Today we walked 22.7 kilometers from Viana to Navarete where, once again, we managed to get beds just by the skin of our teeth.
It's that the Camino is so crowded. July has always been the most crowded month on the Camino with the numbers traditionally winding 'way down in September since most albergues, close for the season in November.,
But apparently this September the number of pilgrims has skyrocketed, leaving July in the dust, not mention June and August. Subsequently the albergues, hostels, pensions and hotels in every town have been jam-packed, and unless one arrives at one's destination town early in the afternoon one will find oneself scrambling for a bed. Unless, that is, one has called ahead and booked one's room in advance, which a lot of pilgrims, young and old, are doing on their smart phones.
Anyway, today we crossed from the Kingdom of Navarra, Basque Country, into the region of La Rioja Spanish wine country. Along the way we passed through Logrono, a big, busy, pretty city..
Logrono kind of reminded me of Boston in that the cars stopped for the pedestrians crossing the street; In New York, Chicago, Madrid, they'll run you down for a nickle. But in Logrono and Boston they'll stop for you.
We stopped for lunch at a nice Paneraesque cafe with a name that even sounded like Panera: Panaria.
We had the 4.50€ lunch special: a generous slice of French bread Spanish ham and vegetable pizza, a soft drink and a coffee. When the cafe owner caught me snapping photos of the yummy desserts we ordered,
...she came over and started talking to us. Turns out she was a flamenco dancer in New York City years ago. She then returned to Madrid where she opened a flamenco dancing school. But she recently sold her school and she and her husband came to Logrono and opened this cafe. The owner is on the end, dressed in black.
After lunch we had another 12 long kilometers to walk to Navarrete, and when we arrived at around 5:15 pm we met first one pilgrim in the street,then another, who told us there were no beds left in town. The first albergue we tried was filled, and even the town's 3- star hotel had a completo sign in the window. But as we were walking down the street still looking for a place we passed a bar where a group of our young Camino friends were sitting outside on the patio. There was an old man sitting with them. One of the youngsters called to us and told us that the old man sitting with them was the hospitaliero of the municipal albergue next door and that he was just telling them that although he had no beds left he had a couple of mattresses left that he cold set up on the floor. The boy, a Spaniard who spoke wonderful English, said if we wanted the mattresses he'd ask the hospitaliero for us. Long story short, we grabbed those mattresses. Turned out that although the hospitaliero had the mattresses setting up against a wall,, tbere really wasn't any floor space to lay them down in the already crowded dorm room.
So we laid them in the aisleway along the top of the stairs.and hoped nobody would trip over us, which, fortunately, they didn't.
While we were setting up our space a young Danish pilgrim we'd been chatting with along the way came into the room.
"We got the last beds in the room," I said to him, assuming that he, too already had a bed.
"No," he said, looking around the room in confusion,"My friend and I just arrived and the hospitaliero told us we could sleep on mattresses on the floor up here."
Now, there was really not a spot in the room upon which to put even one more mattress, let alone two.
"Know what?" I said, "why don't we just move the beds closer together?"
So we did, and two more weary pilgrims had a place to lay their weary heads for the night.
And so we were packed in like sardines, and the co-ed showers
had no latches and there were no shower heads so the water came out from a pipe in the wall in cold 30-second spurts. But still, except for one Italian pilgrim who was ah-fungooling all night long, we were a cozy group of happy campers.
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
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