Don’t stop walking with or without knowing exactly where you’re going to sleep…or what you’re going to sleep on

There’s this exhilarating moment when you arrive at the albergue after the day’s walk, and you drop your things. This is where you know you’re going to spend the rest of your day and your evening, yet there’s a good chance you’re so tired that you’ll sleep through most of one or the other. 

Suddenly you’re faced with a most pressing dilemma: do you take a shower or first lie down for a short while? That short while can become a long one if you aren’t careful. Once you’ve convinced yourself you’ll feel so much better if you clean up right away, then you remember, ‘Oh, wait! I need to clean my clothes, as well.

In a weird state of singular focus where simple tasks take most, if not all, of what’s left of your depleted energy. Sometimes the decision is made for you in the event that there’s not a shower available when you arrive. If you’ve arrived at the same time as a lot of other pilgrims, getting into the shower first can be an issue. 

Remember, in that state of ‘I just want to refresh myself and lie down‘, every moment seems to count. However, now that I say that, there’s an eerie sense of acceptance that tends to overcome you when you’re that tired. 

‘There’s no shower? Ok, then I’ll just go hand wash my clothes…wait, you say now there’s no one in the showers anymore? Wonderful. Then I’ll go there now.

It was just these sorts of simple decisions I was making when I dropped my pack on my bunk in a room full of twenty or so other pilgrims. As I started pulling my things out, I realised, ‘Wait, where’s my sleeping bag?

No wonder I’d inexplicably had more space in my pack that morning. In a split second I replayed my early morning, remembered stuffing my bedding deep inside its cover, but I must’ve left it sitting next to my bed back in last night’s albergue. Damn! 

What was I going to do?

Luckily, the place I’d just arrived had sheets on their beds, which can be quite a luxury under the best of circumstances when you’ve been in your sleeping bag night after night for weeks on end. In this case, having sheets was fortuitous beyond description. 

This reminds me of something you hear again from pilgrims: 

The Camino provides…’ in that moment of hopelessness, where you simply don’t know what to do next…in exactly that seemingly hopeless situation, something or somebody magically shows up with an answer. 

Or you do without that thing that even a few moments ago seemed essential. In this case, I didn’t even need to go without. I was going to be sleeping in regal comfort on these sheets — real sheets with a pillow and everything. 

Called the woman at the previous night’s albergue and she assured me she’d not only seen my sleeping bag, but she’d decided she would go ahead and wash it. This she a) didn’t have to do – that was undeniably kind, but b) a very clean sleeping bag 30+ km behind me wasn’t going to do me much good. 

Thankfully, there’s a cottage industry of services along the Camino to carry one’s bags when a pilgrim has been injured. Or even to carry pilgrims to hospitals or the nearest town if the injury is serious enough that it needs medical attention. 

She asked me where I’d be the next night and assured me she could send it along via one of these services, but all I needed to do was call the number she gave me and arrange it with them. 

Ok, got it. 

Called the number and what he said was such a tremendous relief. Yes, he could take my bedding from last night’s to tomorrow’s place, but it’d set me back a cool €10. That’s roughly how much you pay per night to stay in one of the albergues, so one might think that’s pretty steep, but trust me…as a pilgrim, you need a sleeping bag. 

It was sheer good fortune that I had sheets at this place. There was no telling how things would be at the next place, but I didn’t want to risk it. 

How would I get the money to him, though? I’m not actually *at* the next place, where he’ll be dropping it off. Here’s where the story gets good, from my perspective: 

This courier would be coming through this place where I was staying tonight, but he wouldn’t be here till sometime mid morning. That’s exactly when I’d be out walking, so? What to do? How would we make this work? 

Simple, he assured me. I should give the woman where I was staying that night the money. She put it in an envelope for him, which he’d pick up as he swung by in the course of his day. 

And I’d keep walking, which was the whole point to begin with. Don’t. Stop. Walking. No matter what. 

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