We stayed at a good albergue last night- only two beds per room and no bunk beds! Paradise. The bedspread was a bit scratchy, but I tried to stay in my smooth sleeping bag. The sad story is this morning I stumbled into someone else’s room (it was empty) and saw clean sheets. Back in my room, I checked. Sure enough, we had clean sheets under the scratchy bedspread and didn’t even know it!
I did notice that one room had a padlock on the door. I wondered why as I hand washed my daily uniform. I didn’t have sop and usually used my shampoo, but I had left it in my room. Noticing a Spanish liquid washing soap next to the sink, I used it. I was taken back by the medicinal smell and grabbed the bottle to re-read the Spanish. The only words I could make out was that it was suitable for coloured clothing. Bleach. Ugg. I quickly rinsed my clothes just in case, and then it dawned on me. A locked room. Medicinal soap. The soap was to kill insects, probably bedbugs! We had read of the possibility, but this was the closest we had come to bedbugs if that was that.
I hung my clothes in the courtyard where everyone was hanging out in the sunlight. There was a small square foot pool that a few people were sitting along with their feet soaking. I joined them and met a British woman who had walked 33 km that day. I was shocked. ‘How are your feet?’
She shrugged nonchalantly, ‘I never have feet problems. I always wear my trusted walking boots.’
‘Always? You do a lot of walks?’
Apparently, she does. So many walks she has a blog ‘One woman and her maps’ https://onewomanandhermaps.wordpress.com
I checked out her blog and here is what she said about this albergue: No word of a lie – the municipal hostel in Azofra is hostel heaven. I arrived in the sun-drenched courtyard, complete with a pool of ice-cold water that was readymade for baking hot feet. Each room only had two beds in, there was a washing machine and tumble drier and the woman running the place was a total star. Azofra, Dolly Parton and Witney Houston said it best… I will always love you…
She calls it heaven, I call it paradise.
Steffen came by with a dozen beer some of which he threw into the foot bath and gave the rest to the foot bathers, and we sat around the pool drinking beer until it was time for dinner. Once again Steffen took the lead. ‘We vill have ze picnic, right here.’ Within minutes the table was loaded with baguette, sausage, white asparagus, olives, cheese and wine.’ Two English women that we had met before joined us as did the large Knave and his short Jester. I gave them that name when we passed them days ago in a wood. The Knave had a large German flag draped over his pack like a cape while the Jester had a multi-coloured beanie cap with plastic propellers perched on top going around in the breeze. They had a friend with them, who looked like a skinhead, or an actor in the tv series ‘The Vikings’. Sometimes I call him the Skinhead, especially when he drinks. He scares me then. Other times, he is the Viking, helpful and friendly.
I chatted with the Knave. He, like many others, was wondering if he was in the right career. Now working in finance, he had been a social worker during his mandatory German one year draft and loved working with disabled youth. He nodded towards the Jester ‘He needed this. And he’ looking toward the Skinhead who by now had consumed a few beer and wine, ‘he has walked from Switzerland. He quit drugs, left his friends and is walking to find a better life.’ I may just change Skinheads name to Viking.
This morning Mats told us he had had a dream – tall, gaunt, slow-shuffling Matt was coming. In the morning he looked down the street expecting to see him but no Matt. As you go you meet new people, but worry about the ones you started with. Where was Dave or Ditte? How did Stacey make out with her feet?
We lost Steffen today. He has had a pain in his foot for three days and has been compensating with his leg, and now his leg has shooting pains. He hobbled into Santo de Domingo des Calzada with us for lunch but decided to take a few days off. He will take a bus, rest and promised to meet us in Burgos. I hope we do meet up again. It is like losing a family member. We have become a pilgrim family.
At our last lunch together, we greeted another familiar pilgrim who had a leg problem. She had stayed at the beautiful albergue with the housefra but had almost been turned away by her. ‘I was in such pain walking, I could only manage 8 km from Nájara to Azofra, and I was told you have to do 10k. I almost cried, and they let me stay.’
As we were saying our goodbyes, we saw tall, gaunt slow-shuffling Matt walking towards the same albergue as Steffen. We greeted each other like old friends before he and Steffen hobbled off again.
We are starting to be good about stopping and changing our socks, two or three times a day. At the first sock stop, we looked up and saw Stacey passing by. ‘How are your feet, Stacey’? We yelled.
‘I am in heaven. I followed your lead and bought a new pair of shoes’.
Time on trail: 8 hrs
Weather: cold until 10, perfect 10-3 then too hot.
Distance travelled: 22 km
Distance to go: 559 km
Food: huge croissant, café con leche, chorizo sausage, trail mix, half an apple, piece of cheese
Lesson learned: when we talk we tell what we already know, when we listen, we learn.
Aches and pains: a little exhausted but I have recovered. No new blisters.