking me for my concern. I am quite sure we have no bedbugs in our albergue, but they could arrive at any time.
3 Argentinian and Spanish couple, lovely, but very loud, celebrating a wedding anniversary — cooked two large meals with friends, and I played Parcheesi with them, which was fun
4 electricity went out
5 an Irish woman wanted to sing, and then while she was teaching all of us the song, we heard a loud crash
6 young Hungarian man walking with wife or girlfriend had fallen out if a top bunk while trying to unzip his sleeping bag
7 he was bleeding profusely from a deep gash over his left eye. many rushed to his aide, some more helpful than others
8 we got him patched up, phone call to emergency, ambulance came, another pilgrim who for some reason had a car (very mysterious) went with him, and they came back in the night from a doctor in Mansilla 20 km away who gave him 5 stitches. They took off walking this morning. The man with the car also departed — I guess with his car.

I told him he looked like Rocky, and he laughed. We had 28 wet pilgrims last night who set off in rain again the morning.

It is the pilgrims that make it worth it. I think we will be here at least 17 days before anyone relieves us, and we are already tired. So 7 more days before to we go walking.

Tuesday, October 25

I didn’t write today, other than the account of the previous day. After we had sent the pilgrims out into the rain, after we finished cleaning, and after coffee in the Peregrino, the sun came out and it warmed up. I was feeling a bit of cabin fever, so took the rickety bike and set out to find Las Graneras, a small village part of the El Burgo district. I could see the effect of transportation improvements, as again I had to go up over the freeway and another railroad track — this one for the high speed train that took us to Leon and by-passes both El Burgo and Sahagun. I had to dismount the bike to get over the top, and could see where all the traditional routes had been blocked on both sides by train and highway. The pilgrim route to Bercianos turned to the east before the tracks and highway.

The first living creature I encountered in Las Graneras was a friendly, fly-covered donkey. Then a few old men walking. There were many old houses, a few fixed up, and a few just wasting, roofless adobe walls. There was a lavandera which was protected by a roof, water covered by green scum, with a historical plaque telling of the days when the women of the village gathered there to do their laundry. I have always found these structures and plaques fascinating, and many villages, especially in France, but apparently also in Spain, proudly preserve these.

There was a church, with records daring from the 943, but it was not open. It did proudly sport one stork nest, but storks are not nesting now, and must have gone to Africa for the winter. I think I explored every street in the town — there were not many — then took a muddy dirt track a short distance to an Ermita (Santo Cristo del Amparo) — a small chapel. From there I could see back toward El Burgo, over broad fields. I met a few more people including one woman and a workman I was sure I had seen in El Burgo on his bicycle.

The ride back was uneventful, and I made it over the overpass in one go — it was less steep coming back. People were already here, even though it was a fine day.

It was another day in which people came singly or in pairs or trips throughout the afternoon.

By 7:30 p.m. and sunset, we had filled 24 beds, and Kent and I hurried to the pond to catch the sunset. It was the warmest evening we had had, and I thought unlikely we would get more pilgrims. But when we returned there were 4 young Korean women waiting for us. They were well-organized. One had already purchased groceries, one went to collect packs at the bar. We found beds for all of them, and two started cooking. But they wanted to wash their clothes in the washing machine. They were quite upset when we told them it was too late, and nothing would get dry afterwards, as it was already after 8 p.m. They wanted to find another place in town. But we told them there was nowhere — perhaps the hotel — but I didn’t think so. They would have to wait until tomorrow.

I went to the tienda about 8:15 and 4 Italian fellows were purchasing lots of wine and groceries. By 8:30 the kitchen was jammed and I couldn’t even find a sink in which to wash an apple. I inwardly groaned, anticipating another long loud evening, but the Italian fellows soon had their huge salad, pot of pasta, wine,and loaves of bread on the table and talked quietly while they ate. Kent even reported that they swept under the table afterwards. The Korean women likewise, ate quietly and quickly, and cleaned up after themselves. I took a break, and when I came back at 9:45 to help Kent close up, everything was fairly quiet.

October 26 Wednesday

The stars were brilliant this morning. Orion and the Pleiades shine in the south, the Dippers to the north, and the crescent moon in the east. The pilgrims were pretty much all up, too.

Thursday, 27 October

No big surprises yesterday. Twenty beds full. A beautiful day, and I was able to make reservations for us to go to Rome to meet Saad and Psyche and Saad’s sisters from November 24-27. It will be a short time for Italy, then back to Madrid before we fly home on November 30. For some reason the Alitalia site would not accept our credit cards, but we were finally able to make it work through Expedia. We are thinking about where we will go when we are able to walk out of El Burgo on either Monday or Tuesday. Perhaps to Burgos by train from Sahagun, then back to Leon to walk toward Santiago.

