The night before last I had a problem sleeping and only got about four hours, which is unusual for me. I felt like I was starting the day with a half tank of energy, I didn’t know that would be the least of my troubles.
The ladies set out for their 13 ½ mile trek and I went on to secure our lodging. The place I had my heart set on didn’t take reservations and only had 18 beds, so I knew I had to get their quickly. It’s a lovely albergue run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, and I’ve heard they have a special prayer meeting in the evening at the connected old church and awaken their guests in the morning with their singing. It was a special experience I didn’t want the ladies to miss.
Upon arrival, I was warmly greeted by a sweet gray haired lady, one of the sisters of the albergue. I explained that I had nine other women on their way. She said it was no problem, they would have room for us because I was the first one there. The only problem is that they were cleaning from last night’s visitors and the doors wouldn’t open for new guests until 2:30. I said, ‘No problem. I’ll wait’.
And wait it did! Five hours with no food or drink in the grassy courtyard of the church. I quickly added another shirt, gloves, and a jacket with a hood that I pulled up over my ears as the air was brisk and the wind quite chilly. How could I complain? At least I was sitting. The ladies were out braving this weather as they walked and carried their backpack.
Finally, the doors opened. By now my sister friend had left and a gentleman opened for business. I walked in excitedly, first to get in out of the cold air, and second to have this lovely surprise for the ladies who would be arriving within the hour. I was the one in for a surprise! In no uncertain terms, I was told I could not check in because all 10 women had to be present. It made no difference that I had copies of their passports, they had to be physically in the room. I almost broke into tears. I tried to explain that the nun who was here before assured me it was okay and that I had been sitting here outside for over five hours! Nothing I said mattered. He just kept saying, “I’m sorry, but you can’t stay. You have to move so the other people behind you can check in”.
There was no point pleading, so I shifted into recovery mode and started calling albergues in the neighboring villages. One not only said they had room, but also helped arrange for a taxi to come and make three trips back and forth until all our group and gear had been relocated.
Instead of a pilgrim’s prayer meeting, we had a pilgrim’s menu at a nearby café that consisted of undercooked fish and a quinoa burger that was so gross it looked like it had been expelled from a dog – we just couldn’t agree which end it came back out of. And, instead of being awoken by the sweet sound of singing, it was the thunderous harmony of the many different snorers in our room.
But, we survived and today was a new day…
Today the ladies had a shorter day, only about 5 ½ miles, as we were forced to move a little closed because of the albergue incident the day before. They were walking through Pamplona, with extra time to explore the city and try out some of the tapas they are so famous for.
I wasn’t worried about lodging because I had a reservation for this night, and it was a good one. I had arranged for a special treat where they could stay in a Marriott resort and have their own room. And, this could not have come at a better time! I really needed something to redeem me from yesterday’s dormitory debacle.
As usual, they took off walking and I took off for the hotel (in a taxi, of course). The hotel was great, and the staff could not have been more accommodating. They even created a special dinner menu for our group.
As I’m writing this now, the ladies have arrived and are in their room having some quiet time – alone. I would guess some are washing out their clothes in the bathtubs (hey, we’re still pilgrims!), eating their plate of fresh fruit that was waiting for them when they arrived, luxuriating in a warm bath, or maybe taking a much-deserved nap.
Two very different days – at least on my end – have again reminded me of the twists and turns fo the Camino, but mostly the impressive group of women I’m traveling with. Even when things weren’t going our way, not one complained (at least not to me) or grumbled. It was the opposite. They went out of their way to be loving and supportive, assuring me that it was all okay. I thought I was supposed to be the one helping them in this experience, yet I continue to be inspired, impressed and blessed by them all.
I am happy and grateful that today they can feel pampered and ready for whatever unique adventure tomorrow brings.