Day 24: Starting the last 100 plus an albergue observation.

Just the facts
Day 24: Ferreiros to Palas de Rei
Distance: 22 miles / 35 km
Time: 7.5 hours
Total to date: 447 miles / 720 km
Aches and pains: Knee is ugly but okay once it’s warmed up.
Mean dogs: 3

I woke at 3:45 to the sound of rummaging around my bunk. It was another pilgrim packing up to head out. 3:45. If this is a sign of the race for beds then I’m not racing.

At 6:30 a.m. I strolled out into the misty, inky pre-dawn day. I was literally at a crossroads with three options before me and I couldn’t see a single yellow arrow. Actually, I couldn’t see anything at all. Soon, someone with a flashlight was sweeping the area for directionals. Then there were two lights. As I began rummaging for my own flashlight a male voice announced that he’d found the arrow. And so began the final 100 kilometers (62 miles) to Santiago.

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The canopy overhead dripped much like the redwoods do at home on a foggy morning and felt good as my body heated up. Soon it was clear that this was a day for picturesque villages. The villages were delightful with just a handful of stone houses and as many barns wrapped around twisting lanes. There were also lots of tractors. Because so much of the Camino passes through rural areas, there are far more tractors running about than there are cars. And the tractors are just as likely to be driven by women as by men.

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Observations in the albergue last night.
It’s 9:32 p.m. and all but two bunks in the albergue are occupied by sleeping pilgrims. The guy in the bunk next to me is snoring. I know three of the other people in this room with fifteen beds and those three have a tough time with snorers. Rico, the Swiss guy, is funniest because he calls them snorkelers and will start walking at 3:30 in the morning if the noise gets too loud.

The snorer has his back to me, good. But also bad. It’s warm and he’s on top of is sleeping bag wearing the equivalent of a too-small speedo.

The guy who has the bunk above him, an Italian on a bicycle, just came back from dinner. The bicyclists typically reserve beds and often arrive late because they cover two or three times as many kilometers per day as a walking pilgrim. This guy failed to get his stuff organized when he arrived. Now he’s trying to put a disposable sheet on his bunk without disturbing the guy below. It’s not going well.

Across from the Italian is a young, plump German girl who lost a lot of weight on the Camino and now her pants are too big. The poor girl had gone into a shop to buy new pants and the snooty salesgirl told her they didn’t have anything her size because Spanish girls don’t get that big. (I beg to differ.) Further, this girl has such bad blisters that she can barely manage ten kilometers a day. The upside is that she’s one of the first to reach the albergues each day and has first choice of beds.

Also in this room are four very religious twenty-something Americans and a woman about my age. I haven’t spoken with them but they were at a nearby table at dinner. They planned their next day’s walk the way a board of directors plans a corporate takeover. One of the guys at my table said he first met this small group of pilgrims near the beginning of the Camino. He said it was dark and visibility was terrible because of heavy fog. Two of the Americans walked with large crosses held out in front of them as if they were facing Dracula. Unbelievable. Wouldn’t a flashlight have been a better choice?

And so it is on the Camino. Every albergue is a different experience and you never know what you’re going to get.

Okay, so the guy on the other side of me just started snorkeling. Good thing I sleep like a baby.

Sweet dreams.

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