People were at the door at 1 and the last pilgrim came by bicycle at 8 p.m. In almost dark.

2 p.m. On Thursday 27 0ctober.

It is another beautiful day. I am sitting in the sun. We had two pilgrims already. A German woman who said she has had cancer and was too exhausted to keep walking. She came just from Bercianos, 7-8 km away. Then a petite Korean woman arrived in a taxi from Sahagun with an enormous plastic-wrapped pack. She took out several jackets and a poncho, which she hung on the clothesline. I tried lifting the pack and could barely do so. She says she started walking in St. Jean, but she could scarcely have carried that pack from there. That is it for the first hour of opening. Peaceful here except for noisy vehicles, loud voices from the bar, and a huge John Deere tractor that was parked in front of the albergue, but just took off with a deafening roar.

Later: I spoke too soon about the peaceful day. I’d gone to take a nap when Kent announced that five Italian pilgrims had arrived, including a middle-aged man who came by taxi with his wife and who seemed to be the group leader, and told us that that fifteen more were on the way — would we save beds for them? No, we couldn’t do that, although we had plenty of beds at the moment. So, I got up to wait for the onslaught–but no one came. We had a French group, and assorted others, including a few from the Italian group who came in one and two at a time. I concluded that the rest must have gone elsewhere, although the group leader kept pacing the street, communicating with his cell phone. Then about 7 p.m. Another 10 or so began trickling in, interspersed with other pilgrims. The Italian men wouldn’t take the last beds, saving them for two “chicas” who were limping. They arrived, and we checked them in, and then a man from Uruguay took the last bed. The “chicas” didn’t go to their beds or head to the showers, however, but stayed outside with the men.

We told the group leader that our rules did not allow us to put extra pilgrims on the floor, and that there were rooms available that could be shared in the hotels across the street. But he said no to that. No money. Well, although our pay for the night is by donation, that doesn’t mean people should pay nothing. We also said they were welcome to camp in the park next to us, and use our facilities. One man insisted on putting his pack inside, although we finally told him he could not leave it here. He seemed well-equipped with camping gear with a metal grill, a sleeping pad, and several metal utensils attached to his pack.

They filled the benches outside, and even spread out their sleeping bags on the sidewalk. One of them wanted the phone number for the parish priest, which we did not have, and I suggested they ask in he bar. We put up the Completo sign and walked to the laguna to see the sunset. When we came back about 8 p.m. The two girls came with bags of clothes and wanted to wash them in the washing machine. We told them it was too late — that the machine took more than one hour and things wouldn’t dry as our dryer did not work — partly true, as it will hold on,y part of a washer load at a time because the door is damaged and held together by a bungee cord.

Another British lad arrived, and we turned him away, referring him to the hotels,while the remaining Italians still waited outside. The leader of the large group was cooking a big pot of soup, and the entire kitchen and all the stove burners were in use, so Kent and I walked over to El Peregrino, where several other pilgrims were enjoying “Menu Peregrino” in the dining room. While we were eating there was a commotion at the door, and the there appeared three familiar members of the community in costume (a military man brandishing a gun, a woman with a suitcase, and someone in a long white gown) who put on a short crazy skit — we had no idea what was going on — but it was all quite hilarious with laughter and cheers all around.

When we arrived back in the albergue, things were pretty quiet. The group leader informed us he’d saved some soup for us, and the others had gone to sleep in the church. But inside 3 complete strangers who had arrived after 8 p.m. had spread out their sleeping bags on the floor. One woman spoke English, and we explained that we could not let them stay, and that there were rooms across the street. She understood, and said she would convince the men to go with her.

After all this, it was quite quiet as the regular pilgrims seemed to have retired early, probably grateful to have their beds. It was a beautiful, warm evening, so sleeping outside would not have been a great hardship for those with sleeping mats and sleeping bags. Although we felt hard-hearted, we also felt pressured and imposed upon. These very late arriving pilgrims did have other options, and we also felt it was not fair to the thirty pilgrims who were already with us to have to share their already limited space with improvident latecomers.

We’ll see how it all looks in the morning, and how many will be hopping on the bus to Leon.

Morning: Friday 28 0ctober

Piles of our blankets were outside the door on the bench this morning. Someone left an unwashed soup pot and bowl in the sink, and a coffee pot full of grounds. There were huge quantities of trash, including paper on the bedroom floors. The Korean woman put her large and small backpacks back in the plastic bags, and I assume delivered them to one of the bats across the street where they would be picked up by a luggage carrying service. I did not see how she left.

It is another beautiful day, despite the fact that someone scrawled “culo” across an entire page of our guestbook, which Kent says means asshole in Spanish. We did our best, but obviously couldn’t keep everyone happy in this situation, which we found quite stressful.