Cindy asked in a comment if there were pilgrims sleeping on park benches and in the streets when there's no room at the albergues. I can answer that no, I've never seen a pilgrim sleeping outside in a public place for want of a bed, though once on our last Camino when there were no beds in one town one of the hospitalieros was letting pilgrims sleep on the concrete sidewalk in front of the albergue if they wanted to and use his facililities for free. I can also tell you that the hospitalieros do jump through hoops to try and find a bed for everyone, even if it means putting us up in their own homes or calling a neighbor to take us in. But if there are no beds to be had I guess the bedless pilgrims would have to taxi to the next town that had beds.
And not only are the albergues running out of beds but sometimes the restaurants are running out of food and have to turn people away. Other times they'll just offer whatever food they have left.
But in spite of the crowded conditions and even a bit of bed-panic that was running along the Camino yesterday, there's still a wonderful spirit of caring and concern among the pilgrims for the welfare of their brother and sister pilgrims,
...and we all do what we can to help each other along.
And the state of pilgrim jam is only in the albergue towns; out on the Camino there's plenty of solitude and peace and space to be alone with your thoughts.
Anyway, yesterday we walked about 18 k's from Navarrete to Najera.
As we're now in the La Rioja region, wine country, the path is lined with vineyards.
The grapes looked so beautiful on the vines,
...that I felt tempted to snitch a few but didn't because I think it's wrong for the pilgrims to steal the farmers' grapes.
We stopped in the town of Ventosa and went into the town bar,
...where we had the most magnificent breakfast we've ever had on the Camino or maybe anywhere: a plate of salad, fried eggs, french fries, Spanish bacon and, of course, a basket of bread to mop it all up with.
At around 2:30 we arrived in Najera, a pretty medium-sized city that in any case appears to be kind of down on its luck.
Of the four private albergues in town one was already full because of pilgrims booking ahead their reservations and the other three appeared to be out of business. At the municipal albergue there was a long line out the door.
So we walked back towards town and found a hotel, which was also out of business. But across from the hotel we found a hostel, the Hostel Hispano, which we figured was probably our last option, other than going back to the municipal, getting at the end of the line, and crossing our fingers.
In her comment yesterday my sister Romaine said that Tom and I must have good Camino Karma because we keep getting the last or almost the last beds in every
town. Well, our Camino Karma must have been in play again yesterday as, once again, we snagged for 50€ the last double room in the hostel, seconds ahead of the folks behind us.
The Hostal Hispano. These fortunate pilgrims had a reservation.
But Tom and I have decided that we are not going to join the albergue-reserve-ahead crowd. Well, we can't anyway since don't have a phone. So we're going to just stay calm, have faith, trust our Camino Karma, and accept that the last part of our journey each day will be the search for a bed. And whether we end up with a 7€ mattress on the floor or have to spring for a 50€ double room, we'll take whatever comes our way.
Was this a sign we saw yesterday?
A romantic comedy of errors.
Lots and lots of errors.
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